Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)

65 mins | Romance | 14 April 1928

Director:

Herbert Brenon

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Marie Halvey

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

According to a production chart in the 7 Jan 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, work began on Laugh, Clown, Laugh on 29 Dec 1927.
       The film was an adaptation of a 1923 Broadway play by David Belasco and Tom Cushing called Laugh, Clown, Laugh, which itself was a version of Fausto Martini’s 1919 Italian play, Ridi, Pagliacci, that was loosely based on Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera, Pagliacci. United Artists sold the Laugh, Clown, Laugh screen rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and loaned Herbert Brenon to MGM to direct it, according to the 27 Sep 1927 FD.
       Carmel Myers was set to co-star in the film, the 20 Oct 1927 FD noted, but ultimately was not available. The 23 Dec 1927 Motion Picture News mentioned that child actors Maurice Murphy and Betsy Ann Hisle from Brenon’s earlier Beau Geste would appear in the film, but the 10 Feb 1928 FD suggested that they were replaced by Mickey McBan, who was also in Beau Geste, and Betsy Bizer. However, the latter may have been a misprint, as Betsy Ann Hisle was credited in contemporary sources. James O. Spearing was engaged to write the titles for Laugh, Clown, Laugh, according to the 1 Mar 1928 FD, but Joe Farnham was listed in credits.
       The 25 Dec 1927 FD announced that production was expected to last until 20 Jan 1928. Brenon did complete filming before 12 Feb 1928, that day’s issue of FD confirmed.
       At the time of filming, Lon ... More Less

According to a production chart in the 7 Jan 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, work began on Laugh, Clown, Laugh on 29 Dec 1927.
       The film was an adaptation of a 1923 Broadway play by David Belasco and Tom Cushing called Laugh, Clown, Laugh, which itself was a version of Fausto Martini’s 1919 Italian play, Ridi, Pagliacci, that was loosely based on Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera, Pagliacci. United Artists sold the Laugh, Clown, Laugh screen rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and loaned Herbert Brenon to MGM to direct it, according to the 27 Sep 1927 FD.
       Carmel Myers was set to co-star in the film, the 20 Oct 1927 FD noted, but ultimately was not available. The 23 Dec 1927 Motion Picture News mentioned that child actors Maurice Murphy and Betsy Ann Hisle from Brenon’s earlier Beau Geste would appear in the film, but the 10 Feb 1928 FD suggested that they were replaced by Mickey McBan, who was also in Beau Geste, and Betsy Bizer. However, the latter may have been a misprint, as Betsy Ann Hisle was credited in contemporary sources. James O. Spearing was engaged to write the titles for Laugh, Clown, Laugh, according to the 1 Mar 1928 FD, but Joe Farnham was listed in credits.
       The 25 Dec 1927 FD announced that production was expected to last until 20 Jan 1928. Brenon did complete filming before 12 Feb 1928, that day’s issue of FD confirmed.
       At the time of filming, Lon Chaney was forty-five years old and Loretta Young, playing his love “Simonetta,” was fourteen.
       The popular song “Laugh! Clown! LaughI,” written by composer Ted Fio Rito and lyricists Sam Lewis and Joe Young, was recorded by several top artists in 1928, including Ted Lewis, Harry Richman and His Orchestra, and Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians.
       Copyright records list the film’s title without punctuation. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
7 Jan 1928
p. 43.
Film Daily
27 Sep 1927
p. 4.
Film Daily
20 Oct 1927
p. 2.
Film Daily
25 Dec 1927
p. 10.
Film Daily
10 Jan 1928
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Feb 1928
p. 12.
Film Daily
3 Jun 1928
p. 9.
Motion Picture News
23 Dec 1927
p. 3959.
New York Times
28 May 1928
p. 23.
New York Times
3 Jun 1928
Section VIII, p. 5.
Photoplay
Jun 1928
p. 52.
The Film Spectator
28 Apr 1928
p. 19.
Variety
30 May 1928
p. 14.
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 April 1928
Production Date:
29 December 1927 - early February 1928
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
14 April 1928
Copyright Number:
LP25214
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
65
Length(in feet):
7,045
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Tito Beppi and his partner, Simon, are a popular Italian clown act, “Flik” and “Flok.” Traveling with a circus, they find a foundling on a riverbank, and Tito wants to adopt her. Simon objects at first, but to mollify him, Tito names the little girl Simonetta. She grows up in the circus world as a tomboy and learns how to walk on a tightrope. One day, the circus promoter decides to work Simonetta into Flik and Flok’s act, but first she must present herself as a young woman. When Tito suggests that she put a rose in her hair, Simonetta goes searching for a flower in the garden of Count Luigi Ravelli. Although he is a playboy, the nobleman is smitten by Simonetta’s beauty and innocence, and when he sees she has scratched her ankle on the wire fence, he takes her into his house and dresses the injury. When he praises her womanhood, she becomes uncomfortable and leaves. As the girl changes her appearance, Tito’s fatherly love turns to attraction. The inappropriateness of his feelings, mixed with chronic loneliness, overwhelms him with sadness. Despite his occupation as a clown, he begins to weep uncontrollably and is incapable of laughter. Visiting a neurologist, Tito meets Count Ravelli, another patient, who appears to be laughing at him. Tito explains his unrequited love to the doctor, without revealing his paternal relationship, but when the doctor advises him to confess his love, he answers it “wouldn’t be right.” Taking Tito to the window, the doctor points to a large circus sign displaying Flik in makeup, and tells him to go see the famous clown, who has made all of Rome laugh. Tito ... +


Tito Beppi and his partner, Simon, are a popular Italian clown act, “Flik” and “Flok.” Traveling with a circus, they find a foundling on a riverbank, and Tito wants to adopt her. Simon objects at first, but to mollify him, Tito names the little girl Simonetta. She grows up in the circus world as a tomboy and learns how to walk on a tightrope. One day, the circus promoter decides to work Simonetta into Flik and Flok’s act, but first she must present herself as a young woman. When Tito suggests that she put a rose in her hair, Simonetta goes searching for a flower in the garden of Count Luigi Ravelli. Although he is a playboy, the nobleman is smitten by Simonetta’s beauty and innocence, and when he sees she has scratched her ankle on the wire fence, he takes her into his house and dresses the injury. When he praises her womanhood, she becomes uncomfortable and leaves. As the girl changes her appearance, Tito’s fatherly love turns to attraction. The inappropriateness of his feelings, mixed with chronic loneliness, overwhelms him with sadness. Despite his occupation as a clown, he begins to weep uncontrollably and is incapable of laughter. Visiting a neurologist, Tito meets Count Ravelli, another patient, who appears to be laughing at him. Tito explains his unrequited love to the doctor, without revealing his paternal relationship, but when the doctor advises him to confess his love, he answers it “wouldn’t be right.” Taking Tito to the window, the doctor points to a large circus sign displaying Flik in makeup, and tells him to go see the famous clown, who has made all of Rome laugh. Tito reveals himself to be Flik, and Count Ravelli apologizes to Tito, explaining that he was not laughing at him. Rather, he has an opposite condition in which he laughs uncontrollably. Despite his life as a Don Juan, he has fallen in love with a young woman. The two men become friends and agree they might be “good for each other,” but when they realize they both love Simonetta, their relationship sours. On the eve of her marriage to Count Ravelli, Simonetta learns that Tito has secretly loved her. She decides to reject the count and marry Tito, but when she goes to break off the engagement, Tito realizes she is sacrificing her future out of guilt and devotion. To free Simonetta, Tito, as Flik, falls while rehearsing a tight-wire trick and is fatally injured. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Carnival/Circus


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.