Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)

Travelling circus performer Tito (Lon Chaney) finds an abandoned child and decides, over the objections of his partner, to raise her. As she blossoms into a beautiful woman (Loretta Young), he discovers he has fallen in love with her. No, that's not creepy at all. Thanks for asking.

Because our sad clown must repress his forbidden love, all he can do is cry. His doctor, realizing that a woman is the blame for his ailment, gives the very bartenderly advice to tell this woman how he feels. As chance would have it, doc was also visiting with a patient who, because he lives a life of frivolity and pleasure, can only laugh. The advice for him is to find a woman, one woman, who he truly loves and settle down. The two men decide to hang out together, and unknowingly, woo the same dame. Go figure.

Another tragic romance for old friend Chaney. Certainly the best so far in the "Imperative, Noun, Imperative" genre of movie titles, edging out "Burn, Witch, Burn". Chaney again proves himself the master of non-verbal storytelling. And once again he left his mark on younger colleagues. Director Herbert Brenon would badger the 14 year old Loretta Young (ok, even creepier) when Chaney was not on the set. So, he was always present when she was working, even if he had no reason to be. For that Young said "I shall be beholden to that sensitive, sweet man until the day I die".

The movie is short (reel 4 is missing and presumed lost forever) and the story isn't anything to write Oscar about, but you can't take your eyes from Chaney. His emotive face and stage presence dominate every scene. Once again, I was totally sucked in. He appeared in a fair number of films before he died at ... about my age. Most are gone forever, but I'll try to see what's left. AMRU 4.
"Laugh, clown, laugh, even though your heart is breaking!"

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