Thursday, October 2, 2008

The King Of Comedy

Jerry Lewis is an amazing guy. Anyone who has seen the original version of the Nutty Professor can attest to that. I won't make any French jokes here, I've always been treated well in France.  Check out this phone conversation taped by Mr. Lewis himself (here). Some asshole politician is trying to get Lewis to recognize one of his campaign
contributors from the stage that night, he thinks he has Lewis' assistant on the phone but it's obviously Jerry himself.  A more hateful and hysterical six minutes would be hard to find.
There's also the x-rated reading of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin's radio spot for the Caddy, I can't pinpoint it on any old aircheck but it's somewhere on either of these pages (these are radio shows I did w/Nitro Nick Tosches as special guest, I think the first one is more likely to have the Caddy on it, unfortunately it's bleeped for airplay, try here or  here).  I love the way he pronounces grease ball.
My favorite story about Jerry Lewis concerns a film that was never finished called The Day The Clown That Cried.  Lewis (who also wrote and was set to direct) was to play a clown who led the little children in a Nazi concentration camp happily to their deaths in the gas chambers. After several days of filming the financing fell through and the set was shut down. Lewis tried for years to finish the film and had the negative of the existing footage in a steamer trunk that he never let out of his sight. I once saw him at a book signing to promote Jerry Lewis In Person and a flunky was struggling with the trunk following Lewis and his entourage. I'd like to have a go at  making that film today with Michael Jackson in the clown role. Somebody get Scott Rudin on the phone.
ADDENDUM: A good bio of the historical John Joel Glanton, scalp  hunter and prairie rouge, can be found here. William Goetzman has an entire website devoted to
Samuel Chamberlain's My Confession including audio and some of Chamberlain's artwork (this all relates to the post concerning Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian posted in September).


Anonymous said...

"...Her name is Victor?"

Gotta love Jer!

TAS said...

Fantastic blog (which I just discovered this instant). But I have to rush to the defense of The Day the Clown Cried. I've read Lewis's screenplay, and the whole 'leading the chillens slap-happily to the gas chamber' meme, handed down through time, is almost entirely a myth. At most it's a wildly inaccurate description of one, admittedly crucial, sequence that (at least on paper) is played as a harrowingly tragic event, not this epicenter of poor taste that rumor would have us believe.

You're right that it was never finished, but only insofar as no final cut was ever prepared. When the money fell through in the midst of shooting, Lewis forged ahead with his own dough and completed the principal photography on schedule. A rough cut was made, then screened for the author of the novel on which it was based, Joan O'Brien, who was reportedly so horrified by the result that she vowed never to give her consent to any further screenings, let alone a theatrical release (how she got to determine this and not the film's nominal producer is a truly labyrinthine saga). To complicate matters further, Jerry Lewis managed to smuggle the negative for the film's final sequences out of Europe, thereby insuring that no final cut can ever be made without his participation.

All of the footage exists, I should point out; not just what Lewis has in his possession. A few years ago there were rumors of bootleg copies of the workprint circulating in Europe. What's more, Lewis himself has been known to screen his version of it for journalists (I know someone very slightly who's seen it . . . he says it's not nearly as bad, or as tasteless, as legend has it). I expect we'll see an official release before too long, given that the main obstacle all this time (Joan O'Brien, who passed away a couple of years ago) has been removed.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but since reading the final draft screenplay several years ago, the persistence of the old rumors about that picture drive me slightly batty.

Again, you got one king hell of a blog here, Your Houndship; thank you, seriously, for linking 'Charlie Parker' to it. We is honored.

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