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He Who Gets Slapped


He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 American silent psychological thriller film starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert, and directed by Victor Sjöström. The film is based on the Russian play Тот, кто получает пощёчины ("He Who Gets Slapped", transliterated as Tot, kto polučájet poščóčiny) 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.

He Who Gets Slapped was the first film produced entirely by the newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was not, however, MGM's first released movie, as the film was held until the Christmas season when higher attendance was expected. The movie was highly profitable and critically hailed. It was also the first film to feature Leo the Lion as the mascot for MGM. Previously, Leo appeared in the logo for Goldwyn Pictures Corporation in 1916, and the trademark was retained by MGM when the companies merged.

The film was important in the careers of Chaney, Shearer, Gilbert, and Sjöström. In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film entered the public domain on January 1, 2020 (along with all American films from 1924) as dictated by U.S. copyright law.

Paul Beaumont (Lon Chaney) is a scientist who labored for years alone to prove his radical theories on the origin of mankind. Baron Regnard (Marc McDermott) becomes his patron, enabling him to do research while living in his mansion. One day, Beaumont announces to his beloved wife Marie and the Baron that he has proved all his theories and is ready to present them before the Academy of the Sciences. He leaves the arrangements to the Baron. However, after Beaumont goes to sleep, Marie steals his key, opens the safe containing his papers, and gives them to the Baron.

On the appointed day, Paul travels to the Academy with the Baron. He is aghast when the Baron, instead of introducing him, takes credit for Paul's work himself. After he recovers from the shock, Paul confronts him in front of everyone, but the Baron tells them that Paul is merely his assistant and slaps him. All of the academicians laugh at his humiliation. Paul later seeks comfort from his wife, but she brazenly admits she and the Baron are having an affair and calls him a clown. Paul leaves them.

Five years pass by. Paul is now a clown calling himself "HE who gets slapped", the star attraction of a small circus near Paris. His act consists of his getting slapped every evening by other clowns, and includes Paul pretending to present in front of the Academy of the Sciences.

Another of the performers is Bezano (John Gilbert), a daredevil horseback rider. Consuelo (Norma Shearer), the daughter of the impoverished Count Mancini, applies to join his act. Bezano falls in love with Consuelo, as does Paul. Consuelo's father, however, is planning to restore the family's fortunes by marrying her to the wealthy Baron Regnard.

One night, during HE's performance, he spots the Baron in the audience and becomes enraged. The Baron then goes backstage and begins flirting with Consuelo, which she does not like. The next day, the Baron sends Consuelo jewelry, but she rejects it.

When her father leaves for a meeting with the Baron, Bezano takes Consuelo out to the countryside for a romantic meeting, where they declare their love for each other. Meanwhile, Count Mancini convinces the reluctant Baron that the only way he can have Consuelo is by marrying her. The Baron agrees, and discards the heartbroken Marie, leaving her with a check.

Later, HE admits to Consuelo he, too, is in love with her. She thinks he is kidding and laughingly slaps him. They are interrupted by the Baron and the Count, who inform Consuelo she will marry the Baron after the evening performance. When HE tries to interfere, he is locked in an adjoining room, where an angry lion is kept in a cage. He moves the cage so that, when he carefully opens it, only the door to the next room prevents the lion from escaping. HE re-enters the other room through the only other entrance (making sure to lock it behind him) and reveals his identity to the Baron. HE threatens the Baron, but the Count stabs him with a sword.

The Baron and the Count try to leave but, finding the main entrance locked, open the side door, releasing the lion. The animal kills the Count, then the Baron. However, the lion tamer shows up and saves HE from the same fate. HE goes on stage and collapses. He assures Consuelo he is happy and that she will be happy, before dying in her arms.

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

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