He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 film starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert. It was directed by Victor Sjöström. The film is based on the Russian play 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.)
The film is significant for many reasons, foremost being that it was the first production to start filming in the newly-formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was not, however, MGM's first released movie, as the release was postponed until Christmastime when higher attendance was expected. The film was highly profitable for the fledgling MGM, and was critically hailed upon release. This film was also the first to feature Leo the Lion's roar as MGM logo. Leo the Lion's roar was first seen as 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. Béla Lugosi plays the uncredited role of a clown.
Paul Beaumont is a scientist who lives in the villa of Baron Regnard. He is labored to prove his startling theories on the origin of mankind. For years, he struggled alone. This was until the baron took interest in him and let him do research in his home.
The scientist was interested only in his work and his loving wife Marie. On one day, he proves all his theories and is ready to go before the Academy of the Sciences. He is determined to become famous. When he is asleep, it becomes clear Marie has an affair with the baron.
On the appointed day, Paul travels to the Academy for judgment upon his theories. The meeting with the judges was arranged completely by the baron. It is the baron who presents Paul's theories and is praised by the men. However, he doesn't tell it was discovered by Paul and takes the credit for all of his work. Paul confronts him in front of everyone, but the baron tells them he is insane and slaps him.
Paul is humiliated and seeks comfort with his wife. He realizes Marie and the baron are having an affair. Marie shows no guilt and calls him a clown. Paul leaves them and years pass by. He is now a clown in a circus near Paris and drags the nickname He who gets slapped. He was hired five years earlier by Tricaud and recalled he wanted to be a clown who gets slapped every evening in his act.
The thoroughbred of the circus is Bezano, a daredevil rider. At one point, he meets bareback rider Consuelo, the daughter of Count Mancini. He immediately falls in love with her. The shy Consuelo had once been a great success in Italy and is now send to Paris by her father to become famous there.
Consuelo reminds Paul of the aristocratic life he had left behind. Consuelo herself is waiting to be asked to marry her father's best friend, a very wealthy old man. When Paul talks to her, he finds himself falling in love with her.
At one night, when HE is performing, he sees the baron in the crowd. After the clown act, he catches him backstage flirting with Consuelo. He gets mad, but Consuelo has to go on stage with Bezano before he can do anything.
The next day, Consuelo receives jewelry from the baron. When her father leaves for a meeting with the baron, Bezano arrives at Consuelo's home for a romantic meeting. While Count Mancini convinces the baron to propose to Consuelo, Consuelo and Bezano declare their love for each other.
Later, HE admits to Consuelo he is in love with her. She thinks he's fooling around, and laughingly slaps him. They are interrupted by the baron and the count, who inform Consuelo she will marry the baron. HE tries to stop it, but gets locked in a room with an angry lion in a cage. He gets out and is finally recognized by the baron. He threatens the baron, but the count stabs him.
The baron and count go into the room where HE has released the angry lion. The lion kills them and is now after the suicidal HE. However, the lion tamer walks in and lures the lion back into the cage. HE goes on stage and collapses. He assures Consuelo she will be happy once and dies in her arms. Consuelo finds her happiness with Benzano.
- Lon Chaney as Paul Beaumont, aka HE
- Norma Shearer as Consuelo
- John Gilbert as Bezano
- Tully Marshall as Count Mancini
- Marc McDermott as Baron Regnard
- Ford Sterling as Tricaud
- Harvey Clark as Briquet (as Harvey Clarke)
- Paulette Duval as Zinida
- Ruth King as Maria Beaumont
- Clyde Cook as A Clown
- Brandon Hurst as A Clown
- George Davis as A Clown
- Edward Arnold as Extra (uncredited)
- Holly Bane as Child in circus audience (uncredited)
- Bartine Burkett as Bareback Rider (uncredited)
- Carrie Daumery as Extra (uncredited)
- Béla Lugosi as Clown Extra (uncredited)
- Erik Stocklassa as Ringmaster (uncredited)
Differences from the playEdit
The Andreyev play on which the film is based ends with Consuelo unknowingly taking poison from a wine glass, which Paul Beaumont finishes off. Yet in the film only Paul dies. MGM was always averse to unhappy endings in their films, even at this early date.