Jerry Lewis

Of all the clowns that Hollywood nurtured, few ever seemed as grotesque as Jerry Lewis.

Even I, besotted with comedians from birth, found him very hard to swallow. When he was under the firm hand of a master craftsman like director/screenwriter Frank Tashlin his work could soar into sublime silliness. But when he took over the helm himself, the results were uneven at best, and often downright embarassing.

The French may call him ‘Le Grand Jerry Lewis’, but I still call him weird.  And clownish, but not always in a good way.

Now Indiewire reports that Lewis has donated his 1972 cinematic debacle, ‘The Day the Clown Cried‘, to the Library of Congress — with the caveat that it cannot be shown for another ten years.

That embargo may be the most charitable act of his life, next to his Labor Day telethons for Muscular Dystrophy.

By all accounts the film is a bathetic mishmash with about as many laughs as a train wreck. It involves Lewis playing a circus clown who leads Jewish children to the gas chambers in Nazi Germany.

Why Lewis allowed that concept to ever get off the drawing board alive is a greater mystery than the Mary Celeste.

According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Lewis never released the film, having long expressed regret for even making it. In 2009, he told Entertainment Weekly that he was keeping it safe and that no one would ever see it. “Nobody can touch it,” he said at the time. “After I’m gone, who knows what’s going to happen? I think I have the legalese necessary to keep it where it is. So I’m pretty sure that it won’t be seen.”

For another ten years, anyways.

I wonder when tickets go on sale?

The pantheon of humor in America is broad;

we’ve clowns enough to form an everlasting flying squad.

Whatever is cliched or phony, our buffoons will mock —

from pettifogging tyrants to a congressman ad hoc. 

Jerry Lewis is a member of this crew outstanding;

despite some flops we all wish him a final happy landing.