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Also Known As: Leonidas F Chaney Died: August 26, 1930
Born: April 1, 1883 Cause of Death: bronchial cancer
Birth Place: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA Profession: actor, director, screenwriter, scene painter, property boy, playwright, stagehand, tour guide

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Dubbed 'The Man of a Thousand Faces' and the first great master of horror before it became a formalized genre in the 1930s. The child of deaf-mute parents, Chaney learned the expressive use of pantomime to communicate, and developed a remarkable sensitivity to the pain of the outsider which added humanity and pathos to the gallery of grotesque and deformed characters which he created. After a brief career in theater as a comic, dancer and stage hand, he went to Hollywood in 1912 and appeared in numerous shorts and features (some by Allan Dwan) as Western villains and "exotics" (often as more than one character in a film) before starring in his first of many collaborations with horror master, Tod Browning, "The Wicked Darling" and winning recognition in his first major role, as a bogus cripple in "The Miracle Man" (both 1919). Renowned for his artistry with makeup and the great, almost masochistic, lengths he would go to create the grotesque bodies that hid the tortured, often sensitive and injured souls of his characters, Chaney bound his legs behind him and walked on his knees in "The Penalty" (1920), strapped his arms tightly to his body to play the part of an armless knife thrower in "The...

Dubbed 'The Man of a Thousand Faces' and the first great master of horror before it became a formalized genre in the 1930s. The child of deaf-mute parents, Chaney learned the expressive use of pantomime to communicate, and developed a remarkable sensitivity to the pain of the outsider which added humanity and pathos to the gallery of grotesque and deformed characters which he created. After a brief career in theater as a comic, dancer and stage hand, he went to Hollywood in 1912 and appeared in numerous shorts and features (some by Allan Dwan) as Western villains and "exotics" (often as more than one character in a film) before starring in his first of many collaborations with horror master, Tod Browning, "The Wicked Darling" and winning recognition in his first major role, as a bogus cripple in "The Miracle Man" (both 1919). Renowned for his artistry with makeup and the great, almost masochistic, lengths he would go to create the grotesque bodies that hid the tortured, often sensitive and injured souls of his characters, Chaney bound his legs behind him and walked on his knees in "The Penalty" (1920), strapped his arms tightly to his body to play the part of an armless knife thrower in "The Unknown" (1927), and wore enormous painful teeth to create a vampire in "London After Midnight" (1927; in which he also played a detective). In "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) he wore a 40lb-hunch in a 30lb harness strapped to his back, covered his eyeball with an eggshell membrane to look sightless, and contorted his body in a straightjacket. (When he appeared in "Tell It To the Marines" in 1926 without any makeup, one critic wrote that he didn't look quite natural.) More than merely a master of disguise and horror, Chaney's genius was in communicating the man behind the monster: the hunger for acceptance, the unrequited love and sexual frustration, and the pain caused by society's cruelty that fuels his monsters' desire for revenge, which is most eloquently conveyed in his definitive "Phantom of the Opera" (1925). His son, Creighton, a novice in films when his father died, changed his name to Lon Chaney Jr and worked mainly in B horror films, but it was James Cagney who played Chaney Sr in his film biography, "The Man of 1,000 Faces" (1957).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
3.
  The Trust (1915)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) Groton
2.
 The Unholy Three (1930) [Professor] Echo [also known as Grandma O'Grady]
3.
 Where East Is East (1929) Tiger Haynes
4.
 Thunder (1929) Grumpy Anderson
5.
 Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) Tito
6.
 West of Zanzibar (1928) Flint
7.
 The Big City (1928) Chuck
8.
 While the City Sleeps (1928) Dan
9.
 Mockery (1927) Sergei
10.
 The Unknown (1927) Alonzo
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Left school and worked as guide, conducting tourists along the tortuous trail to Pike's Peak; then worked as prop boy in Colorado Springs Opera House
:
First theatrical appearance in "The Little Tycoon" (co-wrote with his brother, a theater manager) at age 17
:
Went to Chicago and worked on stage as a comic and dancer and helped move scenery (had a stage hand union card)
:
Joined the Ferris Hartmann Opera Company in San Francisco; travelled with company to Los Angeles
1912:
Entered films as Western heavy; appeared unbilled in "False Faces", "Riddle Gawne"
1914:
First screen acting credit, "Hell Morgan's Girl"
1915:
Debut as film director with the short, "The Stool Pigeon"
1916:
Directed and supervised Western star J. Warren Kerrigan in seven films for Universal (also scripted two)
1919:
First role which brought national recognition, "The Miracle Man"
1929:
Final silent, "Thunder"; although thought lost, footage was discovered in 1996
1930:
First talking picture (and his last film), "The Unholy Three" (sound remake of his 1925 silent film)
1930:
Was signed to star in Tod Browning's "Dracula" at time of death
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Wrote article on make-up in the Encyclopedia Britannica and wrote preface on a textbook of screen makeup by Cecil Holland.

His obituary in The New York Times claimed he was fond of the Hollywood quip: "Don't step on that spider; it may be Lon Chaney"

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Cleva Creighton. Mother of Creighton Chaney (Lon Chaney Jr).
wife:
Hazel Hastings Chaney. Second wife; met when both worked with Ferris Hartmann Opera Company in San Francisco.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Lon Chaney Jr. Actor. Born February 10, 1906; mother was Chaney's first wife, Cleva Creighton.

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures"
"The Films of Lon Chaney" Vestal Press

Contributions

JStafford ( 2006-03-23 )

Source: Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham.

Lon Chaney's final place of residence was not a house but the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (now known as the Regent Beverly Wilshire). He and his family were living there while their new home in Beverly Hills was being built. Unfortunately, Chaney died of lung cancer before he could move in. (Source) Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

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