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He Who Gets Slapped

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Subject: Victor Sjöström, Irving Thalberg, John Gilbert (actor), Laugh, Clown, Laugh, The Wind (1928 film)
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He Who Gets Slapped

He Who Gets Slapped
theatrical release poster
Directed by Victor Sjöström
Produced by Victor Seastrom
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Screenplay by Victor Seastrom
Carey Wilson
Based on Тот, кто получает пощёчины 
by Leonid Andreyev
Starring Lon Chaney
Norma Shearer
John Gilbert
Music by William Axt
Cinematography Milton Moore
Edited by Hugh Wynn
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • November 9, 1924 (1924-11-09) (United States)
Running time
80 mins. (original)
71 mins (TCM)
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles
Budget $172,000[1]
Box office $881,000[1]

He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 American silent drama film starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert,[2][3] and directed by Victor Sjöström. The film is based on the Russian play Тот, кто получает пощёчины ("He Who Gets Slapped", transliterated as Tot, kto poluchayet poshchechini) by playwright Leonid Andreyev, which was published in 1914 and in English, as He Who Gets Slapped, in 1922. The Russian original was made into a Russian movie in 1916.

He Who Gets Slapped was the first production that began filming under the production of the newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was not, however, MGM's first released movie, as the release was postponed until the Christmas season when higher attendance was expected. The film was highly profitable for the fledgling MGM, and was critically hailed upon release. It was also the first film to feature Leo the Lion as the mascot MGM logo. Leo the Lion first appeared in the logo for Goldwyn Pictures Corporation in 1917, and the logo passed to MGM when the companies merged.

The film was important in the careers of Chaney, Shearer, Gilbert, and Sjöström. Some sources claim that Béla Lugosi plays the uncredited role of a clown, although this is based solely on the resemblance of a particular actor to Lugosi.


  • Plot 1
  • Differences from the play 2
  • Cast 3
  • Reception 4
  • DVD release 5
  • Alternate soundtrack 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Paul Beaumont (Lon Chaney) is a scientist who labored for years alone to prove his radical theories on the origin of mankind. Baron Regnard (Marc McDermott) becomes his patron, enabling him to do research while living in his mansion. One day, Beaumont announces to his beloved wife Marie and the Baron that he has proved all his theories and is ready to present them before the Academy of the Sciences. He leaves the arrangements to the Baron. However, after Beaumont goes to sleep, Marie steals his key, opens the safe containing his papers, and gives them to the baron. It is clear that Marie and the Baron are lovers.

On the appointed day, Paul travels to the Academy with the Baron. He is aghast when the Baron, instead of introducing him, takes credit for Paul's work himself. After he recovers from the shock, Paul confronts him in front of everyone, but the Baron tells them that Paul is merely his assistant and slaps him. All of the academicians laugh at his humiliation. Paul later seeks comfort from his wife, but she brazenly admits she and the baron are having an affair and calls him a clown. Paul leaves them.

Five years pass by. Paul is now a clown calling himself "HE who gets slapped", the star attraction of a small circus near Paris. His act consists of his getting slapped every evening by other clowns, and includes Paul pretending to present in front of the Academy of Science.

Another of the performers is Bezano (John Gilbert), a daredevil horseback rider. Consuelo (Norma Shearer), the daughter of the impoverished Count Mancini, applies to join his act. Bezano falls in love with Consuelo, as does Paul. Consuelo and her father, however, are planning to restore the family's fortunes with a marriage to her father's wealthy friend.

One night, during HE's performance, he spots the Baron in the audience. The Baron goes backstage and begins flirting with Consuelo, which she does not like. The next day, the Baron sends Consuelo jewelry, but she rejects it.

When her father leaves for a meeting with the Baron, Bezano takes Consuelo out to the countryside for a romantic meeting, where they declare their love for each other. Meanwhile, Count Mancini convinces the reluctant baron that the only way he can have Consuelo is by marrying her. The Baron discards the heartbroken Marie, leaving her with a check.

Later, HE admits to Consuelo he, too, is in love with her. She thinks he is kidding and laughingly slaps him. They are interrupted by the Baron and the Count, who inform Consuelo she will marry the Baron after the night's performance. When HE tries to interfere, he is locked in an adjoining room, where an angry lion is kept in a cage. He moves the cage so that, when he carefully opens it, only the door to the next room prevents the lion from escaping. HE re-enters the other room through the only other entrance (making sure to lock it behind him) and reveals his identity to the Baron. HE threatens the Baron, but the Count stabs him with a sword.

The Baron and the Count try to leave but, finding the main entrance locked, open the side door, releasing the lion. The animal kills first the Count, then the Baron. However, the lion tamer shows up and saves HE from the same fate. HE goes on stage and collapses. He assures Consuelo he is happy and that she will be happy, before dying in her arms.

Differences from the play

The Andreyev play on which the film is based ends with Consuelo unknowingly taking poison from a wine glass, which Paul Beaumont finishes off. In the film, there is no poison and Consuelo does not die. MGM was always averse to unhappy endings in their films, even at this early date. Prior to the filming of the movie, the play had been performed on Broadway with actor Richard Bennett in the Chaney role.



The film made a profit of $349,000.[1]

DVD release

He Who Gets Slapped is available on DVD via the Warner Archive Collection.

Alternate soundtrack

The film was given a newly composed score by Will Gregory from the band Goldfrapp for use at live concert screenings of the film, initially in the Colston Hall in Bristol, UK on 1 December 2007.

The score was later broadcast on BBC Radio 3 with linking narration by actor Timothy West to relay to listeners the plot of the film.

The Alloy Orchestra has also composed a score for the film.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c H. Mark Glancy, 'MGM Film Grosses, 1924-28: The Eddie Mannix Ledger', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 12 No. 2 1992 p127-144 at p129
  2. ^ Variety film review; November 12, 1924, page 24.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; November 8, 1924, page 178.
  4. ^

External links

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