WEIRDLAND: Jerry Lewis: "The Day the Clown Cried" clip

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Jerry Lewis: "The Day the Clown Cried" clip

Jerry Lewis: "I have my own particular analogy for “mature” and “immature.” Immature applies to those who run around proclaiming what men they are. And a mature male is the one who is going to proclaim very proudly there’s a lot of little boy in him. People fear comedy. Because the truth of it is like a bone coming through the skin. Comedy is nothing more than a mirror we hold up to life. And people don’t want that."

Focus magazine: In The Nutty Professor, how much of the tension between the professor and Buddy Love derived from your teaming with Dean Martin?

Jerry Lewis: I wasn’t portraying the role of any one person; I was portraying about five people that are like that. A small portion of Dean’s arrogance might have been there—subconscious, again, I was not aware of it. But I can name the five or six people that character was—that just repelled me on a human level—their inability to be just respectful to another human being. And these are all theatrical people that I have seen that I felt desperately sorry for. I have no feelings of dislike or hate other than… they’re just terrifying what lives they must live. And it was the one time that I had trouble directing myself—that was the only time—when the objectivity and all of the science and everything I had expounded upon earlier really didn’t work for him. I really had trouble.

Jerry Lewis was recruited for the project of "The Day the Clown Cried" by the producer Nathan Wachsberger, who, as it turns out, “definitely didn’t have the rights to O’Brien’s material.” The producer also couldn’t afford to finance the film, and Lewis put $2,000,000  of his own money into the production. Although Lewis thought he’d have no trouble with financing, that wasn’t the case once cameras started rolling. Wachsberger suddenly disappeared. Film equipment went missing. Financing was gone. Lewis repeatedly expressed his desire to work matters out and release the film, shot in Sweden in the early ’70s. Joan O’Brien, who was unhappy with some of Lewis’s changes to the script, never authorized the release.

Lewis’s sentimental vision of a clown who sacrifices his life in the interest of the ultimate consolation of children is possibly one of his best solo films. For Lewis, comic performance is the definitive act of solidarity in the ending. A little girl goes up to Helmut (Lewis) and wordlessly holds out her hand in a silent request to enter with him.  In her eyes is the absolute certainty that he will. Shyly, she begins to withdraw her hand. Suddenly, Helmut reaches out and grabs her hand, clutching it desperately as he needs her innocence to control the panic that is tearing at him. After shooting wrapped, Wachsberger retaliated by threatening to file a lawsuit of breach of contract and stated that he had enough to finish the film without Lewis. Wanting to ensure the film would not be lost, Lewis took a rough cut of the film, while the studio retained the entire film negative. On August 5, 2015 the Los Angeles Times reported that Lewis had donated a copy of the film to the Library of Congress, under the stipulation that it not be screened before 2024.

The memorable and sadomasochistic mind games created by Jerry Lewis and his longtime partner Dean Martin in such gems as The Stooge, Living it Up, You’re Never Too Young and Frank Tashlin’s monumental Artists and Models Hollywood or Bust were always quite disturbing. One could sense that this unlikely partnership of a Rat Pack god and a bundle of neuroses was based on need and the spirit of the era, not on personal closeness – their perfect alliance was more a result of shared antipathies than spiritual kinship. Once Jerry went solo, the resulting pictures move beyond the sitcom-style safety of Martin and Lewis. Especially in the films directed by Lewis but even in his solo outings directed by cinema’s great live action cartoonist Frank Tashlin we find comedy verging on chaotic uncontainability, of unmotivated mania, of the uncontrolled and uncontrollable; in short, closer not in tone but in overarching theme to the post-May ’68 touch points of bleakness, searching, schizophrenia, nihilism, and the need for reinvention that are to be found in experimental films such as Out 1 (1971). One of his most important works, the sardonically perverse Jekyll & Hyde variation, The Nutty Professor, is often viewed as an intimate reflection about Lewis's years with Martin: malicious gloating, inextricably linked with a dull feeling of loss, a kind of phantom agony.

The Patsy, perhaps Jerry's greatest film, bares the closest similarity to The Nutty Professor, also resembling the loose-limbed paranoia, wandering attention, zany, anchorless humor. Yet it bares pointing out that these very characteristics Lewis also channels into a profound sweetness, of an overly-human (superhuman, even) vulnerability, of the magic of innocent-childish thinking; in short, channeled into a profound humanism that exists simultaneously within the same body which expresses and inspires so much craziness. Charming Ina Balin transcends the limitations of Lewis’ usual girlfriend-cum-surrogate mother role to emerge as one of his finest female foils. Her serene bemusement sells a lot of his zanier gags. The film has a beguiling philosophical undertone as Ellen argues the hardships we endure in life play a bigger part in shaping decent human beings than success does. After directing and starring in the dramatic story of a clown in a Nazi concentration camp, The Day the Clown Cried (1972), Lewis mostly retired from the cinema. Hardly Working (1980) and Smorgasbord (1983) were, in their aversion for the present day, not so much comeback attempts as grumpy signs of life. Source:

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