Lon Chaney , Man of 1,000 Faces - Compiled by David Collier

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 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).

-Biography from Golden Silents

Other Vital Statistics:

Real Name: Alonzo (Leonidas Frank) Chaney

Height: 5'9"

Burial Place: Forest Lawn in Glendale, Ca. He is in the Great Mausoleum in an unmarked crypt.

Some Trivia (From IMDB):

Lon Chaney was the original choice to play the lead in Tod Browning's "Dracula".

Chaney appeared in 10 films directed by Tod Browning.

Mentioned in the Warren Zevon song "Werewolves of London".

His knowledge of make-up was so vast that he wrote the entry on the subject for an edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

He carried almost all the make-up he used in films in a small leather case.

Other Links:

Lon Chaney Gallery

The Official Chaney Web Site

Lon Chaney on IMDB

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