A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion by Michael F. Blake

By Michael F. Blake

For the 1st time, you could placed conjecture apart and browse 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 previous biography (Lon Chaney: the guy at the back of the Thousand Faces, Vestal Pr., 1993). through correspondence, studio notes, and studies 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 display varieties that Blake hails right here. He tracks Chaney's upward push from freelancer to MGM celebrity, in addition to his partnership with director Tod Browning, whose darkish visions accredited Chaney's tortured protagonists to thrive. regrettably, Blake's ardour as a fan and expert curiosity in Chaney's artistry (the writer himself is a make-up artist) is suffocated by means of a turbid textual content. now and then Blake overexplicates and makes visible inferences. The textual content contains meticulous endnotes, copious images, and a bibliography.

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

Sample text

He used subtle gestures to give his parts depth and texture. Again, in By the Sun’s Rays , when news arrives that the gold shipment has been stolen, he gleefully smiles, takes the pencil from behind his ear, and touches it on his lips, lost in thought. In another scene, when the superintendent’s daughter has her back to him, Lon gently raises his hand and is about to touch her shoulder, but then hesitates and doesn’t follow through. In that moment, he brings a sense of humanity to the character despite the villainy of the role.

By the second day, it was clearly obvious that the Chaney two-reeler was attracting the crowds, and the theatre management changed its advertising, playing up The Empty Gun for the rest of the week. In South Carolina, a movie theatre employed a unique approach to advertise Outside the Law. They hired two men, one dressed as a cop and the other in prison stripes, to walk around the city with signs on their backs calling attention to the movie. Universal reissued Outside the Law in 1926 to capitalize on Chaney’s popularity, giving him top billing over Priscilla Dean instead of the original “supported by” credit.

Unfortunately, the surviving footage gives the viewer little to go on to form an opinion of Lon’s character. He is seen only briefly (for approximately five minutes) as he walks into a saloon with another man and sits at a table. However, this small segment does allow us to see Chaney playing a “straight” role without the use of any character make-up. Nomads of the North allowed Lon the rare opportunity of playing a leading man, a departure from his usual roles. Based on a popular novel of the Northwoods by James Oliver Curwood, Lon plays Raoul Challoner, a French-Canadian trapper.

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