The Man Who Laughs (1924)

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1924)
Article #209 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-11-2001
Posting date: 2-24-2002

A boy is mutilated by gypsies as a child so that his face is permanently set in a hideous smile. When he is abandoned by them, he saves the life of a child and ends up staying with a man who runs a circus and makes him a clown. Eventually, the Queen discovers he is of royal birth, and tries to reinstate him to the nobility.

This one is a classic. The first half hour of this movie is absolutely stunning; I love Gwynplaine’s trek through the snow and his discovery of the child, which I consider one of the great scenes of silent cinema. I also love Conrad Veidt’s performance throughout; it’s amazing the range of emotions he projects despite the fact that his mouth is restricted to one expression. I also like Brandon Hurst as the cruel jester Barkilphedro; this was the first time I really noticed him, and soon discovered that he appeared in several key roles in horror films throughout the years. The movie also features Mary Philbin as the blind girl who loves Gwynplaine, and Olga Baclanova (most famous for playing the trapeze artist in FREAKS) as the Duchess Josiana. This is one of the joys of working on this project; the discovery of a new favorite that I may never have taken the time to look at otherwise.

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