23 March 2008 | wes-connors
The Joker Is Wild
In jolly old England, Julius Molnar Jr. (as young Gwynplaine) has a permanent grin surgically carved on his face "so he might laugh forever at his fool of a father" who refused to kiss the hand of his King. The disfigured lad rescues a blind baby, and they are adopted by fatherly Cesare Gravina (as Ursus). The children grow into Conrad Veidt (as Gwynplaine) and Mary Philbin (as Dea). The trio support themselves as a traveling freak show, featuring Mr. Veidt's "The Laughing Man" grin, which has become ever more grotesque with age. Still blind, but movie-star-beautiful as an adult, Ms. Philbin falls for her good-natured rescuer; she thinks God took her eyes so that she could see the good in "Gwynplaine". Veidt cares for Philbin, but is distracted by the possible love of a sighted woman, the seductive Olga Baclanova (as Duchess Josiana).
Paul Leni's "The Man Who Laughs" makes up for a story that goes to the dogs (quite literally!) by being too beautifully produced to dismiss. Additionally, Veidt's performance is electrifying. Especially representative of his work in this film is Veidt's "seduction" scene, with Ms. Baclanova; and, she is surely the film's "Best Supporting Actress". Everyone, from Philbin to extras and bit players, is very good. Interestingly, Veidt was eligible for an Academy Award, but was not nominated. Then, neither was Lon Chaney, for "Laugh, Clown, Laugh". They had no sense of humor, obviously.
******** The Man Who Laughs (4/27/28) Paul Leni ~ Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Olga Baclanova, Brandon Hurst