Two Men. Thousands of Faces… The Chaney Blogathon is coming…

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“Lon Chaney can best be described as someone who acted out our psyche. He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies. He was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on the screen”-Ray Bradbury

Okay… having recently co-hosted the William Castle Blogathon that was Thrill-O, the amazing Fritzi from Movies Silently has given me the honor of co-hosting this exciting next Blogathon trumpeting two men who have left an indelible mark on film history. I’m so filled with anticipation I feel like swinging from a Chandelier or hopping on a giant Bell in a tower just to ring in this upcoming event. Fritzi’s created these sensational banners of father and son!

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The Man of a Thousand Faces- Lon Chaney

Undoubtedly film history will show that Germany offered up some very compelling actors from World War One throughout the early twenties. Conrad Veidt, Paul Wegener, and Max Schreck’s iconic performance as the transcendent Nosferatu. All set the tone for archetypes of the grandiose sinister & nefarious. Most were fantasy or horror driven shadow plays that piqued the imagination.

But one thing is certain, American born Lon Chaney dubbed ‘The Man of a Thousand Faces’ is perhaps the most persuasive & significant actor of them all and of that era. The roles he inhabited evolved to a whole new level because Chaney had a gift of drawing out the most nuanced and instinctual human emotion. Not just with his incredible skill with make-up but he possessed a manifest pronunciation of the human spirit with his body language and psychological interpretation of the characters he brought to vivid life on screen.

AMERICAN MASTERS:  LON CHANAPHOTO: PhotoFest

Chaney Close up

Often drawing on his mastery of pathos Chaney created some of the most unforgettable and sympathetic characters who were unique, grotesque and mythically unconventional.

Irving Thalberg who worked with the actor in the early days of MGM eulogized the great actor at his funeral- “The actor is a very special human being. There are only a few who possess his peculiar magic, that extraordinary ability to make us feel, to lift us out of our own existence, and make us believe in the world of make-believe. {…}Lon Chaney-a diamond in the rough-for he could be very hard. But let’s examine him closely, look behind the make-up, the many masks, and see what happened to this strange and interesting man to give him those sharp edges. those facets that made him glitter, that made him great! Great not only because of his God-given talent to illuminate certain dark corners of the human spirit. He showed the world the souls of those people who were born different than the rest.”

Lon Chaney was born Leonidas Frank Chaney to parents who were both deaf mutes. His mother was involved at a children’s school doing pantomime plays and little skits that starred Lon when he was merely three years old. So one could say that acting was in Chaney’s blood.

I’m sure people will always associate him with Erik the Phantom of the Opera from 1925 based on Gaston Laroux’s famous novel. Or perhaps as Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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But starting from 1913 in short films Chaney began creating some of the most powerful roles until his death in 1930 when he did his first and only speaking role in the reprisal of The Unholy Three. Here is a list from Lon Chaney’s IMDb profile with his impressive filmography.

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Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford in The Unknown

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Ethel Grey Terry and Lon Chaney as the cruel Blizzard in The Penalty

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Chaney as the vengeful Phroso in West of Zanzibar

I’ll be covering one of my favorite performances as well as silent films. Chaney plays Alonzo in Tod Browning’s surreal The Unknown 1927 co-starring a very young and stunning Joan Crawford.

A few other favorites of mine are Chaney’s portrayal as Blizzard in the intense The Penalty 1920. The sublime ‘He’ in He Who Gets Slapped 1924 & Phroso in West of Zanzibar 1928.

Now a little bit about Jr.

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Lon Chaney Jr- photo courtesy of Doctor Macro

Creighton Tull Chaney who was born in 1906. Chaney Jr. tried to carve out a niche for himself in the shadowy light of his father’s place in the pantheon of great screen actors and the classical status of the roles Chaney Sr. seemed to command. He did many appearances on various popular television series. Some might be your favorites like Route 66 or Have Gun Will Travel.

Best known for his sympathetic role as the ill fated Larry Talbot in Curt Siodmak’s memorable classic horror story The Wolf Man 1941

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Lon Chaney Jr as The Wolf Man photo courtesy of Doctor Macro

Chaney Jr. started acting as a contract player at RKO after his father died but never attained the kudos that his silent film star did. Chaney Jr worked for Universal in a number of low budget horror films. Son of Dracula 1943 & The Mummy’s Curse 1944 and reprising his role as Larry Talbot in House of Frankenstein 1944 just to mention a few.

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Lon Chaney Jr. in Son of Dracula photo courtesy of Dr Macro

One of his most memorable roles is that of Lennie in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men 1939. Lon Chaney Jr. appeared in various film noirs, mystery thrillers like the Inner Sanctum series and westerns, hosting a brief run on an obscure television horror anthology show called 13 Demon Street in 1959.

Chaney Jr.played Martin Howe in High Noon 1952 and Big Mac in I Died a Thousand Times 1955 as well as Big Sam in The Defiant Ones 1958.

High Noon

Lon Chaney Jr as Martin Howe in the transcendental western classic High Noon

And -Somehow he worked his way through certain titles like Manfish & Indestructible Man in ’56, The Alligator People 1959 and Hillbillies in a Haunted House 1967. While not classics in the traditional sense, his films are still very fun to watch from a nostalgic perspective as a film fan & MonsterGirl.

It was great to see him along side Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace 1963. But most memorable for me is his poignant portrayal of Bruno the chauffeur in Jack Hill’s bizarre & sublime Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told 1968

Chaney Jr as Bruno Spider Baby

I’ll be showing some love to Spider Baby on the last day of the Blogathon!

Sadly Lon Chaney Jr. died of heart failure at age 67 in 1973 from life long tobacco & alcohol abuse, but no matter what role Jr played, he personified an accessible everyman and is still much beloved by fans to this day. Lon Chaney Jr’s versatile career & extensive contribution can be found here at IMDb

The awe inspiring Chaney Blogathon begins November 15-18

If you’re interesting in swinging from the chandelier with us this is how to join the show!

You can either get in touch with Fritzi over at Movies Silently by emailing or leaving a comment. Or contact me at ephemera.jo@gmail.com or post a comment here!

Let us know what you’d like to contribute to the event and the date you’d like to publish your piece. And say, grab one of Fritzi’s amazing banners and add it to your site.

Anything Chaney goes- Head over to IMDb and see the enormous filmography of these two!

You can cover either father or son or both… they’re so prolific those Chaney men. It can include reviews, biographies, pictorial posts, video tributes and more- And Fritzi and I both sort of agree that even if something is ‘taken’ you shouldn’t be dissuaded from choosing it, everyone has their own unique perspective on things so go ahead and write about it!

We’d also actually welcome people taking on some of the more obscure works just to get the crowds of onlookers excited.

If I could bring in a large pipe organ and play like Erik the Phantom and make my girl Wendy dress up like Mary Philbin I would do it as a tribute to the 88th Anniversary of Phantom of The Opera… but I don’t think there’s room in the apartment for one of those grand instruments and my wailing scares the cats…

If you’re still lost in the mysterious shadows of the catacombs trying to decide what you’d like to contribute –here’s some suggestions: or head over to Movies Silently and see what she’s got on the reel. And thanks to my partner in crime I now have a new toy to play around with here at The Last Drive In-- The Slide Show!!!!

LON CHANEY 

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LON CHANEY JR.

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THE ROSTER:

The Artistic Packrat – Review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame Nov.15th

Asta’s Doghouse- Newspaper Ads special Lon Chaney Jr Nov.15th

Cable Car Guy- Lon Chaney Scrapbook 1 Nov.15th, Chaney Scrapbook 2, Nov.16th, Lon Chaney Jr Scrapbook 1 Nov. 17th, & Lon Chaney Jr Scrapbook 2 Nov.18th

Cinemalacrum- Laugh, Clown Laugh Nov.17th

Cinematic Catharsis- West of Zanzibar 1928 Nov.17th

Classic Movie Hub- Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Nov.18th

Critica Retro The Penalty Nov.16th

Donald Mania- The Hunchback of Notre Dame & Laugh, Clown Laugh Nov.16th

Durnmoose Movie MusingFrankenstein Meets the Wolfman Nov.16th

Esther J Cepeda- Mockery Nov.18th

Forgotten Films- The Mummy’s Curse Nov.15th

Furious CinemaThe Alligator People Nov. 15th

Girls Do Film- The Unknown Nov. 17th

Goregirl’s Dungeon-House of Frankenstein Nov.17th

Grand Old Movies BIG HOUSE USA Nov.15

Monster World Magazine- Lon Chaney vs Jack Pierce A Monster Makeup Smackdown Nov.16th

Movies Silently- Phantom of the Opera Nov 15th, Mark of the Vampire Nov 16th, Nomads of the North Nov 17 & Review of Lon Chaney Biography Nov.18th

My Love of Old Hollywood- The Haunted Palace Nov. 17th

Nitrate Glow-The Ace of Hearts- Nov.15th

Once upon a screen… Pictorial of father and son Nov. 15th, The Wolf Man 1941 Nov. 18th

Paddyfitz- He Who Gets Slapped Nov.16th, Top Ten Lon Chaney Jr Films Nov.17th

Portraits By Jenni- Tell it to the Marines Nov.15th

Pre-Code- The Unholy Three (1930) Nov. 15th

Silent Volume- Oliver Twist Nov.16th, The Unholy Three (1925) Nov.18th

Silver Scenes- The Wolf Man Nov.15th & Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Nov.16th

Silver Screenings- Of Mice and Men Nov. 16th

Speakeasy – Strange Confession & The Frozen Ghost Inner Sanctum Mysteries Nov.17th

Tales of The Easily Distracted -Dorian -My Favorite Brunette Nov. 16th, Vinnie-Spider Baby Nov.16th

The Artistic Packrat- The Hunchback of Notre Dame- Nov. 15th

The Great Katherine Hepburn- The Hunchback of Notre Dame Nov.15th

The Hitless Wonder- Tribute to Lon Chaney Sr. Nov.18th

The Last Drive In- The Unknown Nov 15th, Musical Tribute/Film Montage Nov.17th & Spider Baby on Nov.18th

The Motion Pictures- The Black Sleep 1956 Nov.17th

The Nitrate Dive- The Wicked Darling & Outside The Law Nov.18th

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear- High Noon Nov.15th

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30 responses to “Two Men. Thousands of Faces… The Chaney Blogathon is coming…

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