Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Man Who Laughs

I never thought I would do a post mostly concerning the character of the Joker, mostly because the character has been explored backwards and forwards by bloggers of much greater talent then myself, and I didn't think I could add any new insight on the character. However, I was web surfing today and I found something really bizzare that I can't explain.

I was reading this excellent post from Dial B for Blog about the creation for the Batman, and at the end of the post I read that the inspiration for the Joker came from a 1928 silent film called "The Man Who Laughs." You can watch the film in it's entirety on YouTube. The plot of the story is King James takes revenge on a lord who offended him by having his son's face surgically altered so he would always appear smiling. I found the film to be quite disturbing and I couldn't watch the whole thing. I don't reccomend watching it if you are prone to nightmares.

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I don't like it when comic book characters have their origins changed when they are transferred to film. Comic Book Joker got his smile because of falling into a vat of acid. The Joker from the Dark Knight had his face mutilated, just like the character from "the Man Who Smiles." (Which first appeared as a book published in 1869.) So, who played the title character Gwynplaine in "the Man Who Laughs?"

His name was Conrad Veidt. He died relatively young at the age of 50, and like Heath Ledger he caused a stir early in his career by playing a gay man in a film. (probably the first portrayal ever)

Veidt also appeared in Magnus Hirschfeld's pioneering gay rights film Anders als die Andern ("Different from the Others", 1919), in which he played what is likely the first gay character written for the cinema, and in Das Land ohne Frauen (1929), Germany's first talking picture


What really grabbed me was his date of birth and death. He was Born on Jan 22 1893, and he died on Apr 3 1943. Heath Ledger was born on April 4 1979, and died on Jan 22 2008.

2 comments:

wise woman said...

What a very strange & remarkable find. The dates are indeed uncanny.

Ed said...

Hello Wise Woman

I wish I knew what it meant. Reincarnation? A repeating pattern? And what of the fool/ Gwynpaine/Joker? Does telling the story of an entity capture it or set it free?