Laugh, Clown, Laugh is another worthy Lon Chaney vehicle from the silent era (this here at the very end of the silent era- The Jazz Singer is 1927).
Chaney plays a clown that finds and adopts a young girl who will grow up (sort of) to become Loretta Young. If people know of this film, it is either because of Chaney’s work, or Young’s shocking age at the time of the release (fifteen). Chaney’s character adopts her, and then falls in love with her …rough. Young does not look fifteen- which I suppose is part of the point, but it doesn’t help the controversy here- even in 1928. Chaney plays a sad clown that cries and Nils Asther plays a rich playboy that laughs—they both fall for Young’s character.
This was right up Chaney’s alley with the clown makeup. His famous pot-marked face with deeply set, shadowy eyes were always hiding behind makeup or a mask. He is so good at playing the tortured soul- the soft of Elephant man who is scary, and often scarred on the outside—but is kind and warm inside.
At the 53- minute mark the dejected Chaney (screen left foreground) sees Young’s character and Luigi in an embrace (screen right background)- it is captured and perfectly framed by the dressing room door. It is a very strong shot.
He’s dying inside, but he must go on with the show for the kids (little sappy- even for 1928). “Laugh, clown, laugh, even though your heart is breaking” is a dialogue title card in the film.
There is a very massive dissolve of Chaney’s character losing his mind (above)—a nice cinematic touch.
His sort of suicidal stunt is captured in a nice long shot canted angle—using visual style to put us in Chaney’s character’s headspace
Recommend but not a top 10 of the year quality film
Leave A Comment