Lon Chaney, Man of a Thousand Faces
| Leonidas Frank Chaney was born on April
1, 1883. Both parents were deaf and young Lon grew up skilled in
pantomime, an asset that would help mold his acting abilities in years
to come. There are thousands of bios of Lon Chaney on the web but I
will voice a different take on the "Man of a Thousand Faces".
Though there maybe dispute among studios which studio made the first horror movie, there can be no doubt that it was Lon Chaney who created the horror genre. He was one of the most highly sought after character actors, not only for his acting talent but for his wizardry with makeup. His ability to transform into the grotesque while conveying sympathy and pathos has never been matched by any other actor. We can sit reviled by the Hunchback or Phantom but we feel the courage of the Hunchback and in the Phantom we truly feel the pain and emptiness of the unrequited love. His protrayals often require us to examine our own pathos and empathize with the character.
Sadly, many of his works have been lost to time. The film, "London after Midnight" is still considered one of most legendary Lost films. After his death, his makeup case was donated to the Los Angeles county Museum. It is still considered the preeminent artifact in the history of film makeup.
Lon Chaney is fondly remembered by those who worked with him. He was always willing to give advice and help upcoming actors. A multi-talented actor, many forget that Lon Chaney was also a skilled dancer, singer and comedian. He was often called "the man of mystery", as he shunned the Hollywood social life, often saying "between pictures there is no Lon Chaney." He tried his best to discourage his son, Creighton from acting.
On the set of "Thunder", Lon Chaney developed pneumonia. He was diagnosed with Lung Cancer and died on August 26, 1930. He was 47.
It is often reported that the role of Dracula would have gone to Lon Chaney as he was a favorite of director, Todd Browning. If not for his death in 1930, would we have even known the names Lugosi, Karloff or even Lon Chaney Jr.
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