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|Index||37 reviews in total|
55 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
Cagney - Man Of A Thousand Parts, 5 May 2009
Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
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!
29 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
There'll never be another Cagney!, 15 October 2001
Author: olddiscs from Fords, NJ
I just this afternoon watched Man of 1000 Faces starring the
James Cagney.... what a talent he was... & this is a fine film bio of
another screen great, Lon Chaney, Sr.../ Cagney is wonderful and gives a
tour de force performance... why he wasn't Oscar nominated for this I'll
never Know???? I do not know how accurate a film bio this is... but its
entertaining and moving.. Cagney is the reason for seeing this film,,,he is
ably supported by Dorothy Malone, (who sometimes tends to overemote but is
effective in this), Jane Greer, looks and acts wonderfully, Jim Backus, and
a very young Roger Smith...
Good makeup, interesting plot, and Cagney's at top form... (maybe
least appreciated role)
My parents introduced me to movies early on... Dad favored Warner
Mom, MGM, but what treats and talents I inherited fom both...Warners gave
us Bogey, Bette,and Cagney....MGM, Garbo, Gable & Crawford,),
will never see talents such as these again... rent or buy Man of 1000 Faces
25 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
A darned good entertainment!, 18 November 2004
Author: mainlybigbands from West Midlands
An excellent story, well told in the manner of the era the film was
made. This means the story telling was paramount - thank heavens no
tedious digital effects.
So what the story was loosely based on Chaney's life. In the 2 hours or so the film ran it was not possible to tell the whole story. So they use shortcuts and invention - so what. I bet more than one person started to research Chaney and other stories from the silent era. Interest stimulated...... job done.
Rather like the Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman stories, same applies. How many started to appreciate the music, they knew nothing of the inaccuracies. They saw a good story and heard some interesting music, helped me to start listening to jazz and I am grateful.
You will never satisfy the 'expert'.
22 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
A Cagney triumph, 18 July 2005
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
It was interesting to see the difference of opinion of previous
reviewers of Man of a Thousand Faces. I fall into the category of
loving this particular film. I think it was James Cagney's finest piece
of thespianism. How he was overlooked in the Oscar sweepstakes for this
performance is beyond me.
It's so far from anything Cagney had ever done before. And he got to use all his talents, acting and musical, as the beginning had Lon Chaney on the vaudeville stage doing his pantomime act.
Lon Chaney's was born to deaf mute parents and learned to sign to communicate with them. That led to his interest in pantomime, a stage career in vaudeville and finally silent movies.
The film plays fast and loose with the facts of Chaney's life, but I think it captures the spirit of the man who created for the silent screen so many tortured souls.
Dorothy Malone and Jane Greer play wives one and two. Dorothy Malone had just come off an Oscar the year before in Written on the Wind. This is a marvelous followup part for an actress that for ten years was thought as little more than ornamental. Jane Greer is also good as the wise and patient second wife who knows she's playing second fiddle to the relationship of father and son.
Universal was Chaney's home studio and the studio approached the making of this picture with reverence and care for it's first great star.
10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
James Cagney's performance is outstanding, 22 April 2006
Author: Stanley Strangelove from Portland, Oregon US
Other reviewers have knocked the film because it is not historically
accurate and I can't dispute that. But for me, James Cagney's
performance makes this a film that is a must-see. True, the film is
short on depicting Lon Chaney's film characters and although we do get
to see Cagney in makeup as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom
of the Opera, the scenes are extremely brief. Most of the film depicts
Chaney's conflict with his first wife, wonderfully played by the
stunning Dorothy Malone - whew, what a knockout!- and the stormy
relationship with his son.
The film is a soap opera but Cagney is wonderful showing that he can play drama, comedy and even dance and mime.
8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A man for all faces, 18 January 2008
Author: jotix100 from New York
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As biopics go, this 1957 film shows limited interest today. The
legendary figure of Lon Chaney is examined by the same Hollywood where
he went to make a legend out of his life. He was a giant in the world
of silent films because of the disguises he created for the movies
during his second career in the industry. Chaney was a man way ahead of
himself as far as the creation of the special type of makeup he used
for all the different characters he played.
Lon Chaney's roots were in vaudeville, where he also was greatly admired. However, his lucky break came not in the theater, but in the new industry of the moving pictures that was starting in California. Mr. Chaney was able to bring something new to those pictures that sparked the imagination of audiences in the many films he starred in. His association with the legendary Irving Thalberg helped cement his own status in the movie business.
His personal life though, was not a happy one. His first wife, the beautiful Cleva Creighton, showed she did not care from him and abandoned Lon and her young son without a second thought. Chaney received a big blow in the custody of the young son, Creighton, who was placed in an orphanage because he couldn't show means of support for the child. Being separated from his son Creighton was a big blow to the man who adored the young boy but couldn't get his custody until he made a name for himself in the film industry. His life with Hazel, his second wife, turned out to be a fine one without the ups and downs that affected his first one.
The main attraction for watching this film was James Cagney, an actor who always gave an honest performance. In here, though, he seems to be playing a variation on his own "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in the first segment devoted to his life as an entertainer in the theater. The other half, his arrival in the movies, is not as interesting as the beginning.
The film, directed by Joseph Pivney, doesn't break new ground in the way the narrative plays in the film. Dorothy Malone, who is seen as Cleva, has some interesting moments. Jane Greer is also effective as the sweet Hazel, the woman who always loved Chaney from afar.
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
At times rather inaccurate but still entertaining., 30 August 2011
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
"Loosely based....". When I hear this about a bio-pic, it is a complete
turnoff to me. I think some it was because I was a history teacher--and
to me, history is sacred--you tell it exactly like it was. Yet, in so
many Hollywood films, the truth isn't deemed interesting enough and
they heavily embellish the picture. Thus is the story of Lon Chaney in
"The Man of a Thousand Faces". While the main points are correct,
Chaney's interesting life just wasn't interesting enough for the folks
at Universal and they played fast and loose with some of the facts. I
didn't like this--but must acknowledge that it was an entertaining
However, there is one other issue about the film about which I have a unique perspective. Like Chaney, I have a deaf family member--in my case, my daughter. And because of this, I can talk about a few things the average viewer wouldn't notice. When the people are using sign language in the film, they really are using sign language--though they do it a bit poorly. As a result, you can see that the parents of Chaney in the film are not natural signers--but I appreciate that they tried. One thing I did not appreciate, however, is that the film seemed to exploit Chaney's parents--creating problems that did not exist in real life. For example, when Chaney's first wife meets them, she has no idea they are deaf--but this was NOT the case in real life and it just felt cheap--like they were capitalizing on their deafness for the sake of a plot gimmick. That was pretty sad.
Aside from my complaints and observations, I still think this is a very good film. Just understand it all is heavily dramatized and you can take some of it with a grain of salt. Also, it was nice to see the silent comic Snub Pollard in a bit scene midway through the film.
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Fine, sentimental favorite, 27 February 2006
Author: praxistens from United States
Saw this on the late show when I was 12 or 13: I was moved, even
scared, by scenes with Miracle Man, Christmas dinner, Quasimodo, &
especially with the legless man in the alley ("Pick me up & knock me
down again!") We know now that LC, Sr., was less than pleasant to be
around & that LC, Jr., grew up to be miserable. But this was an early
introduction to what I'd heard of as "vaudeville," & the transitional
sequences with Cagney as a film lot extra (with a real silent flick
star Marjorie Rambeau, as Gert) were fast-paced & convincing. It was a
fair cultural shock to see Jim Backus (as agent Locan) in a dramatic
role, since until then I'd seen him only on sitcoms & as Mister Magoo.
I have it on tape & watch it maybe once a year & have seen Cagney & co-stars in other vehicles since then: especially Jane Greer in her unsavory "Out of the Past" role. Dorothy Malone (whom I knew only from "Peyton Place") was a great, underrated actress.
Yes, the ending is slow & shmaltzy, & it was hard to imagine even back then (I'd already seen scary LC, Jr., in the teleplay, The Ballad of Jubal Pickett) that Jr. was ever as handsome as Roger Smith. But if nothing else you can get a fictional behind-the-scenes account of the making of two great silents & cultural icons: Phantom of the Opera & Hunchback of Notre Dame.
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Cagney against type! I love it!, 24 February 1999
Author: patrick downer (email@example.com) from West Palm Beach, Florida
Happened upon this on AMC one morning when home sick with a cold. Cagney immediately hooked me. It was interesting seeing such a powerful actor, who usually portrays physically powerful and often violent characters, in scenes of gentleness and sensitivity. Cagney apologizing; Cagney saying he was afraid; Cagney tenderly holding a child; Cagney dressed as a clown; as a woman. These are not the roles or behavior one expects when tuning in one of his movies. In the same way, physical violence was not a primary plot device in the movie; a refreshing change. To me Jim Baccus has always been Mr. McGoo. It was nice to see him throughout the movie in a good supporting role. I get the feeling his work as McGoo prevented him from getting solid roles. He appears as though he had more to offer. Does anyone else see a resemblance between Dorothy Malone in this movie and Sharon Stone today? I thought even her voice sounded like Stone's once or twice (or rather, Stone's sounds like Malone!). Malone did a good job, but I think Greer was even better. Greer's performance here makes me want to see more of her. All the important supporting roles are well played. Occasionally the film editing and/or writing jumps too quickly across too many years, but it is still able to be followed. I think the film succeeds because it made the "thousand faces" the backdrop to the life of the man and the difficulties he faced. The characters are real and you care about them. Today, Hollywood would probably do it the other way around, making the make-up the story and giving short-shrift to the people. This picture gives the viewer a marvelous bonus. We watch to learn about Chaney, and end up, underneath it all, getting Cagney, too!
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Cagney Lifts It., 26 August 2009
Author: JoeytheBrit from www.moviemoviesite.com
It's possible Jimmy Cagney couldn't resist the role of Lon Chaney here
because of the opportunity it gave him to draw on his own stage and
vaudeville experience to perform a couple of dance numbers. There's
certainly nothing else about this film a typical Hollywood biopic
that pays only loose attention to historical fact to explain why he
accepted a part that he was clearly too old to play. Chaney was only 47
when he died, ten years younger than Cagney was when he filmed the role
and was a rather gaunt figure whereas the middle-aged Cagney had a
round face (although he appears to have slimmed down quite considerably
for the part) and was noticeably short in stature. Despite these
drawbacks, Cagney gives the best performance in the picture, and
arguably his best post-Cody performance. Although Cagney was a
thoughtful man he was also a dynamic character and the role calls upon
him to rein in that natural dynamism to a large degree. Even though he
manages this admirably, it's impossible for him to persuade us that he
is the quiet man of few words that Chaney was. A passing reference is
made to Chaney's quietness, but it plays no major part in the
As with most Hollywood biopics, the writers select a couple of the more sensational aspects of their subjects life around which they then construct an overwrought melodrama that bears little resemblance to reality. Chaney's parents were both deaf and mute but I don't recall this causing a major rift between him and his first wife. There was also some concern that their child may inherit his grandparent's mute-deafness, but again I don't think it was the major crisis in Chaney and Cleva's relationship as it is here. I could be wrong, of course, but had only just completed reading a biography of Chaney's life when I happened upon this film. Cleva did destroy her singing voice when she attempted suicide but she didn't attempt it on stage.
The film devotes most of its time to Chaney's personal life but does offer occasional glimpses into the film-making business. A few scenes that demonstrates the chaotic process of studio film-making in the very early days of Hollywood, when the absence of sound meant that several different genres of film could be shot alongside one another in an enclosed space, are quite interesting but, while we do see Cagney re-enacting a few famous Chaney scenes, the general impression is that his career is sidelined for much of the film.
Chaney died in 1931 (after making only one sound movie a remake of his silent hit The Unholy Three). His premature death from lung cancer was the result of a lifetime of heavy smoking, but we never once see a cigarette in Cagney's hands. Even as late as the late-50s it seems that the studios were still portraying movie stars as Gods Amongst Us who could never be the instrument of their own demise. Here, Chaney develops a mysterious cough. It is never explained, but briefly described to an improbably handsome Creighton Chaney (who would metamorphose into Lon Chaney Jr.) as 'malignant' shortly before all personal and emotional problems are neatly resolved and dad can pass his famous make up box to son before ascending to the great studio in the sky.
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