Monday, August 23, 2010

He Who Gets Slapped

I don't recommend too many silent movies, mostly because TCM generally only airs them as part of Silent Sunday Nights. However, tomorrow's featured actor in Summer Under the Stars is John Gilbert, who made quite a few silent movies, which TCM are airing at better hours. One that's quite interesting is He Who Gets Slapped, at 7:00 AM ET.

Gilbert doesn't get the title role; that honor goes to Lon Chaney (Senior). Chaney plays French scientist Paul Beaumont, who has come up with a new invention. The only problem is, the evil Baron Regnard has stolen the invention, and when Beaumont tries to defend himself in front of a committee of scientists, nobody believes him. So Beaumont changes his identity to the titular HE, and runs off to join the circus. (Sounds silly, but follow me here.) HE becomes a clown, with the act being that of the movie's title, namely that HE gets slapped by all the other clowns.

At the circus, HE meets Consuela, the bareback rider (a young Norma Shearer), and falls in love with her, although he has to keep his love for her secret. That's because she's in love with another member of the circus, Bezano (John Gilbert). Matters come to a head, however, when the Baron shows up at the circus, with the intention of marrying Consuela.

He Who Gets Slapped is a strange little movie, and to be honest, not the first silent I'd recommend for those who aren't well versed in the genre. That's not because it isn't a good movie, though. (In fact, when it comes to silents I'd start by recommding comedies over dramas in general.) Chaney is the star of the show here, and is excellent; it's fun to see both Shearer and Gilbert on their way up in Hollywood.

One interesting bit of trivia about the movie is that it's the first one to feature Leo the Lion as MGM's logo. The studio was formed in 1924 from merger of three smaller studios and, as they say, the rest became history. Sadly, however, the movie has not been released to DVD, so you'll have to watch TCM's showing.

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