Lon Chaney (1883-1930)

Silent Movie Star Lon Chaney

“The Man Of A Thousand Faces”

Famous silent film actor Lon Chaney was born Alonzo (Leonidas Frank) Chaney, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 1st, 1883. He was called “The Man of a Thousand Faces”, due to his uncanny ability to transform himself into many types of characters through makeup and pantomime. Few actors suffered as much physically for their craft as did Chaney. In one film he had his arms strapped tightly to his body to play the part of an armless knife thrower. In another, to look like a vampire, he wore a set of false teeth so enormous that he was in constant pain during filming. In yet another film he placed metal rings inside his eyelids to give himself a staring look.

Chaney was born the son of deaf-mute parents. His effort to communicate with them was probably the chief reason that he became so expert a pantomimist, and so perfect an actor for the silent movie era. His brother owned a theater, so Chaney found stage work early. He toured as a comic song and dance man before attempting a screen career, starting in 1912. Chaney played scores of minor parts, usually cast as a villain. His first big break came in 1919’s “The Miracle Man”, in which he played a bogus cripple called “the Frog”. His makeup artistry was so inventive that he could play two parts in one film, and the audience wouldn’t recognize him. Lon Chaney’s greatest success came in two dramatic roles, “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” (1924) with Patsy Ruth Miller, and “The Phantom Of The Opera” (1925), opposite lovely Mary Philbin. Other memorable films of Chaney’s include M-G-M’s first feature, “HE Who Gets Slapped” (1924), opposite John Gilbert and Norma Shearer, “Laugh, Clown, Laugh” (1928), opposite teenager Loretta Young and Nils Asther and “The Unknown” (1927), opposite a young Joan Crawford.

Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh

Lon was married twice, to Frances Chaney, from 1905 till 1915, and then to Hazel Hastings, from 1915 until his death in 1930. He had a son with Frances, named Lon Chaney Jr., who also became a famous actor, mostly working in the horror genre. Lon Chaney died of throat cancer on August 26th, 1930, after completing his first talkie, a remake of his previous silent classic, “The Unholy Three” (1930).

~ Copyright © 2004 www.goldensilents.com

Vintage Bio from “Who’s Who On The Screen” (1920): “This splendid character actor was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado April 1, 1883. Following his graduation from the public schools of Colorado Springs, he made his debut on the stage as a comedian in a play produced by his brother and himself. The year 1912 first saw Lon Chaney upon the screen. His debut was made as a slapstick comedian in a Universal production. He has been seen to advantage in “Hell Morgan’s Girl,” “The Riddle Game,” “Treasure Island,” “The Penalty,” and “The Miracle Man.” His portrayal of the psuedo cripple in “The Miracle Man” was as fine a bit of character work as has ever graced the screen. He is fond of all sports, and is an expert cook. It is Mr. Chaney’s ambition to be a peer in the art of make-up.”

Lon Chaney’s Silent Films

Thunder (1929) …. Grumpy Anderson
Where East Is East (1929) …. Tiger Haynes
West of Zanzibar (1928) …. Phroso ‘Dead-Legs’

Lon Chaney and Anita Page in While The City Sleeps

Lon Chaney and Anita Page in “While The City Sleeps” (1928)

While the City Sleeps (1928) …. Dan Callahan

  Loretta Young with Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)

Lon in “Laugh, Clown, Laugh” and Lon and Loretta Young in the same film (1928)

Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) …. Tito Beppi
Big City, The (1928) …. Chuck Collins
London After Midnight (1927) …. Burke
Mockery (1927) …. Sergei
Unknown, The (1927) …. Alonzo the Armless
Mr. Wu (1927) …. Mr. Mandarin Wu/Mr. Wu’s Grandfather

Lon Chaney in Tell It To The Marines (1926), his favorite film role

Lon Chaney, sans makeup, in “Tell It To The Marines” (1926), his favorite film role

Tell It to the Marines (1926) …. Sgt. O’Hara
Road to Mandalay, The (1926) …. Singapore Joe
Blackbird, The (1926) …. The Blackbird/The Bishop
Tower of Lies, The (1925) …. Jan

Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in Phantom Of The Opera (1925 version)

Lon Chaney as Erik with Mary Philbin in “Phantom of the Opera” (1925)

Phantom of the Opera, The (1925) …. Erik, The Phantom
Unholy Three, The (1925) …. Professor Echo, the Ventriloquist, aka Mrs. ‘Granny’ O’Grady
Monster, The (1925) …. Dr. Ziska

Lon Chaney as the doomed scientist, Paul Beaumont, in “HE Who Gets Slapped” (1924)

HE Who Gets Slapped (1924) …. Paul Beaumont, aka HE
Next Corner, The (1924) …. Juan Serafin

Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Lon Chaney with Patsy Ruth Miller in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923)

Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1923) …. Quasimodo
Shock, The (1923) …. Wilse Dilling
While Paris Sleeps (1923) …. Henri Santodos
… aka Glory of Love, The (1923)
All the Brothers Were Valiant (1923) …. Mark Shore
Blind Bargain, A (1922) …. Dr. Arthur Lamb/The Ape Man
Quincy Adams Sawyer (1922) …. Obadiah Strout
Shadows (1922) …. Yen Sin,’The Heathen’
Oliver Twist (1922) …. Fagin
Light in the Dark, The (1922) …. Tony Pantelli
… aka Light of Faith, The (1922)
Flesh and Blood (1922) …. David Webster
Trap, The (1922) …. Gaspard
… aka Heart of a Wolf (1922) (UK)
Voices of the City (1921) …. O’Rourke
… aka Night Rose, The (1921)
Bits of Life (1921) …. Chin Chow
Ace of Hearts, The (1921) …. Mr. Farallone
For Those We Love (1921) …. Trix Ulner
Outside the Law (1920) …. Black Mike Sylva/Ah Wing
Nomads of the North (1920) …. Raoul Challoner

Lon Chaney in The Penalty (1920)

Lon Chaney in “The Penalty” (1920)

Penalty, The (1920/I) …. Blizzard
Gift Supreme, The (1920) …. Merney Stagg
Treasure Island (1920) …. Pew/Merry
Daredevil Jack (1920)
Victory (1919) …. Ricardo
When Bearcat Went Dry (1919) …. Kindard Powers

Lon Chaney with makeup kit

Lon Chaney with his own make-up kit

Paid in Advance (1919) …. Bateese Le Blanc
Miracle Man, The (1919) …. The Frog
Man’s Country, A (1919) …. ‘Three Card’ Duncan
Wicked Darling, The (1919) …. Stoop Connors
False Faces, The (1919) …. Karl Eckstrom
Danger, Go Slow (1918) …. Bud
Talk of the Town, The (1918) …. Jack Lanchome
That Devil, Bateese (1918) …. Louis Courteau
Riddle Gawne (1918) …. Hame Bozzam
Broadway Scandal, A (1918) …. ‘Kink’ Colby
Fast Company (1918) …. Dan McCarty
Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin, The (1918) …. Bethmann-Hollweg
… aka Beast of Berlin (1918)
… aka Kaiser, Beast of Berlin, The (1918)
… aka Kaiser, The (1918)
Broadway Love (1918) …. Elmer Watkins
Grand Passion, The (1918) …. Paul Argos
Empty Gun, The (1917)
Scarlet Car, The (1917) …. Paul Revere Forbes
Anything Once (1917) …. Waught Moore
Triumph (1917) …. Paul Neihoff
Pay Me! (1917) …. Joe Lawson
… aka Pay Day (1917)
… aka Vengeance of the West, The (1917)
Rescue, The (1917) …. Thomas Holland
Fires of Rebellion (1917) …. Russell Hanlon
Doll’s House, A (1917) …. Nils Krogstad
Flashlight, The (1917) …. Henry Norton and Porter Brixton
Girl in the Checkered Coat, The (1917) …. Hector Maitland
Mask of Love, The (1917) …. Marino
Hell Morgan’s Girl (1917) …. Sleter Noble
Piper’s Price, The (1917) …. Billy Kilmartin
Price of Silence, The (1916) …. Edmond Stafford
Accusing Evidence (1916)
Place Beyond the Winds, The (1916) …. Jerry Jo
Felix on the Job (1916) …. Tod
If My Country Should Call (1916) …. Dr. George Ardrath
Mark of Cain, The (1916) …. Dick Temple
… aka By Fate’s Degree (1916)
Grasp of Greed, The (1916) …. Jimmie
… aka Mr. Meeson’s Will (1916) (UK)
Bobbie of the Ballet (1916) …. Hook Hoover
Gilded Spider, The (1916) …. Giovanni
… aka Full Cup, The (1916) (USA)
Tangled Hearts (1916) …. John Hammond
Grip of Jealousy, The (1916) …. Silas Lacey
Dolly’s Scoop (1916) …. Dan Fisher
Father and the Boys (1915) …. Tuck Bartholomew
Stronger Than Death (1915)
Under a Shadow (1915) …. Jealous Husband
Millionaire Paupers, The (1915)
Lon of Lone Mountain (1915) …. Lon Moore
Mother’s Atonement, A (1915) …. The Husband
Alas and Alack (1915) …. Her Husband
Fascination of the Fleur de Lis, The (1915) …. Duke of Safoulrug
Pine’s Revenge, The (1915) …. Black Scotty
Chimney’s Secret, The (1915) …. Charles Harding
Quits (1915) …. Frenchy
Mountain Justice (1915) …. Mountaineer
Bound on the Wheel (1915)
Trust, The (1915) …. The Burglar
Violin Maker, The (1915) …. The Violin Maker
Steady Company (1915) …. Factory Worker
Stronger Mind, The (1915) …. The Crook’s Pal
Idyll of the Hills, An (1915) …. Mountaineer
Girl of the Night, The (1915) …. Jerry
… aka Her Chance (1915) (USA: reissue title)
Grind, The (1915) …. The Old Man
… aka On the Verge of Sin (1915)
Maid of the Mist (1915) …. Postmaster
Desert Breed, The (1915) …. Fred
All for Peggy (1915) …. The Stable Groom
Outside the Gates (1915) …. Perez
Where the Forest Ends (1915) …. Paul Rouchelle
Such Is Life (1915) …. Tod Wilkes
When the Gods Played a Badger Game (1915) …. The Property Man
… aka Girl Who Couldn’t Go Wrong, The (1915)
Threads of Fate, The (1915) …. The Count
Measure of a Man, The (1915) …. Lt. Jim Stuart
Smalltown Girl, The (1915) …. The Procurer
Star of the Sea, The (1915) …. Tomasco
Sin of Olga Brandt, The (1915) …. Stephen Leslie
Her Escape (1914) …. Pete
Night of Thrills, A (1914) …. Visitor
Lion, the Lamb, the Man, The (1914) …. Fred
Lights and Shadows (1914) …. Bentley
Her Life’s Story (1914) …. Don Valesquez
Virtue Is Its Own Reward (1914) …. Duncan Bronson
Pipes o’ Pan, The (1914) …. Arthur Farrell
Richelieu (1914/I) …. Baradas
Higher Law, The (1914/I) …. Sir Stephen
Her Bounty (1914) …. Fred Howard
Miner’s Romance, A (1914) …. John Burns
Oubliette, The (1914) …. Chevalier Bertrand de la Payne
By the Sun’s Rays (1914) …. Frank Lawler
Her Grave Mistake (1914) …. Nunez
Ranch Romance, A (1914) …. Raphael Praz
Hopes of a Blind Alley (1914) …. Vendor
Old Cobbler, The (1914) …. Wild Bill
Forbidden Room, The (1914) …. John Morris
Heart Strings (1914) (unconfirmed)
Unlawful Trade, The (1914) …. The Cross Blood
Tragedy of Whispering Creek, The (1914) …. The Greaser
End of the Feud, The (1914) …. Wood Dawson
Lamb, the Woman, the Wolf, The (1914) …. The Wolf
Embezzler, The (1914) …. J. Roger Dixon
Menace to Carlotta, The (1914) …. Giovanni Bartholdi
… aka Carlotta, the Bead Stringer (1914) (USA)
Discord and Harmony (1914) …. The Sculptor
Remember Mary Magdalen (1914) …. The Half-Wit
Honor of the Mounted, The (1914) …. Jacques Laquox
Lie, The (1914) …. Young MacGregor
Bloodhounds of the North (1913) …. Mountie
Red Margaret, Moonshiner (1913) …. Lon
… aka Moonshine Blood (1916) (reissue title)
Back to Life (1913) …. The Rival
Elephant on His Hands, An (1913) …. Eddie
Almost an Actress (1913) …. Cameraman
Trap, The (1913/I)
Shon the Piper (1913) …. Clansman
Sea Urchin, The (1913) …. Barnacle Bill
Poor Jake’s Demise (1913) …. The Dude
Blood Red Tape of Charity, The (1912) …. Marx, a Gentleman Thief

To learn more about Lon Chaney visit his profile on The Internet Movie Database


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