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He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 American silent film starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert,[2][3] 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.[4] The Russian original was made into a Russian movie in 1916.

He Who Gets Slapped
He Who Gets Slapped.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed byVictor Sjöström
Produced byVictor Sjöström
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Screenplay byVictor Seastrom
Carey Wilson
Based onТот, кто получает пощёчины
by Leonid Andreyev
StarringLon Chaney
Norma Shearer
John Gilbert
Music byWilliam Axt
CinematographyMilton Moore
Edited byHugh Wynn
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer (as A Metro-Goldwyn Picture)
Release date
  • November 9, 1924 (1924-11-09) (United States)
Running time
80 mins. (original)
71 mins (TCM)
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film
English intertitles
Box office$881,000[1]

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 for the fledgling MGM, and was critically hailed upon release. 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".[5]



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 Science.

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 and her father, however, are planning to restore the family's fortunes with a marriage to her father's wealthy friend.

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 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 night's 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.


Alternate soundtrackEdit

The film was given a newly composed score by Will Gregory from the band Goldfrapp for use at live concert screenings of the film, initially in the Colston Hall in Bristol, UK on 1 December 2007. [6] The score was later broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in February 2008 with linking narration by actor Samuel West to relay to listeners the plot of the film.[7] The Alloy Orchestra has also composed a score for the film.[8]


Box officeEdit

The film made a profit of $349,000.[1]

Home mediaEdit

He Who Gets Slapped was released on DVD by Warner Brothers Digital Distribution on November 30, 1999. Warner has re-released the film several times as a part of its 6-disk Warner Archive Collection, first on November 22, 2011 and later on June 23, 2015.[9]

Critical receptionEdit

He Who Gets Slapped received mostly positive reviews from critics upon its release, with many praising the film and Chaney's performance. In his 1924 review of the film for New York Times, Mordaunt Hall praised the film's direction, performances, and story, calling it' "the finest production we have yet seen".[10] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "a Pagliacci–type vehicle for Chaney."[11]Christopher Meeks from Variety gave the film a positive review, commending the film's inventive staging, lighting and sound design, and performances, but felt that the ending was predictable and drawn out.[12] Hans J. Wollstein from Allmovie gave the film a positive review, praising Chaney's and McDermott's performances.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c H. Mark Glancy, 'MGM Film Grosses, 1924-28: The Eddie Mannix Ledger', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 12 No. 2 1992 p127-144 at p129
  2. ^ Variety film review; November 12, 1924, page 24.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; November 8, 1924, page 178.
  4. ^ He Who Gets Slapped at the Internet Broadway Database, retrieved Oct. 9, 2017
  5. ^ "2017 National Film Registry Is More Than a 'Field of Dreams'". Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  6. ^ "Entertainment | Goldfrapp star writes film score". BBC News. 2007-10-22. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  7. ^ "He Who Gets Slapped". 2008-02-01. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "He Who Gets Slapped (1924) - Victor Sjöström". AllMovie. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  10. ^ Hall, Mordaunt. "Movie Review - - THE SCREEN; The Clown's Revenge -". New York Mordaunt Hall. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  11. ^ Leonard Maltin; Spencer Green; Rob Edelman (January 2010). Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. Plume. p. 281. ISBN 978-0-452-29577-3.
  12. ^ Meeks, Christopher. "He Who Gets Slapped – Variety". Christopher Meeks. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  13. ^ "He Who Gets Slapped (1924) - Victor Sjöström". AllMovie. Retrieved 10 November 2016.

External linksEdit