Monday, November 2, 2009
Oh, Lon, how I love thee. Let me count the ways... How about 1000, for the "Man of a Thousand Faces!"
If you haven't caught on by now, Lon is my favorite actor. So, this month is dedicated to him- the one, the only, the almighty: ChameLeonidas Chaney! (Yup, I made that one up myself). Lon's gifts as a performer ran deep. He was a man who was able to use his personal suffering and natural empathy to delve honestly into his characterizations, which were only then enhanced by the brilliant makeups he concocted. Born to deaf and mute parents, Lon learned to use his face and body to communicate emotions, pains, and joys, which the use of words would have dampened. Being born within this silent household, where he didn't even begin speaking until after he was a few years old, Lon would inherit a keen observation of humanity and a sympathy for the underdog, which he would always play, even if some of his characters were a little... evil. Inside each of them beat the heart of a man, usually a heart aflame for a woman who would not have him. Again and again he martyred himself on the pyre of love, his passion for this woman his one redeeming characteristic. There were no cliches, there were no stereotypes. He thought each character out with incite, skill, and compassion, turning the nastiest of devils into a man who was misunderstood and could have been a better guy had he been given a chance. The faces of the Phantom, the Hunchback, and the Vampiric being in London After Midnight have made him legendary, and those unfamiliar with the man are still intimate with the faces he concocted. For those lucky enough to witness the actor in action, perhaps director George Loane Tucker said it best after witnessing Lon's screen test for The Miracle Man: "My God." For all of his contributions to cinema, Lon himself remains The Unknown, shrouded in mystery, hiding behind his many faces, completing and being loyal to the illusions he left on the silver screen, never to be muddied by the knowledge of his private life. What a dirty trick, for Lon Chaney the man was much more fascinating.