IMDb > The Man Who Laughs (1928)
The Man Who Laughs
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The Man Who Laughs (1928) More at IMDbPro »

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Overview

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7.8/10   4,177 votes »
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Popularity: ?
Down 2% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Director:
Writers:
Victor Hugo (novel)
J. Grubb Alexander (adaptation)
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for The Man Who Laughs on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
4 November 1928 (USA) See more »
Plot:
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
NewsDesk:
(55 articles)
User Reviews:
Veidt and Leni and Victor Hugo See more (54 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order)

Mary Philbin ... Dea

Conrad Veidt ... Gwynplaine/Lord Clancharlie
Julius Molnar ... Gwynplaine as a child (as Julius Molnar Jr.)

Olga Baclanova ... Duchess Josiana

Brandon Hurst ... Barkilphedro
Cesare Gravina ... Ursus

Stuart Holmes ... Lord Dirry-Moir

Sam De Grasse ... King James II (as Sam DeGrasse)

George Siegmann ... Dr. Hardquanonne

Josephine Crowell ... Queen Anne
Károly Huszár ... Innkeeper (as Charles Puffy)
Zimbo the Dog ... Homo the Wolf (as Zimbo)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Delmo Fritz ... Sword Swallower
Deno Fritz ... Sword Swallower
Henry A. Barrows ... (uncredited)
Richard Bartlett ... (uncredited)
Les Bates ... (uncredited)

Charles Brinley ... (uncredited)
Carmen Castillo ... Dea's Mother (uncredited)
Allan Cavan ... (uncredited)
D'Arcy Corrigan ... (uncredited)

Carrie Daumery ... Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)

Howard Davies ... (uncredited)
Nick De Ruiz ... Wapentake (uncredited)

Louise Emmons ... Gypsy Hag (uncredited)

J.C. Fowler ... (uncredited)

John George ... Dwarf (uncredited)
Jack A. Goodrich ... Clown (uncredited)
Charles Hancock ... (uncredited)
Lila LaPon ... Featured (uncredited)

Torben Meyer ... The Spy (uncredited)
Joe Murphy ... Hardquanones Messenger (uncredited)
Edgar Norton ... Lord High Chancellor (uncredited)

Broderick O'Farrell ... (uncredited)
Lon Poff ... (uncredited)

Frank Puglia ... Clown (uncredited)
Henry Roquemore ... (uncredited)
Templar Saxe ... (uncredited)
Allan Sears ... (uncredited)

Scott Seaton ... (uncredited)
Louis Stern ... (uncredited)
Al Stewart ... (uncredited)
Anton Vaverka ... (uncredited)

Directed by
Paul Leni 
 
Writing credits
Victor Hugo (novel "L'Homme Qui Rit")

J. Grubb Alexander (adaptation)

J. Grubb Alexander (continuity)

Walter Anthony (titles)

May McLean  uncredited
Marion Ward  uncredited
Charles E. Whittaker  uncredited

Produced by
Carl Laemmle .... producer
 
Original Music by
William Axt (uncredited)
Sam Perry (uncredited)
Erno Rapee (uncredited)
 
Cinematography by
Gilbert Warrenton (photography)
 
Film Editing by
Edward L. Cahn  (as Edward Cahn)
 
Art Direction by
Charles D. Hall 
Thomas F. O'Neill  (as Thomas O'Neil)
Joseph C. Wright  (as Joseph Wright)
 
Costume Design by
David Cox  (as Dave Cox)
Vera West 
 
Makeup Department
Jack P. Pierce .... makeup artist (uncredited)
 
Production Management
Paul Kohner .... production supervisor
 
Editorial Department
Maurice Pivar .... supervising film editor
 
Music Department
Joseph Cherniavsky .... musical director (uncredited)
 
Other crew
Walter Anthony .... titles
Charles D. Hall .... technical director
Carl Laemmle .... presenter
Lew Landers .... production staff member (as Louis Friedlander)
Jay Marchant .... production staff member
R.H. Newlands .... technical researcher (as Prof. R.H. Newlands)
Thomas F. O'Neill .... technical director (as Thomas O'Neil)
Bela Sekely .... story supervisor (as Dr. Bela Sekely)
John M. Voshell .... production staff member
Joseph C. Wright .... technical director (as Joseph Wright)
 

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
110 min
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.20 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System) (musical score and sound effects) | Silent
Certification:

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:
Factual errors: 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:
Lord Clancharlie:I came back to find my little son. What have you done with him?
King James II:By our grace he is still alive, and quite well, I believe. A Comprachico surgeon carved a grin upon his face so he might laugh forever at his fool of a father.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Batman Villains: The Joker (2005) (V)See more »
Soundtrack:
When Love Comes StealingSee more »

FAQ

How did this American movie from 1928 get away with showing female nudity?
Is Gwynplaine based on the Joker?
See more »
28 out of 29 people found the following review useful.
Veidt and Leni and Victor Hugo, 24 July 2000

A lord refuses to kiss the hand of King James II, so is doubly punished: he perishes in the "Iron Lady" [onscreen in a memorably handled sequence] while his son is sent to a surgeon who [offscreen] carves a grin on his face "so he can forever laugh at his father". Sheltered by a kindly playwright ["like Shakespeare, only much better!"], the boy grows up to join his troupe of itinerant players as the star attraction: "The Man Who Laughs". His fortunes lead him to a blind girl, an ambitious duchess, and Queen Anne, who reinstates him to the nobility, but with further complications.

Conrad Veidt, in a career stretching from CALIGARI to CASABLANCA, always found the emotional authenticity in bizarre roles. Here, in the familiar 19th century figure of the suffering clown, his performance is transfixing: whether tremulous as the girl's hand explores his face, or mortified by the laughter of the House of Lords, Veidt's face makes the role more than a simple martyr: he is man struggling with unjust destiny ["A king made me a clown, a queen made me a lord, but first God made me a man!"].

Big-hearted and unashamedly dramatic, this is clearly the work of Victor Hugo, rags to riches in scope, offering consolation in love. The spirit of the French Revolution is very much in the air in this world of cruel privilege and class antagonism, full of secret doors, dungeons, and volatile mobs. While not as richly populated as Les Miserables and Hunchback, this adaptation still has spectacular set-pieces and elaborate settings.

Considerably less revolutionary is the conventional portrayal of women: virgin and vamp are the only alternatives. The former is the blind girl played by Mary Philbin [who had earlier unmasked Lon Chaney's Phantom]. With blond ringlets arranged to make her face heart-shaped, she edges close to simpering yet rises to genuinely moving moments. The vamp is Olga Baclanova [who became the blonde tormentor in Tod Browning's FREAKS], here writhing around in a black negligee and looking startlingly like Madonna.

Today, the films of Paul Leni are hard to track down, but worth the effort. Starting as an art director, Leni developed his visual command in Berlin; this Germanic style stands out in some beautifully designed compositions, such as a dynamic night sequence: a ship, full of gypsies being deported, heaves through a furious snowstorm. Yet Leni always works at the heart of the human values in the story, sustaining intense moments for all his actors. While some scenes are staged in darkness to rival a film noir, Leni also floods Veidt and Philbin with light, often focusing on one nuance per shot, an old-fashioned but effective strategy.

Filmed on the cusp of the sound revolution, this semi-silent has added sound effects and rather vague non-stop music but no spoken dialogue.

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