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"The Man Who Laughs (1928), The Original Joker?" Topic

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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 5:48 a.m. PST

I always wondered about this. Was he really the inspiration for The Joker? Or is it just a recent connection?



Personal logo PzGeneral Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 5:56 a.m. PST


haywire Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 6:06 a.m. PST

Yes. Yes he is.

Personal logo Saginaw Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 7:23 a.m. PST

I remember reading an article about this specific character, "Gwynplaine", from this particular movie being the very inspiration for Batman's arch-nemesis, "The Joker", who made his debut in 1940.

By the way, about the actor behind the inspiration, Conrad Veidt, his story is rather fascinating. He was born in Berlin, Germany in 1893. In 1914, a few months before the outbreak of WWI, he began a relationship with an actress but was drafted into the army later that year. Serving as an NCO on the Eastern Front, he contracted jaundice and pneumonia and while recovering he received a letter from his girlfriend telling him that she began work at a theater. His interest piqued, he applied as well to be with her. The army would eventually discharge him as he never fully recovered, and in 1917 he began his acting career.

Mr. Veidt developed into a prolific and skilled actor in the German cinema for many years, becoming an audience favorite akin to a contemporary of his, the famous American actor Lon Chaney. Some of his performances were seen outside of his home country, such as the murderous somnambulist "Cesare" in the celebrated 1920 horror film 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari':

As the Nazis came to power, he became strongly outspoken against them, and he and his wife would eventually leave Germany for England, and later, America. One of his most recognizable acting roles was as the nasty Nazi "Major Strasser" in 1942's 'Casablanca':

Sadly, Mr. Veidt died of a massive heart attack at age 50 in 1943 while golfing with friends in California.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 8:34 a.m. PST

Yep, a number of comics historians and creators have confirmed that Veidt was the physical model for the Joker. Not to mention an inspiration for Alan Moore's Ozymandias (Watchmen).

Covert Walrus15 Sep 2017 12:12 p.m. PST

Well, the "denatsate" ( A person whose lips have been removed and gums forced back to create a mutilated appearance – a sort of reverse cosmetic surgery) has been around since the 1600s in France. Victor Hugo merely made a dramatic storyline about one whose identity had been concealed by such an operation.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 1:01 p.m. PST


I know people are capable of unspeakable acts against their fellow man, but in my life I never thought anyone would go to such lengths and intentionally have themselves disfigured simply to gain a little pity and a few coins.

Then I remember how today some young people disfigure their bodies, hearts and minds for just a handful of single dollar bills and a couple of years of "fame".

We haven't changed much, have we?


Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 1:57 p.m. PST
NWMike15 Sep 2017 2:46 p.m. PST


Don't forget this bit of cinema weirdness.

Ottoathome15 Sep 2017 6:22 p.m. PST

Dear Cacique

Perhaps you do not know that the operation was NOT voluntary. People used to steal orphans or young children and do this to them to produce freaks and carnival acts. They would then sell these young children into a slavery where they would be come the objects of wonder and scorn. Similarly children would be provided with "toy" companions in the form of dwarves and midgets who they used more or less as puppy dogs. Occasionally they were painted into royal paintings with the leashes and harnesses still on them.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 1:58 a.m. PST


I was aware of those cases. However some of the reference material I looked over on the "denatsate" subject did happen to mention a few cases where the person underwent the procedure on purpose, willingly.

I guess it's true that history has things that are way stranger than fiction.


Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 7:09 a.m. PST

The OP is convincing. I would point out Lon Chaney's "Hypnotist" in the lost film "London After Midnight" predates "Man" by a year.


Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 8:13 a.m. PST

Slightly OT,but Conrad Veidt starred a few years later as a famous pilot in the nearly forgotten "F.P.1 Doesn't Answer"(1933):


It's an interesting example of the "gee whiz" technological Science Fiction of the first third of the 20th century, like "Transatlantic Tunnel",and exemplified by Amazing. Not a great film,by any means, but with a fair budget,and some impressive sets and effects.

I should say "they",rather than "it",because there were three versions--German,French,and English. This,in the early sound days,and before dubbing,was the only way producers could figure out how to market to a non-native audience. (That's how we ended up with the Spanish version of "Dracula").

The French version starred Charles Boyer,but is apparently lost. Veidt is in the British version. He struck me as a little too old-looking to be a romantic lead. He was only about 40,but still 15 years older than Jill Esmond,the female lead.

Unfortunately, the British version is cut,but still worth checking out,if you like old SF/spy/adventure movies.

"F.P.1" refers to "Floating Platform 1",and the story is concerned with the efforts to build a floating airfield in the middle of the Atlantic.



Compare the posters:




Ottoathome16 Sep 2017 2:12 p.m. PST

Dear Dan (Cacique Caribe)

That is true. You can't make this stuff up.

That is the allure of history.

Much depends on your philosophy or your "Weltanschauung" which is your "world view." I am and objective formalist. The thinkers who have had the most influence on me are Aristotle, Joshua Royce, Locke and especially Phillip Hallie.

To put it briefly I believe that Hallie's definition of cruelty is the definition of evil- Pain and suffering-- the smashing of a life. In the world then there are two types of evil. Natural evil, which is hurricanes and tornadoes, meteorites and volcanoes, cancer cells, hereditary diseases and the like. All the rest is human evil. That is evil done by people against people. Such episodes as above are pure human evil. We can do almost nothing against natural evil, but we have made great strides against it. We can do nothing at all against human evil unless those that do evil wish to reform and not do evil. Consider that only in select and rare times do hurricanes and tornadoes and so forth intrude on us. Human evil intrudes on us constantly.]

Evil wins if we simply shrug our soldiers and say "what can I do?"

History for me is rarely a happy tale. We can do little about natural evil, but if we could eliminate human evil it would I think make the world almost a garden of Eden even with the natural evil left in.

I am always reminded of the Carpenter from Nazareth who preached from the mount and who when he came to the temple chose to Quote Isiah – "I desire not your bloody sacrifices but heart-felt mercy."

All human evil, ALL of it is evil done by choice. If we could choose to do good, then we would not do evil.

But what is the point of preaching against those who do evil to children or who victimize their fellow men. We cannot even be nice to each other here in a list about the stupid silly hobby of war games.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 8:45 p.m. PST


You are absolutely right. But I fear that man-made grief is going to be with us for a very long time. I think we are about to see an escalation even.

As I've noticed on social media, there are way too many people these days who enjoy seeing other people suffer, either the suffering of people they see on video clips or the suffering of people they actually encounter in person. And the Roman circus mob mentality has never been so evident in my lifetime as it has been these last few years.

Everything has become one big reality tv show and people lose interest if someone isn't suffering. Some people will almost go through withdrawal symptoms if things start looking generally good for a few days or weeks.

Of course our beloved news and entertainment media industry is more than willing to search the world over to bring back the next sadistic fix. And if they can't find or stage enough chaos and suffering for you to enjoy, they are more than willing to spark a new conflict somewhere for your viewing pleasure, through the irresponsible or premature release of a shocking picture, video clip or some other leak.

Maybe they are the real Joker.

PS. Hafen: "in the early sound days,and before dubbing,was the only way producers could figure out how to market to a non-native audience. (That's how we ended up with the Spanish version of 'Dracula')"
There was a Spanish language original too? Wow.

Ottoathome17 Sep 2017 2:12 p.m. PST

Dear Cacique Caribe

I cannot find fault with your analysis though I dearly hope not. A good friend of mine get off on this tangent quite often. He was a school teacher in the NY School system and he was remarking on one student who always watched this show about how people were killed with dramatizations because he found it neat. Having been a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper I ad lots of occasions to see people killed and once or twice actually being killed.

But I cannot leave it at that. It is to us to stand against this.

As my friend and I were also talking about if you take the classic "canon" of horror films, Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and The Mummy they are of a different stripe than the horror movies of today.

Of the horror movies of today I see nothing in them but endless reels of horrible things being done to pretty girls. The reasons these things are done to them is that they are primarily pretty and that is it. Oh to be sure, now and then there is a personal flaw, vanity, the loose girl, the bitchy girl, the mean girl, the material girl, but does THAT alone justify what is done to them? Does the girl who steals someone's boyfriend deserve to be devoured slowly by a giant alligator while she screams in horror for minutes? Why for example if there are guys along are the guys killed quickly, summarily, with no real ritual or drama, but the camera lingers sickeningly over each and every detail of the girls murder. I have a theory…

The four movies of he canon are interesting. Frankenstein and the wolfman are victims. They were created what they are by others. In the mummy the heroine and in Dracula the female is not killed. One is transformed into a vampire, the other into Karis' beloved princess, reincarnated.

Horror today is the purposeful lingering voyeurism of suffering on other people, AND it is done for trivial reasons.

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 6:56 p.m. PST

CC--You haven't seen the Spanish Dracula?


I'd been hoping to since first reading about it in Castle of Frankenstein, more years ago than I like to say,but at the time,it was incomplete,the missing parts considered lost. A complete print was discovered in Cuba in the 70's,IIRC, and eventually released on videotape, then DVD, and now Blu-ray. You can read about it here:




And several other places.

Its reputation has grown over the years,even as Todd Browning's has fallen. Director George Melford was even able to show Dracula actually rising from his coffin,something Browning was apparently unable to accomplish.

And of course,it featured the delicious Lupita Tovar:





Here's a couple of minutes from a documentary about it:

And here's a short clip from the film:

The only thing missing is Lugosi--Carlos Villar lacks his charisma.

Lupita Tovar died just nine months ago,age 106.

One of several tributes on youtube:

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 8:04 p.m. PST

I should have added that it was shot at the same time,and on the same sets,as the Lugosi version. When shooting wrapped for the day on the English version, another cast and crew came in and shot all night. So yes,it can be considered original.

Might as well take the opportunity to post another pic of Lupita Tovar.

I recall reading a near-contemorary review of the Lugosi film,in which the reviewer expressed the opinion that any self-respecting vampire would probably turn up his nose at the pallid,bloodless female specimens on offer in that film. The same could certainly not be said of Lupita!


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