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Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

The life and career of vaudevillian and silent screen horror star Lon Chaney, his contentious relationship with his neurotic wife, and his premature death.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Hazel Bennet Chaney
Marjorie Rambeau ...
Gert
...
Clarence Locan
...
Irving Thalberg (as Robert J. Evans)
...
Mrs. Chaney
Jeanne Cagney ...
Carrie Chaney
...
Dr. J. Wilson Shields
...
Robert Lyden ...
Rickie Sorensen ...
Dennis Rush ...
Nolan Leary ...
Pa Chaney
Simon Scott ...
Carl Hastings
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Storyline

Loose biography of actor Lon Chaney. Growing up with deaf parents, he learns what it is like to be different. As an actor, he puts that knowledge (together with lots of make-up and talent) to use playing a variety of strange, unusual characters, adopting their characteristics so thoroughly as to be called the Man of a Thousand Faces. Written by Ken Yousten <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

This is the true story of the fabulous Lon Chaney! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

October 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Mann mit den 1000 Gesichtern  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On a trip to Hawaii, James Cagney met Roger Smith stationed there in the Naval Reserve, impressed with his clean-cut good looks and appeal, he encouraged Smith to pursue an acting career. Following the advice and after success in several films, Smith reconnected with Cagney who hired him to play his son, "Lon Jr." in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957). Cagney later cast him as his co-star in the musical comedy-drama Never Steal Anything Small (1959). See more »

Goofs

Chaney died in 1930. In one scene, however he drives up to his cabin in a 1937 Packard. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Guard: Good morning, Mr. Thalberg.
Irving Thalberg: Good morning.
See more »

Connections

References Mockery (1927) See more »

Soundtracks

Jingle Bells
(uncredited)
Written by James Pierpont (as James Lord Pierpont) (1857)
integrated into soundtrack when Chaney family reunites at Christmas
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Cagney - Man Of A Thousand Parts
5 May 2009 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES is one of Hollywood's better films about Hollywood! Produced by Universal International in 1957 it recounts the life and times of one of the silent screens most formidable icons - Lon Chaney. From an excellent Oscar nominated screenplay by R.Wright Cambell, Ben Roberts and Ivan Goff it was skillfully directed by Joseph Pevney. Peveny, himself a useful supporting player in such movies as "Body And Soul" (1947) and Fox's "Street With No Name (1948) directed some of Universal's biggest productions i.e. "Away All Boats" (1956), "Tammy & The Bachelor" (1957) and one of Erroll Flynn's last efforts "Istanbul" (1957). Playing the leading role in this marvellous biopic is James Cagney who gives an outstanding measured performance as Lon Chaney the strange tortured character actor of silent pictures who, ironically, died from throat cancer with the advent of the talkies.

Crisply photographed in black & white Cinemascope by the great Russell Metty ("Touch Of Evil") the picture conveys a strong sense of time and place. Expertly evoked is Vaudeville in the early part of the 20th Century where Chaney began as a song and dance man (Cagney delighting us with his special brand of hoofing) and early Hollywood where he became an extra at Universal Studios. Then with the help of his make-up box and his uncanny facility to alter his appearance - sometimes resulting in great pain - he soon became known as The Man Of A 1000 Faces.

Notable reconstructions of Chaney's creations are quite brilliantly achieved in the picture. Cagney excels as the cripple being cured in a reworking of Chaney's famous scene from "The Miracle Man" (1919)and the phantom being unmasked in "Phantom Of The Opera" (1925). But especially noteworthy is a re-staging of Chaney's "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" (1923). Here Cagney is totally unrecognizable as he replicates Chaney's interpretation of Quasimodo being whipped on the punishment wheel in the village square. It is an intense moment in the picture and a remarkable achievement for Cagney the consummate actor! Little wonder that the great Orson Welles in the seventies declared that the screen's greatest actor was James Cagney!

Others in the cast of this splendid film are Dorothy Malone giving an excellent performance as the singer and Chaney's first wife Cleva Creighton, Jane Greer as his second wife, Jim Backus as his press agent and Robert Evens as the boy wonder of the motion picture business Irving Thalberg.

The picture also boasts a terrific music score by the underrated and now wholly forgotten film composer Frank Skinner (1897/1968). Skinner was composer in residence at Universal for many years and composed the music for some of their most prestigious productions such as "Tap Roots" (1948), "Magnificent Obsession" (1954), "Madame X" (1965) and "Shenandoah" (1965). "Man Of A 1000 Faces" was, however, his finest achievement! A soundtrack album of his music from the film - issued at the time of the picture's release - is now a much sought after recording!

A wonderful movie on DVD presented in a sharp black & white widescreen format that every collector will want to own if only for Cagney's amazing performance. His Lon Chaney is just as powerful and just as memorable as his George M. Cohan, Cody Jarret or Marty "The Gimp" Snyder!


16 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Lon Chaney Sr. deserves a new/better bio-pic! gillmanfan2000
make-up montage? wencer
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