The King of Laughter

Directed by Mario Martone
Film Movement
133 Minutes
Italy, Spain
Drama, Biography
Not Rated
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Naples, 1904: Italian theatre is thriving, and comic actor, Eduardo Scarpetta is the box office king. Known in the Neapolitan theater for his cheeky alter egos, Scarpetta’s larger-than-life stage productions were matched only by his eccentric personal life. Composed of wives, partners, lovers, legitimate and illegitimate children (including a young Eduardo De Filippo, famed Neapolitan playwright), Scarpetta’s home situation resembled one of his comedies more than a traditional family. At the height of his popularity, the comedian risked everything by staging a parody of the great Italian poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio. Booed and hissed from the stage by younger rivals, Scarpetta was sued for plagiarism, leading to the first ever copyright lawsuit in Italy. Despite legal troubles and familial strife, Scarpetta fought not only for his craft but for his legacy as one of the great thespians of Italian theater.


  • Toni Servillo
  • Maria Nazionale
  • Cristiana Dell'Anna
  • Antonia Truppo
  • Eduardo Scarpetta
DVD Features

Bonus Short Film:

La Smorfia
Directed by Emanuele Palamara
Italian with English subtitles
14 minutes

Carmine, a popular Neapolitan singer, is left disfigured and confined to a wheelchair after a tragic accident. He longs to return to the stage, but when his doting sister stands in the way he devises a treacherous plan.

Discs: 1

  • Highest Rating
    "The King of Laughter is a feast of a film.... It’s a dazzling and technically brilliant feat, the work of an ambitious, experienced and passionate director. "
    Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter
  • Highest Rating
    "The King of Laughter avails itself of a classic set-up but benefits from the lightness of comedy. It won’t disappoint those expecting a paradigmatic story about art, power, betrayal and passion, not least for the high-quality actors in its cast, the musicality of the Neapolitan dialect (which sounds as if it were made to be recited), the sumptuous set design offered up by Giancarlo Muselli and Carlo Rescigno, the costumes created by Ursula Patzak, the amber hues applied by Swiss master Renato Berta and the beautiful songs of the era."
    Camillo De Marco, Cineuropa
  • Highest Rating
    "The King of Laughter is an impeccably made period drama superbly conjures up the atmosphere of the era. Indeed, the craft on show is extremely impressive. As is Servillo’s majestic central performance. Events and players all revolve round his magnetic presence. In many ways, Scarpetta’s life was more extraordinary than any play, spawning a theatrical dynasty and leaving a lasting legacy. Mario Martone’s film manages to capture this in all its glory. "
    Rob Aldam, Backseat Mafia
  • Highest Rating
    "Mario Martone’s big, brash, garishly frosted celebration cake of a biopic....Everyone involved seems to be having the very best of times, tumbling onto screen with the breathless energy of a community theater crew given a very generous spotlight."
    Guy Lodge, Variety
  • Highest Rating
    "Teeming with staging lucidity, a dynamic pace and some intentional excess, this is a tasty portraiture of the theater buff whose clownish acting is taken to a hilarious effect during a memorable court session. A spikily funny watch."
    Filipe Freitas, Always Good Movies
  • Highest Rating
    "A riotously comic and yet touching historical drama from Italy’s Mario Martone.... With its lovingly crafted re-creation of the Belle Époque theatrical scene and its richly drawn character portrait of a man coming to face his own limitations, The King of Laughter channels the riotous energy of the theater with an outsize love for its characters and themes."
    J Paul Johnson, 25 Years Later
  • Highest Rating
    "Servillo carries every scene he’s in, and if the real life Scarpetta is anything like what they show on the screen, audiences will feel like they know the man well. It’s an energetic, and raw performance that may very well earn him award considerations next year."
    Rod Thedorff, In The Seats
  • Highest Rating
    "The turn-of-the-century city streets are breathtaking, the Neapolitan theater is ornate, and the performances are top-notch across the board. Servello gives a brilliant yet nuanced performance. His emotional range is astounding, considering he’s playing an almost Charlie Chaplin-like character...."
    Alan Ng, Film Threat

Awards & Recognition

Maria and Tommaso Maglione Italian Filmmaker Award
Denver Film Festival
Golden Lion
Venice Film Festival
Official Selection
Seattle International Film Festival
Official Selection
Open Roads New Italian Cinema Film Festival

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