The Man Who Laughs

The Man Who Laughs

Movie: The Man Who Laughs
Director: Paul Leni
Produced by: Universal
Released By: Universal
MPAA Rating:

Released with sound effects and a music score that included the song “When Love Comes Smiling” by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack and Erno Rapee, Paul Leni’s near masterpiece remains one of the silent era’s last great romantic melodramas. Based on Victor Hugo’s 1869 novel L’Homme qui Rit, The Man Who Laughs starred German import Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine, a carnival freak doomed to live life wearing a perpetual grin carved on his face by Dr Hardquannone, had offended England’s King James II. Taken in as a child by Ursus, a mountebank, Gwynplaine grows up alongside the beautiful but blind Dea. They fall in love but Gwynplaine refuses to marry her because his hideous face makes him feel unworthy. Queen Anne, meanwhile, has ascended the throne and when she learns from her predecessor’s evil jester Barkilphedro that the recalcitrant Duchess Josiana is in possession of Lord Clancharlie’s estates, she decrees that the royal femme fatale must marry Gwynplaine, the rightful heir. Josiana, who has caught Gwynplaine’s act incognito and arranged a rendezvous, is at the same time sexually attracted to and repelled by the “Laughing Man,” but Gwynplaine, who realizes that the duchess’ attraction has legitimized his right to love Dea, renounces his title and follows his heart to the new World. Although Kirk Douglas was long interested in producing a remake, The Man Who Laughs was instead filmed again as L’Uomo che Ride by Italian director Sergio Corbucci in 1966. Corbucci, however, changed the setting from Queen Anne to the infamous sixteenth century Italian court of the Borgias.

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