By Michael F. Blake

For the 1st time, you could positioned conjecture apart and skim definitive evidence concerning the roles Chaney had backstage in addition to in entrance of the camera.

Blake examines Chaney's movie roles during this follow-up to the author's prior biography (Lon Chaney: the fellow at the back of the Thousand Faces, Vestal Pr., 1993). through correspondence, studio notes, and experiences from the preferred press, Blake completely reconstructs the cultural context during which Chaney's movies have been produced, exhibited, and acquired. even supposing sometimes topic to silent movie histrionics, Chaney created the position of the twisted antihero, and it truly is this contribution to the pantheon of reveal forms that Blake hails right here. He tracks Chaney's upward thrust from freelancer to MGM megastar, in addition to his partnership with director Tod Browning, whose darkish visions authorised Chaney's tortured protagonists to thrive. regrettably, Blake's ardour as a fan and proficient curiosity in Chaney's artistry (the writer himself is a make-up artist) is suffocated through a turbid textual content. every now and then Blake overexplicates and makes noticeable inferences. The textual content contains meticulous endnotes, copious photos, and a bibliography.

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Additional resources for A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures

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Louis Jacobs [chairman of the entertainment committee] said: “The picture carries a message that gets to the men without their knowing why. It isn’t crammed down their throats like a preachment. ” 54 The picture was an enormous money-maker and was one of the top ten picks of the year by film critics. The role of the fake cripple who preys upon the sympathy of the unsuspecting public gave Chaney the chance to exhibit his talents in a unique way. The Frog is introduced as a disheveled man with a twisted body and useless legs, dressed in soiled clothes, who causes a traffic jam in a section of Chinatown as he attempts to cross a street.

Lon is the despised Karl Eckstrom, a role he appears to have thoroughly enjoyed, portraying the man as cunning and vicious. Eckstrom, like many of the German villains during this period and later in World War II-period films, takes delight in his own cruelty. He is a man totally without conscience, a quality which Lon later would endeavor to instill subtly in many of his villains. Even though his role as the wretched antagonist is typical, Lon employs such a menacing glee in his character that when he is killed, the audience can’t help but applaud.

His hair becomes disheveled, and the carefully groomed goatee grows into a wild beard, emphasizing his frantic state of mind. Unlike many actors who might have worn a fake beard, Chaney appears comfortable with his, pulling, tugging, and scratching at it, giving it a life-like appearance and making his character all the more believable. In this sequence of the film, Chaney’s role permits him to convey the instability of a man who has suffered a blow to the head. When Forbes displays moments of lucidity, Lon makes his gestures and expressions more subtle, but then just as quickly reverts to his dreamlike state of mind.

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