« The Man Who Laughs – with Conrad Veidt »
(Universal Extended-Run Prod ; 10,185 ft.)
It is a wonderful picture from the point of view of direction and of acting, but it is to be seen whether it will appeal to the picture-goers of the rank and file. It is too gruesome. Conrad Veidt shows that he is a master of acting ; he impersonates the role of Victor Hugo’s Gwynplaine, the man with the disfigured face, admirably. But his large mouth and projecting teeth make him look hideous. He is supposed to have been disfigured by orders of the King, who wanted to revenge himself on the disfigured man’s father ; by an operation, his cheeks were so drawn as to make him appear as laughing all the time. There is a love affair between him and a blind irl ; it will wring one’s heart by its pathos. Gwynplaine had been so kind to her that the blind girl had formed a beautiful picture of him in her mind. So when they are separed she is heart-broken. The separation is shown to have been caused by the machinations of the villainous Queen, who, having discovered that The Man Who Laughs, a circus clown, is a nobleman, designs to force a noble woman, who had inherited his father’s estate, to marry him after being ennobled. But Gwynplaine, after becoming a nobleman, upbraids the Queen and runs away ; he goes to the docks just in time to be reunited with the heroine, who was being banished by orders of the Queen.
Miss Mary Philbin, who takes the part of the blind girl, has never done better work. She is sympathetic in the extreme. The picture has been directed by Paul Leni with skill.
The literary classes should consider this picture as a spiritual treat.