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Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

 -  Biography | Drama  -  October 1957 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,658 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 28 critic

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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Title: Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

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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
Edit

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:

Only Two Women Knew The Secret Behind Lon Chaney, The Fabulous Man Of A Thousand Faces! 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

This film starring James Cagney as Lon Chaney shows Chaney making a scene in The Miracle Man (1919). That film was based on a novel by Frank L. Packard and its stage adaptation by George M. Cohan, who acted in it himself (not in the same part as Chaney, though). And in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Cagney had played Cohan. See more »

Goofs

The scene of Creighton leaving home to take care of his natural mother is completely false. Around that time, not only was Creighton married, but was the father of 2 children and was working for his father-in-law. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

References Outside the Law (1920) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

Only for die hard Cagney fans.
6 February 2006 | by (Massachusetts) – See all my reviews

1957 bio-pic on the life of silent film legend Lon Chaney,this overlong and poorly written film has only the central performance of James Cagney as the title character to recommend it. Nearing the end of his long and distinguished career, Cagney was already 10 years older than Chaney was when he died when filming began and is hardly convincing as a young and struggling vaudevillian and new father. Things improve when Chaney goes to Hollywood where the screenplay deals with his success as a character actor and his near miraculous ability to transform his face and body as necessary to play what became an amazing range of exotic and tortured characters.

Unfortunately the writers choose to concentrate the bulk of the film on Chaney's family problems. Chaney's parents were deaf mutes, which apparently accounted for their son's out-sized gift for pantomime. But the screenplay treats deafness as if it were the plague, something so embarrassing that Lon cannot bring himself to tell his pregnant wife (played by Dorothy Malone) that his parents are deaf. When she discovers the truth, she reacts in an absurdly hysterical tantrum, even threatening (in a veiled sense, of course, after all this is 1957) to have an abortion rather than risk the possibility of giving birth to a deaf child.

The Malone character is scapegoated throughout the film, becoming the screenplay's surrogate for society's prejudice towards the deaf, and later being punished for wanting her own career. Even though she eventually becomes a sympathetic character, the script comes down strongly in favor of Chaney's second wife, who dutifully gives up her own show business career to become the stay-at-home wife and step-mother to Chaney's young son.

Jim Backus does his best in the role of Chaney's friend/press agent to keep from being a walking cliché while forced to utter lines like " 'Mystery' did you say? That's it! We'll call him 'Lon Chaney, Man of Mystery!' " and " How many faces did you say? That's it! We'll call him 'Lon Chaney, Man of a Thousand Faces!' " Jane Greer gives up her usual femme fatale persona to play Lon's devoted second wife, and a very young Roger Smith plays son Creighton (later to become Lon Chaney, Jr.), hoping to follow in his father's footsteps. The sodden direction by Joseph Pevney precludes any mystery as to how this story will resolve itself.

Only the performance of James Cagney makes this film worth watching, even as the script wallows in Hollywood kitsch and repellent 50s attitudes towards women and the handicapped. John Bills


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Lon Chaney Sr. deserves a new/better bio-pic! gillmanfan2000
make-up montage? wencer
Will the copyright holders please listen to the fans of Chaney + Cagney john-kelly-3
Cagney good.. movie dreadful beverlyamason
credits pla725
Lon Chaney, Jr. casting-:) albawhall
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