Monday, May 31, 2010
A bit of the Creeper... Rondo Hatton
Rondo K. Hatton was the only child born to Stewart Price and Emily Zarring Hatton (both of which were born in Missouri and were Teachers) on April 22, 1894 in Hagerstown, Maryland. The family moved several times during Rondo's youth, to Hickory, North Carolina, and to Charles Town, West Virginia, and at last relocated to Tampa, Florida where he spent his high school years. The Family moved to Florida to work in a family owned business. Rondo was a popular student and a good athlete, especially in football. Following his father's death, Hatton, his mother, and his younger brother Stewart moved in with his maternal grandmother in Tampa. There he obtained work as a sportswriter for the local newspaper. He would join the Florida National Guard and fought in the Mexican Border War and in France in World War I. Rondo was exposed to Mustard Gas while serving in France and was hospitalized with lung injury which eventually led to a medical discharge and a consigned to a pension. After he was discharged he returned to Florida and became a reporter for the Tampa Tribune. On April 15, 1926 Rondo Married Elizabeth Immell James. Somewhere along this point Rondo developed an ailment known a s acromegaly, it was thought to be due to the Mustard Gas Exposer. Rondo and Elizabeth were divorced on April 15, 1926, it is thought to be due to his acromegaly. Rondo had been reported to be voted the handsomest boy in his High School, eventually became severely disfigured by the disease.
In 1930 while still in Tampa, Rondo was covering the filming of 'Hell Harbor' for his paper and was noticed by director Henry King. King offered Rondo a part in the film 'Hell Harbor'. On September 29, 1934 Rondo married Mabel Housh. In 1936, Rondo and Mabel headed for Hollywood, with the acromegaly (enlarged hands, feet, facial features and internal and external soft tissues), he landed small parts as 'The Leper' in 'The Moon and Sixpence', the 'Hunchback' in 'Sleepy Lagoon' and 'a contestant in an ugly-man contest' in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. In 1944, Rondo got the role as 'Hoston 'The' Creeper' in the Sherlock Holmes film 'The Pearl of Death'. This role came after almost a decade in Hollywood. With the role as 'The Creeper', Universal saw potential as a horror film star. Rondo's career only last two more years and he starred in 'House of Horror and The Brute Man.
Around Christmas 1945 Rondo had a mild heart attack (heart weekness along with diabetes and blindness are common to acromegaly) and seemed to recover, but one month later Rondo suffered a fatal one. Rondo died February 2, 1946 in Beverly Hills, CA of a sever Heart Attack due to his acromegaly at the age of 51. Rondo's body was sent back to Tampa to be buried.
Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray was so interested in Haton's Life that he wrote a very nice article "Rondo Hatton: Monster Man". Also touched by Rondo was Rick Baker (Master Make-up Man). In 1991 while working on 'The Rocketeer" He made actor Tiny Ron have a Hattonesque likensess as homage to 'The Creeper'.
I have always thought that there was so many good films that Rondo could have helped with and probably many that we have never imagined.