10.22.2013

LON CHANEY JR: FILM STAR OF WOLFMAN


Lon Chaney, Jr. (February 10, 1906 – July 12, 1973), born Creighton Tull Chaney, son of famous silent film actor Lon Chaney, was an American actor best known for playing Larry Talbot in the 1941 film The Wolf Man and its various crossovers, as well as portraying other monsters such as The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and Count Alucard in numerous horror films produced by Universal Studios. He is also notable for portraying Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men.

Originally referenced in films as Creighton Chaney, he was later credited as "Lon Chaney, Jr." in 1935. Chaney had English, French and Irish ancestry.


Married twice, Chaney had two sons, Lon Ralph Chaney (born July 3, 1928) and Ronald Creighton Chaney (born March 18, 1930), both now deceased. He is survived by a grandson, Ron Chaney, who attends film conventions and discusses his grandfather's life and film career.

 
Chaney was well liked by some co-workers – "sweet" is the adjective that most commonly emerges from those who acted with, and liked him – yet he was capable of intense dislikes. For instance, he and frequent co-star Evelyn Ankers did not get along at all despite their on-camera chemistry.

 
He was also known to befriend younger actors and stand up for older ones who Chaney felt were belittled by the studios. One example was that of William Farnum, a silent star who played a bit part in The Mummy's Curse. According to co-star Peter Coe, Chaney demanded that Farnum be given his own chair on the set and be treated with respect, or else he would walk off the picture.


Chaney is also said to have had a belligerent relationship with actor Martin Kosleck; years after the fact, Kosleck explained this as a case of jealousy over Kosleck's (self-described) superior talent.

Chaney had run-ins with actor Frank Reicher (whom he nearly strangled on camera in The Mummy's Ghost) and director Robert Siodmak (over whose head Chaney broke a vase).[4] Actor Robert Stack claimed in his 1980 biography that Chaney and drinking buddy Broderick Crawford were known as "the monsters" around the Universal Pictures lot because of their drunken behavior that frequently resulted in bloodshed.


Chaney died of heart failure at age 67 on July 12, 1973 in San Clemente, California.[7] His body was donated for medical research.[8] Chaney's corpse was dissected by medical students, and the medical school kept his liver and lungs in jars as specimens of what extreme alcohol and tobacco abuse can do to human organs. There is no grave to mark his final resting place.

He was honored by appearing as the Wolf Man on one of a 1997 series of United States postage stamps depicting movie monsters. His grandson Ron Chaney Jr. frequently appears as a guest at horror movie conventions.


Evelyn Ankers and Lon Chaney Jr. in a publicity photo for
GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942)

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