In the early 1970s Hollywood actor Jerry Lewis started working on a Holocaust film so bizarre he ended up hiding all the footage and to this day it has never been seen.
But the BBC has uncovered a large collection of images for an exclusive online documentary about the strange movie, as producer Richard Latto explains.
The Day the Clown Cried told the story of a fictional clown, Helmut Doork, who was thrown into prison and eventually used to entertain children and lead them into the concentration camp gas chambers.
Lewis – at the peak of his career after success in The Nutty Professor and the Bell Boy – wrote and directed the film, and was at first very passionate about the idea. But perhaps even he eventually found the subject matter too harrowing.
The film has never been released, with only a handful of people claiming to have seen anything from the production. Lewis himself avoids questions about it during interviews and public appearances.
For the BBC documentary The Story of Day the Clown Cried, presenter David Schneider went to hear the stories of people close to the production, including the late Lars Amble, who played a Nazi guard.
Amble remembers being asked to take part by Lewis: “He was staying in Stockholm in a hotel. He called me up, I went to his room and suddenly he says I know which part you are going to have, a very mean guy.
“He was a very professional actor and director. He gave us all confidence.”
Jack Kotschack was one of the producers. His son Erik remembers the period well when his father was working on the production.
“He was very thrilled to do this, to be part of it. When they made a decision to shoot the scenes from the concentration camp in Sweden, my father was the guy who made it possible.
“Jerry Lewis was big at that time. It was a big story for Sweden. He was a person who took [control of] the room, a big character and actor.”
But the production was beset with problems and Kotschack says the working relationship between his father and Lewis fell apart.
“He sent a telegram ‘to the smallest man in town from Jerry Lewis to Jack’.
“In the beginning they were best of friends but in the end not so.”
There are many people on the internet who have circulated alleged copies of the script, and even some who have attempted to re-enact the entire film online.
So what is the fascination with this project?
“This is a very interesting film because very few people have seen anything from it,” says Jan Lumholdt, a film critic based in Sweden.
“He’s a comedian and this is his most serious film ever. This gives it a very interesting energy and dynamic.
“I always felt that there are countless examples of great dark serious performers and dark work by comedians, there is a certain touch to it.”
There have been many films about the Holocaust and it’s often hard to come to terms with a fictional story set during this dark period in history. But Yael Fried, project manager of the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, is in favour of such projects.
“We need different ways and methods of understanding the Holocaust and fiction can help us with that,” he says.
“You can use fictional characters in a real environment. I think you have to be careful and very clear that it’s fiction.”
It’s rumoured by many that Lewis attempted to introduce moments of comedy into the production. The main character’s name was seemingly changed from Karl Schmidt to Helmut Doork.
“As the child of a Holocaust survivor – my mother got out of Vienna in 1938 along with her playwright father and actress mother – the Holocaust was something that I have always been very aware of,” says Schneider.
“As a comedian, I’ve always been fascinated by whether you can do comedy about such a difficult and taboo subject.
“I used to compere Jewish comedy gigs and I remember once getting a note passed to me backstage saying: ‘We are a coach party of Auschwitz survivors come to see you. Please can you say hello to us during the gig?’
“And I just thought, what am I meant to do? Go on and shout: ‘Hi, is there anybody from Auschwitz in the place tonight?’
“A lot of Jewish comedians found themselves exploring this area, just because it’s so central to their identity.”
The documentary also shares previously unseen archive footage of Lewis being interviewed on the set.
“Comedy is our safety valve, without it I think we would disappear, evaporate,” he says.
“My philosophy of comedy is a man in trouble. There for the grace of God go I.”
The Story of the Day the Clown Died can be seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03dj9kr
It will also be available on the BBC’s YouTube page and is due to be broadcast on BBC TV at a future date.
Jerry is a Trump supporter just like the Stormfront clowns. You cant trust even the funny Jews (clowns). If there is a way in the Jew will take that route. The really funny thing about Jerry and Jerry is they think they are Gods chosen and believe they were killed in gas chambers, made into lampshades, etc. That trumps all the jokes either of them has ever told even though Seinfeld was never funny anyway.
Jews love that name Jerry, but they hate that name Jeremiah. Jeremiah says the House of Judah AND the House of Israel will be given a New Covenant. Anyone know what Jews think happened to the House of Israel? Why dont you ask one of your good Jew friends. Today Jews think they are Judah and Israel, but of course they are acting as usual and are neither. Its either the Jews (House of Judah) were lying about Jesus being the messiah or it was the Jews (Judeans) lying about Jesus not being the messiah. Figure out which is which and you have solved the story. You either trust Jews or you dont trust Jews (and hopefully you know what a Jew is because it has several definitions- I wonder why that is). Do you trust Jews or not? Please, no sob stories, do you or dont you? As long as your answer is “I do” the planet is in jeopardy (from the Old French word “Jeu- parti” and Latin “Iudum”).
.From the Latin “Iudaeus” to the English “Jew” these English forms included successively: “Gyu”, “Giu”, “Iu”, “Iuu”, “Iuw”, “Ieuu”, “Ieuy”, “Iwe”, “Iow”, “Iewe”, “leue”, “Iue”, “Ive”, “lew”, and then finally in the 18th century, “Jew”. The many earlier English equivalents for “Jews” through the 14 centuries are “Giwis”, “Giws”, “Gyues”, “Gywes”, “Giwes”, “Geus”, “Iuys”, “Iows”, “Iouis”, “Iews”, and then also finally in the 18th century, “Jews”.
I wonder what our new fearless leader, Trump and the two Jerry’s think about the Federal Reserve or Jews bombing the USS Liberty or Jews controlling the Black slave trade and then blaming whites and calling them “racists” etc. So many questions, but our Jew controlled media controls the questions and the answers. It is a comedy and sad at the same time for sure.