Silent Saturday: He Who Gets Slapped

1924 tragic drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A scientist has his ideas stolen by a man he thought was a benefactor. Oh, and the guy also steals his wife. After being slapped by his rival and laughed at by the scientific community and their fantastic beards, he retreats to a life as a clown in a circus where he is slapped dozens of times a night as HE who gets slapped. He falls for a gal who rides horses. When the original slapper pops into the picture once again, He discovers that he might have a chance for revenge.

Of interest to any of my readers (ha!) who are trivia buffs: This is the first movie to begin with the familiar roar of the MGM lion. And fittingly, the movie has a dopey scene with a lion in it.

Is it just me or was Lon Chaney faces and shoulders ahead of nearly everybody else in the 1920s? What an actor! It's hard to believe that the same person is playing the scientist guy at the beginning and the unfortunate clown later on. Sure, there's some exaggerated mannerisms and expressions that were just necessary in the silent era, but there's something special about how Chaney creates these characters. It seems like the sadder the character, the better Chaney is. He really brings a heart to what should have been just a completely ridiculous story.

There's not a lot of variety to the sets here. There's a room or two at the scientist's house, a circus ring where a lot of the action takes place, a backstage pair of rooms that apparently contains one lion, and an area where scientists gather to laugh at other scientists getting slapped. That might be the same set as the circus though. And there's a repeated shot of Chaney laughing and pointing at a spinning globe. It doesn't seem like a great deal of money was spent on the production, but director Victor Sjostrom did just enough with a little to keep this interesting. I loved shots with a horde of clowns. I don't know for sure and am too lazy to look it up, but I'd guess the scientists and the clowns were played by the same people.

He Who Gets Slapped has a dopey name and a story that probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's a fine 1920's tragedy with a great Lon Chaney performance.

No comments: