Released 11/02/24 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Victor (Sjöström) Seastrom; Screenplay: Carey Wilson and Victor Seastrom, from the play "He, the One Who Gets Slapped" by Leonid Andreyev as produced by The Theatre Guild, Inc., and translated by Gregory Zillboorg; Cinematography: Milton Moore; Art Director: Cedric Gibbons; Film Editor: Hugh Wynn; Costumes: Sophie Wachner; 7 reels (6953'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Paul Beaumont), Norma Shearer (Consuelo), John Gilbert (Bezano), Tully Marshall (Count Mancini), Marc MacDermott (Baron Regnard), Ford Sterling (Tricaud), Harvey Clarke (Briquet), Paulette Duval (Zinida), Ruth King (Mrs. Beaumont), Clyde Cook, Brandon Hurst, George Davis (Clowns)
SYNOPSIS: Paul Beaumont, a poor student, has devoted his life to proving his scientific theories of the origins of Mankind. He and his wife have been the guests of Baron Regnard while he did his research, and though he believes Regnard to be his benefactor, the Baron has in fact stolen his wife, and with her help, he steals Beaumont's theories. When Regnard presents Beaumont's theories as his own to the Academy of Sciences, Beaumont denounces him, but Regnard slaps his face and the members of the Academy break into uproarious laughter. Years later we find Beaumont, his former identity concealed, working in a circus as "He Who Gets Slapped," a clown who exacts great laughter from the audience by being slapped in the face hundreds of times by a troupe of clowns. Count Mancini, a nobleman who has squandered the family fortune, places his daughter Consuelo with the circus, and she and Bezano, the bareback rider, are immediately attracted to one another. "He" also loves the young girl, but she never takes his affection seriously. Mancini plans to marry his daughter to Regnard to secure his own fortunes, but "He" learns of their plans and, while they prepare a celebration to announce the engagement, he opens a lion's cage by the only exit from the room they occupy. "He" enters, confronts the baron, and is stabbed by the man. As the men escape, they open the door and the lion attacks and kills them both. As the lion is about the give He "the last slap," the trainer enters and subdues the beast. "He" drags himself out to the main tent to perform his act, but collapses during the performance, dying in Consuelo's arms.
"At the Capitol this week there is a picture which defies one to write about it without indulging in superlatives. It is a shadow drama so beautifully told, so flawlessly directed that we imagine that it will be held up as a model by all producers. Throughout its length there is not an instant of ennui, not a second one wants to lose...Never in his efforts before the camera has Mr. Chaney delivered such a marvelous performance as he does as this character. He is restrained in his acting, never overdoing the sentimental situations, and is guarded in his make-up...For dramatic value and a faultless adaptation of the play, this is the finest production we have yet seen." ---The New York Times
"While this picture may not quite live up to the claim made of "the perfect motion picture," it is nevertheless a mighty fine screen entertainment, capably acted, almost flawlessly directed and photographed...Lon Chaney as "He" stands out as possibly the greatest character actor of the screen. In this role he displays an understanding of character beyond anything that he has done heretofore." ---Variety
NOTES: HE WHO GETS SLAPPED was the first release of the newly formed Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer company. Sam Goldwyn brought Seastrom from Sweden to Hollywood in January 1923 after his great success with THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT (released in the U.S. as THE PHANTOM CHARIOT). After NAME THE MAN, a successful 1923 release, he was asked to film Leonid Andreyev's play for the newly formed M-G-M company. The film was shot in 37 days at a cost of $172,000. Selecting such a poetic and peculiar story for their first release was considered a gamble, but it paid off. The film made a profit of $349,000, not a small sum for the fledgling studio. It was also critically acclaimed and made The New York Times list of the 10 Best Productions of 1924.
Contrary to popular belief, Chaney was not under contract with the newly formed studio, but was still acting as a free agent.
For a detailed analysis of the film, readers are referred to the excellent article by Örjan Roth- Lindberg in the 1984 25th Anniversary issue of Chaplin.
© 1998,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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