Wednesday, September 5, 2007
The Art of Lon Chaney Jr.
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.
Creighton Tull Chaney in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Lon Chaney, Sr. 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 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.
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.