The Man Who Laughs is a 1928 American silent romantic drama film directed by the German Expressionist filmmaker Paul Leni. The film is an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name and stars Mary Philbin as the blind Dea and Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine. The film is known for the grim carnival freak-like grin on the character Gwynplaine’s face, which often leads it to be classified as a horror film. Film critic Roger Ebert stated, “The Man Who Laughs” is a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but so steeped in Expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film.”
The Man Who Laughs is similar to films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). The film was one of the early Universal Pictures productions that made the transition from silent films to sound films, using the Movietone sound system introduced by William Fox. The film was completed in April 1927 but was held for release in April 1928.
The film will be masterfully accompanied on the Ironwood Theatre’s Barton organ by organist supremo Andrew Rogers from Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theatre. Not to be missed, and a great way to get into the spirit of Halloween – mark your calendar now.