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As professional clowns Tito and Simon are traveling, they happen upon an abandoned child, whom they take in and name Simonetta. When Simonetta is older, she becomes a circus performer herself. One day she is looking for roses, and climbs into the garden of Count Luigi Ravelli. The count becomes infatuated with her, but she leaves as soon as possible. Sometime later, Ravelli consults a doctor about his fits of uncontrollable laughter, and there he meets Tito, who has come to seek help for his fits of uncontrollable weeping. The two decide to help each other, and they establish a friendship, but problems arise when they realize that they are both in love with Simonetta. Written by
Not only is this the greatest performance I've seen by Chaney, it is one of the great films.
In this, Chaney definitively proves he is one of the greatest actors, perhaps the greatest, in all of film. Although he appears in different make-ups in almost every scene, the make-up is to portray himself as a younger man who slowly grows older as the 25-year span of the film tells the well-known tragic love story more familiarly known as "Pagliacci," the clown who could not laugh.
The film co-stars a radiant 14-year-old Loretta Young, who Chaney supposedly guided to another great performance. Without the director, who was unduly harsh on her, knowing it. When Chaney found out, he made sure he was always with Young whenever the director was. Young's mistreatment ended.
Several times I was near tears because Chaney's performance--watch his eyes, hands and demeanor--is so naturalistic, even though somewhat melodramatic, as all silent performances were.
Almost all of Chaney's films were about unrequieted love, but here he may have reached his apotheosis. I won't know until I see a few more of his non "horror" films, especially, "He Who Gets Slapped."
Don't let what I've said make you think this is some clunky "tear-jerker," It is filled with good laughs, drama, wonder and real pathos. Chaney's final scene is utterly tragic and beautiful.
Even non-Chaney fans will be awed by "Laugh, Clown, Laugh."
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