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

User Rating:
7.8/10   3,641 votes »
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Popularity: ?
Up 11% 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:
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User Reviews:
Grotesque, Macabre, and Influential Silent Classic See more (52 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
Charles Puffy ... Innkeeper
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 ... Gypsey 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 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:
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:
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 »
Movie Connections:
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 »
8 out of 8 people found the following review useful.
Grotesque, Macabre, and Influential Silent Classic, 8 March 2008
Author: gftbiloxi (gftbiloxi@yahoo.com) from Biloxi, Mississippi

Like most artistic "isms," expressionism is somewhat difficult to define; in general, however, it refers to a style in which the artist is much less interested in capturing external realities than in portraying emotional and psychological states; consequently, expressionism is often fantastic in a visual sense--and when it combined with the darker edges of Germanic folklore it gave rise to a series of classic and near-classic silent films, including THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, NOSFERATU, THE GOLEM, and WAXWORKS.

Over time, the style began to creep into American film. This was most particularly true of films made at Universal Studios, which had major successes with such Gothic-inflected films as THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, both of which starred Lon Chaney. Drawn from a minor work by Victor Hugo, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS was first intended as a Chaney vehicle; by the time it began production, however, Chaney had decamped to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer--and Universal assigned Conrad Veidt to the starring role under director Paul Leni. Both men had been deeply involved in the German expressionist movement, and the resulting film was a melodrama so deeply steeped in the grotesque that it came to be regarded as a horror film.

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS concerns a child named Gwynplaine who is caught up in royal intrigue and is deliberately disfigured, his mouth cut into a ghastly, inflexible grin. Abandoned, he rescues an blind infant girl; both are taken in by the kindly Ursus (Cesare Gravina.) Years later, and entirely unaware of his aristocratic origin, Gwynplaine (Veidt) and the beautiful blind maiden Dea (Mary Philbin) are popular carnival actors, appearing in a play written by Ursus--but although he loves Dea, Gwynplaine is deeply humiliated by his eternal grin and feels he can never marry. Ironically, it is not until he is once more caught up in a royal powerplay and recognized as a peer that he realizes the depth of Dea's love.

In some ways the plot is simplistic and occasionally too much so, but the look of the thing is relentlessly fascinating. Director Leni endows his world with grotesque faces, vulgar sexuality, and deliberately twisted visuals--particularly so in the first half of the film, which is greatly famous for the sequence in which the abandoned child stumbles through a snow storm beneath gallows bearing rotting corpses to find the infant Dea. Veidt's hideous grin, an early creation by make up genius Jack Pierce, is remarkably effective; the performances are memorable, and although the second half of the film is excessively predictable the whole thing goes off with a bang.

Although it was hardly a failure, in 1928 THE MAN WHO LAUGHS proved too gruesome for many audiences, and the rise of sound films drove it into a too-rapid obscurity. Even so, it would cast a very long shadow: it is an important link in the chain between German expressionism and the great Hollywood horror classics of the early 1930s. The Kino DVD presents a reasonable but far from flawless transfer of the film, along with several bonus features, most significantly a "making of" documentary that details the film's stylistic importance. Recommended for fans of classic horror.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer

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