It’s so sad we’re coming to the end of the program…! Chaney Blogathon Nov.15-18

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With gratitude your ever lovin’ MonsterGirl!

The Chaney Blogathon Day Four: The finale!

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Well, it’s the forth and final day of our celebration of the great CHANEYS! And it’s been quite a turn out.

I’ll be taking it from here as host but my brilliant & witty co-host will be lurking around helping to showcase all the fantastic contributions. We’re so pleased with how the event has gone and grateful to all of you who either contributed, helped tout or chimed in to show love to two memorable men and support us… unflinching Blogathon mistresses’ who pulled this all together!

I want to especially thank Fritzi of Movies Silently for quietly asking me months ago if I’d like to help co-host this event. I was flattered and honored and as excited as Quasimodo hanging from a gargoyle on the side of that Cathedral! Although my hump is much smaller.

So without any further asides from yours truly- Please stay seated as here’s the finale to our Chaney program! As Alonzo the Armless shows us… this is where it all ends… Right Here…

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Monday November 18

Cable Car Guy Lon Chaney Jr. Scrapbook 2

Classic Movie Hub Review of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

Destroy All Fanboys Review of Indestructible Man

Esther J. Cepeda Review of Mockery

The Hitless Wonder Lon Chaney Jr. Tribute

Immortal Ephemera Dead Man’s Eyes  An Inner Sanctum Mystery

The Last Drive In Man Made Monster-Slide Show

Midnight Palace Interview with Ron Chaney

The Movie Rat By The Sun’s Rays

Movies Silently Wicked Darling Angry EEEK Chaney gif , Wicked Darling Peekaboo Chaney gif,

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The Nitrate Diva The Wicked Darling

Once Upon a Screen Review of The Wolf Man

Retro Remote review Riddle Gawne

Silent Volume Review of The Unholy Three (1925)

TV’s Fault The Monster (1925)

Wide Screen World  Of Mice and Men

See you at the Opera!!!!- MonsterGirl

A Thousand Faces: Musical Tribute to Lon Chaney Sr & Lon Chaney Jr

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Chaney in the unknown

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The Phantom of the Opera & ‘Bulldozer’ song by Jo Gabriel from the album Fools & Orphans

Montage of The Unknown, The Penalty, West of Zanzibar & HE Who Gets Slapped with Jo Gabriel’s  song Passing/Arriving off The Amber Sessions. lo-fi neo-classical album….

Birthday Tribute Lon Chaney

A Thousand Faces Tribute- Montage of Chaney Sr with Jo Gabriel’s song ‘A Thousand Faces’

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Son of A Thousand Faces- Montage of Chaney Jr with Jo Gabriel’s song Flicker off my album The Amber Sessions

XOXO to the Chaneys- Joey

Alonzo the Armless says ‘two thumbs up’ for our CHANEY BLOGATHON!

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Another swell gif from Fritzi co-host and pal over at Movies Silently

The Chaney Blogathon: Day Two

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So it’s now day two of the great Chaney Blogathon!!! We’re celebrating the careers of two icons, father and son- Lon Chaney, Sr. and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Movies Silently took the first day to graciously host this gala event and now it’s my turn to show the Chaneys’ some love and share some incredible blogger’s contributions. I’ll also be taking the reigns on Monday the fourth and last day of the event while our lovely Fritzi at Movies Silently plays the pipe organ tomorrow, Sunday which will be the third day. Oh wait… we couldn’t afford the Pipe Organ, but you can imagine one… we’re all so imaginative here… You can read the complete list of bloggers here.)

Taking my lead from my wonderful co-host here’s a tip:-If you are a participant, please send over a link to your post. Otherwise, we will simply link to your blog’s homepage.

Let’s start swinging from the bell tower as it’s Day Two and I’m raring to go!

Saturday November 16

The Artistic Packrat Review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Cable Car GuyLon Chaney Sr. Scrapbook 2

Destroy All FanboysThe Defiant Ones

Durnmoose Movie Musings Review of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman

Crítica Retrô Review of The Penalty

The House of LizarragaChaney Caricatures

Monster Magazine World Lon Chaney vs Jack Pierce A Monster Makeup Smackdown

The Motion Pictures review The Black Sleep

Movies Silently article on London After Midnight

Once Upon a Screen Father/Son Pictorial ‘A Wall of Faces!’

Silent Volume Review of Oliver Twist

Silver Scenes Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

Silver Screenings Review of Of Mice and Men

Tales of the Easily Distracted Review of My Favorite Brunette

Tales of the Easily Distracted  Review of Spider baby

A gif(t) from Movies Silently in honor of Alonzo the Armless!

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Nothing says I LOVE You like a hurling knife at your lovely face!

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

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“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

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

or… Mad Love Among the Limbless!

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Lon Chaney Sr as Alonso the Armless

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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.

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

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

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cojo is the personification of the characteristic little evil side kick
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Alonzo the Armless – the devil to his left side

and now Alonzo

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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on the set of The Unknown

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‘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.

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Violetta the limbless beauty
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Guy Stockwell in Alejandro Jodorwosky’s Santa Sangre
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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.


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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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Malabar approaches Nanon

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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.

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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.

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

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Nanon tells Alonzo that he feels thinner

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

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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.”

In just two days… A thousand faces!- The Chaney Blogathon Nov.15-18th!

Hosted by Movies Silently & The Last Drive In

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Lon Chaney Sr. & Mary Nolan 1929 - West Of Zanzibar

Chaney Jr

A thousand faces still lurking in November! The Chaney Blogathon is coming soon!

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The incomparable Fritzi of Movies Silently and I are so THRILLED at the turn out so far for our Chaney shingdig in November. And we can’t wait to see it all come to life like Henry Frankenstein’s creation on that slab. Speaking for myself I’ve already shouted to the lightening permeated skies and bayed at the full moon with great ‘fangs’, I mean ‘thanks’… to everyone joining us!!!

But you know… there’s still films and television serials up for grabs, so don’t be shy, listen to the sound of my voice, you’re getting anxious, you’re getting excited, you’re ready to pick one of these fantastic unclaimed works by one or both of the great Chaneys!!!!

The makers of this post & The Last Drive In are not responsible for those of you susceptible to hypnosis -who find themselves walking into walls, or late nite raids on the refrigerator…. thank you- the staff at The Last Drive In (meaning me)

  • When do we swing from the bell tower, chandeliers and stalk by the full moonNovember 15th – November 18

  • Have a question Leave a comment or contact either me ephemera.jo@gmail.com or Movies Silently

And say… don’t forget to grab one of the fabulous banners for the Chaney Blogathon in November!

Just look at these terrific unclaimed performances just waiting to be written about! There’s more at IMDb!

CHANEY JR -IMDb profile

Dracula Vs Frankenstein  1971

Dracula vs Frankenstein poster

The Female Bunch 1971

The Female Bunch Lon Chaney Jr

Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans 1957

Lon Chaney Jr Hawkeye

Hillbillys in A Haunted House 1967

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The Devil’s Messenger 1961

Lon Chaney Jr in The Devil's Messenger poster

House of the Black Death ’65 or Blood of the Devil Man

Blood of the Man Devil

Witchcraft 1964

Witchcraft & The Horror of it all double poster

The Haunted Palace 1963

NOW TAKEN !

The Haunted Palace Lon Chaney Jr

The Alligator People 1959

NOW TAKEN !

The Alligator People poster

13 Demon Street 1959 television anthology show

Gallery of Horrors ’67

Tv westerns of the 60s-Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, The Rifleman, Wagon Train

The Red Skelton Hour

Route 66 –

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Mr Wu (1927)

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Flesh and Blood 1922

Lon Chaney Flesh & Blood poster

Shadows 1922

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The Road to Mandalay 1926

The Road to Mandalay

Mockery (1927)

Lon Chaney in Mockery poster

Where East is East (1929)

Where East is East

The Blackbird 1926

While The City Sleeps 1928

The Wicked Darling 1919

Thunder ’29

The Tower of Lies (1925)

A Blind Bargain 1922

All the Brothers Were Valiant 1923

The Miracle Man 1919

While Paris Sleeps 1923

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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.

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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 DoghouseNewspaper 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

CinemalacrumLaugh, Clown Laugh Nov.17th

Cinematic CatharsisWest of Zanzibar 1928 Nov.17th

Classic Movie HubAbbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Nov.18th

Critica Retro The Penalty Nov.16th

Donald ManiaThe Hunchback of Notre Dame & Laugh, Clown Laugh Nov.16th

Durnmoose Movie MusingFrankenstein Meets the Wolfman Nov.16th

Esther J CepedaMockery Nov.18th

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

Furious CinemaThe Alligator People Nov. 15th

Girls Do FilmThe Unknown Nov. 17th

Goregirl’s DungeonHouse of Frankenstein Nov.17th

Grand Old Movies BIG HOUSE USA Nov.15

Monster World MagazineLon 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 GlowThe Ace of HeartsNov.15th

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

PaddyfitzHe 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 VolumeOliver Twist Nov.16th, The Unholy Three (1925) Nov.18th

Silver ScenesThe Wolf Man Nov.15th & Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Nov.16th

Silver ScreeningsOf Mice and Men Nov. 16th

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

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

The Artistic Packrat- The Hunchback of Notre DameNov. 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 PicturesThe Black Sleep 1956 Nov.17th

The Nitrate DiveThe Wicked Darling & Outside The Law Nov.18th

Thrilling Days of YesteryearHigh Noon Nov.15th

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