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German Expressionist director Paul Leni's THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is a gothic horror masterpiece. In 17th Century England, King James II has his rival Lord Clancharlie executed in an Iron Maiden and worse, takes his son, Gwynplaine and has a smile permanently carved onto his face so that he will laugh forever at "his fool of a father". Exiled, the boy finds refuge with a kindly traveling mountebank and becomes The Man Who Laughs in a traveling carnival. Soon, Gwynplaine is besieged by old enemies and falls in love--but will he be able to withstand the forces that conspire against him? The Man Who Laughs is a melodrama of the highest order, at once terrifying, emotionally rich, and even funny in spots. All of this is centered by Conrad Veidt's performance, an incredible display of acting by a man who wears a mask for most of the film, a wicked smile in every other scene. His iconic look was the direct inspiration for the modern Joker.
The Man Who Laughs is accompanied by Katie Condon, whose piano and vibraphone work has been enjoyed with silent films at venues throughout the Twin Cities, including the Trylon Cinema, Oak Street Cinema, and the MacPhail Center for Music. Her performance is made possible in part by a MacPhail Center for Music Artistic Development Grant.
DCP Courtesy Universal Pictures