This weekend, I watched 1924’s He Who Gets Slapped. It is one of the best movies ever, and I love it, and here’s a list of reasons why:
1. It’s got Lon Chaney without makeup in it. Or maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know.
2. Norma Shearer is just adorable as a horse-riding countess in the circus. Yes, she’s a countess and she rides a horse in the circus.
3. John Gilbert doesn’t have a mustache.
4. The reason it’s called He Who Gets Slapped is because after various terrible things happen to Lon Chaney, he goes mad, and joins the circus as a clown named HE – Who Gets Slapped. Probably less awkward in the original Russian.
5. The actress playing Lon Chaney’s duplicitous wife has a very readable face, without overplaying. She’s all, like, subtle about her betrayal, but not so subtle you can’t tell what’s going to happen.
6. Sure, there’s clowns in it, but they’re hardly scary at all, and you know that, underneath the makeup, one of them is Lon Chaney. So that makes it all OK.
7. The effects are pretty impressive for 1920s film. God bless those hardworking technicians, who made all my favorite special effects of black-and-white movies possible!
8. It’s kind of surreal and weird, but not so artsy-fartsy that it hurts.
9. It doesn’t have a happy ending. Some movies just don’t need them, and this is one of them.
10. Last, but definitely not least, and, in fact, is the absolute best thing of all: Lon Chaney totally murders two guys with a lion. With a lion!