Lon Chaney


  1. Conrad Veidt, The Man Who Laughs, 1928. Split at the eleventh hour from having Gwynplaine’s horrendous grimace achieved with dentures with metal hooks pulling the corners of his mouth. Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, based The Joker on this look.
  2. Gus Edwards, The Hollywood Review of 1929, 1929.  Despite having just signed a three picture MGM deal, Chaney was less than keen about  joining another of  all the studio’s stars as themselves  features. Not happy, either, about the song: Lon Chaney Will Get You if You Don’t Watch Out.  He got out of it by saying:  OK, sure, as long as it counts as part of my deal and I get my usual salary. “Hey, willya get me Gus Edwards on the phone… and get him the mask and costume from London After Midnight, 1927.“
  3. Wallace Beery, The Big House, 1930. Il-health caused Chaney to give up the jailbird Machine Gun Schmidt in the Oz of its day – it won Beery his MGM contract. Hollywood’s most successful woman screenwriter, Frances Marion, had found her new Butch Schmit when struck by how much Beery was enjoying – demolishing! – his spaghetti in the MGM canteen. Marion, Hollywood most famous woman scripter, also wrote Beery’s huge hit, The Camp, 1930. Plus Dinner at Eight, 1932.
  4. Bela Lugosi, Dracula, 1930.  Chaney was dead before the script was ready. Conrad Veidt was first choice to succeed him. Paul Muni refused to be third. Also in the vampire mix: John Carradine, William Courtenay, Ian Keith. Enter: Broadway’s Dracula (during a legendary 1927-1930 run). He refused to be Frankenstein’s monster the following year. Enter: Boris Karloff. That’s the way it goes in Film City…
  5. Charles Bickford, The Sea Bat, 1930.  The escaped con hiding out as a minister was to be Chaney’s next assignment following Dracula.
  6. John Gilbert, The Phantom of Paris, 1931.  Another movie having to do without the Chaney magic. This one was supposed to kill Gilbert’s talkie career, following rumours spread by a vengeful MGM boss, LB Mayer, that the silent star had a high-pitched, feminine voice. It was not. Even so, his career was over five films and three years later and he was dead by 1936. Chaney and Gibert had co-starred in the silent He Who Gets Slapped, 1924 (first MGMovie with Leo the Lion as the trademark) and While Paris Sleeps, 1922 when Gilbert played a guy named.., Dennis O’Keefe.

  7. Henry Victor, Freaks, 1931.
    The novel. Spurs, was bought for Chaney who suddenly died in 1930. Director Tod Browning saw Victor McLaglen as Hercules, the circus strong man, before it was another Victor falling for Olga Baclanova’s avaricious trapeze artist. The notorious reality-horror film was attacked on all sides – banned in many US states (and in the UK for 32 years!).  Hardly a shock for MGM after its own executives complained about lunching in the same canteen as the cast of real bearded ladies, bird girls, hermaphrodites, human skeletons, midgets, pinheads, Siamese twins… and the limbless Prince Randian striking a match with his face to light his cigarette. (They were moved to a tent outside). The film ruined Browning – until being continually revived as one of the all-time Hollywood classics.

  8. Wallace Beery, The Bugle Sounds, 1942. Last of the four film trying to survive without The Man of a 1,000 Faces. As people said in those days: Don’t step on it – it might be Lon Chaney!


 Birth year: 1883Death year: 1930Other name: Casting Calls:  8