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Lon Chaney Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (34) | Personal Quotes (8) | Salary (4)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 1 April 1883Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Date of Death 26 August 1930Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (throat cancer)
Birth NameLeonidas Frank Chaney
Nickname Man of a Thousand Faces
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Although his parents were deaf-mutes, Leonidas Chaney became an actor and also owner of a theatre company (together with his brother John). He made his debut at the movies in 1912, and his filmography is vast. Lon Chaney was especially famous for his horror parts in movies like e.g. Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Due to his special make-up effects he carried the characterization to be "the man with the thousand faces." He only filmed one movie with sound: The remake of one of his earlier films The Unholy Three (1930). His son, Lon Chaney Jr., became a famous actor of the horror genre.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Volker Boehm

Spouse (2)

Hazel Hastings (November 1914 - 26 August 1930) (his death)
Frances Chaney (31 May 1905 - 1914) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (3)

Known as the Man of a Thousand Faces. Master of early screen make-up techniques.
Macabre, menacing characters who nonetheless always have an undercurrent of pathos and melancholy
Extremely expressive performances in silent horror films

Trivia (34)

A child of deaf mute parents, Chaney became a master of pantomime and understanding people who were born different.
Father of Lon Chaney Jr..
Interred at Forest Lawn (Glendale), Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum (unmarked).
Great-grandfather of Ron Chaney.
Were it not for his death, Chaney, rather than Bela Lugosi, would have been Tod Browning's choice for the starring role in Dracula (1931).
The Lon Chaney Theater in Colorado Springs, CO, is named for one of that city's most famous native sons.
At Chaney's death, in addition to Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), several other vehicles were being planned for him. Most were filmed with other actors in the parts intended for Chaney: The Sea Bat (1930) (Charles Bickford), The Phantom of Paris (1931) (John Gilbert), The Big House (1930) (Wallace Beery) and The Bugle Sounds (1942) (Beery, again).
Great-great grandfather of Nicholas Kalionzes.
Pictured on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Charles Chaplin, John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton and the Keystone Kops.
Pictured on one of a set of five 32¢ US commemorative postage stamps, issued 30 September 1997, celebrating "Famous Movie Monsters". He is shown as the title character in The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Other actors honored in this set of stamps, and the classic monsters they portray, are Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931); Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941); and Boris Karloff on two stamps as The Mummy (1932) and the monster in Frankenstein (1931).
A friend of Afro-American actor Noble Johnson since both were boys in Colorado together, Chaney was responsible for giving his old friend some early breaks in a career that spanned more than four decades. Likewise, Chaney befriended the young Boris Karloff shortly after the latter's arrival in Hollywood. As with Johnson, he helped Karloff gain a foothold in the movies, and until the end of his life, Karloff always spoke kindly of Chaney as a good friend and colleague.
A quiet soul by nature, Chaney valued his privacy highly. Granting few interviews and disliking the Hollywood social whirl, he much preferred spending quiet time with his family and a few close friends, often at his cabin in the Sierra Nevadas. This avoidance of publicity led him to be unfairly labeled by some as strange and unfriendly. Yet those who knew him best always described him as a good, loving husband, father, and friend. Similarly, his co-stars, among them Loretta Young and Joan Crawford, remembered him as being very cooperative and helpful, especially to those performers without much experience.
In the late 1950s there was a resurgence of interest in Chaney. The first factor was the biopic, Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) made by Univeral (then Universal International) starring James Cagney as Chaney. Of greater influence was the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland" started in 1958 and edited by devoted Chaney fan Forrest J. Ackerman. Ackerman published many photographs and articles about Chaney. Each issue also included at least one full page devoted to Chaney under the title "Lon Chaney Shall Not Die." This coverage introduced Chaney to new generations who would have probably never heard of him. The interest in Chaney also led to early efforts to find and and preserve Chaney's films.
For many years, the cause of the throat cancer that brought about his death at the age of 47 was thought to have been a piece of artificial snow, made out of crushed gypsum, that lodged in his throat during the filming of Thunder (1929), his last silent film. However, Chaney biographer and scholar Michael Blake points out that the most likely cause was the fact that Chaney was a heavy smoker, and that the piece of artificial snow merely hastened the inevitable.
A popular joke of the era was "Don't step on it; it might be Lon Chaney!"
His father, Frank H. Chaney, was not born deaf, but was rendered so by a childhood illness when he was not quite two. He ultimately became a successful barber, and always claimed he could remember some sounds. His mother, the former Emma Alice Kennedy, was born deaf, and was a teacher at a school for the deaf before her marriage. When her most famous son was nine years old, she was stricken with inflammatory rheumatism which left her an invalid. Lon Chaney himself was the second of four children, three boys and a girl. All of his siblings survived him, and were generously provided for in his will.
Before turning to films, he was mainly known for his stage work.
With the exception of Charles Chaplin, Chaney was the last major silent film star to make a talkie. Assaying five different voices in his first talkie, Chaney signed a notarized statement attesting to the fact that the different voices were his: "I, Lon Chaney, being first duly sworn, depose and say: In the photoplay entitled The Unholy Three (1930), produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation, all voice reproductions which purport to be reproductions of my voice, to wit, the ventriloquist's, the old woman's, the dummy's, the parrot's, and the girl's, are actual reproductions of my own voice, and in no place in said photoplay or in any of the various characters portrayed by me in said photoplay was a 'double' or substitute used for my voice. Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 19th day of May, 1930, J. L. Hendrickson, Notary Public in and for the county of Los Angeles, State of California."
Unbeknown to many people, who consider Chaney a "horror actor", he was an amazing dancer in his stage years. The only film that contains footage of him dancing is the incomplete The Fascination of the Fleur de Lis (1915). He was also known to be a hilarious comedian. In fact, one report of the day said, "As a comedian, he is irresistible". And according to Michael F. Blake (Chaney's biographer), Lon could even sing. Sadly, no audio recordings exist of Chaney singing, but people who knew him said that he had a rich baritone voice.
Mentioned in the Warren Zevon song "Werewolves of London".
The working title of his film The Unknown (1927) was 'Alonso the Armless,' which seems to have led to a great deal of confusion over the years regarding the actor's actual name. As committed to their faith as Chaney's parents were, they would probably have never considered giving one of their children a name not shared by a religious saint, and to this date there is neither a St. Alonso nor a St. Lon. Chaney's birth name was Leonidas Frank Chaney; both St. Leonidas and St. Francis are prominent in the traditional Roman Catholic Litany of Saints.
Part of Chaney's makeup for the role of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) required that his right eye be buried under makeup, simulating a growth over that eye, as specified in the original Victor Hugo novel. The result of looking out of only one eye for weeks at a time left Chaney extremely short-sighted, and he had to wear thick glasses off screen for the rest of his life to correct this.
He was of English, French and Irish descent.
Second of four children: siblings are John, George and Carolin.
His father was the son of James L. Chaney and wife Caroline Uffner and grandson of John Chaney (1790-1881), US Congressman, Representative from Ohio, and wife Mary Ann Lafere, and was a distant relative of Dick Cheney.
He carried almost all the make-up he used in films in a small leather case he always had with him when in Hollywood.
His knowledge of make-up was so vast that he wrote the entry on the subject for an edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
His salary on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) was $2,500 a week. Shooting began in December of 1922, and was completed in June of 1923. Chaney ended up making close to $60,000 plus contract bonuses from the picture, which was the longest shoot in his career.
His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is featured during the theme song of season one on The Fall Guy (1981).
Was said to have been an excellent comedian and dancer.
Profiled in "From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century" by John Cline.
MGM produced a publicity reel in the 1920's that featured all their contract players standing in a line as the camera panned to film them. At one point, we see a man speaking and gesturing to those around him, but with his back to the camera. Although he was not identified in the film, this was Chaney. Even in a publicity film, he didn't want the public to see his face without character makeup.
Is the great-uncle of actress/model Rebekah Chaney.

Personal Quotes (8)

Between pictures, there is no Lon Chaney.
My whole career has been devoted to keeping people from knowing me.
When a makeup is as painful as that which I wore as Blizzard in The Penalty (1920), when I had my legs strapped up and couldn't bear it that way more than 20 minutes at a time - when I have to be a cripple, as in The Miracle Man (1919) or have to keep a certain attitude of body, as I did in Shadows (1922), it sometimes takes a good deal of imagination to forget your physical sufferings. Yet, at that, the subconscious mind has a marvelous way of making you keep the right attitudes and make the right gestures when you are actually acting.
I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice. The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), such as The Phantom of the Opera (1925), He Who Gets Slapped (1924), The Unholy Three (1925), etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do.
There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.
The parts I play point out a moral. They show individuals who might have been different, if they had been given a different chance.
I hope I shall never be accused of striving merely for horrible effects.
[advice to Boris Karloff] Find something no one else can or will do. The secret of success in movies lies in being different from anyone else.

Salary (4)

Riddle Gawne (1918) $125 per week
The Miracle Man (1919) $150 /week
The Penalty (1920) $500
The Unholy Three (1930) $3,750 Per Week

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