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The Man of 1,000 Faces

Lon Chaney Sr. with Make-Up Kit

He is known as the man of a thousand faces, but that’s not what I remember Lon Chaney Sr. for. He made himself up to look different in every film, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) to The Phantom of the Opera (1925) to The Unholy Three (1930 Sound Version). However much he changed his looks, the one thing that did not change was the intensity of his feeling, of his ardor.

I just finished viewing Tod Browning’s Where East Is East (1929) in which once again it is his performance that makes the picture. His love for his daughter (played by Lupe Velez) and his hatred of the sluttish mother who deserted them both (played by Estelle Taylor) is always convincing and heartfelt. Chaney was in scores of feature films from 1915 to his last film (and only sound film) in 1930.

Perhaps Lon Chaney Jr. is more familiar to younger film goers for his role as The Wolf Man (1941) and his other horror pics for Universal and 20th Century Fox. The son didn’t begin acting until he father had died, and although he was occasionally good, he could not hold a candle to his old man.