Day 279 of Colourisation Project – February 10
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
What do the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein and Dracula have in common? Lon Chaney Jr., one of Hollywood’s most versatile and emblematic horror film stars of the 1940s. He was the only actor to play all of the ‘big four’ monsters.
Born this day, February 10, 1906, he was christened Creighton Tull Chaney and was the son of the iconic silent film actor Lon Chaney, who starred in silent film classics such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and Phantom of the Opera (1925).
At the behest of a producer wishing to capitalize on the reputation of his famous father, Chaney Jr. was compelled to adopt his father’s name for the titular role in The Wolf Man (1941) and other monsters films produced by Universal Studios.
Chaney appeared in over 150 movies spanning four decades, from 1931 to 1971. Although he spent much of his life chasing his father’s fame, Chaney was much loved by a new generation of movie goers who had never seen his father.
Though Chaney became typecast as a ‘monster’; he played the Wolf Man five times in a string of sequels; Kharis the mummy, three times in The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) and The Mummy’s Curse (1944); the Frankenstein Monster once in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942); and Dracula once in House of Dracula (1945); Chaney is perhaps best remembered for his role of the slow-witted, Lennie Small in the 1939 film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1939).
By the 1950s, he was established as a star in low-budget horror films and as a reliable character actor in ‘A’ grade, big-budget films such as High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper and The Defiant Ones (1958) with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.
Lon Chaney Jnr. was a heavy drinker and smoker and ultimately died of heart failure and throat cancer at age 67 on July 12, 1973 in San Clemente, California. His body was donated for medical research, and his liver and lungs kept in specimen jars as examples of the damage caused by excessive alcohol and tobacco.
“The trouble with most of the monster pictures today is that they go after horror for horror’s sake. There’s no motivation for how monsters behave. There’s too much of that science-fiction baloney.” ~ Lon Chaney Jnr.