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Loose biography of actor Lon Chaney. Growing up with deaf parents, he learns what it is like to be different. As an actor, he puts that knowledge (together with lots of make-up and talent) to use playing a variety of strange, unusual characters, adopting their characteristics so thoroughly as to be called the Man of a Thousand Faces.Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As with most biographical films, the script is a combination of fact and screenwriters' fancy. To give but two examples, Lon Chaney Jr. was not born in a hospital, but at his parents' then-home in Oklahoma City, as was common at the time. Further, Cleva Creighton Chaney was well aware, before her marriage to Lon Chaney, that his parents were hearing-impaired, and had already met them on several occasions. See more »
This movie's depiction of Chaney's makeup for "Phantom of the Opera" is very misleading. The movie's version shows Chaney's face unrecognizable and nearly immobile behind elaborate full latex appliances. Chaney was actually proud of his ability to distort his appearance using only a minimum of makeup - in this case basically thin wires in his nose and around his eyes, false teeth and dark paint around his eyes and nostrils. See more »
Perhaps Cagney's finest performance in a mature role
Cagney plays Lon Chaney in this film about the great imitator's life. Chaney himself was a very private person, preferring the quiet of hearth and home to the wild Hollywood night life. Hollywood was where he worked, not a way of life. In this way both he and the man who plays him (James Cagney) have much in common.
Cagney and Chaney looked totally different, yet Cagney makes this role work. In Cagney's biography "Cagney on Cagney", he admits that the story takes certain liberties with Chaney's life as most biopics do, but there are many actual events in Chaney's life that are in the movie. Chaney was indeed the child of two deaf mute parents - he got his gift for pantomime in communicating with them. His first marriage was a rocky one, just as the film portrays. Whether the trouble started over his first wife believing that their child would be deaf and being horrified by the possibility as is portrayed in the film I don't know, but given early 20th century attitudes toward disability it is entirely possible.
The film whether accurate or not, was a loving tribute to Chaney that was instrumental in a revival of interest in his films. I consider this to be possibly Cagney's best performance in a mature role with maybe the exception of 1956's "These Wilder Years", which is seldom televised nor on VHS or DVD.
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