A Slap in the Face of American Taste: Transporting <i>He Who Gets Slapped</i> to American Audiences

Frederick H. White

in Border Crossing

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2016 | ISBN: 9781474411424
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9781474418454 | DOI:
A Slap in the Face of American Taste: Transporting He Who Gets Slapped to American Audiences

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This chapter discusses the impact of Leonid Andreev’s 1915 play He Who Gets Slapped on the U.S., where it was adapted into three genres: film, novel, and opera. Andreev’s play represents an example of his invented genre of panpsyche theater, in which the external action is driven by inner, psychological struggle, in this case of a clown who runs from a failed marriage and tries to find solace in the world of the circus. Victor Sjöström’s 1924 film of the play, the first MGM production, emphasized motifs of romance and revenge rather than Andreev’s focus on psychological development. Later, the play was adapted into a novel by George Carlin (1925) and a 1956 opera by Robert Ward and Bernard Stambler. The semiotic system of the circus allowed this play to be transported successfully to American audiences.

Keywords: Andreev; Carlin; circus; clown; MGM; panpsyche theater; Sjöström; Stambler; Ward

Chapter.  10016 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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