The King of Comedy had been at it for roughly 20 years, but one day in 1966, he decided to call it quits and, with no explanation, after 17 years with Paramount, left the company and joined Columbia Pictures. He starred in “Three on a Couch” (1966), “The Merv Griffin Show, Way…Way Out”(1966), “The Sammy Davis Jr.,” and more.
But these comedies still weren’t cutting it, and in 1972, Lewis began working on something entirely different. The film would be a drama set in Germany. In fact, talk about it was kept relatively secret, though ultimately, the complete film would never see the light of day due to funding and copyright issues. It was called “The Day the Clown Cried.”
‘The Ladies Man’
Speaking of the ladies' man (one thing Lewis certainly was), he, of course, made another film on the subject, aptly called "The Ladies Man," The 1961 film told the story of yet another awkward nebbish who works at a female-only boarding house.
The sequence with the criminal and the hat is considered to be the funniest bit of his career. He once again achieved great laughs with that sweet taste of sentimentality.
Passing it On
Can you believe that the man was also involved in academia? In 1967 Lewis took up a little teaching gig. Or perhaps, a big teaching gig. The comedian taught film directing at the University of California.
Apparently, he had some interesting students. Among the 'kids' in his class were none other than filmmaking legends George Lucas and Steven Speilberg. It looks like his greatness rubbed off on them.
The Day Jerry Lewis Cried
Too many factors prevented the completion of the film. One of them was the fact that Lewis was not happy with the end result. As a person of Jewish heritage, the subject matter was very emotionally difficult for him, and Lewis felt that he just could not be satisfied with the end result, especially while he was being confronted with quite a lot of backlash from studio executives.
The film's release marked a groundbreaking change in American cinema. It would be another 13 years until the world would witness Claude Lanzmann’s groundbreaking film, "Shoah," and over 20 years before Steven Spielberg’s "Schindler’s List."
Taking a Breath
Though the complete film was never shown in the end, there was a 31-minute version of the film that was screened on a German TV station (ARD) in the documentary called "Der Clown."
The knock to his career and his reputation set him back for some time. Feeling that he had done whatever he could in comedy but not fully achieving his dreams in the world drama, Lewis left showbiz for a few years.