The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Horror, Mystery  |  4 November 1928 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 3,461 users  
Reviews: 50 user | 31 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.



(novel), (adaptation), 5 more credits »
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Credited cast:
Julius Molnar ...
Gwynplaine as a child (as Julius Molnar Jr.)
Duchess Josiana
Brandon Hurst ...
Cesare Gravina ...
Stuart Holmes ...
Lord Dirry-Moir
Sam De Grasse ...
King James II (as Sam DeGrasse)
Josephine Crowell ...
Queen Anne
Charles Puffy ...
Zimbo the Dog ...
Homo the Wolf (as Zimbo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Delmo Fritz ...
Sword Swallower
Deno Fritz ...
Sword Swallower


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 November 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Homem Que Ri  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


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 »


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 »


Dea: God closed my eyes so I could see only the real Gwynplaine.
See more »


Version of L'homme qui rit (1971) See more »


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

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Magnificent Classic of Victor Hugo's Novel
24 September 2006 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In 1690, in England, the nobleman Lord Clancharlie returns from his exile to see his young son. The peer is captured by the cruel King James II and before being killed, he is informed that his beloved son had been sold to the gypsies Comanchicos that carved a permanent grin on his face. The Cormanchicos abandon the boy in the cold snowing winter, and while looking for shelter, he finds a baby hold in the arms of her dead mother. He brings the baby with him and they are welcomed by the philosopher Ursus (Cesare Gravina), who finds that the baby is blind and raises them. Years later, Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt) becomes a successful clown, and together with the blind Dea (Mary Philbin), they present plays for common people. Gwynplaine and Dea are in love for each other, but he refuses to marry her because of his ridiculous appearance. When the evil jester Barkilphedro (Brandon Hurst) discloses the origin of Gwynplaine, he plots a means to be rewarded by the Queen, jeopardizing the love of Gwynplaine and Dea.

The Man Who Laughs" is a magnificent classic based on the famous Victor Hugo's novel. The performances of Conrad Veidt and Brandon Hurst are amazing and there are many touching and heartbreaking scenes. My eyes became wet when the artists act like the audience cheering for Gwynplaine to spare Dea from the truth. The appearance of the character Gwynplaine inspired Bob Kane in the creation of "The Joker", one of Batman's greatest enemies. Another point that I would like to highlight is the resemblance of Madonna, in the beginning of her career, with the Russian actress Olga Baclanova, who performs daring scenes including of nude with her amoral character of Duchess Josiana. I have never read Victor Hugo's novel, but it seems that the conclusion in the original story is less optimistic than in this movie, but anyway I loved this film. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "O Homem Que Ri" ("The Man Who Laughs")

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