Anniversary Post: Lon Chaney

Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera

Lon Chaney is an icon of horror film — to a large extent because of his skill with make-up. Sadly, all but one of his films were silent.

In the one film where he spoke, The Unholy Three (1930), he is shown to be as good with his voice as he had always been with his face. In fact, he has almost a “broadcast voice” before there was such a thing.

Had he lived, Chaney would have played the part of Dracula rather than Bela Lugosi. I don’t think it would have been better or worse — just different.

I think about it often. Legosi brings a strong otherness to it but I tend to think it would have been more frightening with Chaney.

But despite his films being silent and thus even less seen that older movies, he was responsible for many of the iconic horror images that people still know today.

Here is probably the most iconic from The Phantom of the Opera:

But don’t get the impression that Lon Chaney was an old-fashioned actor. Check out two shorts scenes from The Unholy Three.

Also on 1 April

Actor Wallace Beery (Treasure Island) was born in 1885, Abner Biberman (His Girl Friday) in 1909, and Toshiro Mifune (Yojimbo) in 1920.

Actor Jonathan Haze (The Little Shop of Horrors) is 91.

Director Peter Collinson (The Italian Job) was born in 1936.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family) is 67.

Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera from a movie still scan in the Public Domain.

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