Considered by many to be his greatest performance, Lon Chaney superbly conveys the poetic tradegy of Paul Beaumont, an unfortunate who undergoes so much humiliation that he hides his pain behind a mask of clown make up.
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Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped (1924)He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

MGM. 80mins. BW. Silent. US.
Credits: Dir: Victor Seastrom (Sjostrom); Sc: Victor Sjostrom & Carey Wilson.
From a play by Leonid Andreyev.
Cast: Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, Tully Marshall, Ford Sterling, Marc McDermott, Brandon Hurst.

"In the grim comedy of life, it has been wisely said
that the last laugh is the best..."

This film, MGM's first feature made entirely under their trade mark, is considered to be one of Lon Chaney's greatest performances. After his star turn in Universal's The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923, Chaney joined Metro Goldwyn Mayer at the request of Irving Thalberg who was also an exile from Universal Studios.

Lon Chaney shows director Victor Seastrom his clown make-up for He Who Gets Slapped (1924)The film begins by introducing scientist Paul Beaumont, (Lon Chaney), and his wife Marie who are staying at the Parisian home of Paul's benefactor Baron Regnard, (Marc McDermott), while Paul completes his work on his theories regarding the evolution of mankind. However, the unscrupulous Baron steals Paul's papers and later presents them as his own work at a meeting of fellow scientists. When Paul dares to protest, he is slapped in the face to the humiliating laughter of everyone in the room. Real Media Clip His wife also takes the opportunity to slap him and call him a clown.
In his humiliation, Paul takes his wife's suggestion literally and joins the circus as a clown where he becomes a great success in a routine of being slapped repeatedly to the delight of the paying audiences. Real Media Clip
Later Paul falls in love with fellow performer Consuelo, (Norma Shearer),  the daughter of the wealthy and devilish Count Mancini, (Tully Marshall), but unfortunately she is in love with her circus partner Bezano, (John Gilbert), the daredevil bareback horse rider.
One night the Baron attends the circus and not recognising the famous clown as Paul, he laughs with the rest of the audience as the clown's patchwork heart is torn out and buried while a troupe of sixty clowns act out a mock funeral. Later Paul learns that the devious Count has persuaded the Baron to take Consuelo as his wife, so he contrives their deaths by releasing one of the circus lions. Video Clip
Fatally wounded by Count Mancini's stick sword, Paul takes the centre ring for his final performance and dies in Consuelo's arms, while the audience, believing it all to be partJohn Gilbert, Norma Shearer & Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped (1924) of the act, laugh heartily as they applaud.

This poetic tradegy was a great hit with the cinema going public, opening to record business throughout the country.
Swedish director Victor Sjostrom made his American debut, (as Seastrom), after finding success in Sweden with the atmospheric Korkarlen (Aka: The Phantom Carriage) in 1921. Sjostrom continued working in Hollywood until returning to Sweden in 1930 where he was regarded as a father figure to Ingmar Bergman and other aspiring directors.

HE WHO GETS SLAPPED also furthered the career of John Gilbert who excelled as a romantic leading man until the advent of sound and an altercation with Louis B. Mayer who forced him out of the industry. Norma Shearer also gained recognition for her role and in 1927 she became Irving Thalberg's wife until his death in 1936.He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
Also in the cast is Ford Sterling, a former Keystone Cop for Mack Sennet, and Tully Marshall who portrayed Lawyer Crosby in The Cat and the Canary (1927).

Lon Chaney would later repeat his clown-with-a-broken-heart characterisation for Herbert Brenon in LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH (1928), but it is his portrayal in HE WHO GETS SLAPPED that has remained the most notorious of the two, more so as Chaney himself professed that it was one of his favourite roles.

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