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Story of an inventor who, suffering betrayal in life, makes a career of it by becoming a clown whose act consists of getting slapped by all the other clowns. He falls in love with another circus performer, and those who betrayed him enter his life yet again. Written by
Robert Tonsing <email@example.com>
"He Who Gets Slapped" was originally a Russian book by Leonid Andreyev and was translated into English and adapted for the stage by Gregory Zillboorg. It opened on Jan. 9, 1922 at the Garrick Theatre in New York and ran for 182 performances. With the exception of Consuelo (Norma Shearer's character), most of the characters in the stage production did not have names. The Lon Chaney character in the play was simply "He", and the others "a Juggler," "an Acrobat", etc. MGM did not credit Zillboorg for his theatrical adaptation. See more »
During part of the scene where the lion is loose in the room, Beaumont is seen with no, or hardly any, black makeup around his right eye. Before and after this scene, both eyes are made up. See more »
But you now what they write. There's nothing makes people laugh so hard as seeing someone else get slapped.
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Bravo to Turner Classic Movies for making available, once again, the cinematic art of one of the best actors ever, Lon Chaney. As Andreyev's disappointed scientist turned circus clown, Paul Beaumont, Chaney makes the most of every scene he's in, and never disappoints. We feel the agony of his hopeless love for the lovely bareback rider Consuelo, as well as the seething anger toward the man who ruined his life, the despicable Baron Renard. It's a far better performance, in my opinion, than his similar role four years later in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh," much more understated and, therefore, much more involving.
But that's not to take away from the other performances, by any means. Norma Shearer, in her first major role as Consuelo, is suitably attractive and gives a good performance, but to see her at her best is to see such '30's classics as "A Free Soul" and especially "Marie Antoinette." There, she was a mature actress; here, she was a promising newcomer. John Gilbert already shows that he had the goods to become one of the top leading men of the '20's, managing to convey virility even in multicolored tights. And Marc McDermott and old veteran Tully Marshall make two of the best silent villains ever as the aforementioned Baron and as Consuelo's father, an impoverished nobleman ready to force his daughter into marrying the Baron just to improve his fortunes, respectively. You're genuinely glad, at an almost visceral level, when they wind up getting what they deserve in the end.
I don't know who composed the music score used in the print seen on TCM, but it's excellent and really compliments the action.
Victor Seastrom's moody direction is perfect, especially his use of a globe-spinning clown to serve as sort of a Greek chorus at various points in the film.
In short, this is a true silent classic, silent film making at its' best, and well worth seeing.
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