quiet_curiosity: (Better than thou)
quiet_curiosity ([personal profile] quiet_curiosity) wrote2011-10-16 01:08 pm

He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

Summary: Paul Beaumont places all of his trust in his wife and his patron. For this, he is betrayed and humiliated in front of his peers. And so the inventor starts over, shucking off much of his old identity and reinventing a new one from the dregs: a clown who is slapped repeatedly for the audience's amusement. Eventually, his former patron reappears, this time as the potential beau of one of the performers - one who our hero and the horseman hold great affection.

Starring: Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, Ruth King, Ford Sterling, Marc McDermott, Tully Marshall
Directed by: Victor Sjöström (credited here as Victor Seastrom)

Viewed Via: TCM/DVR (still going strong until I [a] clean out my queue of uncommented upon movies and [b] watch everything on the DVR - which hasn't really happened because...well...Buster Keaton month y'all!)
Current Commercial Availability: Warner Archive DVR program

1) I really love Chaney here. He has a tendency to become overwhelmingly bombastic and over the top. I don't know if it's Sjöström's influence of the story's, but Chaney tones it down here but is till able to maintain the intensity of emotion. He's got some great moments by himself and with Shearer feel so honest.

2) Shearer is also great here. Consuelo is tender and but lively. She's the ingenue but seems more vulnerable because of her situation instead of personal flaws.

3) Gilbert is fun - athletic and romantic - as Bezano. He and Shearer are also really well matched as a couple and their love scene in the forest is really filled with the heady excitement of young love/feeling passionately for the first time.

4) Marc McDermott is fine as the duplicitous Baron. He's properly haughty with Chaney and, alternately, really slimy as he tries to woo Shearer.

5) This is not the movie for those who fear clowns. There are tons of them - and in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes Sjöström shoots them to look as if there this wall o' clown, which looks both odd and intimidating. But it's really effective, especially as they all filter through and smack Chaney one after the other. I also like the backstage stuff where we see everyone prepare. They're all so different pre-clown makeup. Like Beaumont, they lose identity in the clown guise.

6) The end? Egads! It almost ruined it for me. We have this great character drama for most of the movie and then...and then we pull out the Grand Guignol for the end. Did Tod Browning take over? No. I really do like that sort of thing (my love for The Unknown knows no bounds), but it feels wrong here. It felt somewhat easy to have the lion there so that Beaumont can use it to kill the Baron and Consuelo's scheming father. It also takes out Chaney - this is a Chaney movie with the standard Chaney plot (man loves pretty young woman who loves age appropriate, pretty man) - so that Consuelo can go out an live her own life. But here is where it all comes back to good. The other performers don't quite understand what's happened (HE had been late for his curtain call and then he wanders out disoriented). Here, the boundaries between the joke and real life start to break down everyone begins to recognize the tragedy.

I really loved this. It's beautifully shot, well acted, and moving in both an emotional and "meta" way.

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