Post by denise on Feb 23, 2020 12:31:42 GMT
Chris Lewis was in Berlin, Germany yesterday on the occasion of the Berlin Film Festival. He donated documents, letters and other items like photo negatives and the clown's makeup case from The Day the Clown Cried to the German Film Museum. Watch this Video from local TV Station RBB: www.rbb24.de/kultur/berlinale/beitraege/2020/berlinale-jerry-lewis-kinemathek-nachlass.html. The interview is in English. To see just a few of the donated items, click here: www.tag24.de/nachrichten/jerry-lewis-the-day-the-clown-cried-berlinale-am-tags-als-der-clown-weinte-1395653#article
Why Berlin? Several reasons: it seems that some scenes from the film were shot in Berlin (which I did not know), but these scenes are evidently lost forever. Chris said that Germany was Jerry's largest market outside the US, bigger even than France. And the German Film Museum has the technical know-how to digitalize the 400 (!) rolls of negatives of photos from behind the scenes, photos never seen before. This museum already has some memorabilia from TDTCC, so it seemed fitting to donate more to expand the collection. Chris said he thinks Jerry would have been pleased that these items will be housed in Berlin. Chris also gave some interesting details of growing up in the Lewis family, e.g. that the security measures at the Lewis mansion were established after the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra jr. because Jerry had received threats against his sons.
From Jerry's letters and other documents it becomes clear yet again how the film's producer, Nat Wachsberger, skipped out on his responsibilities by not paying the bills or even securing the rights to the film from the author. It seems that Jerry trusted Wachsberger, there was not even a written contract between them. Jerry just had one of his handshake deals and Wachsberger betrayed him. So Jerry could not even sue Wachsberger, he had nothing on paper.
Post by joe548 on Feb 26, 2020 3:45:13 GMT
Here is the interview Chris gave:
Comedian Legend Jerry Lewis: The Tears of the Clown
Der Tagesspiegel, Feb. 22, 2020
Interview with Chris Lewis
After the death of Jerry Lewis, it was revealed that he intentionally excluded his five surviving sons from any inheritance. So how is it that you, Mr. Lewis, as the third-born son can have control over part of his film archive?
My father was a smart man, he regulated everything during his lifetime. When he died in August 2017, there was no estate left that had not been regulated.
You must explain that.
People like me, who had stood by him for over 45 years and had helped to administer and preserve his work, had long since received whatever they were supposed to take care of. He would have thrown away a lot in the last years. Whenever he wanted to go through boxes, he would call me whether I wanted to have them. Of course I did, so I drove to Las Vegas, and loaded up the car. One time I pulled the story boards for „The Nutty Professor“ out of the trash, 315 boards. Two years ago we donated them to the Museum of Modern Art [in New York].
Your brothers seem at times to have felt neglected by your father. Why did you enjoy the privilege of his company?
I was close to my father up to the end. I worked with him for years. I was the only son to do that. As of 1983 I was his road manager, his stage manager, his sound and lighting technician, I headed his company Jerry Lewis Comedy Classics and as of 1995 oversaw the contracts with film and TV studios. He had control, but he wasn't interested in the details. Out of respect I informed him about the leasing deals with Paramount or other matters that came up. And he said, do it.
Your father was a superstar when you were born in 1957. Your younger brother Anthony once said that you had lived as „kings“ in Bel-Air.
It was a wonderful house, built by Mervyn LeRoy, the director of „Quo Vadis“. Studio boss Louis B. Mayer bought it from him, so that when we moved in, there was a mechanism in the wall that let the pictures on the wall disappear and a movie screen drop down. Two 35mm projectors were hidden in the projector room. Mayer used to watch the dailies in his living room as soon as they left the studio, and we did the same. We saw the dailies from „The Patsy“ or „The Nutty Professor“. I can even remember „Cinderfella“ from 1960.
What was it like as a child growing up in such a palace?
We stayed in the house, we seldom went outside. There were security guards. In 1963 Frank Sinatra's son was kidnapped and Dad had gotten threats. We were guarded pretty well. In spite of that we fought a lot with each other. I learned very early that the only way to survive was to beat my opponent bloody. Then he'll leave you alone. We often visited my father at the studio during filming. When we appeared on the set, he interrupted shooting to turn his attention to us. Then for a moment we stood in the limelight for a little fame. During his live Saturday night show in 1963, we sat in a box above his desk so that he could talk to us. We sent drawings down to him. That was the best way to spend time with him. Because we could not have gone with him to Disneyland or a Dodgers game. We tried a few times, but we were almost crushed. It wasn't fun.
Jerry Lewis became famous by playing the good-natured idiot. Peter Bogdanovich said that he brought out the scared nine-year-old that is in all of us. What was it like having a nine-year-old as a father?
The way he was before the camera was the way he was in real life. At dinner we laughed so much that my mother had to remind us to eat. But he didn't stop making faces. He liked to make fun of her strictness behind her back. And when she turned around to him, he would smile at her with an innocent face, and we just died laughing. The dinner table gave him the stage to pull us into his humor. At 98 my mother is still happy when we show her YouTube videos with the sketches of the man to whom she was married for 36 years. Because you recognize him as himself in his slapstick numbers.
You mentioned „The Nutty Professor“ as your father's perhaps best known film. It shows us your father as freakish, chaotic nerd or a dominating gigolo. Did he have a core of his personality that he hid from the world?
To be honest I have to say that he knew no middle ground. He was either the one or the other. Either totally crazy or straight.
Your mother once said that you could never be sure with him which phase he would jump into next. Sounds fearsome.
It could be. When he came home, we heard the huge front door close so that the whole house shook. If he was in a good mood, he whistled. If we heard his keychain fall on the marble table, we knew that we had better hide for a while and wait. As soon as he was home he became the center point. My mother put him there so that he was forced to give us his attention and time. Even if he was in a bad mood because of a remark from some Paramount executive, he devoted time to us. We were very good at avoiding remarks that might annoy him further. Of course these moods made us afraid. But on the other hand he always gave us the feeling we were important.
Your mother Patti once sang a duet with Jerry Lewis on a TV show. She sang: „If you loved me truly / You would not, should not, could not so selfish be.“ Was that a real accusation?
They loved each other. And she was his rock. When they married, he was 18 and she was 23. She made sure things were normal. As a devoted Catholic, daughter of Italian immigrants, she made sure we had good manners.
Jerry Lewis dedicated the book „Total Film-Maker“ to his wife with the words: „To Patti, whose love, patience and wisdom never diminished while waiting for me to grow up.”
Right. She used to say that she raised him. The song really does touch the dynamics of the two. She knew that it was the greatest thrill for him to see his name above the film title. But the special thing about comedians is that comedy stems from tragedy. And the tragic side of his life was always present – to be abandoned by his own parents and shoved off to his grandmother. He never forgot that. He loved the limelight more than people.
You come from a showbiz dynasty. Your grandparents were vaudeville artists, your parents comedy stars, but only your oldest brother has sought the spotlight as a rock musician. Is that normal?
Well, I enjoyed theater, singing and dancing in high school. But I did not have to do it. Since my mother gave us what we needed, I did not crave the attention of others so much.
Your father said that his parents could only show him their love by taking him on stage with them. Could he too not show his love in any other way than this?
It's quite possible that it was that way. But Gary, the oldest, liked to imitate his grimaces. He sang and wanted to emulate him. Also he grew up in the days when the popularity of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis took on indescribable proportions.
One of the hits of Gary Lewis and the Playboys was „Everybody Loves the Clown“ (1965). I wonder who he got that from!
He was seven when Martin & Lewis were getting the highest pay in show business. He got carried away.
We knew how much he adored us because he was always saying that on TV. On talk shows he talked about his children and we sat at home and were happy. Sure, we would have liked to spend more time with him. My advantage was that as I grew older, I became interesting as his travel companion and co-worker. Valuable conversations developed from that. I could ask him questions about „The Day the Clown Cried“ that he otherwise would not answer.
The film is your father's legendary failed project. In 1971 he started to film the story of a clown who lands in a concentration camp because he joked about Hitler and becomes the focal person of Jewish children held prisoner. The SS offer him his release if he calms the children and takes them to the gas chamber. Why did Jerry Lewis, the eternal child, take on such a dark theme?
In his mind the story was about the children. His question was: if you don't intervene for children, then for what else?
He wanted to see himself as the childrens' protector?
He dedicated his 1963 book „Being A Person“ to „that which I love the most - people“. He honestly loved them, especially when they loved him.
In almost all his films Jerry Lewis was the one who had to be protected. Did he overestimate his ability in this concentation camp film?
I don't think so. In the end the project failed because of the fight over the copyright, which was not my father's fault. The prodcer, Nat Wachsberger, made that mistake, he simply did not pay the bills. We can see that in the documents, including my father's correspondence, which are now being transferred to the Kinemathek [German Film Museum]. The raw film used for shooting did not fulfill the usual film standards. It had been damaged in the factory. Jerry discovered that several days' shooting had been ruined because the negatives were scratched. But the worst thing was that my dad shot the film without having the rights at all. Wachsberger had never acquired them.
He tried to pay for the rights out of his own pocket.
Yes, he did. But he had changed the script so much that it hardly resembled the original story. The author did not cooperate. I have seldom seen my dad so despondent. I remember that he called us to his suite one night at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, he was almost in tears, and he said that you must never go back on a deal that had been sealed by handshake. You could not live the way he had been treated. I had never before seen him cry in front of the whole family. He was totally destroyed. And he wanted that to be a lesson to us.
In what way?
He didn't care about written contracts. He was concerned about the integrity of a person who promises to deliver what both sides agreed on. And he said: you have to be this kind of person.
Your father kept the film locked away. Only a select few have ever seen the incompleted work. Do you think it will ever be shown?
It cannot be. The problem is that so many investors were cheated out of their money, including a rabbi in Los Angeles who invested a million dollars in the project, and each threatened to sue. When we donated a large part of the Jerry Lewis Collection four years ago to the Library of Congress, the L.A. Times mentioned in a short article that a raw version of „The Day the Clown Cried“ might be able to be shown. The next day my father had the enraged rabbi on the phone, who said he would rain lawsuits on anyone who had anything to do with the film. Even though he had lost a lot of money on the film, he would invest a lot again in lawsuits to prevent anyone from profiting from his loss.
Why are you donating this material now to a German institution?
On the one hand because Dad played a German clown in the film. But also because the Kinemathek already possesses artifacts from the film. It also has the technical capabilities to digitalize old film sheets. 400 rolls of 35mm negatives of unseen material. [Note: the German text is unclear whether this is movie film or still photos.] And finally because Germany was always his biggest market. In the US they say that the French discovered Jerry Lewis an an auteur, but his films sold here the best. The films ran longer in the theaters here than elsewhere, sales of VHS videos and DVDs were the highest. The Berlinale was his favorite film festival.
[Note: The donation took place now on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Film Festival, aka Berlinale. In other interviews Chris Lewis said the donation to the Kinemathek in Berlin was fitting because the beginning scenes of The Day the Clown Cried took place in and were shot in Berlin. These scenes however have evidently been lost forever.]
Post by denise on Feb 26, 2020 9:11:22 GMT
The above translation of the Tagesspiegel interview with Chris Lewis is from me, I posted it yesterday on FB. Note that this interview and the video of the interview he gave to RBB TV (top of the thread) are two different interviews, although they cover the same topics.
@ aajjgg: Chris Lewis was quite clear - the beginning scenes of TDTCC were not only set in Berlin, they were also shot in Berlin. I did not know that, but then there is so much we don't know about that film, so much has been lost. Time for a trip to Berlin to that museum!