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Lon Chaney ACTOR


Lon Chaney was ironically born on April Fool’s Day, 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado to deaf parents. Growing up, he became quite good at communication sans speech, and it would lend him well in later years when he would become a silent film actor. He is known as the first real horror star and also as “The Man of a Thousand Faces” due to his preternatural ability to transform himself into various characters through pantomime and makeup. To this day, he remains an intriguing man of mystery, and almost as bizarre as the personalities he played.

In 1901, Chaney went on the road with his brother, and starred in the play they co-wrote titled “The Little Tycoon”. After little success, they sold their company. Though his brother moved on, he decided to stick it out. While on tour in Oklahoma City, he met Cleva Creighton, an auditioning singer. She joined the cast, soon becoming pregnant by him. They decided to move back to Oklahoma , but craved the acting lifestyle. Thus, they started touring with their son. In 1910 they relocated to California and Chaney became a stage manager, Cleva a Cabaret singer. After a suicide attempt with poison, Cleva damaged her vocal cords, ending her career and marriage. From all of the scandal, Chaney was forced to look for new employment.

He decided to turn to the up-and-coming silent film industry for work. In 1912, he made his debut in the movies, and he continued turning out a large amount of pictures for Universal until 1918. By that time, he felt he deserved a raise from his five-dollar-a-day pay. The studio refused, and Chaney suddenly became a freelancer. He found it hard at first to find jobs, but then he was given the villainous role opposite popular western star William S. Hart in “Riddle Gawne” (1918). This role earned him high praise and it was what the actor considered his first big break.

Things started to look up after that, and next came the successful “The Miracle Man” (1919). He played “The Frog”, a con that pretended to be crippled, and in doing so, also presented his great artistry in makeup. Often though, Chaney suffered to perfect his characters. In 1920’s “The Penalty”, he bound his legs behind him tightly in a harness and inserted his knees into stumps, so that he would appear to be devoid of legs. However, the whole ordeal caused him to lose circulation and break many blood vessels. In 1923, he played the lead in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, but had to wear a harness and hump weighing over fifty pounds. However, it was worth it, for the role earned him worldwide fame and recognition.

Chaney next starred in MGM’s “He Who Gets Slapped” (1924), which was a major success. The reviews led the actor to signing a five year contract with the studio. He next exercised his skill and dedication to his art in “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925). For his part of Erik, the tormented opera ghost, he inserted multiple devices into various parts of his face to give the impression that he had distorted cheekbones, protruding teeth, and a naked skull. Chaney next appeared in a role completely out of character – one without any makeup. He played a tough sergeant in “Tell it to the Marines” (1927), but returned to his painful acting in “The Unknown” (1929), where he bound himself in a straight-jacket. All of these demanding performances were not without consequence, however, for Chaney suffered spine problems and was forced to wear glasses from various character contact lenses.

In 1929 while filming “Thunder” (1929), another problem arose, his throat. He had his tonsils removed, but the problem never subsided. Nevertheless, in 1930 the actor appeared in his one and only sound picture, “The Unholy Three”, which was a remake of the silent 1925 version. While he thought talkies to be detrimental to his career, for he was an expert at pantomime, Chaney was well received for his multiple voice imitations of an old woman, a parrot, a ventriloquist and his dummy, and even a girl. Following the movie, he consulted throat specialists, who discovered he had bronchial cancer but did not disclose that to him. Thinking he could get better at his cabin in California , he decided to take a rest. Unfortunately, he was struck with pneumonia and quickly got worse. In a hospital on August 26, 1930, the actor passed away from a throat hemorrhage.

While at rest, his legacy remains active even now. In California , you can find a star for his involvement in the motion picture industry on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has also been the subject of multiple commemorative U.S. postage stamps. The actor’s makeup case, additionally, can sometimes be viewed at the Los Angeles County Museum . Furthermore, references to the great master of disguise have been made in multiple areas, from a “Scooby Doo” episode to a KISS’ Gene Simmons’ song. When mentioned, there is still an ambiguity about the man, and I guess that was his success, for he once said: “My whole career has been devoted to keeping people from knowing me.”

1930     The Unholy Three
1929     Thunder
1929     Where East Is East
1928     West of Zanzibar
1928     While the City Sleeps
1928     Laugh, Clown, Laugh
1928     The Big City
1927     London After Midnight
1927     Mockery
1927     The Unknown
1927     Mr. Wu
1926     Tell It to the Marines
1926     The Road to Mandalay
1926     The Blackbird
1925     The Tower of Lies
1925     The Phantom of the Opera
1925     The Unholy Three
1925     The Monster
1924     He Who Gets Slapped
1924     The Next Corner
1923     The Hunchback of Notre Dame
1923     The Shock
1923     While Paris Sleeps
1923     All the Brothers Were Valiant
1922     A Blind Bargain
1922     Quincy Adams Sawyer
1922     Shadows
1922     Oliver Twist
1922     The Light in the Dark
1922     Flesh and Blood
1922     The Trap
1921     Voices of the City
1921     The Ace of Hearts
1921     Bits of Life
1921     For Those We Love
1920     Outside the Law
1920     Nomads of the North
1920     The Penalty
1920     The Gift Supreme
1920     Treasure Island
1920     Daredevil Jack
1919     Victory
1919     When Bearcat Went Dry
1919     Paid in Advance
1919     The Miracle Man
1919     A Man's Country
1919     The Wicked Darling
1919     The False Faces
1918     Danger, Go Slow
1918     The Talk of the Town
1918     That Devil, Bateese
1918     Riddle Gawne
1918     A Broadway Scandal
1918     Fast Company
1918     The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin
1918     Broadway Love
1918     The Grand Passion
1917     The Scarlet Car
1917     Bondage
1917     Anything Once
1917     The Empty Gun
1917     Triumph
1917     Pay Me!
1917     The Rescue
1917     Fires of Rebellion
1917     A Doll's House
1917     The Flashlight
1917     The Girl in the Checkered Coat
1917     The Mask of Love
1917     Hell Morgan's Girl
1917     The Piper's Price
1916     The Price of Silence
1916     Accusing Evidence
1916     The Place Beyond the Winds
1916     Felix on the Job
1916     If My Country Should Call
1916     The Mark of Cain
1916     The Grasp of Greed
1916     Bobbie of the Ballet
1916     The Gilded Spider
1916     Tangled Hearts
1916     The Grip of Jealousy
1916     Dolly's Scoop
1915     Stronger Than Death
1915     Father and the Boys
1915     Under a Shadow
1915     The Millionaire Paupers
1915     Lon of Lone Mountain
1915     A Mother's Atonement
1915     Alas and Alack
1915     The Fascination of the Fleur de Lis
1915     The Pine's Revenge
1915     The Chimney's Secret
1915     Quits
1915     Mountain Justice
1915     Bound on the Wheel
1915     The Trust
1915     The Violin Maker
1915     Steady Company
1915     The Oyster Dredger
1915     The Stronger Mind
1915     An Idyll of the Hills
1915     The Stool Pigeon
1915     The Girl of the Night
1915     The Grind
1915     Maid of the Mist
1915     The Desert Breed
1915     All for Peggy
1915     Outside the Gates
1915     Where the Forest Ends
1915     Such Is Life
1915     When the Gods Played a Badger Game
1915     The Threads of Fate
1915     The Measure of a Man
1915     A Small Town Girl
1915     The Star of the Sea
1915     The Sin of Olga Brandt
1914     Her Escape
1914     A Night of Thrills
1914     The Lion, the Lamb, the Man
1914     Lights and Shadows
1914     Damon and Pythias
1914     Her Life's Story
1914     Virtue Is Its Own Reward
1914     The Pipes o' Pan
1914     Richelieu
1914     The Higher Law
1914     Her Bounty
1914     A Miner's Romance
1914     The Oubliette
1914     By the Sun's Rays
1914     Her Grave Mistake
1914     A Ranch Romance
1914     The Hopes of Blind Alley
1914     The Old Cobbler
1914     The Forbidden Room
1914     Heart Strings
1914     The Unlawful Trade
1914     The Tragedy of Whispering Creek
1914     The End of the Feud
1914     The Lamb, the Woman, the Wolf
1914     The Embezzler
1914     The Menace to Carlotta
1914     Discord and Harmony
1914     Remember Mary Magdalen
1914     The Honor of the Mounted
1914     The Lie
1913     Bloodhounds of the North
1913     Red Margaret, Moonshiner
1913     Back to Life
1913     An Elephant on His Hands
1913     Almost an Actress
1913     The Restless Spirit
1913     The Trap
1913     Shon the Piper
1913     The Blood Red Tape of Charity
1913     The Sea Urchin
1913     Poor Jake's Demise
1913     Suspense
1913     The Ways of Fate
1912     The Honor of the Family   

Matinee Classics - The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller
Matinee Classics - Oliver Twist starring Lon Chaney and Jackie Coogan
Matinee Classics - Shadows starring Lon Chaney, Marguerite De La Motte, Harrison Ford, John St. Polis, Walter Long, Buddy Messinger, Priscilla Bonner and Frances Raymond
Matinee Classics - Shadows starring Lon Chaney, Marguerite De La Motte, Harrison Ford, John St. Polis, Walter Long, Buddy Messinger, Priscilla Bonner and Frances Raymond
Matinee Classics - The Black Bird starring Lon Chaney, Owen Moore, Renée Adorée, Doris Lloyd, Andy MacLennan and William Weston

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