Sunday, January 20, 2013

Silent Sundays: Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)



“Laugh, clown, laugh even though your heart is breaking.”

            Laugh, Clown, Laugh has almost the same plot as He Who Gets Slapped. Certain aspects are different from the previous film. One aspect that remains the same is Lon Chaney as a clown who falls in love with a younger girl. This is the second time I have watched Chaney in a film and the second time where he has played a clown. The man was just good at being a clown.
            Tito (Chaney) and Simon are a pair of traveling clowns moving about small towns in Italy. In the one village they stop at Tito finds an abandoned baby girl. Her legs were tied down by whoever left her thinking the saints would take care of her. Tito takes the baby back to the carriage where Simon is. Tito wants to keep the baby but Simon does not saying that girls bring bad luck. To soften Simon a bit Tito decides to the name the baby Simonetta. Simon gives in and for the next several years Simonetta travels through the country with them.
            As a young lady Simonetta (Loretta Young) becomes a tightrope walker. She is asked by the ringleader to be in the circus as an act. The ringleader wants her to look a little older. Tito comes up with the idea that Simonetta should put a rose in her hair. Simonetta finds roses in the gardens of a rich man name Luigi. Luigi is a playboy who is attracted to any kind of woman. He helps Simonetta down from the wired fence and brings her to his room where he bandages her leg. Luigi tries to fulfill his intentions but his jealous girlfriend Lucretia is witness to everything. As he talks to Lucretia Simonetta leaves through the back window.
            Simon leaves the act now that Simonetta is in the act because “women bring back luck.” Simonetta picks out an outfit for the show. She looks stunning and very grown up in a black dress and a rose in her hair. Tito is so taken with the way Simonetta looks he has her call Simon back to help him.
            Over the next few years Tito is depressed when he is not performing. The doctor he sees tells him he needs to see something that will make him laugh. He points to the building across the street where a clown’s face is painted on it and tells Tito to see the show. Tito tells the doctor the clown will not help because he is the clown. The doctor can see that Tito is lovesick and the best thing for him to do is tell the woman he is pining for that he loves her. Tito knows that will never do. As he walks out Tito comes into contact with Luigi is also a patient of the doctor. Luigi has a problem where he cannot stop laughing. The doctor comes up with the idea that Luigi and Tito should become friends since one is always sad and the other always laughing. Simonetta comes into the office just as this exchange is happening and she and Luigi notice each other. Through their shared interest in Simonetta, Luigi and Tito become better and become good friends.  
            Some time later Simonetta is sitting in her dressing room before her performance. Luigi has upset her and she cannot forgive him. Tito is upset with Luigi for hurting Simonetta. Luigi can see that Tito loves Simonetta. After her performance Simonetta kisses Luigi in an act of forgiveness. Tito sees this as he is performing. His heart breaks at the sight.
            That night Tito is home by himself. He goes to a trunk and takes out some of Simonetta’s belongings and begins to play with them. Simonetta walks into the house and sees what is happening. She feels terrible for Tito for this man who has loved and cared for her all her life. She goes to him and tells him that she is in love with him and will be his wife. Tito knows that Simonetta really loves Luigi, he will not let her leave the man she loves. Simon comes over after this incident with a new act he wants to try out. Tito goes to the theater for this rehearsal dressed in his costume when he does not have to. He performs his high wire stunt and makes himself fall sacrificing his life so Simonetta can be happy with Luigi.
            Lon Chaney was excellent as Tito. He was amazing at showing emotion. You feel for Tito and you feel as if your heart is breaking when his does. I do not know what was creepier seeing Chaney without his clown makeup or with it! Loretta Young was fifteen years old when she made this film. She looked beautiful. Nils Asther started off looking like a sinister cartoon character with his heavy guy makeup and silly mustache. Once Luigi changed into a nice guy he looked better and less like a cartoon.
            Laugh, Clown, Laugh not matter the print is missing four reels. The scenes that appear to be missing are the ones where Luigi does something- most likely cheats on Simonetta- where he has to ask for Simonetta’s forgiveness in her dressing room. The missing reels do not take anything away from the film. Laugh, Clown, Laugh is beautiful from the way it was filmed, lit, and acted.