A circus clown is imprisoned by the Nazis and goes with Jewish children to their deaths.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Helmut Doork
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Peter Ahlm ...
1st New Prisoner
Lars Amble ...
Guard
...
Ada Doork
Jonas Bergström ...
Franz
Carl Billquist ...
Gestapo Officer #2
...
Circus Band Conductor
Tomas Bolme ...
Adolf
Curt Broberg ...
Galt
...
Ludwig
Johnny Cacao
...
Captain Curt Runkel
Nils Eklund ...
Bartender
Victor Fratellini
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Storyline

Helmut Doork, a once great and famous clown, is fired from the circus. Getting drunk at a local bar, he pokes fun at Hitler in front of some Gestapo agents, who arrest and send him to a prison camp. Helmut angers his fellow prisoners by refusing to perform for them, wanting to preserve his legend. As times passes, Jews are brought into the camp, with fraternizing between them and the other prisoners strictly prohibited. Eventually, Helmut is forced by the others to perform or be beaten. His act bombs and he leaves the barracks depressed, trying the routine out again alone in the prison yard. He hears laughter and sees a group of Jewish children watching him through a fence. Happy to be appreciated again, he makes a makeshift clown suit and begins to regularly perform. His audience grows, but a new prison Commandant orders Helmut to stop. When he refuses and continues to perform, he's beaten and thrown in solitary confinement. But the Nazis soon come up with a use for Helmut, keeping ... Written by Jonathan D. H. Parshall <parshall@citcom.net>

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2.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The circus scenes were shot at the Cirque D'Hiver in Paris where Jerry Lewis was performing at the time. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Cannibal Holocaust (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Far from the Hollywood Mainstream and Launched into Legal Limbo.
21 January 2002 | by (The Beach) – See all my reviews

Based on Joan O'Brien's book by the same name, about a German clown who was arrested by the Gestapo, interred in a concentration camp, and used to march Jewish children into the ovens. Director-star Jerry Lewis lost close to 40 pounds to play the role. Filmed mostly in Stockholm, Sweden, the film has been tied up in litigation and never finished. Rough footage exists but a completed version never materialized. The screenplay is weak and the rough copy of the film depicts a cold, bleak and uneven film needing of a finish cut and scoring. Today it stands notable mostly for the departure that Lewis took in his career from his man-child persona. Twenty-five years later director-star Roberto Benigni's critically acclaimed Italian film La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) successfully merged comedy with life in a Jewish concentration camp. Lewis' film did try to bridge the warm heart of La Vita e Bella and the shocking realism of Steven Speilberg's Schindler's List a quarter of a century before either of these films were made, and a quarter of a century before the subject was acceptable in Hollywood, and it is difficult to tell what the finished product would have looked liked or how it would have been received. In any respect, Lewis took a big chance (a gamble that he ultimately lost) by attempting a film far from the mainstream of Hollywood and it appears The Day the Clown Died will remain in legal limbo forever.


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