Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Face of a Thousand Memories -- Lon Chaney -- November 16, 2013

New Movie Magazine, November, 1930
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 shared some newspaper and magazine items that cast light on Lon Chaney's early life and career.  In this, 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.

In April, 1913, Chaney was managing the Kolb and Dill musical comedy 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.  She may have done 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, a divorce and a custody battle and Lon Chaney was forced to look for other work.  He found it at the Universal Film Manufacturing Company.

Chaney stayed at the Universal for several years, then became a free-lancer.  His big break into stardom came with The Miracle Man in 1919.  Chaney returned to Universal for two of the most important movies of his career.

Universal began production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, based on Victor Hugo's novel Notre Dame de Paris, in 1922.

Film Daily, August 12, 1922
I have never seen another source say that Chaney wanted to organize "a company of his own to film (The Hunchback) abroad." 

Universal Weekly, August 26, 1922

Universal Weekly, September 22, 1922
Lon Chaney announced that Quasimodo, the hunchback, would be his last "cripple role."  This turned out to be untrue. 

The Photodramatist, January, 1923
The Photodramatist for January, 1923 reports that "Lon Chaney will be the star."  I get the feeling the initial capital should be "M" and not "S."

The Photodramatist, February, 1923
The Photodramatist for January, 1923 reports that production of The Hunchback may "take from eight months to a year."  It also mentions The Merry-Go-Round, which had gotten Erich von Stroheim fired from the studio. 

Motion Picture Magazine, May, 1923
In May, 1923, Motion Picture Magazine carried an atmospheric photo of Chaney as Quasimodo.  "Lon Chaney is At It Again."

Motion Picture Magazine, May, 1923
In Decmber, 1923, Motion Picture Magazine carried a photo of Chaney on the pillory with Nigel de Brulier as Frollo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda. 

Motion Picture Magazine, May, 1923
In the same issue, Adele Whitely Fletcher wrote about the movie in her column "Across the Silversheet."  She was impressed by the huge sets, but felt the movie lacked in humanity.  She said that Chaney "has overstepped the bounds of good taste." 

Exhibitors' Herald, December 29, 1923
Holiday greetings from Lon Chaney.

Film Daily, February 14, 1923
 How did The Hunchback of Notre Dame do in the theaters?  "Ask the Man Who Played It!" says this Universal ad. 

Pictures and the Picturegoer, November, 1924
"the man with India-rubber legs."

Motion Picture Magazine, August, 1924
"Lon Chaney has been the subject of much controversy."  It mentions that he is currently appearing in He Who Gets Slapped, "a screen version of that whimsical play."  Whimsical?

Film Daily, November 3, 1924
 Swedish director Victor Sjöström (usually spelled as Seastrom when he worked in the United States) directed Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped for Metro-Goldwyn.

Stars of the Photoplay, 1924

The 1924 book Stars of the Photoplay calls Lon Chaney "the man of a thousand faces" and refers to his deaf parents. 

Film Daily, March 9, 1925
 "This can't miss."  This ad from Film Daily touts The Phantom of the Opera's Technicolor sequences, and says "Lon is a character with a horrible face, who wears a mask."  English was not the first language of many of the people who worked at Universal. 

Film Daily, March 25, 1925
I was surprised to learn that San Francisco's Curran Theater on Geary near Mason hosted the world premier of The Phantom of the Opera.  The Curran now hosts mostly musical theater.  I saw Pacific Overtures, Wicked and many others there.

According to Variety, the premier run of the Phantom "fails to hold the audience in the serious parts, instead bringing gales of laughter."  Does anyone else remember my favorite subtitle? "Darling, it is I, Raoul."  

Film Daily, September 21, 1925
The presentation at New York's Astor Theater included a ballet which led directly the scene in the movie where the ballerinas react in horror to the shadow of the Phantom.  This item describes how the ushers "are attired in costumes of the new Phantom red with slippers, stockings, breeches, capes and feathered cap all in the new color."

Film Daily, August 20, 1926
Lon Chaney had moved on to Metro-Goldwyn (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), but Universal was able to recycle his work, such as a 1926 revival, not called a revival, of Outside the Law from 1920.  Outside the Law was directed by Tod Browning, who directed many of Chaney's most interesting movies.

Motion Picture Classic, September, 1926
An interesting caricature of Chaney.  

Film Daily, December 26, 1926
One of Chaney's big hits without a lot of makeup was Tell it To the Marines.  "One of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Two Dollar Hits." 

Photoplay, May, 1928
In a rare casual photo, "Lon Chaney shows his Filmo movie camera to Crown Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden and Prince Erick of Denmark."  I would like to see his home movies.

Universal Weekly, June 23, 1928
Universal was still promoting The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1928.

Universal Weekly, October 12, 1929
 Universal continued to squeeze money out of their association with Chaney by reissuing The Phantom of the Opera with not only sound but dialogue. 

New Movie Magazine, July, 1930
A nice photo of Lon Chaney from the July, 1930 New Movie.

Photoplay, July, 1930
 Lon Chaney celebrates his birthday with the cast and crew of his first talkie, a remake of The Unholy Three, on the first day of production. 

New Movie Magazine, August, 1930
Lon Chaney made his talkie debut in The Unholy Three.  "The Man of a Thousand Faces returns with four voices."

New Movie Magazine, September, 1930
"Lon Chaney speaks!  Now Charlie Chaplin alone stands voiceless outside the gate ... Chaney is matchless."  I like the photo.

Lon Chaney died on 26-August-1930.  Due to publication dates which don't match the dates on the magazines, tributes to him tend to be dated considerably later.

Photoplay, October, 1930
 Photoplay remembered Lon Chaney with a poem. 

New Movie Magazine, November, 1930

The title of this post, "The Face of a Thousand Memories", comes from a tribute article in the November, 1930 New Movie.  This illustration shows a range of Chaney's characters flying out of his famous makeup case.  "Chaney was the film's greatest mater of make-up."

Photoplay, December, 1930

Photoplay also featured Chaney's makeup box, along with his dog Sandy.  This breaks my heart. 

Universal Weekly, November 19, 1932
Universal continued to make money from its legacy with Chaney well into the 1930s. 

Motion Picture Magazine, January, 1927
I like to end with something light.  "Movie Mother Goose" has Chaney as a spider menacing Little Miss Muffet.  This may have been inspired by the popular joke "Don't step on that spider -- It may be Lon Chaney." 

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


The Metzinger Sisters said...

Thanks for sharing these articles about the great Chaney Sr. This was a fascinating read!

Joe Thompson said...

I'm very happy you enjoyed them. I had fun putting them together.

Michael F. Blake said...

Chaney optioned the rights to HUNCHBACK and at one point he had a European investor interested. There was talk of going to Germany to make the film, but the investor backed out. I detail all of this in my second book on Chaney.

Unknown said...

The man with India rubber legs... Love it! Thanks for another wonderful contribution!

Joe Thompson said...

Michael - Thank you for the details. I will add your book to my queue.

Fritzi - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm enjoying everyone's posts.


Your posts are always a delight. I love your dedication and hard work to put them up.
I'd love to see Cahney's home movies, as well! I found curious that he seems to be frowning in the photo with the two princes.
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for the kind words, Lê. This is great fun. I'm looking forward to reading your contribution.