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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>
George Davis, who appears in the film as a clown, was a vaudeville performer who been a clown in Europe. He appeared in U.S, French, German, English, and Italian films. He coached Lon Chaney for his role. 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 »
A story of cruelty in the old style where we are asked to identify with the lesser person, not mock them like on all the superficreality shows.
He Who Gets Slapped is based on the Russian Leonid Andreyev's 1914 play about a circus melodrama. The arty silent film was the first movie made entirely under MGM's control and the first to feature the MGM lion, but it was not its first release as the studio chose to delay its opening until the busy holiday season. Young 'genius' executive Irving Thalberg, just under studio head Louis B. Mayer, produced it; during filming he was seeing Norma Shearer, and three years later they were married.
It marked the American debut of Swedish director Victor Seastrom, who masterfully helms it. Though the film itself is an intermittently entertaining and inventive silent melodrama showcasing the very physical acting skills of Lon Chaney, a screen legend whose premature death in 1930 robbed cinema of a unique talent. Here he plays obsessed scientist Paul Beaumont, whose work 'on the origins of mankind' is stolen by his devious patron, the Baron de Regnard (Marc McDermott) who also makes off with Beaumont's wife for good measure.
Utterly devastated by life's savage cruelties, Beaumont literally runs away to the circus where he starts a new life as a clown. Known as 'HE who gets slapped' or simply 'HE' for short his act consists of enduring nightly physical abuse at the hands of his impassive fellow clowns, to the explosive delight of the circus's boorish audiences: a more economic definition of schadenfreude (taking joy at the misfortunes of others) would be harder to imagine.
But though HE (the character's "name" is capitalized in all inter titles) becomes a roaring success, it turns out that fate hasn't yet done with him he secretly dotes on Consuelo (Norma Shearer), a bare-back rider in love with her fellow performer Bezano (John Gilbert). HE can just about stand this state of affairs but when the dastardly Baron returns to the scene and starts moving in on Consuelo, HE is spurred into a drastic act of revenge.
Chaney gives a heartbreaking naturalistic performance, it's one his most toned down and believable work, possibly showing the most painful expressions to ever grace the screen. This is largely due to the director, Sjostrom, who didn't believe in the over the top acting style of the age. It's certainly a contender for Chaney's best film (and performance), but despite being one of his oldest that's still available, it's certainly one of his most modern. Of course, his circus act is great, with the ironic climax finally turning the tables on the viewer. Chaney is incredible!!!
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