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Lon Chaney Jr (1906-1973)

 

  1. Charles Laughton, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1938.       Junior Lon’s ambition to play his version of his father’s celebrated 1923 Quasimodo nearly happanened. He was rushed into tests when it the IRS (income tax) authorities might ban Laughton from working in the US. Also seen for the hunchback were Bela Lugosi, Robert Morley, Claude Rains and even Orson Welles. Laughton became available when his Cyrano de Bergerac collapsed at MGM. . 
  2. Bela Lugosi, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, 1943.      Universal plan for the son of The Man of 1,000 Faces to supply two in one film The leads took up too much time- in make-up. And time is money... Dracula filled in as The Monster - the role he foolishly fled from  in the original 1930 Frankenstein.  The (mute) role lasted five minutes and six seconds, plus further two minutes of Lugosi doubled by stuntman Gil Perkins.
  3. Claude Rains, Phantom of the Opera, 1943.       Obvious Universal thinking. Let’s put Junior in his Dad’s old 1925 role of Erique Claudin, aka The Phantom. Hmm, said Junior, let's not!
  4. Robert Mitchum, The Red Pony, 1948.   Eight years earlier, director Lewis Milestone was planning a reunion of Junior Lon and Burgess Meredeith - the brothers from Of Mice and Men, also written by John Steinbeck.
  5. James Whitmore, Across The Wide Missouri, 1951.    Switching Old Bill was a purely monetary decision. Whitmore was under contract to MGM and, therefore, cheaper than an outsider like Junior Lon. 
  6. William Bendix, The Life of Riley, TV, 1953-1958.  The malapropismistic  factory worker was a radio hit  for Bendix in the 40s, leading to a series for the new fangled television during 1945-1951.  Junior Lon was to head a second series, but dropped after the piilot  when Bendix reclaimed his glory.  Anyway, Chaney was far too  busy - making 30 screen roles during the timespan of the  Riley’s seconde life. 
  7. John Carradine, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex * But Were Afraid To Ask, 1971.       Woody Allen didn’t seem to get any further than the C pages to find his insane sex researcher with a lab assistant named… Igor!  After sports commentator Howard Cosellpassed and before Carradine agreed, Woody talked with Chaney - feeling like a fan, “sitting across from the Wolf Man!”  (Not to mention,  Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy  and The Son  of Dracula – only actor to play all four cult roles). During, 1936-1966, Junior Lon and Carradine made eleven horrors together. The best-selling author, Dr David Reuben (150m copies sold in 52 countries) hated the film but then Woody’s parody of the sex manual was his revenge on Reuben for stealing one of his Take The Money And Run jokes on TV. Johnny Carson: “Is sex dirty?” Reuben: “It is if you’re doing it right.”

 





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