We are doing our Novel'Movie Series online this quarter. The subject of this series is "Hitchcock: Before and AFter Hollywood." I thought it might be fun, however, today to talk about a film that was recently shown on TCM "He Who Gets Slapped."
You can join our discussion by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook at St. Simons Library Novel and Movie Series or at www.christinajjohns.com. We are doing Rebecca this month.
HE Who Gets Slapped (1924)
Lon Cheney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert
If clowns creep you out, this is not the movie for you. Lon Cheney spends most of the movie dressed as a clown and there are clowns everywhere. Clowns dancing around a giant globe, Cheney dressed as a clown spinning a globe, clowns dancing in a circus ring, clowns chasing bareback riders, clowns slapping Cheney, clowns laughing en mass. Anyway, if clowns bother you, this film is sure to cause you nightmares.
The first thing that struck me about this film was how young Lon Cheney looked (he was actually 41 when the film was made). In the beginning of the film, he is a research scientist and looks like a normal human being. This contrasts with most of the other films Cheney is famous for where he often played tortured, grotesque and afflicted characters. His makeup and his ability to transform himself earned him the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Faces.”
One of the most interesting things about Cheney is that he was the only child of two deaf parents. He learned early in his life how to pantomime.
The film “He Who is Slapped” is based on a Russian play by Leonid Andreyev, published in 1914 in English in 1922. The Russian original was made into a Russian film in 1916.
It was the first film produced entirely by the newly-formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was critically hailed and highly profitable. This was also the first film in which Leo the Lion was used as the mascot for MGM.
Paul Beaumont is played by Lon Chaney. Baron Regnard by Marc McDermott. Bezano is played by John Gilbert and his love Consuelo by Norma Shearer.
Cheney’s performance was widely praised at the time.
Cheney also played Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923). You can watch “HE Who Got Slapped” on Amazon Prime. There is also a Lon Cheney Tribute available on Amazon Prime.
Books About Lon Cheney
· A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney’s Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures by Miachal F. Blake
· Lon Chaney’s Shadow: John Jeske and the Chaney Mistique by Suzanne Gargiulo
· Lon Chaney: In His Own Words by KevinScott Collier
· Lon Chaney: The Man Behind the Thousand Faces by Michael F. Blake
· 75 Years of Universal Monsters by John Flynn, free on Kindle Unlimited
· Phantoms of the Opera: The Face Behind the Mask by John Flynn