The Man Who Laughs (1928 film)

The Man Who Laughs (1928 film)

Infobox Film
name = The Man Who Laughs

caption =
director = Paul Leni
producer = Paul Kohner
writer = Book Author: Victor Hugo Screenwriters: J. Grubb Alexander Walter Anthony Mary McLean Charles E. Whittaker
narrator =
starring = Conrad Veidt Mary Philbin Olga Baclanova Josephine Crowell George Siegmann
music =
cinematography = Gilbert Warrenton
editing = Edward L. Cahn Maurice Pivar
distributor = Universal Pictures
released = New York Premiere: April 27, 1928
runtime =
country = USA
language = Silent
English intertitles
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:31109
imdb_id = 0019130

"The Man Who Laughs" (1928) is an American silent film directed by the German Expressionist filmmaker Paul Leni. The film is an adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel of the same name and stars Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine and Mary Philbin as the blind Dea. The film is known for the grim Carnival freak like grin on the character Gwynplaine's face which often leads the film to be credited to the horror film genre.cite web | url = | accessdate = 2007-01-11 | author = PopMatters Staff| title = PopMatters: The Man Who Laughs | publisher = | date = ] Film critic Roger Ebert stated "The Man Who Laughs" is a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but so steeped in Expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film."cite web | url = | accessdate = 2007-01-11 | author = Roger Ebert| title = "Roger Ebert: Great Movies: The Man Who Laughs | publisher = | date = ]

"The Man Who Laughs" is part of a genre of Romantic melodrama, similar to films such as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923). The film was one of the early Universal Pictures productions that made the transition from silent films to sound films, using the Movietone sound system introduced by William Fox. The film was completed in April 1927 but was held for release in April 1928 with sound effects and a music score that included the song "When Love Comes Stealing" by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack, and Erno Rapee.

Plot summary

Taking place in England in the year 1690, "The Man Who Laughs" features Gwynplaine, the son of an English nobleman who has offended King James II. The monarch sentences the parent to death in an iron maiden and the son to a lifetime of public humiliation through extraordinary mutilation. The King calls upon the skills of a surgeon, Dr. Hardquannone, associated with a band of ostracized and feared Gypsies, the Comprachicos, and the boy's face is horribly fixed into a permanent rictus grin. As a title card states, the King condemns him "to laugh forever at his fool of a father.""The Man Who Laughs" (1928; DVD, Kino Video, 2003).]

The homeless Gwynplaine wanders around in a snowstorm and discovers an abandoned baby girl, the blind Dea. The two children are eventually taken in by Ursus, a mountebank. Years pass and Dea and Gwynplaine fall in love but Gwynplaine refuses to allow himself to marry her because he feels his hideous face makes him unworthy. The three earn their living through plays based upon the public's voyeuristic fascination with Gwynplaine's mangled facial features. Their travels bring them back into the path of the deceased King's successor, Queen Anne. Here, Queen Anne's jester, Barkilphedro, discovers records which reveal Gwynplaine's lineage and his potential inheritance of his father's position in the court.

Gwynplaine's deceased father's estate, currently owned by the Duchess Josiana, is in her possession, and Queen Anne decrees that the royal duchess must marry Gwynplaine, the rightful heir, to make things right. Josiana, who has seen Gwynplaine's act, arranges a rendezvous, and is at the same time sexually attracted to and repelled by the "Laughing Man" image. Gwynplaine, made a Peer in the House of Lords, refuses the Queen's order of marriage and escapes, chased by guards. He finds Ursus and Dea at the docks, sailing from England under banishment, and joins them on the boat. The film thus leaves off the tragic ending of Hugo's original novel, in which Dea dies while the group is sailing away from England, and Gwynplaine drowns himself.

(The scenes featuring Olga Baclanova as Duchess Josiana were rather daringly suggestive for the time, and included brief glimpses of nudity in a bathing scene, though these were trimmed for the American release.)


After Universal Pictures had large hits with Gothic dramas such as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925), the company encouraged film producer Carl Laemmle to produce a follow up in a similar vein. Laemmle decided to film Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs".cite web | url = | accessdate = 2007-01-11 | author = James Newman| title =

Being of German ancestry, Laemmle had connections with the German film scene, which gave him an inside track when negotiating with some of Germany's filmmakers and actors. Laemmle had seen director Paul Leni's "Waxworks" (1926) and was impressed with the movie's sets and ominous stylistics. Laemmle chose Leni to accept the challenge of crafting the film adaptation. In addition, Laemmle pursued Conrad Veidt, who played a prominent role in "Waxworks", to star. Veidt had also previously starred in the classic of German expressionism, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920).

Universal put over $1,000,000 into "The Man Who Laughs", a very large amount of money to use on an American film at the time.


* Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine
* Mary Philbin as Dea
* Julius Molnar Jr. as Gwynplaine (child)
* Olga Vladimirovna Baklanova as Duchess Josiana
* Brandon Hurst as Barkilphedro
* Cesare Gravina as Ursus
* Stuart Holmes as Lord Dirry-Moir
* Samuel de Grasse as King James II Stuart
* George Siegmann as Dr. Hardquanonne
* Josephine Crowell as Queen Anne Stuart
* Charles Puffy as Innkeeper
* Zimbo the Dog as Homo the Wolf
* Carmen Costello as Dea's mother (uncredited)
* Carrie Daumery as Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
* Nick De Ruiz as Wapentake (uncredited)
* Louise Emmons as Gypsey hag (uncredited)
* John George as Dwarf (uncredited)
* Jack A. Goodrich as Clown (uncredited)
* Lila LaPon as Featured (uncredited)
* Torben Meyer as Spy (uncredited)
* Joe Murphy as Hardquanone's messenger (uncredited)
* Edgar Norton as Lord High Chancellor (uncredited)
* Frank Puglia as Clown (uncredited)


* Henry A. Barrows
* Richard Bartlett
* Les Bates
* Charles Brinley
* Allan Cavan
* D'Arcy Corrigan
* Howard Davies
* J.C. Fowler
* Charles Hancock
* Broderick O'Farrell
* Lon Poff
* Henry Roquemore
* Templar Saxe
* Allan Sears
* Scott Seaton
* Louis Stern
* Al Stewart
* Anton Vaverka

Critical reception

Initially, the critical assessment of "The Man Who Laughs" was mediocre, with some critics disliking the morbidity of the subject matter and others complaining that the Germanic looking sets didn't evoke 17th century England. In recent times, the assessment has been more positive. Critic Roger Ebert declared it "One of the final treasures of German silent Expressionism".

Although actor Kirk Douglas was long interested in producing a remake, "The Man Who Laughs" has only been refilmed once in the sound era, as "L'Uomo che Ride" by Italian director Sergio Corbucci in 1966. Corbucci, however, changed the setting from Queen Anne's England to the sixteenth century Italian court of the Borgias.cite web | url = | accessdate = 2007-01-11 | author = Hans J. Wollstein| title = "All Movie Guide > The Man Who Laughs > Overview | publisher = | publisher = | date = ]

Influence on other works

*Veidt's character has been listed as one of the inspirations for Batman's archnemesis The Joker. [ [ How The Joker Works] ] [ [ The Man Who Laughs: A Forgotten Masterpiece] ]
*The 2006 Brian De Palma film "The Black Dahlia" shows scenes from "The Man Who Laughs" and incorporates some related plot points.


In 2002 kino entertainment released a region 1 Dvd . There has been no mention of a region 2 DVD yet.


External links

* " [ The Man Who Laughs] " Indepth review

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Man Who Laughs (film) — The Man Who Laughs may refer to various films, all adapted from Victor Hugo s novel:* The Man Who Laughs (1909 film) ** A 1909 film, made in France by the Pathé film company and produced by Albert Capellani. No copies of this film are known to… …   Wikipedia

  • The Man Who Laughs — For the Batman graphic novel, see Batman: The Man Who Laughs. For the various film adaptations, see The Man Who Laughs (film). The Man Who Laughs   …   Wikipedia

  • The Man Who Laughs — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel Der Mann, der lacht Originaltitel The Man Who Laughs …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Invisible Man (film) — The Invisible Man Theatrical poster Directed by James Whale Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Mummy Returns — Promotional poster Directed by Stephen Sommers Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Creature Walks Among Us — film poster by Reynold Brown Directed by John Sherwood …   Wikipedia

  • Man Made Monster — Poster for the film under its re release title Directed by George Waggner Produced by Jack Bernhard …   Wikipedia

  • The Deadly Mantis — Film poster by Reynold Brown Directed by Nathan H. Juran …   Wikipedia

  • The Monolith Monsters — Theatrical poster by Reynold Brown Directed by John Sherwood Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Cat and the Canary (1927 film) — Infobox Film | name = The Cat and the Canary caption = Original 1927 quad poster director = Paul Leni producer = Paul Kohner writer = John Willard (play) Walter Anthony (titles) Alfred A. Cohn (adaptation) Robert F. Hill (adaptation) starring… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.