Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Herbert Brenon) ****

Herbert Brenon

Cast: Lon Chaney, Bernard Siegel, Loretta Young, Cissy Fitzgerald, Nils Asther, Gwen Lee

Background: Laugh, Clown, Laugh had been delayed for several years so as not to appear too similar to Chaney's role as a clown in 1924's He Who Gets Slapped. This would be Loretta Young's first film role, at the age of 14.

Story: A clown (Chaney) and a count (Asther) become good friends as they help each other with emotional problems, not knowing that they both have fallen in love with the same woman (Young).

Thoughts: This actually has many similarities to Chaney's previous film The Unknown, but certainly less creepy. This is more of a straight drama, although there are still some very dark elements to the story, not the least being that Chaney's character is in love with a girl that he raised since she was a child. Lon Chaney once again proves that he has no acting equal in the silent film era. There is an incredible scene where the clown has to perform after catching the woman he loves with the count. It's an amazing bit of acting and of the more heartbreaking moments I've witnessed in a film. It leads to the line that gives the film its title: "Laugh, Clown, Laugh, eventhough your heart is breaking." Powerful stuff. The film apparently had two endings, one shot at the insistence of the studio that has thankfully been lost forever.

Postscript: Lon Chaney would only make three more films before his untimely death, robbing the world of one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history. Loretta Young would go on to be a Hollywood staple for several decades.

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