World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

C Entries
  Edward L. Cahn
  Sir Michael Caine
  James Cameron
  Lewis John Carlino
  Richard Carlson
  John Carradine
  Helena Bonham Carter
  Leo G. Carroll
  Maurice Cass
  Lon Chaney
  Lon Chaney, Jr.
  John Cho
  Arthur C. Clarke
  Phyllis Coates
  Joan Collins
  Sir Sean Connery
  Roger Corman
  Buster Crabbe
  Richard Crane
  Tom Cruise
  Peter Cushing
(Creighton Chaney 1906–1973). American actor.

Acted in as Lon Chaney, Jr.: The Undersea Kingdom (serial) (B. Reeves Eason and Joseph Kane 1936); Ace Drummond (serial) (Ford BEEBE 1936); One Million B.C. (Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr. 1940); Man-Made Monster (George Waggner 1941); The Wolf Man (Waggner 1941); Ghost of Frankenstein (Erle C. KENTON 1942).

Acted in as Lon Chaney: The Mummy's Tomb (Harold Young 1942); Calling Dr. Death (Reginald LE BORG 1943); Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (Roy William Neill 1943); Son of Dracula (Robert Siodmak 1943); Weird Woman (Le Borg 1944); The Ghost Catchers (Edward F. Cline 1944); The Cobra Woman (Robert Siodmak 1944); The Mummy's Ghost (Le Borg 1944); Dead Man's Eyes (Le Borg 1944); House of Frankenstein (Kenton 1944); The Mummy's Curse (Leslie Goodwins 1945); The Frozen Ghost (Young 1945); House of Dracula (Kenton 1945); Strange Confession (John Hoffman 1945); Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton 1948); Bride of the Gorilla (Curt SIODMAK 1951); The Thief of Damascus (Will Jason 1952); "Frankenstein" (1952), episode of Tales of Tomorrow; The Black Castle (Nathan JURAN 1952); Casanova's Big Night (Norman Z. McLeod 1954); Manfish (W. Lee Wilder 1956); The Black Sleep (Le Borg 1956); The Indestructible Man (Jack Pollexfen 1956); The Cyclops (Bert I. GORDON 1957); The House of Terror [Face of the Screaming Werewolf] (Gilberto Martinez-Solares and Jerry Warren 1959); The Alligator People (Roy Del Ruth 1959); The Devil's Messenger [Number 13 Demon Street] (tv movie) (Herbert L. Strock and C. Siodmak 1962); "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing" (1962), episode of Route 66; The Haunted Palace (Roger CORMAN 1963); Witchcraft (Don Sharp 1964); House of the Black Death (Le Borg and Harold Daniels 1965); "Monkees in a Ghost Town" (1966), episode of The Monkees; Blood of Dracula's Castle (Al ADAMSON and Jean Hewitt 1967); Hillbillys in a Haunted House (Jean Yarbrough 1967); Dr. Terror's Gallery of Horror (David L. Hewitt 1967); Spider Baby (Jack Hill 1970); Dracula vs. Frankenstein (Adamson 1971).

Lon Chaney, Jr. never gave a good performance in a horror or science fiction film. With his extremely limited talents, the only roles he could really play were ordinary people—as in the westerns that he came to prefer—or less than ordinary people—like Lenny in Of Mice and Men (1939), his only competent portrayal. But he was completely unable to project any sense of the horrific or unearthly. He was distinctively unimpressive as the titular Man-Made Monster, and his Mummy only demanded heavy makeup and the proper limp—any stunt man in Hollywood could have played the part as well. His Frankenstein monster (in Ghost of Frankenstein) was inert and expressionless; the moment he took over the role from Boris KARLOFF, the monster stopped serving as a character in its movies and instead became a prop. His Dracula (in Son of Dracula) was oddly bland and unemotional, recruiting a woman to become a vampire with the demeanor of a traveling salesmen selling vacuum cleaners to housewives. And his frequently-praised Wolfman is only irritating—first whining insufferably about his miserable fate, then, in hairy makeup, snarling and clawing with energy but no conviction. He appeared in so many Universal horror movies of the 1940s only because the producers liked using his father's name on their posters, and because they didn't really care about the quality of the movies. After contributing to the death of the grade-Z horror movie in the 1940s, Chaney tried television in the 1950s, but famously embarrassed himself by showing up drunk for a live performance of "Frankenstein," and he later earned a few television roles—on film—strictly due to his status as a horror-film icon. Regarding his later film career, I will charitably make no comment about his absolutely awful work in absolutely awful films like The Indestructible Man, Hillbillys in a Haunted House, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein. His story is only a pathetic and uninteresting tragedy: trapped in a profession and a genre where he didn't belong, he sank into obscurity as he drank himself to death.

Because it is impossible to fabricate any arguments regarding his importance to science fiction films, Chaney must rather serve as the occasion for a critique of the literature surrounding horror movies. Blinded by their catholic fondness for the genre, these authors regularly offer effusive praise for all the prominent actors who ever labored in its films; yet words of appreciation for genuine talents like Karloff or Peter LORRE become meaningless when exactly the same compliments are bestowed on the likes of Lon Chaney, Jr. And I am tired of reading that bad horror movies occur only because these wonderfully gifted performers are being abused by terrible scripts and inept directors; in some cases, the actors themselves must shoulder some of the blame. Lon Chaney, Jr. made every movie he was in worse; that is the unvarnished truth, and people who call themselves film critics should be able to recognize that.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2018 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art