Laugh, Clown, Laugh - 1928
Laugh, Clown, Laugh - Released April 14, 1928. Directed by Herbert Brenon
Nils Asther (as Luigi) is a wealthy young man with an unusual psychological condition in which he reacts to anxiety and grief by non-stop, uncontrolled laughter. Lon Chaney (as the clown Tito) struggles with an almost crippling depression that causes him to well up in tears at unexpected times, a potential disaster for a professional circus clown. The two men meet at the office of the doctor who is trying to help them both, and their friendship has the unexpected result that they emotionally calm one another down and their conditions subside, allowing them to get on with living something like a normal life.
Loretta Young (as Simonetta) is a young woman Tito has fallen in love with, who he rescued from abandonment when she was much younger, and he brought her into the small traveling circus show to raise her (in fact, this disparity of age between the two is a large part of Tito's depression). Simonetta is devoted to Tito, who she treats sometimes as a father, other times as an older friend. After she becomes acquainted with Luigi, a romance between the two young people develops. When Tito realizes what is happening he begins crumbling emotionally, and when Tito and Luigi have a confrontation over the matter, Luigi erupts into mad laughter and Tito dissolves into tears, 'normalcy' now gone.
Chaney had played a clown before in the brutal 1924 He Who Gets Slapped,and like that film, Laugh, Clown, Laugh is a psychological portrait of a clown in what you might say is an untenable psychologic state. Our sympathy is with the clown and his plight, but this being a Chaney film, there is really no way for everything to work out with a happy ending (at least, that is, for Chaney).
TCM Archives - The Lon Chaney Collection (The Ace of Hearts / Laugh, Clown, Laugh / London After Midnight / The Unknown)
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Original Page December 12, 2016 | Updated Oct 2019