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The Man Who Laughs (1928)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 2,831 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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Title: 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
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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

Plot Keywords:

1690s | jester | clown | nobleman | revenge | See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

4 November 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Man Who Laughs  »

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 fixed grin and disturbing clown-like appearance was a key inspiration for comic book talents writer Bill Finger and artists Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson in creating Batman's greatest enemy, The Joker. See more »

Goofs

Although a silent film allows convenient ambiguity, the story presents Gwynplaine's speech as clear enough to be understood by all other characters without impediment. Since Gwynplaine cannot close his lips, he could never form the consonants b, f, m, p and v. At least one of these sounds occurs in the vast majority of words in Gwynplaine's native tongue, English. Realistically Gwynplaine would be virtually mute, as actor Conrad Veidt was whenever wearing the Gwynplaine prosthesis. See more »

Quotes

Ursus: [while getting Gwynplaine some food, Gwynplaine takes the baby out of his coat and puts her on the table, turning around] What, are there TWO of you?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mr. Sardonicus (1961) 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

An underappreciated classic
12 August 1999 | by (Atlanta, GA USA) – See all my reviews

The first time I encountered The Man Who Laughs was a photo in a horror movie catalog that I had when I was a very easily-spooked 8-year-old. For some reason that grotesque grin frightened me more than the Hunchback, the Phantom of the Opera, and Nosferatu combined. I couldn't bear to look at it, so I carefully marked the page so that I wouldn't accidentally catch a glimpse of it. However, if I had actually seen the movie I wouldn't have been frightened at all. I wouldn't consider The Man Who Laughs a horror movie, but a touching melodrama about a man whose appearance is horrific.

Gwynplaine is a very sympathetic, likeable character, and Conrad Veidt does an excellent job of conveying his inner torment and sadness with subtle eye movements and gestures. Gwynplaine's innate goodness is very clear, despite his macabre appearance. We root for him to overcome all obstacles to find happiness and true love, as we root for the evil jester Barkilphedro to meet with a bitter end. We are not disappointed. I was impressed with the beautiful cinematography, which is exceptional for the time. The score and sound effects are used very well, so well that sometimes you forget that you are watching a silent picture. With the outstanding performances, particularly Veidt's, this is a classic of silent cinema that deserves to have a much wider audience.


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