Many of you diehard horror fans should already know these individuals we will begin to showcase in our new blog series The Eerie Late Night Spotlight, but those that don’t we want to give a brief introduction and of course honor those icons we have come to love. The first in our series will be a man who’s legacy is unmatched through his groundbreaking makeup talents, his films, and also through his son! None other than the man of 1000’s faces himself…Lon Chaney Sr.!
Leonidas Frank “Lon” Chaney was born April 1, 1883 In Colorado. When looking at the early life of Lon Chaney one interesting fact tends to stick out which makes one wonder if this was a major factor in Chaney’s success in silent films. Both of Lon Chaney’s parents were deaf thus making him skilled at an early age in sign language and pantomime. The latter essential in acting in silent pictures. Just an interesting observation that might prove to be true.
Chaney married a singer, “Cleva” Creighton and the two traveled and worked in stage together. They soon had a son (who will later be known to the world as Lon Chaney jr.). The marriage became troubled and “Cleva” tried to commit suicide by drinking mercuric chloride. Although her attempt was unsuccessful it ruined her singing career and drove Lon Chaney out of the theater and into the movies. Maybe this is a horrible thing to say because of the surrounding events, but this was the path he was destined to take.
Lon Chaney worked in film until his death in 1930. His filmography is impressive to say the least for the time and it was his talents in diverse characters that kept him working. His skills as a makeup artist as well made him a master of the craft to say the least. Is final film “The Unholy Three” was actually a “talkie” where he signed a sworn statement that five voices in the film were actually his! The man was a gift to the movie industry and still remains a legend today.
Although he was skilled performer with many films under his belt we know him best for his more macabre roles showcasing his amazing makeup skills as well. Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are what he is best known for. However there is so much more to explore…some of which has been preserved and released on DVD.
Lon Chaney to me personally is more than a legend. I’m not a person that idolizes many individuals. He is definatly one of them. His work as an actor and a makeup artist inspired my work in the haunted attraction industry. His techniques back then were amazing and sometimes torturous to himself. ALthough he never really taught his secrets of makeup to anyone (the industry back then was extremely competative and that was his edge) it is rumored that he inserted small wires in his skin to get the skull like effets of the Phantom. He did his makeup in private and the first time he appeared on the set as the phantom unmasked no one in the cast or crew knew hor horrific he looked under the mask. So in the film the unmasking reactions are genuine.
We encourage you to explore more the works of Lon Chaney sr. to say the least. You will not be disappointed. It was Ray Bradbury that said it best: “He was someone who acted out our psyches. He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies; he was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on-screen. The history of Lon Chaney is the history of unrequited loves. He brings that part of you out into the open, because you fear that you are not loved, you fear that you never will be loved, you fear there is some part of you that’s grotesque, that the world will turn away from.”
To view Lon Chaney’s filmography CLICK HERE