Franklin Countys First News

‘The Man Who Laughs’ screening with live music on Oct. 20 at Tuscan Opera House

Conrad Veidt stars as the disfigured hero Gwynplaine in 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), an expressionist melodrama to be screened with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Friday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Tuscan Opera House, Main Street, Dixfield. The program, organized by Dirigo High School students as a fund-raiser for the local historical society, is open to the public. Tickets available at the door; admission $10 per person.

DIXFIELD - 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), a silent film thriller, will be screened with live music on Friday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Tuscan Opera House. Live music will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist.

The program, organized by Dirigo High School students as a fund-raiser for the local historical society, is open to the public. Admission is $10 per person.

'The Man Who Laughs,' directed by Paul Leni and starring Conrad Veidt, is a silent drama about a disfigured man forced to wear an insane grin all his life. The movie was a popular and ground-breaking silent film adaptation of a sprawling Victor Hugo novel set in 17th century England.

Veidt stars as Gwynplaine, a child born of English nobility. After his father is executed, a cruel King James II orders a royal surgeon to hideously disfigure young Gwynplaine's face into a permanent smile, so that he may always laugh at his father's foolishness. Abandoned and shunned, young Gwynplaine is left to make his way on his own. He learns to conceal his face from strangers, befriending Dea, a blind girl who is not aware of his disfigurement.

The pair are then adopted and put to work by a traveling impresario, who makes use of Gwynplaine's startling face in his theatrical productions. Gwynplaine and Dea grow to adulthood and eventually fall in love, but complications arise when Gwynplaine's noble lineage is revealed, entitling him to his father's estate—provided he marry another woman of noble birth.

Veidt, who starred earlier in the German expressionist horror classic 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1919), played the role of Gwynplaine by using a prosthetic device inside his mouth to force his face into a hideous grin and display outsized teeth.

This striking look was later adapted by Batman creator Bob Kane as a model for the physical appearance of iconic villain 'The Joker.'

Critics have praised 'The Man Who Laughs' for its dark visual style and daring story content. "'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," wrote Roger Ebert in 2004. "The film is more disturbing than it might have been because of Leni's mastery of visual style."

Director Leni, originally trained as an artist, made ample use of shadows and darkness in 'The Man Who Laughs,' which set the stage for many legendary Universal horror classics soon to follow, including 'Dracula' (1931) and 'Frankenstein' (1931).

 

For more information and advance tickets, please contact Dirigo High School teacher Kurt Rowley at (207) 680-0113.

For more about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

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