Monday, November 18, 2013

Listen to That Box Office Howl! - Lon Chaney, Jr - November 18, 2013

Film Daily, December 10, 1941

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.  

Due to the untimely demise of my trusty Dell desktop, I did not complete this entry to the blogathon to my satisfaction. 

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 shared some newspaper and magazine items that cast light on Lon Chaney's early life and career.  In  my second post, I covered his later career and his untimely death.  In my third post, I displayed some stories that show Creighton's reluctance to be billed as Lon Chaney, Jr.  In this, 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 both him and his son 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.  In 1913, Cleva went to a Los Angeles theater where Lon was working and attempted suicide.  Later they divorced and had a tussle over custody of Creighton.  Lon Chaney died in 1930 and Creighton resisted offers to appear in movies as Lon Chaney, Jr.
 Lon Chaney Jr's first great success was in a film adaption of John Steinbeck's play Of Mice and Men.  Lon Chaney Jr played the mentally challenged Lenny.  He wound up playing many mentally challenged  characters over the years. 

Hollywood, July, 1940
Kolma Flake, who grew up with deaf parents, interviewed Lon Chaney, Jr, who grew up with deaf grandparents, in sign language.  He talks about how discouraged he was in his career until Of Mice and Men.
Quentin's father was often remembered for his performances in the horror genre.  Lon Chaney, Jr moved into horror movies with The Wolf Man.  Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, was Chaney's most famous character.  Lon Chaney Jr expressed Talbot's suffering and sadness very convincingly.  I wonder if he saw Talbot's turning into a werewolf with the rising of the full moon as reflecting worry that his mother's madness would affect him.  Note that he was billed as Lon Chaney. 

I first saw The Wolf Man and a lot of other horror movies with Lon Chaney, Jr on Creature Features on KTVU, a Saturday night and later Friday and Saturday night horror show hosted by Bob Wilkins and then John Stanley.
Lon Chaney, Jr moved deeper into horror movies with The Atomic Monster.
Lon Chaney, Jr played Kharis, the Mummy, in The Mummy's Tomb.  This was the first of two monsters that had been originated by Boris Karloff. Chaney played Kharis in two more movies.  He managed to act through the bandages. 

Film Daily, February 27, 1942

Lon Chaney, Jr played the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein.  The Monster was the other creature that had been originated by Boris Karloff.  Chaney didn't do much to distinguish his version of the character from Bela the versions of Bela Lugosi and Glenn Strange.

Lon Chaney, Jr played Count Alucard (read it backwards) in Son of Dracula.  It is rare to see a 6'2", 220 pound actor play a vampire. 

Hollywood, February, 1943
 I suspect that Lon Chaney, Jr ran into a lot of his father's old friends and admirers. 

Photoplay, February, 1943
 I like this story about Lon Chaney, Jr and the horse.  
Film Daily, January 17, 1944

Lon Chaney, Jr and Ann Savage did their part during World War II by touring for the USO. 

Film Daily, December 26, 1944
Chaney played Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, again in the all-start monster movie House of Frankenstein, and in the sequel, House of Dracula.  

Film Daily, July 18, 1947
 In 1947, Lon Chaney, Jr returned to the stage to appear in Of Mice and Men.

One of my favorite Lon Chaney, Jr movies is Bob Hope's My Favorite Brunette.   Chaney played Willie, a simpleton who resembled Lennie from Of Mice and Men.  He rarely got to do comedy, but he did a great job here.

Another of my favorite Lon Chaney, Jr movies is his last appearance as Larry Talbot, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  It is successful  both as a comedy and as a horror film 

Production Encyclopedia, 1952
The Production Encyclopedia was a film industry yearbook.  Here is Lon Chaney's list of credits for the last five years.  I count 14 movies for 10 studios (20th -- 1, Allied Artists -- 1, MGM -- 1, Monogram -- 1, Paramount -- 3, Realart -- 2, RKO -- 1, UA -- 1, UI (Universal-International) -- 2, WB -- 1). According to the Internet Movie Database, this is not a complete list of his movies during that period. 

Sponsor, March 2, 1957
In 1957, Lon Chaney, Jr played Chingachook with John Hart as Hawkeye in a syndicated television series adaption of James Fennimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans.  I would like to see that.  "Wire or Phone, Let's Pow-Wow NOW." 

Sponsor, April 13, 1964

In 1964, Lon Chaney, Jr travelled to Shreveport, Louisiana to help promote a Saturday night horror show hosted by Evilum. 

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


Unknown said...

My condolences on the injury to your laptop. Still, you did a wonderful job of celebrating Chaney Jr's later career. Thanks for all four of your amazing posts. It was a pleasure having you aboard!

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you, Fritzi. It's a shock to lose an old friend. The successor is now in place and running. Thank you for all the nice things you have said. It was entirely my pleasure to participate. And thank you and Jo for putting all this together.