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.

Director:

Paul Leni

Writers:

Victor Hugo (novel), J. Grubb Alexander (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Mary Philbin ... Dea
Conrad Veidt ... Gwynplaine / Lord Clancharlie
Julius Molnar Julius Molnar ... Gwynplaine as a child (as Julius Molnar Jr.)
Olga Baclanova ... Duchess Josiana
Brandon Hurst ... Barkilphedro
Cesare Gravina 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 Zimbo the Dog ... Homo the Wolf (as Zimbo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Delmo Fritz Delmo Fritz ... Sword Swallower
Deno Fritz Deno Fritz ... Sword Swallower
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Storyline

Forever disfigured by a wide and mirthless grin on his face, the orphaned son of a nobleman, Gwynplaine, rescues the blind baby-girl, Dea, in cold seventeenth-century England. Taken in by the paternal carnival philosopher, Ursus, the unloved boy grows into a kind and honest man who chooses, however, to hide his grotesque deformity behind a black cloak, utterly convinced that the beautiful Dea will never truly love him because of his horrible secret. Feeling unworthy of Dea's noble feelings, Gwynplaine will soon cross paths with the aristocratic temptress, Duchess Josiana, as a cruel and long-standing conspiracy in the palace of Queen Anne presents him with the burden of choice. Will poor Gwynplaine, the Man who Laughs, renounce everything in the name of love? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Victor Hugo's immortal 12-Reel romance of the tragedy hidden behind the laugh of a clown. Poor Gwenplaine; poor laughing fool who makes millions happy and knows not happiness himself. Suppressing a tear with every laugh- a broken heart behind each smile! Choosing between the love of a sweet innocent girl and the lure of a voluptuous woman! Two years in the making-cost £500,000 to produce! (Print Ad-Northern Star, ((Lismore, NSW)) 19 January 1929) See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Comprachicos, a Spanish term meaning child buyers, was coined by Victor Hugo for the novel. According to Hugo, they could change one's physical appearance through various methods such as physical restraints, muzzling their faces to deform them, slitting their eyes, dislocating their joints, and the malformation of their bones. See more »

Goofs

By the look of Gwynplaine and Dea, about 20 years pass between the prologue and the main part of the movie. There is no way Homo the wolf could still be alive after that amount of time. See more »

Quotes

Gwynplaine: [Via subtitles, to the House of Lords] A king made me a clown! A queen made me a Peer! But first, God made me a man!
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Connections

Referenced in Jonathan Creek: The Letters of Septimus Noone (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

When Love Comes Stealing
(uncredited)
Written by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack and Erno Rapee
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User Reviews

 
Pure Classic
10 August 2001 | by BaronBl00dSee all my reviews

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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 November 1928 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Man Who Laughs See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,347
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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