Friday, November 15, 2013

Chaney Outchaneys Chaney -- November 15, 2013

Motion Picture Magazine, August, 1926.
This post is part of  the Chaney Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and Jo at The Last Drive In.   Be sure to click on most images to see larger versions.  

Actor Lon Chaney and his son Creighton, who reluctantly went by the name Lon Chaney, Jr, were both versatile actors who became closely identified with the horror genre.

In the first of four posts for the Chaney blogathon, I will share some newspaper and magazine items that cast light on Lon Chaney's early life and career.  In my second post, I will cover his later career and his untimely death.  In my third post, I will display some stories that show Creighton's reluctance to become Lon Chaney, Jr.  In my fourth post, I will write about Creighton's later career.

Leonidas Chaney was born in 1883 in Colorado Springs.  His parents were deaf and this must have helped him become good at pantomime. He went into show business in 1902.  In 1905 he married singer Cleva Creighton and they had a child, Creighton Chaney, the next year. 

Ocala Evening Star, January 1, 1908

At the beginning of 1908, Lon Chaney appeared in Ocala, Florida with a comic opera company, along with the "famous American Beauty Chorus of truly pretty girls."  This was the earliest newspaper reference I could find.

East Oregonian, November 11, 1911

In November, 1911, Chaney was in Pendleton, Oregon, supporting musical comedy star Max Dill, who often worked with Clarence Kolb as the team of Kolb and Dill.  Lon Chaney performed and directed in their company.  Alf Goulding, also in the company, became a Hollywood director, making many short films with Harold Lloyd. "30 --- Pretty Chorus Girls --- 30." 

Variety, February 7, 1913
In February, 1913 Variety reported that Lon Chaney had left Kolb and Dill and was at San Francisco's Alcazar Theater, "directing the chorus end of the musical shows."

Variety, April 11, 1913

In early April, 1913, Chaney was on the road as stage director for Kolb and Dill.  Musical director Harry James was not the swing-era trumpeter or his father.  Marie Walcamp acted in silent films. 

Variety, January 2, 1914

In April, 1913, Chaney was managing the Kolb and Dill company at the Majestic Theater in Los Angeles.  Cleva Chaney came to the theater and took chloride of mercury in an attempt to kill herself.  This item says she did it on stage during a performance.  She failed in her suicide attempt, but damaged her vocal chords, ending her singing career.  There was a scandal and a divorce and Lon Chaney, "formerly musical comedy comedian," looked for other work. I couldn't find any 1913 reports.

El Paso Herald, August 4, 1913
Jumping back to August of 1913, we find a strange story in the El Paso Herald saying that a new musical comedy company is coming to El Paso.  "Lon Chaney is to be the principal comedian and producer.  He is now directing productions for the Universal Photoplayers in California."  It also mentions that "Roscoe Arbuckle, who was one time a favorite of El Paso patrons of the old Happy Hour theater and later came here in a road show, is to be a member of the Fogg company.  Arbuckle is now being featured with the Keystone Musical Comedy company in Los Angeles."  Minta Durfee, Roscoe's wife, was also coming.  I doubt any of this happened.  Perhaps Roscoe and Minta were trying to get a raise from Mack Sennett.

Washington Herald, August 4, 1914
"By special arrangement with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company; which represents the ten foremost American film-producing companies, The Washington Herald now offers its readers the unique opportunity of reading every morning a complete story which will be released throughout the United States."  In this case, the film was "The Lamb, The Woman, The Wolf."  This was a short directed by Allan Dwan.  It starred Murdock MacQuarrie as The Lamb, Pauline Bush as The Woman and Lon Chaney as The Wolf .  MacQuarrie, Bush and Chaney starred in a long string of movies for the Universal.  The caption and the story itself refer to Lon Chaney's character as "Lon Chaney."

Bourbon News (Paris, Kentucky), August 14, 1914
The Bourbon News reports that Pauline Bush ("she's clever and conscientious as well as pretty") was to head a company directed by Joe De Grease (Joseph De Grasse) and supported by Joe Kink (?!) and Lon Chaney.

Daily Ardmoreite, January 31, 1915
The Theatorium in Ardmore, Oklahoma featured Pauline Bush and Lon Chaney in "The Measure of a Man."  On Tuesday, Grace Cunard and Francis Ford, John Ford's older brother, would appear in "The Madcap Queen of Gredshaffen."  Interesting title.  Thursday would bring comedian Billie Ritchie, who claimed that Charlie Chaplin had stolen his costume and character, in an L-KO comedy.

Mayville Public Ledger, August 14, 1914

The Pastime in Mayville, Kentucky had Pauline Bush and Lon Chaney in "The Small Town Girl." "In 3 Parts" means it was a three-reeler.  "The story of a girl whose life was ruined, and she paid for it.  But the man did also.  This is a feature that will touch the heart." 

Oklahoma City Times, May 10, 1916
In 1916, "the newly discovered leading lady, Louise Lovely," who was Australian, appeared in "The Grip of Jealousy" with "the well-known character lead, Lon Chaney."

Daily Ardmoreite, July 12, 1916
The Theatorium in Ardmore, Oklahoma featured "The Prettiest Girl in Photoplays," Louise Lovely, and Lon Chaney, "The Greatest Character Actor in Picturedom" in "The Gilded Spider."  We see that Chaney had become well known. 

Evening Public Ledger, September 22, 1916
This 1916 ad from Philadelphia is the first I could find where Lon Chaney was top-billed.

Klamath Falls Evening Herald, October 26, 1916
Dorothy Phillips and Long Chaney appeared in The Mark of Cain, "A Red Feather Production in 5 Reels."  Five reels is a feature-length film.

Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual, 1916
Lon Chaney appeared in the Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual for 1916. It would have been interesting to see Chaney as an "eccentric dancing comedian."  "Recreations, wresting, running, boxing, swimming, riding, dancing." 

Ogden Standard, January 13, 1917
I love this ad for The Price of Silence.  It is the first ad that I found which includes a photo of Lon Chaney.  "The Story of a Woman Who Trusted -- Gave -- And the Price She Paid."  "It's a Bluebird -- It's Got to Be Good."  Every patron of the next program at the Oracle Theatre will get a souvenir. 

Ogden Standard, January 13, 1917
A larger version of the photo.  Lon Chaney is on the right. 

Ogden Standard, January 13, 1917
The Universal logo from the ad includes the name of the theater. 

Bemidji Daily Pioneer, April 6, 1917.
Dorothy Phillips starred in Hell Morgan's Girl, "supported by Lon Chaney and a clever company of Bluebird artists."  "You Hate Her -- You Love Her -- You Doubt Her -- You Condemn Her -- You Pity Her -- She's Wonderful."  I'm always interested in movies about San Francisco's Barbary Coast and 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

El Paso Herald, May 11, 1917
The United States declared war on Germany in April, 1917.  In Hollywood, it became popular to drill.  I don't know about the other men, but Lon Chaney did not join the Army.

Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual, 1917
 Lon Chaney could afford an ad with a photo in the Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual for 1917.  I would like to see the adaption of Ibsen's The Doll's House, but I suspect it is lost. 

Moving Picture World, July 13, 1918
Lon Chaney did his part for the war effort by playing German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg in the famous over-the-top propaganda movie The Kaiser, Beast of Berlin."No Picture like it in the Whole World's Market."  No kidding.

Daily Kentuckian, May 17, 1918
More about the movie from Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Lon Chaney left Universal and became a free lancer.  

El Paso Herald, September 22, 1919
The Miracle Man, based on a play by George M Cohan, was the movie that made Lon Chaney a star.  Notice that his name does not appear in the ad.  "Lon Chaney, in an exceptional characterization will be remembered forever by every one who sees this film."  He played the Frog, a contortionist who served as a shill for a phony faith healer.  Sadly, the film is lost.

El Paso Herald, December 5, 1919
Univeral rereleased Paid in Advance, a movie Chaney had made with Dorothy Phillips.  He is billed as "'The Frog' of 'The Miracle Man'."  I like how the Rialto Theater bills itself as "Shrine of the Shadow Art."

Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 16, 1920.
 "Not a war picture" says the ad for this adaption of Joseph Conrad's novel Victory.  War pictures had become unpopular after a great glut of them during and shortly after World War One.  Note that the program featured a short in Prizma, an early natural color process, and another with Harld Lloyd. 

Evening Public Ledger, August 23, 1921
By 1921, the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger ran an article on Lon Chaney's mastery of makeup.  Be sure to click on the image so you can read the article.  Please excuse the culturally insensitive language.

Evening Public Ledger, August 23, 1921
Another item from the same issue of the Evening Public Ledger talks about Chaney's work as a Chinese man in the portmanteau film Bits of Life and shows him as a legless man in The Penalty and a trapper in Nomads of the North.

Tulsa Daily World, September 26, 1920
The 26-September-1920 has an ad for The Penalty, a grim movie where Chaney plays a legless man who seeks vengeance on the doctor who amputated his legs.  "The cast includes Lon Chaney of 'The Miracle Man' fame." 

Bemidji Daily Pioneer, November 26, 1921.
I see a resemblance between Lon Chaney and his son in this ad for Ace of Hearts

Logan Repulican, October 26, 1921
A photo and an article appeared in the Logan, Utah Republican describing how Tod Browning, a director who would frequently work with Lon Chaney, did some location shooting in San Francisco for Beyond the Law.  Browning also engaged the help of famous detective William J Burns. 

Washington Times, May 28, 1922
The Washington Times carred an article, probably from a press agent, describing Lon Chaney's sacrifices in playing a legless man in The Penalty.

Photoplay, October, 1921
I like to conclude with something funny.  Ralph Barton drew this cartoon for a feature "Through the Goldwyn Gate" in Photoplay.  

This post was part of the Chaney Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and Jo at The Last Drive In.  Thank you to both of them for all the hard work.  Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read as many posts as you can.  

My posts for the blogathon:
Chaney Outchaneys Chaney
The Face of a Thousand Memories -- Lon Chaney
But Not as Lon Chaney, Jr
Listen to That Box Office Howl! - Lon Chaney, Jr


Fritzi Kramer said...

Splendid post! I'm sure he was very good at it but I am relieved that Chaney got out of the comedy game. And I loved that final cartoon. Funny because it's true.
Eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for the kind words, Fritzi. We're lucky Chaney moved from the ephemeral theater to the more-permanent cinema. I'm glad I found that cartoon. Thank you for hosting this blogathon.

Silver Screenings said...

Great post with TONS of info. Loved the cartoon that said you can't go wrong drawing Lon Chaney.

Joe Thompson said...

Glad you enjoyed it. I loved that cartoon.