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HE Who Gets Slapped

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HE Who Gets Slapped (1924) starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert
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HE Who Gets Slapped (1924) starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert

HE Who Gets Slapped is a sad, bittersweet story of love, betrayal, revenge. And the circus.


HE Who Gets Slapped is many things. At its’ heart, it’s a bittersweet story of a broken man. A brilliant scientist, is betrayed by his unfaithful wife. He’s about to present his radical theories on the origin of mankind. But, his patron has stolen his work. The patron presents it as his own, humiliating the man in front of the his peers. Then slapping him across the face in front of them for good measure. Afterward, to add insult to injury, his wife informs him that she stole his work. To give to her lover — the patron. Finally, she calls him a clown …

Then, humiliated and thoroughly broken, the scientist leaves. Years later, he comes to notoriety as the chief clown in a circus…. He has a daring, unique performance. HE Who Gets Slapped is the title of the movie — and the act. Now, the clown publicly humiliates himself nightly, for the audience’s amusement. He seems to find this cathartic. HE’s rarely seen without his makeup. Nobody at the circus knows his story.

Romantic triangles

Behind the scenes at they circus, a romantic triangle occurs. Possibly a romantic rectangle. HE has fallen in love with Consuelo. She’s young, sweet, and poor. At one point, HE pours his heart out to her. She misunderstands, and thinks he’s trying to be funny. Consuelo tenderly “slaps” him, as she rejects her friend’s romantic overture. She, in turn, is in love with Bezano. And, he loves her as well. But her father, Count Mancini, is willing to “sell” her into marriage with an older man. Baron Regnard! But HE is determined to protect his young friend …. At any price.

To say anymore would spoil the ending, which I’m not about to do. It’s an excellent, sad, bittersweet ending. That manages to end with a happy couple. I truly enjoyed He Who Gets Slapped, and strongly recommend it.


  • Lon ChaneyPaul Beaumont / HE. The broken man. Despite being broken, he’s still willing to risk himself to save a friend.
  • Norma Shearer (Romeo and Juliet) … Consuelo. Kind and lovely, she’s the daughter of the impoverished Count Mancini. Soon, she joins the circus as Bezano’s assistant. HE pines for her, and loves her from afar. Bezano, a nice young man, courts her. And the evil Baron Regnard wants her for his wife. Not out of love, but for the prestige her family name would give him.
  • John GilbertBezano. The circus’ daredevil horseback rider. A nice young man, who falls in love with Consuelo.
  • Ruth KingMarie Beaumont. The unfaithful wife of Paul/HE. At the beginning of the film, she betrays her husband. In order to become the mistress of the Baron. Only to be cruelly cast aside when he has no further use for her. All she gets from him is …. a check.
  • Marc McDermottBaron Regnard. The man who steals Paul Beaumont’s life’s work. And his wife. He’s a cold man, who cares about nothing but himself. When she becomes inconvenient, he discards Beaumont’s wife, who loved him. And he could care less. Then, he sets his eyes on a younger woman. Not for love, but for the position that he would gain.
  • Ford Sterling (Tango Tangles) … Tricaud
  • Tully Marshall (Scarface 1932) … Count Mancini. The uncaring father, who’s willing to “sell” his daughter into marriage to Baron Regnard.

Editorial review of HE Who Gets Slapped courtesy of

Slap him once, slap him 100 times – the Big Top crowd roars. The clown known to delighted throngs as HE has made a comedic art of getting batted around. Life has battered him even more. Behind the mask, HE hides the torment of once being a brilliant scientist whose research and wife were stolen by a colleague. And behind the mask, when the time comes, HE realizes his revenge. Lon Chaney wears one of the most renowned of his “1000 Faces” in an acclaimed silent that helped make major stars of Norma Shearer and John Gilbert. Victor Seastrom directs, guiding scenes ranging from light-hearted circus vignettes to dark pathos. This first-ever film solely created by MGM also marks the studio’s first use of Leo the Lion.

[Updated August 6, 2023]

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