LON CHANEY, JR. Biography - Actors and Actresses


Biography » actors and actresses » lon chaney jr


Name: Lon Chaney, Jr.                                                                         
Birth name: Creighton Tull Chaney                                                             
Born: 10 February 1906 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States                                 
Died: 12 July 1973 San Clemente, California, United States                                     
Lon Chaney, Jr. (February 10, 1906 – July 12, 1973) was an American character               
actor, known mainly for his roles in monster movies and as the son of silent                   
film actor Lon Chaney. He was first credited as "Lon Chaney, Jr." only in 1935,               
as a studio marketing ploy by a small production outfit. Chaney, Jr. had English,             
French and Irish ancestry.                                                                     
Born Creighton Tull Chaney in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the son of Lon Chaney and               
Cleva Creighton Chaney, a singing stage performer who traveled in road shows                   
across the country with Lon. His parents' troubled marriage ended in divorce in               
1913 following a scandalous public suicide attempt by his mother in Los Angeles.               
Young Creighton lived in various homes and boarding schools until 1916, when his               
father (now employed in films) remarried Hazel Hastings and could provide a                   
stable home. Many sources[attribution needed] report that Creighton was led to                 
believe his mother Cleva had died while he was a boy, and was only made aware                 
she lived after his father's death in 1930.                                                   
From an early age he worked hard to avoid his famous father's shadow. In young                 
adulthood, his father discouraged him from show business, and he became                       
successful in a Los Angeles appliance corporation. No film or photographs seem                 
to exist of the two Chaneys together in the same frame as adults, which is                     
remarkable since the senior Chaney had attained a career level of global fame                 
exceeded only by Charles Chaplin.                                                             
It was only after his father's death that Chaney started acting in movies,                     
beginning with an uncredited role in the 1932 film Girl Crazy. He appeared in                 
films under his real name Creighton until 1935, when he began to be billed as "Lon             
Chaney, Jr." (and would appear as "Lon Chaney" later in his career). He first                 
achieved stardom and critical acclaim in the 1939 feature film version of Of                   
Mice and Men, in which he played Lennie Small.                                                 
In 1941, Chaney starred in the title role of The Wolf Man for Universal Pictures               
Co. Inc., a role which would typecast him for the rest of his life. He                         
maintained a career at Universal horror movies over the next few years,                       
replaying the Wolf Man in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein,             
House of Dracula, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster               
in The Ghost of Frankenstein, Kharis the mummy in The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's               
Ghost and The Mummy's Curse. He also played Dracula in Son of Dracula. Chaney is               
thus the only actor to portray all four of Universal's major monsters: the Wolf               
Man, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and Dracula. Universal also starred him               
in a series of psychological mysteries associated with the Inner Sanctum radio                 
series. He also played western heroes, such as in the serial Overland Mail, but               
the six-foot, 220-pound actor often appeared as mundane heavies. After leaving                 
Universal, he worked primarily in character roles in low-budget films, due to                 
typecasting and alcoholism. In later years he often played mute or brutish roles,             
partly due to the ravages of throat cancer, the same disease that claimed his                 
father's life. In his final feature film, Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971), he                 
played Groton, Dr. Frankenstein's mute henchman.                                               
While continuing to pop up in lower budget horror epics throughout the 1950s,                 
Chaney also established himself as a cameo artiste for producer Stanley Kramer,               
taking key supporting roles in the classic western High Noon (1952) (starring                 
Gary Cooper), Not as a Stranger (1955), a hospital melodrama featuring Robert                 
Mitchum and Frank Sinatra, and The Defiant Ones (1958, starring Tony Curtis and               
Sidney Poitier.) Kramer told the press at the time that whenever a script came                 
in with a role too difficult for most actors in Hollywood, he called Chaney.                   
Most talked about was a 1952 live television version of Frankenstein on the                   
anthology series Tales of Tomorrow during which Chaney, playing the Monster, was               
so drunk that he thought he was rehearsing and picked up furniture that he was                 
supposed to break only to gingerly put it back down while muttering, "Break                   
later." A kinescope of the January 18, 1952 broadcast is available for public                 
viewing at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City and Los Angeles.               
Remarkably, Chaney's bald and scarred makeup in this show closely resembles that               
worn by Robert De Niro in a 1994 big-screen treatment.                                         
He became quite popular with baby boomers, however, after Universal released its               
backlog of horror films to television in 1956 and Famous Monsters of Filmland                 
magazine regularly focused on his films. He was honored by appearing as the Wolf               
Man on one of a 1997 series of United States postage stamps depicting movie                   
monsters, as was Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster and The Mummy, Bela                   
Lugosi as Dracula, and Lon Chaney, Sr. as The Phantom of the Opera.                           
In the 1960s, Chaney's career ran the gamut from decent horror productions, such               
as Roger Corman's The Haunted Palace and big-studio Westerns such as 1967's                   
Welcome to Hard Times, to such bottom-of-the-barrel fodder as Hillbillys in a                 
Haunted House and Dr. Terror's Gallery of Horrors (both 1967). His bread-and-butter           
work during this decade was television - where he put in guest shots on                       
everything from Wagon Train to The Monkees - and a string of supporting roles in               
low-budget but entertaining and very traditional Westerns featuring middle-aged               
casts and produced by A. C. Lyles for Paramount.                                               
From a personal standpoint, Chaney seemed to have been well-liked by his co-workers           
- "sweet" is the adjective that most commonly emerges from people who acted with               
him - yet he was capable of intense dislikes. For instance, he and frequent co-star           
Evelyn Ankers did not get along at all (he called her "Shankers" and she once                 
characterized him as "The Mad Ghoul"), despite their undeniable on-camera                     
chemistry. Chaney is also said to have had a belligerent relationship with actor               
Martin Kosleck. Years after the fact, Kosleck explained this as a case of                     
jealousy over Kosleck's (self-described) superior talent. All the people with                 
whom Chaney purportedly conflicted — Kosleck; actor Frank Reicher (whom Chaney               
nearly strangled on camera in The Mummy's Ghost) and director Robert Siodmak (over             
whose head Chaney broke a vase) — were all German, and all the incidents                     
occurred during World War II. There seems little doubt that Chaney's basic                     
geniality, even his professional intensity, could be greatly altered through the               
introduction of alcohol.                                                                       
Chaney always projected a peculiar childlike quality on screen, no matter how                 
old he was, which meant that his best roles tended to be those for which a                     
childish, helpless or subservient quality was requisite, such as "Lenny," "Larry               
Talbot," and even in later years some of his roles as weak and/or alcoholic                   
parents. Only rarely did this quality drop, as was the case with his performance               
as "Dracula" in Son of Dracula and years later as "Simon Orne" in The Haunted                 
Palace. Chaney never for a moment escaped the long shadow of his father, one of               
the screen's greatest actors.