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The Man Who Laughs (1928)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 2,903 users  
Reviews: 43 user | 26 critic

When a proud noble refuses to kiss the hand of the despotic King James in 1690, he is cruelly executed and his son surgically disfigured.

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(novel), (adaptation), 5 more credits »
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The story behind the casting and production of the classic Universal Studios silent film The Man Who Laughs (1928).

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Dea
...
Gwynplaine / Lord Clancharlie
Julius Molnar ...
Gwynplaine as a child (as Julius Molnar Jr.)
...
Duchess Josiana
Brandon Hurst ...
Cesare Gravina ...
Ursus
Stuart Holmes ...
Lord Dirry-Moir
Sam De Grasse ...
King James II (as Sam DeGrasse)
George Siegmann ...
Josephine Crowell ...
Charles Puffy ...
Innkeeper
Zimbo the Dog ...
Homo the Wolf (as Zimbo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Deno Fritz ...
Sword Swallower
Edit

Storyline

Gwynplaine, son of Lord Clancharlie, has a permanent smile carved on his face by the King, in revenge for Gwynplaine's father's treachery. Gwynplaine is adopted by a travelling showman and becomes a popular idol. He falls in love with the blind Dea. The king dies, and his evil jester tries to destroy or corrupt Gwynplaine. Written by Helen Elsom <helenel@sco.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

4 November 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Homem Que Ri  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System) (musical score and sound effects)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Gwynplaine's grotesque grin was achieved with prosthesis. Conrad Veidt was fitted with a set of dentures that had metal hooks to pull back the corners of his mouth. He couldn't speak when the dentures were in. The only scene in which he did not wear the prosthesis is the scene where he is ravished by the Duchess Josiana. See more »

Goofs

When Barkilphedro first reads the blackmail note from Doctor Hardquanonne, we are shown a shot of the full text of the note. Toward the bottom, it says, "You are rich...". Seconds later, we see close-ups of the note. Words have been rearranged on the page to make the close-ups more readable and the lower portion now says, "You will be penniless," - a phrase that didn't appear anywhere in the original text. See more »

Quotes

Ursus: [looking at the baby] Blind!
[sees Gwynplaine grinning]
Ursus: Stop laughing! Stop laughing I say!
Gwynplaine as a child: I'm not laughing!
Ursus: [looks at Gwynplaine's grin] Comprachicos!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Dark Knight (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

When Love Comes Stealing
(uncredited)
Written by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack and Erno Rapee
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Pure Classic

A young boy is terribly disfigured by roving gypsies by the order of King James II of England as a punishment to one of his disobeying nobles. The gypsies carve a permanent smile in the young boy's face and then leave him for dead as they leave for their homeland. The young boy wanders aimlessly for shelter amidst the cold coastline filled with snow, ruins, and swinging bodies from the hangman's noose in the background. Here he finds an infant..alive..clutched in the frozen hands of a woman whose husband was hanged. This was the beginning of The Man Who Laughs...and it was so powerfully filmed that a race of emotions filled me as I watched awe-struck, yet horrified. Paul Leni directed this great film based on the novel by Victor Hugo. Conrad Veidt plays the grown Gwynplaine who travels around the English countryside with his adopted parent Ursus the Philosopher and the young Dea, the girl whose life he saved as a baby. Dea has turned into a blooming young woman, yet blind from her birth. Dea is played very nicely by Mary Philbin, who played in The Phantom of the Opera(1925) in the female lead. The way Leni has the characters interact is very effective. We can feel the tension in Veidt's character as he submits to the growing pains of love. We feel his sorrow as he cries through smiles. The rest of the film involves a royal plot by the queen and her henchman/jester(by the way, Brandon Hurst does a phenomenal job as this cruel heartless jester) to reinstate some royal property to Gwynplaine so he can be married to a duchess that the queen does not like. The story is pretty good and one can see where it is going early on, but the way Leni creates suspense and pathos overpowers any negative defects. The acting all around is very strong. This is a powerful film on many levels. It is an emotional rollercoaster ride through love, hate, despair, joy, and much more. I laughed; I cried. The best part though was that the film has a marvelous message about perceptions. Here we have this character Gwynplaine that smiles outwardly and makes people laugh, but he is full of despair. He cries on the inside. People should not always be taken at face value. By the way, Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, credits this film and the character of Gywnplaine for his creation of the Joker. I can see how. Watch this and the silent version of The Bat in the same evening and you will see what stirred a young Bob Kane's imagination.


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