The Man Who Laughs (1928)

124 mins | Melodrama | 4 November 1928

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HISTORY

Company records indicate that, although uncredited, Charles Whittaker , Marion Ward, and May McLean worked on the adaptation. Principal photography began 1 Oct 1927, according to a production chart in the 7 Jan 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World. The 25 Dec 1927 Film Daily announced that director Paul Leni would complete filming on 9 Jan 1928.
       The Man Who Laughs was screened 28 May 2018 at the 23rd Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival in San Francisco, CA. The following year, a 3 Oct 2019 HR article, titled "'Joker,' 'The Man Who Laughs' and the Birth of a Villain," explored the extent to which the 1928 film inspired DC Comics' "Joker" character and pointed out that in director Todd Phillips's Joker (2019), actor Joaquin Phoenix’s clown makeup was "almost an exact copy of the supporting clowns in 'The Man Who Laughs' who form the troupe of Ursus’s show."
       According to the Library of Congress American Silent Feature Film Survival Database, this film is extant.

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Company records indicate that, although uncredited, Charles Whittaker , Marion Ward, and May McLean worked on the adaptation. Principal photography began 1 Oct 1927, according to a production chart in the 7 Jan 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World. The 25 Dec 1927 Film Daily announced that director Paul Leni would complete filming on 9 Jan 1928.
       The Man Who Laughs was screened 28 May 2018 at the 23rd Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival in San Francisco, CA. The following year, a 3 Oct 2019 HR article, titled "'Joker,' 'The Man Who Laughs' and the Birth of a Villain," explored the extent to which the 1928 film inspired DC Comics' "Joker" character and pointed out that in director Todd Phillips's Joker (2019), actor Joaquin Phoenix’s clown makeup was "almost an exact copy of the supporting clowns in 'The Man Who Laughs' who form the troupe of Ursus’s show."
       According to the Library of Congress American Silent Feature Film Survival Database, this film is extant.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
7 Jan 1928
p. 43
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
13 Oct 1928
p. 46
Film Daily
25 Dec 1927
p. 10
Film Daily
6 May 1928
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 2019
---
New York Times
28 Apr 1928
p. 12
Photoplay
May 1928
p. 55
Variety
2 May 1928
p. 14
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Paul Leni Production
A Carl Laemmle Special Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
Dir
PRODUCERS
Prod supv
WRITERS
Adpt and continuity
Story supv
Adpt
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Tech & art dir
Joseph Wright
Tech & art dir
Tech & art dir
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
Edward Cahn
Film ed
COSTUMES
Dave Cox
Cost
Cost
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech research
Prod staff
Prod staff
Louis Friedlander
Prod staff
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel L'homme qui rit by Victor Hugo (Paris, 1869).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"When Love Comes Stealing," words and music by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack and Erno Rapee.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 November 1928
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 27 Apr 1928
Production Date:
1 Oct 1927--9 Jan 1928
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Corp.
7 May 1928
LP25227
Physical Properties:
Silent
Mus score and sd eff by Movietone
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
124
Length(in feet):
10,195
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Gwynplaine is a small boy whose features have been surgically distorted into a permanent wide grin by order of the cruel King James II, because his nobleman father, a political enemy, refused to kiss the monarch's hand. Gwynplaine becomes a famous clown, and he and Dea, a blind girl, travel with the van of Ursus, a mountebank. Romance develops until Gwynplaine discovers he is heir to a peerage. Barkilphedro, attached to Queen Anne's court, discovers Gwynplaine's claim to the title. The queen, seeing an opportunity to discipline her half sister, Duchess Josiana, has Gwynplaine restored to his wealth and decrees that he shall marry Josiana. Gwynplaine renounces his title, defies Josiana, and follows Dea and Ursus, who have been banished from England. In his flight, Gwynplaine is pursued by soldiers of the queen and Barkilphedro. Escaping unharmed, he finds Dea just as the boat she and Ursus are taking is about to ...

More Less

Gwynplaine is a small boy whose features have been surgically distorted into a permanent wide grin by order of the cruel King James II, because his nobleman father, a political enemy, refused to kiss the monarch's hand. Gwynplaine becomes a famous clown, and he and Dea, a blind girl, travel with the van of Ursus, a mountebank. Romance develops until Gwynplaine discovers he is heir to a peerage. Barkilphedro, attached to Queen Anne's court, discovers Gwynplaine's claim to the title. The queen, seeing an opportunity to discipline her half sister, Duchess Josiana, has Gwynplaine restored to his wealth and decrees that he shall marry Josiana. Gwynplaine renounces his title, defies Josiana, and follows Dea and Ursus, who have been banished from England. In his flight, Gwynplaine is pursued by soldiers of the queen and Barkilphedro. Escaping unharmed, he finds Dea just as the boat she and Ursus are taking is about to leave.

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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.