Director: Herbert Brenon
Genre(s): Drama, Romance
Runtime: 73 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Lon Chaney played an unnerving clown before, in He Who Gets Slapped (1924), and, in 1928, another silent film with him playing a neurotic member of that profession was released, titled “Laugh, Clown, Laugh.” Here, increasingly depressed Italian clown Tito (Lon Chaney) adopts an abandoned orphan, Simonetta (Loretta Young), only to develop romantic feelings for her over the years, and vie for her love with Count Luigi Ravelli (Nils Asther). Ew. Not cool, Lon Chaney, not cool.
The relationship between Chaney’s character and his adoptive daughter is deliberately creepy, and not viewed as something typical for the 1920s or whatever. He knows his feelings are wrong, and it’s tearing him apart. Chaney, as you would expect, does an ace job playing a performer who hides his pain while entertaining countless people while on stage.
The romantic triangle is a bit too back-and-forth-y, despite being in a movie with a runtime of only seventy-three minutes. Still, pacing is not much of an issue. According to the IMDb Trivia page for this movie, the surviving prints of it are missing a reel, but this isn’t noticeable. Another notable thing about this picture is a stunt or two performed by acrobat Alfred Adeline that I won’t spoil the details of here.
Laugh, Clown, Laugh probably needed a bit more of a sinister conclusion than what it ended up with, but, as it stands now, it’s a very good flick. The Trivia page on IMDb insists that Lon Chaney considered this his favorite role, but, then again, the Trivia page for Tell It to the Marines (1926), says that that military drama contained his favorite performance. Which page is to be believed? Regardless of which role “The Man of a Thousand Faces” preferred, both films should be watched by his fans.
My rating is 7 outta 10.