In “He Who Gets Slapped,” a 1924 film starring Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, and Norma Shearer, Lon Chaney is cheated out of his fortune (for a successful invention) and then becomes a clown in a circus. His act consists of getting slapped repeatedly by other clowns. Because Lon Chaney plays the attacked clown, all the slapping that provokes riotous laughter among the circus audience seems halting and sad to the viewer. Chaney brings pathos to every character he plays, but the violence in the situation intensifies the horrific feeling.
Cheney died in 1930, and only made one sound film, but the multi-talented actor could have gone on playing character parts for many years. With his expressive face, he could have easily played in one or more of the gangster films of the early thirties. If he had made it to the 3-strip Technicolor era, his expertise at coloring and makeup would have provided more visual treats. Imagine Lon Chaney in colorful clown makeup.