The Unknown (1927) Lon Chaney- “Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!”

Poster - Unknown, The (1927)_02

“Ancient traditions, when tested by the severe processes if modern investigation, commonly enough fade away into mere dream; but it is singular how often the dream turns out to have been a half-waking one, presaging a reality.”
-T.H.Huxley; The Book of Beast

chaney-blogathon-banner-header-unknown-spiderbabyLARGE

Annex - Chaney Sr., Lon (Unknown, The)_02

“Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!” Nanon Zanzi

or… Mad Love Among the Limbless!

Chaney Sr The Unknown Alonso

The Unknown (1927 USA 49mins)
Lon Chaney Sr as Alonso the Armless

unknown poster

Directed by Tod Browning

Screenplay by Waldemar Young, (Island of Lost Souls 1932). Story by Tod Browning, based on a novel by Mary Roberts Rindhart. (The Bat 1959). Cinematography byMerritt B. Gerstad  (Watch on the Rhine 1943). Edited by Harry Reynolds, & Errol Taggart. Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons & Richard Day (On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire) and Lucia Coulter, wardrobe.

Cast: Lon Chaney immortalizes the role of Alonzo the Armless, Joan Crawford plays Nanon Zanzi Norman Kerry plays the strongman Malabar, John George is Alonzo’s side-kick Cojo, Frank Lanning as Costra. Nick De Ruiz as circus owner and Nanon’s ruthless father, Zanzi.

The Unknown is a beautifully disturbing film that gains a savage momentum the more you peer into the face of it’s ugly story. As writer/historian David J. Skal states of the stage contraption at the film’s climax “the Unknown itself is a perfectly constructed torture machine and arguably Browning’s most accomplished film.”

I’d like to use the term “gothic embodiment” from Lena Wånggren‘s May 22, 2013 article Gothic Embodiment: Lon Chaney and Affective amputation because of her astute insight of the overreaching theme of The Unknown which taps into the fear of castration and the horrific aspect to this bizarrely sensational L’amour Fou, that which is both grim and grotesque.

Chaney and Crawford
Chaney and Crawford
CapturFiles_18
Alonzo and Cojo enter the operating room. The sterile environment envelopes the two men.

CapturFiles_3

CapturFiles_19
Alonzo blackmails the surgeon for the mob into amputating both his arms. Showing him his signature double thumbs.

CapturFiles_21

For me it was an unnerving, disquieting piece of the puzzle when I first watched Alonzo enter the stark surgical room to blackmail the surgeon into amputating both his arms, and thereby cutting off his ability to embrace Nanon, his arms an extension of his entire male body. The castration anxiety fulfilled.

Wånggren asks what is a Gothic body? Here she cites a few examples-

“Various scholars have theorized Gothic embodiment and physical difference in Gothic works, such as Judith Halberstam’s Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (1995) Recently, the collection Demons of the Body and Mind: Essays on Disability in Gothic Literature (2010), edited by Ruth Bienstock Anolik, fruitfully employs the framework of disability studies to study monstrosity in the Gothic. The collected essays focus on the ways in which Gothic texts respond to ‘human beings who are figured as inhuman because they do not align with the physical or mental standards of their society’.

Untitled2
The beautiful Joan Crawford all of eighteen and Lon Chaney Sr in Tod Browning’s striking disturbing The Unknown 1927

Lon Chaney has inhabited so many memorable roles with the use of theatrically exaggerated Gothic embodiment or characters who are ‘other’ on screen. What quickly comes to mind of course is Erik in Phantom of the Opera or Quasimodo in 1925 as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and of course the cruel yet redemptive Phrozo in The Penalty.

Chaney Hunchback
Lon Chaney as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Chaney possessed the ability to express his inner most desires not only through an intuitively emotional expressiveness, along side his elaborate make-up, he also possessed the commanding physicality his roles put on his body.

Alonzo

Alonso
Alonzo the Armless showing his arms

Chaney was heavily inspired by clowns as a young man, being fascinated by the duality of their personae. Alonzo is a particularly complex character as Chaney offers us with most of his performances, a man who can be simultaneously loathed and yet often wears a strata of sympathetic layers as we see into his intricate psyche, a sympathetic yet hateful man. Alonzo is a violent misanthrope yet he finds a tenderness in his love for Nanon ironically a woman who repels any love from men. The duality of the character exists in this… Chaney deftly balances his ill spirited belligerence toward the world and his internal emotionalism for the object of his love, the elusive and troubled Nanon.

The_Unknown
Side-Kick Cojo is the only one privy to Alonzo’s secret identity hiding out in the gypsy circus and the fact that he does in fact have two good arms

Chaney is drawn to these roles like moths to the flame of men who suffer their difference at the hands of societal norms, exacting a sort of rule of vengeance, while completely cruel he still manages to convey a deep and abiding pathos.

In one of my other favorite performances of his, he brings to life the complex Blizzard in The Penalty 1920. Both legs having been amputated as a child by a inept surgeon. This sets his character’s trajectory off into a cruel space, one of abuse and a life of crime due to the hardship he endured by being an amputee.

The Penalty Lon Chaney Sr Hats
a scene from the hat factory Chaney as the cruel Blizzard in The Penalty

He is referred to by his foes as ‘the cripple from hell’. Blizzard’s pursuit is to exact revenge on the man who left him a cripple, and the absolute objectification of evil. Blizzard’s body has been left imperfect, filling him with a taste for vengeance for those ‘mangled years’ of his childhood. Years of being forced to live with his ‘physical difference.’

It is this desire for retribution that drives the narrative so strongly. In this narrative of Gothic difference through the embodiment of amputation, Blizzard conceives of a grotesque way of punishing this doctor by having the doctor amputate the legs of the daughter’s fiance, then attaching them to his own body.

Ethel_Grey_Terry_and_Lon_Chaney
Ethel Grey Terry and Lon Chaney in The Penalty 1920-Chaney wearing fitted leather stumps that were painful in order to hide his legs

While Chaney’s performance as Blizzard the criminal mastermind does create a compelling set of nuances with his character as the criminally insane boy grown out of years of resentment and lust for revenge, it is his performance as Alonzo that truly hits the mark for me.

The Unknown, creates a bizarre romantic notion that Alonzo the Armless can choose to have his arms removed for the object of his desire Nanon which elevates this Gothic Embodiment into the realm of what our contemporary critics and film makers like David Cronenberg would call ‘body horror.’

Alonzo is also maliciously encouraged by his minion Cojo who acts like a devil imp, egging Alonzo down a more dangerous path of self destruction. As many classical horror films make use of the expressly contemptuous ‘little’ evil side-kick as nefarious as the monster themselves.

CapturFiles_2
Cojo is the personification of the characteristic little evil side kick
CapturFiles_1
Cojo reminds Alonzo that he doesn’t have to use his feet in private to do all the things he can do with his two good hands

The idea that Nanon (Joan Crawford) suffers from a carnal phobia of having anyone touch her is a vastly more complex and grotesquely misshapen love story than that of The Penalty. The circus performer named Alonzo the Armless, goes to the extremes of amputation so that Joan Crawford’s character Nanon won’t feel threatened by his touch.

Ironically he is rejected in the end of this queasy and quite grim story of unrequited love that turns in on itself.

The Unknown can be considered an allegory of sexual repression and traumatized masculinity. Going all Freudian on the film one could relate the act of Alonzo’s amputation to be that which is symbolic of Freud’s castration anxiety.

Annex - Chaney Sr., Lon (Unknown, The)_NRFPT_03

Professor & Author Rick Worland refers to the The Unknown and the idea of Alonzo’s amputation both faked and eventually actualized as fantastic work of psycho-sexual grotesquerie’ it’s amputation plot presenting a ‘fever dream of phallic symbolism, castration anxiety and sexual terror.”

Alonso 6

Alonzo has rendered himself virtually impotent in a sexual way in order to satisfy Nanon’s need to be untouched.

Essentially the idea of Gothic Embodiment and the fetishistic use of amputation in a psycho-sexual context can not over look the idea of the act of simple ‘touch.’ The idea of Gothic Embodiment or ‘difference’ is inextricably linked to the act of touching and therefor an indirect link to frustrated intimacy. The human hands best embody this dual nature of touching and the sense of ‘feeling’ Both explore that which we touch and act as the tool in which to explore or express one’s emotions in kind with another human. What I’d like to call,body dialogue.’

The Unknown released by MGM in 1927 and directed by Tod Browning in the horror genre’s popularly known for (Dracula 1931, & Freaks 1932) takes place at Antonio Zanzi’s ‘gypsy circus’ in old Madrid. The story involves a bizarre love triangle between circus folk Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) Nanon Zanzi (Joan Crawford) and Strongman Malabar the Mighty (Norman Kerry) Alonzo uses his feet to fire guns and throw knives at Nanon.

CapturFiles_9

unknown

CapturFiles_27

CapturFiles_33

CapturFiles_12

CapturFiles_31

The circus act itself a destructive spectacle of masochism as Nanon Zanzi assists Alonzo in his death defying act. Nanon is daughter to the circus owner Antonio Zanzi. Alonzo secretly desires Nanon. As part of their dangerously erotic act that resembles contact, furthermore penetration, but only in it’s flare for tease and excitement, the moving target Nanon is strapped to a board that spins. With each shot of the gun, the bullets remove one more article of Nanon’s clothes. Next with his feet Alonzo throws the penetrating knives that outline Nanon’s bikini clad body perfectly.

CapturFiles_15

CapturFiles_21

assisting alonzo

CapturFiles_14
Alonzo the Armless – the devil to his left side

and now Alonzo

feet guns
Alonzo the Armless can use shotguns to fire bullets that disrobe the beautiful Nanon

CapturFiles_20

CapturFiles_23

Alonzo is described by the circus owner as ‘the sensation of sensations!’,and as the ‘wonder of wonders!’

Chaney collaborated with real life armless double Paul Dismute whose dexterity in the remarkable scenes where he uses his feet to handle objects such as strumming guitars, pouring wine, throwing knives or lighting cigarettes. Within the shot frame Tod Browning and cinematographer Merritt Gerstad (who also worked on Freaks) would use Chaney’s upper body and face. It was a brilliant use of body choreography and timing to give the illusion that Chaney was manipulating these objects by himself, while Dismute remained off camera handling the objects.

Alonzo cup

Here are some selected critiques of the film cited in Dark Carnival the secret world of Tod Browning David J. Skal & Elias Savada Chapter- “Murderous Midgets, crippled thieves…”

“Reflecting the growing public alarm over the moral tone of films in the late twenties The Unknown was the first film to be frankly and aggressively attacked in the press for it’s melodramatic  morbidity.” The New York Sun assured readers that “the suspicion that the picture might have been written by Nero, directed by Lucretia Borgia, constructed by the shade of Edgar Allan Poe and lighted by a well-known vivisectionist was absolutely groundless…. The Sun admitted that The Unknown “may be just what the public wants. If it is- well, the good old days of the Roman Empire are upon us” The New York Daily Mirror suggested that “if you like to tear butterflies apart and see sausage made you may like the climax to The Unknown. … typical Chaney fare spiced with cannibalism and flavored with the Spanish Inquisition.”

The New York Evening Post observed that “Mr Chaney has been twisting joints and lacing himself into strait-jackets for a long time- so long, in fact that there is almost nothing left for him now but the Headless Horseman. The Evening Post called The Unknown ‘a remarkably unpleasant picture.{…} a visit to the dissecting room in a hospital would be quite as pleasant and at the same time more instructive.”

Flesh and Blood Lon Chaney
Flesh and Blood- Lon Chaney

Richard Watts Jr of The New York Herald Tribune said of the film, “The case of Mr. Tod Browning is rapidly approaching the pathological. After a series of minor horrors that featured such comparatively respectable creations as murderous midgets, crippled thieves and poisonous reptiles, all sinister and deadly in a murky atmosphere of blackness and unholy doom… the director presents us now with a melodrama that might have been made from a scenario dashed off by the Messrs. Leopold and Loeb in a quiet moment”

Watts conceded that given cinema otherwise so completely devoted to red blooded values and ‘general aggressive cleanliness’ films of the sort Browning championed might provide a ‘valuable counteracting influence” Obviously he felt repulsed by The Unknown.

The conservative Harrison’s Reports wrote “One can imagine a moral pervert of the present day, or professional torturers of the times of the Spanish Inquisition that gloated over the miseries of their victims on the rack and over their roasting on hot iron bars enjoying screen details of the kind set forth in The Unknown. but it is difficult to fancy average men and women of a modern audience in this enlightened age being entertained by such a thoroughly fiendish mingling of bloodlust, cruelty and horrors. … Of Mr. Chaney’s acting it is enough to say it is excellent of it’s kind. Similar praise might well be given the work of a skilled surgeon in ripping open the abdomen of a patient. But who wants to see him do it?”

There does seem to be a Sadomasochistic tone pervading Browning/Chaney collaborations that begs the question about their private machinations that collaboratively generated such cruel public spectacles.

browning and chaney in human duck costume

Joan Crawford eighteen at the time recalled Chaney’s ordeal with wearing the leather harness as agonizing a self punishing behavior. Mr Browning would say to him “Lon, don’t you want me to untie your arms?” ‘No, the pain I am in enduring now will help with the scene. Let’s go!” That’s how he was able to “convey such realism” and emotional agony that made it shocking and fascinating.“Chaney projected the image of physical suffering as both the definition and price of his stardom; exactly why he chose to is not so clear and since he left no revealing journals or correspondence on the matter, may forever remain obscure” Crawford said about Chaney,When he acted, it was if God were working, he had such profound concentration. It was then I became aware for the first time of the difference between standing in front of a camera, and acting.”

chaney-crawford-unknown

on the set of The Unknown

unknown03097

‘Armless Wonders’ were among the most spectacular and well-paid performers in turn-of-the-century American freak shows who would perform tasks and feats (no pun intended) to entertain the onlookers.

Violetta limbless beauty
Violetta the limbless beauty
Frances Belle O'Conner
Frances Belle O’Conner featured in Freaks

While Freud had his pseudoscience fix for every mental ailment boasted, but discontents but Tod Browning favored themes of a visceral sexually charged plot surrounding resentment and revenge. He screened overt manipulation of disturbing sexual symbolism in order to shock his audience into consciousness. The threat of castration is a particularly violent notion and repressed emotional impulse. Freud’s Uncanny (which I seem to love films that echo this work), the idea of disembodied limbs, severed heads, hands cut off at the wrists all have something particularly uncanny about them. Especially when they are show as capable of independent movement. It all springs from the castration complex. Browning’s fascination with sexually motivated mutilation, like that of Cleopatra being turned into a chicken or ‘duck’ lady in Freaks annihilating her beauty, that quality which she used to lure Hans.

h358_duck_girl_6
Olga Baclanova as Cleopatra the trapeze beauty turned into the Chicken Lady by the avenging Freaks

In Freaks was Francis the armless woman, and actually there were two armless girls- Martha Morris and Francis O’Conner. Richard Watts Jr film critic for the New York Herald Tribune said of Browning- “Browning is the combination of Edgar Allan Poe and Sax Rohmer of the cinema. Where every director save Stroheim, breathes wholesomeness. out-of-door freshness and the healthiness of the clean limbed, Tod revels in murkiness… His cinematic mind is a creeping torture chamber, a place of darkness, deviousness and death”

After Freaks, “In Browning’s next project, Freudian theory would be bizarrely literalized into a weird and spectacular circus attraction Based on an original story by Browning. Alonzo the Armless was a vehicle for Lon Chaney that would prove to be one of the darkest carnivals of the entire Browning canon.”

Alonso 4

Boxing Helena is a 1993 modern day grotesquely romantic melodrama that debuted director Jennifer Chambers Lynch, (daughter of David Lynch) Utilizing the mechanism of amputation as what I’ll call ‘seductive symbology’. The film stars Julian Sands and Sherilyn Fenn as the object of his desire a surgeon who will keep his love closest to him by any means.

David Lynch’s daughter did an incredible job of blindsiding my expectations of horror while utilizing an outre grotesque bit of violent eroticism with Surveillance (2008) coming along ways off from Boxing Helena which initially I thought was a woman’s pugilist film, much to my surprise and stomach turning angst. The scene in Surveillance where the little girl in pajamas is wandering the desert I believe is more than a coincidental great nod to the scene in THEM (1954). Lynch’s work has some truly dynamic horror moments… I can’t say more about the film without giving away some of the ingenious plot twists and mechanisms. Another modern classic that is reminiscent in it’s use of the eroticism conflated with amputation is Alejandro Jodorwosky’s masterpiece Santa Sangre 1989. The Gothic Embodiment again take place in a traveling circus showcases the sexualization of Concha’s violent amputation of both her arms by her volatile sword throwing philandering neanderthal husband played by Guy Stockwell. Where the crossover imagining of mythos and psycho-sexual stimulation of violence and armless saints blend into a nightmarish wander-land for the son Fenix.

santa-sangre
Guy Stockwell in Alejandro Jodorwosky’s Santa Sangre
santa10_original
the illusory masterpiece that is Santa Sangre

The Unknown, is a profoundly bizarre love triangle with the sense and symbolism of touch tethering the players together in an immortal context of specific reliance the importance of contact. Using Nanon’s abject horror of being touched and her repulsion of the male physique. Hands and arms are the active normative use of the physical expression of intimacy at odds with the difference of Gothic embodiment. To the extent that Alonzo is willing to ‘castrate’ himself in order to possess Nanon fully.


CapturFiles_1a
This is how the opening title goes. We are placed down into an altered world of reality and the fantastical lifestyle of circus life.circus

CapturFiles_2

CapturFiles_4

CapturFiles_8

alonzo stands audience

CapturFiles_25

The circus features an armless entertainer named Alonzo. He is a knife thrower who could split the hairs on two flies dancing in unison. His claim to fame is that he handles both bullets and blades with his bare feet. At the film’s opening scene Alonzo performs showing the confidence of his perfect aim by flinging phallic knives at his beautiful assistant Nanon who is at the receiving end of his knife throwing while seated on a rotating platform. With each delivery he picks off one more article of Nanon’s clothing that dangle there boasting of his sexual competence. Through this performance Alonzo can sublimate his own feverish sexual urges for Nanon.

Annex - Chaney Sr., Lon (Unknown, The)_01

The secret lies in the fact that Alonzo actually does have two strong capable arms, a fact that only his dwarf assistant Cojo (John George) is privy to. Each day Cojo laces Alonzo into a punishing leather corset. Alonzo dons this apparatus to create the appearance of amputation. A disguise he perpetuates because he is on the run from the law, and it also brings him closer to the object of his fixation the beautiful but sexually constrained Nanon. Nanon is consumed with a phobia surrounding the male anatomy, in particular their hands. She is repulsed by men’s upper extremities, “Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!”

Although Alonzo possess arms, he does exhibit a freakish anomaly as he possesses a double thumb on one hand. In the original story Browning and screenwriter Waldemar Young had envisioned a claw as his deformity. But the phallic charge of the double thumb is more in keeping with the influence Freud’s The Uncanny had made on cinema.  According to writer/historians Skal & Savada ‘doubling’ is viewed by Freud as an imaginative defense against the feared loss of the self, or a part of the self.

Alonzo suffers in silence over his immortal love for Nanon, keeping their relationship strictly platonic, he still attracts negative attention from Nanon’s father the circus owner. On a dark and rainy night, Alonzo strangles the man, as Nanon peers outside her window yet does not see the killer’s face. The one thing that she does notice is the unmistakable double thumbs as it grips her father’s throat.

CapturFiles_8

CapturFiles_4

CapturFiles_7

While Alonzo quietly broods over his unrequited love, the strong man Malabar (Norman Kerry) pursues her with all the traditional male prowess of a proud peacock. Of course this sends Alonzo into fits of irrational jealousy. He blackmails a surgeon into actually removing his arms, so that Nanon would assuredly run to him being the safe male.

Malabar’s sexual advances only push Nanon closer toward Alonzo’s friendship. But Alonzo’s side kick Cojo ( John George whom Browning used several times throughout his career) warns his friend that he shouldn’t let Nanon get so close as to be able to feel that he truly does have arms that are strapped down.

But when he returns to the circus after the surgery he discovers that Nanon has miraculously overcome her fear of manly chests, bulging muscles and arms with which to hold her in ecstatic embrace. And the two are also engaged.

There is a sad ironic scene when Nanon asks Alonzo if he is thinner, before she tells him of her love for Malabar. The moment is filled with a typical Tod Browning sense of timely perversity misdirection and emotional pain.

She declares to her old friend that she even LOVES Malabar’s hands: ‘Remember how I used to be afraid of his hands? … I am not any more. I love them now.’

I’ll leave the climax to those who haven’t seen this violently intoxicating film yet.

The film is filled with cruelty, irony and obsession. While the story is more like a wickedly grotesque fairytale it observes the journey of a it’s own nightmarish reasoning but intricate as it is repulsive.

What is Nanon’s strange and horrible fixation on men’s hands. She is terrified by the thought of their hands on her!

CapturFiles
‘Alonzo, all my life men have tried to put their beastly hands on me… to paw over me.’

CapturFiles_11

CapturFiles_4

CapturFiles_14

CapturFiles_12
Malabar approaches Nanon

CapturFiles_13

CapturFiles_15

CapturFiles_17

CapturFiles_18

CapturFiles_20

CapturFiles_22

CapturFiles_23

CapturFiles_25

CapturFiles_26

She has ‘grown so that [she] shrink[s] with fear when any man touches [her]‘ with their ‘beastly hands’. Nanon’s fear becomes apparent when she is courted by the circus weight-lifter or strongman Malabar.

When Malabar boasts to Nanon of incredible strength, flexing his arm muscles and grabbing at her hands and her wrists, while telling her of how his ‘hands that long to caress you’, Nanon struggles to get away experiencing shear terror.

CapturFiles_7

What frightens her more is the ‘ideal’ of Malabar’s physique. To Nanon, the object of Gothic horror seems to be  the normative body, and strangely enough not the body emphasized as different. Malabar’s body encompasses an extreme forceful ideal of the masculine body.

Nanon is traumatized by Malabar’s aggressive touch and grasping hands. She finds him abhorrent ‘Hands! Men’s hands! How I hate them!’, and indeed wishes that ‘God would … [take] the hands from all of them’.

She finds comfort in Alonzo who poses no threat to her as he has no arms or hands that can either challenge her desire or harm her.

CapturFiles_1

CapturFiles_15

CapturFiles_17

CapturFiles_20
the surgeon has no choice but to do Alonzo’s gruesome bidding

CapturFiles_22

CapturFiles_23

CapturFiles_24

CapturFiles_25
Nanon tells Alonzo that he feels thinner

CapturFiles_29

CapturFiles_32

alonso hat

Norman Kerry and Joan Crawford in Tod Browning’s The Unknown Nanon finally embraces Malabar’s hands

CapturFiles_34

CapturFiles_35

The Unknown (1927)-The Armless Wonder.

By MORDAUNT HALL.
Published: June 13, 1927

“Although it has strength and undoubtedly sustains the interest, “The Unknown,” the latest screen contribution from Tod Browning and Lon Chaney, is anything but a pleasant story. It is gruesome and at times shocking, and the principal character deteriorates from a more or less sympathetic individual to an arch-fiend. The narrative is a sort of mixture of Balzac and Guy de Maupassant with a faint suggestion of O. Henry plus Mr. Browning’s colorful side-show background.{…}

“The rôle of Alonzo, who poses as the Armless Wonder with a Spanish circus, is one that ought to have satisfied Mr. Chaney’s penchant for freakish characterizations, for here he not only has to go about for hours with his arms strapped to his body…{…}

“This tale is prefaced as if it were a circus legend, and soon one realizes that Alonzo is not only expert in the use of his feet when serving himself, but he is also supposed to be a crack shot and an unerring knife thrower. The girl who risks her life daily before Alonzo’s bullets and knives is Estrellita, impersonated by Joan Crawford. She becomes interested in Alonzo because most men in the circus without provocation invariably want to caress her.”

13 thoughts on “The Unknown (1927) Lon Chaney- “Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!”

  1. Wow – Joey! I feel like I’ve just had a combined Film History AND Psychology class! Great job! I love all this info/analysis you presented here.

    Also, interesting story about Chaney refusing to have the leather harness removed, in the belief it would make the scene more realistic. Truly a remarkable actor.

    Like

    1. Hey Barry- I’m so glad you liked the piece. It’s a bit of a disturbing film for some. But like Santa Sangre it’s a beautiful piece of film making with a story that while gruesome resonates on that tragically human level

      Like

  2. I still haven’t watched many silents (not a snob, just tend to grab the talkie when I have a choice) but have seen ALL Chaney’s, since Phantom was one of my first non-slapstick silent and then I just went and sought out all of his. He makes a good, familiar actor to intro newbies to that era, and i think this one especially, with its O.Henry type twist is fascinating. nice post, thanks

    Like

    1. Haha Kristina I would consider Chaney Sr to be the anti-slapstick silent guy. Although I know he had the ability for body comedy that’s for sure. I love that you called the ending of The Unknown an O Henry esque type end. Very true… I was very careful not to give away the end for people. Not that I think they’ll be rushing in droves to watch Alonzo the Armless, unless they want to see a very young Joan Crawford crack a whip or have her garments ripped off with one throw of the blade…

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s