HE WHO GETS SLAPPED
starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert
November 29, 1924
Occasionally an exceptional picture comes along which makes no attempt to pander to the box office. "He Who Gets Slapped" is one of this sort, an artistic masterpiece.
The fantastic story concerns a brilliant scientist who is betrayed by his wife and best friend, his success shorn from him by their conspiracy. Crushed and beaten, he becomes a clown who convulses his public by permitting himself to be slapped in the face, because life has become a slap in the face to him.
Who but Lon Chaney could be cast for such a role? His make-up, as usual, is perfect, and he gives a magnificent performance, full of pathos that brings a gulp to your throat.
Norma Shearer and John Gilbert supply the love interest. They have been appearing together frequently of late and are almost an unbeatable screen team.
Victor Seastrom is to be congratulated on his masterly direction of this excellent play. And Metro-Goldwyn is to be congratulated because of their willingness to buy stories for their sheer artistry.
HE WHO GETS SLAPPED
starring Lon Chaney, John Gilbert and Norma Shearer
When Victor Seastrom presented his version of Hall Caine's "Name the Man," we were disappointed. He failed to rise much above the level of a fourth rate novel. But this adaptation of Leonid Andreyev's "He Who Gets Slapped" is a superb thing - and it lifts Seastrom to the very front rank of directors.
This fatalistic Russian drama is a bizarre thing; of a scientist who, wrecked by a faithless wife, seeks to forget as a clown in a small traveling circus. He becomes the famous and mysterious "he who gets slapped." In the same circus is a pretty little rider, daughter of a derelict count. He comes to love the girl, Consuelo, but he masks his longing behind his grotesquely painted face. Consuelo loves a young rider. The count tries to sell his daughter to another but HE saves her for her lover, and gives his life that she may live on and be happy.
All this is unfolded in a series of beautiful camera pictures, technically faultless. It is told clearly and directly in pantomime, as is the right function of the photoplay. True, there are subtitles, but in the main they are philosophic (and well written) comments upon the action. Andreyev's play was elusive behind the footlights. Enmeshed in celluloid by Seastrom, it gains immeasurably in clarity. The director has taken liberties with the original story, but they seem to us logical and in the spirit of the Russian dramatist's original theme.
The acting is remarkably fine. Lon Chaney does the best work of his career. Here his performance has breadth, force and imagination. Tully Marshall, as usual, gives an outstanding performance, and Norma Shearer and Jack Gilbert, as the lovers, are delightful.
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