It’s likely The Day the Clown Cried is “lost” in the sense that it will likely never be seen by the general public:
Viewings and footage
On April 9, 2012, Flemish public service broadcaster VRT re-released—on its cultural website Cobra.be—a film piece its predecessor BRT had aired 40 years earlier to the day on the film show Première-Magazine . It includes behind-the-scenes footage shot in a Paris circus and some takes with sound from the film. On February 3, 2016, German public TV ARD aired a 2-hour documentary called Der Clown . German film maker Eric Friedler shows interviews, a 31-minute version of original footage and re-staged scenes from the original scripts with some Swedish actors who participated in Lewis’ movie. Finally, the film shows the first full interview with Lewis about his work after 43 years. The documentary was later put on DVD and shown theatrically at the Deutsches Filminstitute. In June 2016, a 31-minute version from Der Clown was uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo by editor Kay Brown, and dubbed into German with English subtitles, marking the first time a version of The Day the Clown Cried was made available to the general public. It has since been removed.
Fans and critics alike hope for the film’s eventual release. The Jerry Lewis official museum website (archived) states: “The film has been tied up in litigation ever since, and all of the parties involved have never been able to reach an agreeable settlement. Jerry hopes to someday complete the film, which remains to this day a significant expression of cinematic art, suspended in the abyss of international litigation”.
In June 2018, at a public auction of items from the Lewis estate, were an original annotated script, polaroids of exteriors, and an original costume.
In a January 2019 interview with World Over, Lewis’ son Chris stated there is no complete negative of the film and that outstanding copyright issues prevented a release.
Possession by the Library of Congress
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 June 2024. The Library of Congress intends to eventually screen it at their Audio Visual Conservation campus in Culpeper, Virginia. Rob Stone, curator of the Library of Congress, has stated that they will not be able to loan the film to other theaters or museums without permission from Lewis’ estate. Stone has also stated that they do not have any intent to release the film in any form of home media. In a December 2018 article for The New York Times , Stone stated the LOC does not have a complete print of the film.