He Who Gets Slapped
Beckett’s “jusqu’à ce / qu’il fasse rire”.
The adultery of Tirez sur le pianiste, the plagiarism of The Red Shoes... “The World’s Quaintest Clown”.
“Honorable Gentlemen, tonight I will prove the earth is round—” Slap. “Honorable Gentlemen, I beg your pardon—the earth is flat——” Slap! “Honorable Gentlemen, I’m wrong again—the earth is HARD——” SLAP.
Baron Regnard remarks, “I hate clowns!” To which HE replies, “I hate Barons!”
Mallarmé’s “à des poings irrité... l’eau perfide des glaciers” (“Le pitre châtié”). The ending is that of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, in a manner of speaking.
Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times, “Mr. Seastrom has directed this dramatic story with all the genius of a Chaplin or a Lubitsch, and he has accomplished more than they have in their respective works, A Woman of Paris and The Marriage Circle, as he had, what they did not have, a stirring, dramatic story to put into pictures.” Tom Milne (Time Out), “this, undoubtedly, is the source Bergman drew on for Sawdust and Tinsel.” Leonard Maltin, “famous story becomes Pagliacci-type vehicle for Chaney.” Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader), “a rare restrained performance by Lon Chaney.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “odd poetic tragedy.”
Under the Red Robe
There is a fine point of honor at the pivot in this that plays upon the image of Rommel for example in Hathaway’s The Desert Fox. Seastrom’s “gambler and duelist and Black Death” reneges on his undertaking with Cardinal Richelieu and liberates the leader of the Huguenots, and this is seen to work well enough, yet honor must be requited, the gallows must be faced, Seastrom has an answer for that.
“Direction never wastes a move, going directly to the point, holding proper suspense and mixing droll comedy with the exciting and dramatic moments,” thus praised Variety.