Few silent screen stars approached the status of Lon Chaney. A makeup genius, he was the heart of horror during the 1920s, and Cagney's respectful rendering of this great artist is spectacular. Born the son of deaf-mute parents, Chaney becomes a successful vaudeville entertainer, creating
many distinctive characters through inventive makeup and skilled mime. He meets and marries beautiful but neurotic fellow performer Cleva Creighton (melodramatic Malone) but when he introcuces her to his parents, she becomes hysterical at the thought that their children might be born with
congenital deafness. When baby Creighton (later Lon Chaney Jr.) is born without these afflictions, all seems well until Cleva begins to resent her husband's popularity. She abandons her family, whereupon Chaney goes to Hollywood and, in true movie bio fashion, works his way up to film star status.
He also marries the supportive Hazel Bennet (Greer, good but a trifle wasted) and Chaney's compelling characterizations in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME thrill his ever-growing following. But, as might be expected, Cleva returns to the scene, threatening the relationship
between Chaney and his now-grown son (Smith).
Cagney is riveting as Chaney (who died in 1930 at the age of 47), enacting the many great roles the silent star made famous in startling cameo performances. Many of Chaney's makeup secrets died with him, but experts Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan did a good job in coming close.
Lovsky is excellent as Chaney's mother, but newcomer Evans is unconvincing as MGM mogul Irving Thalberg. Thalberg's widow, retired film star Norma Shearer, did a good job in picking a handsome young man who resembled her "boy genius" husband, but that does not an actor make. Ironically, Evans
later became a real-life mogul, heading Paramount from 1966 to 1976. Smith, playing the 21-year-old Creighton Chaney, is rather stoical, suggesting little of Chaney Jr's anguish.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: Few silent screen stars approached the status of Lon Chaney. A makeup genius, he was the heart of horror during the 1920s, and Cagney's respectful rendering of this great artist is spectacular. Born the son of deaf-mute parents, Chaney becomes a successful… (more)