Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer

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I recently set aside some time to watch all six of Universal’s Inner Sanctum Mystery films starring Lon Chaney Jr. Seeing these relatively short (60-67 minute) B-movies back to back over a couple of days was a joy and I found new things to admire and appreciate about the film’s leading man. But afterward I made the mistake of scouring through various film books and poking around websites looking for background information about the movies and I really shouldn’t have bothered. What I found angered me, then it depressed me and finally it just made me sad so I decided to share my frustration with you, dear readers.

I knew that the Inner Sanctum Mystery films had plenty of critics who didn’t appreciate these low-budget productions with minimal thrills and chills but I wasn’t prepared for some of the thoughtless scorn I saw hurled at them. One complaint that was leveled at these films over and over again was the apparent miscasting of Lon Chaney Jr. as a romantic figure. Critics seemed to revel in coming up with new ways to insult and degrade Chaney’s physical appearance and acting abilities while continually pointing out how utterly absurd it was to have him playing an unassuming lady’s man and an object of desire. After enjoying these films and appreciating the way Chaney was cast against type, I found these comments particularly painful to read. After all, these films were made between 1943- 1945 and Chaney’s lifelong battle with alcoholism and reoccurring health problems hadn’t taken their toll yet but many critics were all too eager to pigeonhole the broad-shouldered, soft spoken and sad eyed actor as a dimwitted lump and a crude brute that women couldn’t possibly find appealing. While Chaney might not be conventionally handsome by today’s standards or anyone’s idea of a typical matinee idol, he was an attractive man at one time with his own kind of charm. His boyish good looks may have started to fade by the 1940s as he finally gained the kind of roles that would make him a star but his natural charisma was always evident. Was Lon Chaney Jr. a lady killer? Not exactly, unless you count the dead bodies he may have left in his wake while playing various monsters and mad men but he also wasn’t the mindless murdering oaf that he was forced to depict throughout most of his career thanks to his unforgettable portrayal of Lennie Small in OF MICE AND MEN (1939).

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I grew up watching and loving the Universal monster movies and THE WOLF MAN (1945) has always held a special place in my movie loving heart thanks to Chaney’s nuanced and deeply moving portrayal of the doomed Larry Talbot. My admiration for Chaney’s unique talents continued to grow over the decades as I was exposed to more and more of his work. I’ve enjoyed watching the actor appear in everything from gangster pictures (THE SHADOW OF SILK LENNOX, EYES OF THE UNDERWORLD) to westerns (HIGH NOON, THE INDIAN FIGHTER) and dramas (NOT A STRANGER, THE DEFIANT ONES) but I’m particularly fond of the numerous horror pictures and thrillers he appeared in. The Inner Sanctum Mystery films (CALLING DR. DEATH, WEIRD WOMAN, DEAD MAN’S EYES, THE FROZEN GHOST, STRANGE CONFESSION and PILLOW OF DEATH) are special because they gave Chaney the opportunity to play a variety of roles at a time when he was just hitting his stride as an actor. These quickly cobbled together B-movies were made in a couple of weeks and were never intended to make a huge profit or win any awards but they were surprisingly successful. That was partially due to Chaney’s star appeal and his ability to play a sympathetic man often caught up in strange circumstances beyond his control. The actor had grown up in the shadow of his hugely successful and domineering father who insisted that his son avoid show business and get an education as well as what he considered “real” work experience but young Chaney had always longed to follow in his father’s big footsteps. Chaney Jr. held various menial jobs before he finally broke into acting in the early 1930s following his father’s death but it would take another decade before his talent was recognized. It was after producers insisted that he change his name to Lon (his birth name was Creighton) followed by his breakout role as the simpleminded Lennie Small in OF MICE AND MEN that finally propelled Chaney Jr. into stardom. Soon afterward Universal decided to start casting him in horror films and thrillers in an attempt to cash in on his family name. His first monster movie for Universal was MAN MADE MONSTER (1941) and that was quickly followed by his iconic role in THE WOLF MAN (1941). During the 1920s Universal had produced a hugely successful string of beloved horror classics starring Chaney’s father and the studio continued to produce crowd pleasing horror films in 1930s starring European and British performers such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Claude Rains. But with WW2 looming and the threat of some international enemy waiting in the wings Universal was smart to invest in an American star with a familiar name. Lon Chaney Jr. was quickly embraced by horror film audiences in the 1940s that were partial to his all-American appeal and it was his sensitive portrayal of a tormented man struggling to make sense of the monster within that won him a legion of fans and admirers. THE WOLF MAN was the most successful horror film Universal released in the ‘40s and it generated a number of sequels all starring Lon Chaney Jr. who relished being able to play the misunderstood beast.

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“Out of all the characters I’ve been I like Lawrence Talbot, the wolf man, the best because he belonged only to me. The others such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the mummy I only followed. I didn’t create. I seem to identify with the wolf man. He never wanted to hurt anyone. During his period of sanity in-between full moons he begged to be confined, chained and even killed to avoid the horrible consequences of his curse. He was a classic product of misunderstanding and I knew him well.” – Lon Chaney Jr.

Unfortunately Chaney’s alcoholism eventually caught up to him but it was undoubtedly exasperated by his inability to get roles that would allow him to stretch his acting muscles. After his success in the early ‘40s, producers and directors insisted he play the dimwitted Lennie Small or the tortured Larry Talbot over and over again, which is why I find the Inner Sanctum Mystery films so much fun to watch. They gave Chaney the chance to play doctors, college professors and artists. They also allowed him to portray a devoted husband as well as a desirable man who has to parlay the advances of various female admirers. These movies are particularly fun for classic horror fans who should enjoy seeing Chaney working with some memorable leading ladies including Evelyn Ankers (THE WOLF MAN, GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, SON OF DRACULA, etc.), Anne Gwynne (THE BLACK CAT, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, TEENAGE MONSTER, etc.) and Elizabeth Russell (THE CORPSE VANISHES, CAT PEOPLE, BEDLAM, etc.). While horror fans and critics continue to debate the merit of Lon Chaney Jr. and his legacy he remains the only Universal horror star without his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When his name is mentioned today it’s often followed by a callus remark or off-color joke about his lifelong battle with alcoholism. But he’ll always be an important figure worthy of more praise in my mind who has rightfully earned his place alongside such iconic actors as his father as well as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

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Lon Chaney Jr’s appeal lies in his humble but imposing stature along with his wide and welcoming smile. He’s the boy-next-door all grown up and with nowhere to go. Like a lot of men, he’s a little awkward in his own skin and still waiting for his father’s approval that will unfortunately never come. But Chaney’s soulful puppy dog eyes are full of compassion and his deep voice communicates an endless well of emotion. The man had a good sense of humor and by all accounts was beloved by most of his costars. He also looks damn good in a tailored suit and once cut a dashing figure before the ravages of time and the toils of substance abuse took their toll. A quick glance at these photos I’ve shared makes me wonder if I’m the only person who wants to run their fingers through that dark mop of hair that sits slightly askew on his big head? Watch the Inner Sanctum Mystery films because they’re fun B-movies with a solid cast of players and some surprising twists and turns. But don’t dismiss the appeal of Lon Chaney Jr. and his pencil thin mustache. Some of us ladies find him very attractive and endlessly fascinating.

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68 Responses Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Posted By AL : April 11, 2013 4:35 pm

Thank you, Kimberly. These appreciations are long overdue…BTW: let’s not forget his hilarious turn in MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE…

Posted By AL : April 11, 2013 4:35 pm

Thank you, Kimberly. These appreciations are long overdue…BTW: let’s not forget his hilarious turn in MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE…

Posted By Dan Day, Jr. : April 11, 2013 5:13 pm

Nice to find someone who doesn’t automatically consider the Inner Sanctum series crap. Kimberly, have you thought about doing a review of all the individual Inner Sanctum entries?

Posted By Dan Day, Jr. : April 11, 2013 5:13 pm

Nice to find someone who doesn’t automatically consider the Inner Sanctum series crap. Kimberly, have you thought about doing a review of all the individual Inner Sanctum entries?

Posted By gcdb : April 11, 2013 5:34 pm

I’ve actually been thinking about Lon Chaney Jr recently after watching some of his B-films like The Alligator People, Spider Baby and Indestructible Man. I was really happy to see this thoughtful, informative piece on one of my favorite classic character actors appear. Thanks Kim!

Posted By gcdb : April 11, 2013 5:34 pm

I’ve actually been thinking about Lon Chaney Jr recently after watching some of his B-films like The Alligator People, Spider Baby and Indestructible Man. I was really happy to see this thoughtful, informative piece on one of my favorite classic character actors appear. Thanks Kim!

Posted By Gene : April 11, 2013 6:32 pm

Thanks so much for this piece. Lon Chaney, Jr and his father were two of my heroes as a little boy. I loved the Inner Sanctum series on the WGN (Denver version) series Creature Features in the early 70s. I still think back to those films and nights before the television with great fondness. Why do people/critics have to be so cruel and not appreciate the wide variety of entertainment such men as Chaney have given to us as both his and our legacy? Chaney was a very nice looking man. He should not be compared to Olivier perhaps but he did a grand job within the horror genre as well as playing Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Posted By Gene : April 11, 2013 6:32 pm

Thanks so much for this piece. Lon Chaney, Jr and his father were two of my heroes as a little boy. I loved the Inner Sanctum series on the WGN (Denver version) series Creature Features in the early 70s. I still think back to those films and nights before the television with great fondness. Why do people/critics have to be so cruel and not appreciate the wide variety of entertainment such men as Chaney have given to us as both his and our legacy? Chaney was a very nice looking man. He should not be compared to Olivier perhaps but he did a grand job within the horror genre as well as playing Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Posted By evan dorkin : April 11, 2013 6:47 pm

Enjoyed this article a lot, and I’ve always wanted to see the Inner Sanctum movies despite what some people say. I’m hard on the stuff I watch, but I can’t see spewing bile over someone like Chaney Jr. (or any actor, really, unless they do lousy things in real life). I’m always happy when he shows up in something, even if he doesn’t fit. Maybe I just liked him so much as a kid in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (he was the only regular fella monster-guy and I believed in him and hoped he’d be saved) that it made him okay in my book for life. Chaney Jr. didn’t have real range but he had presence, he could lack authority and didn’t always carry a role off but he wasn’t supposed to be a great thespian. People sit through far worse in B-films and programmers without losing their minds. Even so, The Wolfman alone would have clinched immortality for any other actor, for some reason he’s raked over the coals for having the nerve to be in other movies some disgruntled, entitled fans don’t like. Even Lugosi isn’t attacked that badly for his later career. Maybe it’s Chaney’s connection to his dad. I don’t know, but the nastiness towards him is perplexing.

Posted By evan dorkin : April 11, 2013 6:47 pm

Enjoyed this article a lot, and I’ve always wanted to see the Inner Sanctum movies despite what some people say. I’m hard on the stuff I watch, but I can’t see spewing bile over someone like Chaney Jr. (or any actor, really, unless they do lousy things in real life). I’m always happy when he shows up in something, even if he doesn’t fit. Maybe I just liked him so much as a kid in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (he was the only regular fella monster-guy and I believed in him and hoped he’d be saved) that it made him okay in my book for life. Chaney Jr. didn’t have real range but he had presence, he could lack authority and didn’t always carry a role off but he wasn’t supposed to be a great thespian. People sit through far worse in B-films and programmers without losing their minds. Even so, The Wolfman alone would have clinched immortality for any other actor, for some reason he’s raked over the coals for having the nerve to be in other movies some disgruntled, entitled fans don’t like. Even Lugosi isn’t attacked that badly for his later career. Maybe it’s Chaney’s connection to his dad. I don’t know, but the nastiness towards him is perplexing.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:40 pm

AL – Thanks Al and I’m glad you for mentioned MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE. Chaney was great in that as well as the Abbott & Costello comedies.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:40 pm

AL – Thanks Al and I’m glad you for mentioned MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE. Chaney was great in that as well as the Abbott & Costello comedies.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:44 pm

Don – I’m glad you could appreciate the Inner Sanctum films too. They were cheaply made movies but they’re a lot of fun. I had actually planned on writing about the films when I started this post but I got so annoyed by all the criticism of Chaney Jr. I came across that I decided to address that instead.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:44 pm

Don – I’m glad you could appreciate the Inner Sanctum films too. They were cheaply made movies but they’re a lot of fun. I had actually planned on writing about the films when I started this post but I got so annoyed by all the criticism of Chaney Jr. I came across that I decided to address that instead.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:49 pm

gcdb – Thanks & I’m glad you found the post informative. It’s a shame Chaney Jr. hasn’t gotten the kind of respect that his peers have.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:49 pm

gcdb – Thanks & I’m glad you found the post informative. It’s a shame Chaney Jr. hasn’t gotten the kind of respect that his peers have.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:56 pm

Gene – Thank you & I enjoyed reading your memories about growing up watching Chaney’s films. THE WOLF MAN is just plain brilliant & easily one of best (and most frightening!) films Universal produced during the ’40s and that has a lot to do with Chaney. He had his limitations but so does every actor. Can you imagine Oliver trying to play Larry Talbot? Not me! And I hope the photos I posted make it clear that Chaney was an exceptionally good looking guy. We all eventually lose our looks but few of us look as good Chaney did when he was in his 20s & early 30s.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 7:56 pm

Gene – Thank you & I enjoyed reading your memories about growing up watching Chaney’s films. THE WOLF MAN is just plain brilliant & easily one of best (and most frightening!) films Universal produced during the ’40s and that has a lot to do with Chaney. He had his limitations but so does every actor. Can you imagine Oliver trying to play Larry Talbot? Not me! And I hope the photos I posted make it clear that Chaney was an exceptionally good looking guy. We all eventually lose our looks but few of us look as good Chaney did when he was in his 20s & early 30s.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 8:05 pm

evan dorkin – Thanks Evan and I couldn’t agree more. I have no idea why so many seem to enjoy beating up on Chaney Jr. when he’s such a soft target. It really perplexes me. His “regular guy” status is really what made him so appealing & sympathetic. You felt genuine compassion for his wolf man and you’re right, that role should have guaranteed him immortality in Hollywood (including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to his father as well as Karloff and Lugosi). Universal treated him shabbily throughout his career and it seems like a lot of people are happy to continue that shameful legacy after his death.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 8:05 pm

evan dorkin – Thanks Evan and I couldn’t agree more. I have no idea why so many seem to enjoy beating up on Chaney Jr. when he’s such a soft target. It really perplexes me. His “regular guy” status is really what made him so appealing & sympathetic. You felt genuine compassion for his wolf man and you’re right, that role should have guaranteed him immortality in Hollywood (including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to his father as well as Karloff and Lugosi). Universal treated him shabbily throughout his career and it seems like a lot of people are happy to continue that shameful legacy after his death.

Posted By DBenson : April 11, 2013 8:54 pm

The name simply didn’t fit the series, giving viewers the wrong expectations even now. “Inner Sanctum” promises the supernatural doings of the radio show. So does that talking crystal ball at the opening of each film. What we get are respectable but earthbound mysteries, more for people who enjoy detective series films than Chaney’s monster fan base.

As for the ladies’ man rap, ANY leading man would look a bit silly with a series of scripts that had him defending himself from beautiful women at every turn. My suspicion is that the studio was afraid the physically imposing Chaney, with a monster persona to boot, would be too scary as a pursuer. So they made him the pursued.

Posted By DBenson : April 11, 2013 8:54 pm

The name simply didn’t fit the series, giving viewers the wrong expectations even now. “Inner Sanctum” promises the supernatural doings of the radio show. So does that talking crystal ball at the opening of each film. What we get are respectable but earthbound mysteries, more for people who enjoy detective series films than Chaney’s monster fan base.

As for the ladies’ man rap, ANY leading man would look a bit silly with a series of scripts that had him defending himself from beautiful women at every turn. My suspicion is that the studio was afraid the physically imposing Chaney, with a monster persona to boot, would be too scary as a pursuer. So they made him the pursued.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 9:16 pm

DBenson – I think it’s important to point that the Inner Sanctum MYSTERY (that final word’s important) films were popular with audiences in the ’40s and they would have been familiar with the radio show, which was actually much more of a mystery program than the “supernatural” one you’re describing. Episodes can be found here btw: http://archive.org/details/OTRR_Inner_Sanctum_Mysteries_Singles

It’s really modern critics and historians who haven’t been kind to the films and I think it’s apparent that many of them brought their own baggage or expectations to the movies.

I do like your idea that the studio may have thought Chaney would have been “too scary as a pursuer.” But I think he’s perfectly fine in them and I love seeing him play against type.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 9:16 pm

DBenson – I think it’s important to point that the Inner Sanctum MYSTERY (that final word’s important) films were popular with audiences in the ’40s and they would have been familiar with the radio show, which was actually much more of a mystery program than the “supernatural” one you’re describing. Episodes can be found here btw: http://archive.org/details/OTRR_Inner_Sanctum_Mysteries_Singles

It’s really modern critics and historians who haven’t been kind to the films and I think it’s apparent that many of them brought their own baggage or expectations to the movies.

I do like your idea that the studio may have thought Chaney would have been “too scary as a pursuer.” But I think he’s perfectly fine in them and I love seeing him play against type.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : April 11, 2013 10:03 pm

I have a certain affection for Dead Man’s Eyes, which seemed to get frequent play on late night TV in the late Sixties.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : April 11, 2013 10:03 pm

I have a certain affection for Dead Man’s Eyes, which seemed to get frequent play on late night TV in the late Sixties.

Posted By morlockjeff : April 11, 2013 10:12 pm

The young Lon Chaney Jr. was a handsome looking leading man in stills but on screen he had a doomed, haunted persona that was probably closer to the person he really was off-screen…and was too brooding for matinee idol status. I’m not sure he was ever really tested or challenged in his acting roles (Of Mice and Men was not a huge stretch for him) but I love THE WOLF MAN because it has such a Greek tragedy feel to it…the father having to kill the son and Chaney’s tortured realization of the Lycanthropy curse. The Inner Sanctum programmers are really fun though and my favorite is Weird Woman which would make a fun double feature with the remake, BURN, WITCH BURN aka NIGHT OF THE EAGLE.

Posted By morlockjeff : April 11, 2013 10:12 pm

The young Lon Chaney Jr. was a handsome looking leading man in stills but on screen he had a doomed, haunted persona that was probably closer to the person he really was off-screen…and was too brooding for matinee idol status. I’m not sure he was ever really tested or challenged in his acting roles (Of Mice and Men was not a huge stretch for him) but I love THE WOLF MAN because it has such a Greek tragedy feel to it…the father having to kill the son and Chaney’s tortured realization of the Lycanthropy curse. The Inner Sanctum programmers are really fun though and my favorite is Weird Woman which would make a fun double feature with the remake, BURN, WITCH BURN aka NIGHT OF THE EAGLE.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 10:17 pm

Peter – Dead Man’s Eyes is interesting because Chaney did so much of his acting with his eyes and the film messes with that so we get to see a side of Chaney or a quality in his performance that I found really memorable.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 10:17 pm

Peter – Dead Man’s Eyes is interesting because Chaney did so much of his acting with his eyes and the film messes with that so we get to see a side of Chaney or a quality in his performance that I found really memorable.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 10:26 pm

morlockjeff – I think some of that doomed haunted persona is evident in the photos. He’s handsome but there’s something undeniably forlorn about his looks. It’s those eyes of his! WEIRD WOMAN was my favorite of the Sanctum films as well. It was great to see another take on Leiber’s story. As for the WOLF MAN, the last time I watched it I couldn’t stop thinking about Chaney’s relationship with his own father. I’m sure some of that bubbled over into his amazing performance. It will always be one of my favorite Universal horrors and to its credit it’s still one of the scariest.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 11, 2013 10:26 pm

morlockjeff – I think some of that doomed haunted persona is evident in the photos. He’s handsome but there’s something undeniably forlorn about his looks. It’s those eyes of his! WEIRD WOMAN was my favorite of the Sanctum films as well. It was great to see another take on Leiber’s story. As for the WOLF MAN, the last time I watched it I couldn’t stop thinking about Chaney’s relationship with his own father. I’m sure some of that bubbled over into his amazing performance. It will always be one of my favorite Universal horrors and to its credit it’s still one of the scariest.

Posted By Sally Stark : April 11, 2013 11:13 pm

Thanks for the WONDERFUL article on CREIGHTON Chaney. (The name he preferred) I genuinely enjoy all the INNER SANCTUM movies and his performances in them. MY favourite was CALLING DR. DEATH…as a gifted Psychiatrist searching for the murderer of his wife, and trying to keep his own neck out of the noose.
Creighton definitely had the chops…I just wish he’d been given more of the breaks…

Posted By Sally Stark : April 11, 2013 11:13 pm

Thanks for the WONDERFUL article on CREIGHTON Chaney. (The name he preferred) I genuinely enjoy all the INNER SANCTUM movies and his performances in them. MY favourite was CALLING DR. DEATH…as a gifted Psychiatrist searching for the murderer of his wife, and trying to keep his own neck out of the noose.
Creighton definitely had the chops…I just wish he’d been given more of the breaks…

Posted By DBenson : April 12, 2013 1:41 am

Will confess I was influenced by the old Mad parody, “Outer Sanctum,” which evidently mashed up several radio shows into one monster epic of a rampaging garbage heap. Also Bill Cosby’s “chicken heart” routine, which mentioned “Inner Sanctum’s” ominous creaking door before settling in for a spoof of “Lights Out.”

But still think the guy in the crystal ball sets you up for a different kind of movie.

As you observe, this is all baggage modern audiences bring (just as we can’t watch “Of Mice and Men” without thinking of cartoon characters babbling “Which way did he go, George, which way did he go?”).

Agree that the films are enjoyable, especially when they succeed in hiding the twist. Really enjoyed how in one film Chaney’s character WAS the killer (up to the reveal, we were suckered into thinking Chaney was being framed yet again).

Posted By DBenson : April 12, 2013 1:41 am

Will confess I was influenced by the old Mad parody, “Outer Sanctum,” which evidently mashed up several radio shows into one monster epic of a rampaging garbage heap. Also Bill Cosby’s “chicken heart” routine, which mentioned “Inner Sanctum’s” ominous creaking door before settling in for a spoof of “Lights Out.”

But still think the guy in the crystal ball sets you up for a different kind of movie.

As you observe, this is all baggage modern audiences bring (just as we can’t watch “Of Mice and Men” without thinking of cartoon characters babbling “Which way did he go, George, which way did he go?”).

Agree that the films are enjoyable, especially when they succeed in hiding the twist. Really enjoyed how in one film Chaney’s character WAS the killer (up to the reveal, we were suckered into thinking Chaney was being framed yet again).

Posted By Tim Tracy : April 12, 2013 8:18 am

Great article! I’ve always felt that Chaney did not deserve the withering remarks of his critics. He’s a highly-underrated actor; I had no idea that he has no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Such a shame! He deserves better.

Posted By Tim Tracy : April 12, 2013 8:18 am

Great article! I’ve always felt that Chaney did not deserve the withering remarks of his critics. He’s a highly-underrated actor; I had no idea that he has no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Such a shame! He deserves better.

Posted By tdraicer : April 12, 2013 10:41 am

I would add Son of Dracula (though he is really Dracula, not a “son”) to the list of roles where critics have ignored what Chaney put on the screen in favor of projecting their own view of his limitations onto the performance. Chaney’s Dracula is no insult to Stoker’s character (as it has often been treated). He is cold, commanding, predatory. See, for example, the short but chilling scene where explains why he came to America to the vampire expert and the town doctor.

Posted By tdraicer : April 12, 2013 10:41 am

I would add Son of Dracula (though he is really Dracula, not a “son”) to the list of roles where critics have ignored what Chaney put on the screen in favor of projecting their own view of his limitations onto the performance. Chaney’s Dracula is no insult to Stoker’s character (as it has often been treated). He is cold, commanding, predatory. See, for example, the short but chilling scene where explains why he came to America to the vampire expert and the town doctor.

Posted By Doug : April 12, 2013 12:19 pm

tdraicer said:”ignored what Chaney put on the screen in favor of projecting their own view of his limitations onto the performance”
I think that sometimes this works the opposite way also-critics will be taken in by a starlet’s physical attributes and will declare her the next Garbo, the latest last word in acting greatness.
They overemphasize her talent in their lust; in Chaney’s case they underemphasize his talent in their contempt.
Why are they contemptuous? I think part of it might have to do with jealousy-critics back then didn’t make the buck, and here was a son handed a career (in their little minds) because of his name.
Maybe they felt he had to be twice as good as his father to earn their respect; possibly they had been savaged by his father and they saw this as their chance for payback.
Lon Chaney Jr did a fine job in the pictures mentioned above-I have the one with Abbott and Costello, and the Son of Dracula, and he does have a sadness which is perfect for those characters.
Those “Inner Sanctum” mysteries sound interesting-I may look them up.

Posted By Doug : April 12, 2013 12:19 pm

tdraicer said:”ignored what Chaney put on the screen in favor of projecting their own view of his limitations onto the performance”
I think that sometimes this works the opposite way also-critics will be taken in by a starlet’s physical attributes and will declare her the next Garbo, the latest last word in acting greatness.
They overemphasize her talent in their lust; in Chaney’s case they underemphasize his talent in their contempt.
Why are they contemptuous? I think part of it might have to do with jealousy-critics back then didn’t make the buck, and here was a son handed a career (in their little minds) because of his name.
Maybe they felt he had to be twice as good as his father to earn their respect; possibly they had been savaged by his father and they saw this as their chance for payback.
Lon Chaney Jr did a fine job in the pictures mentioned above-I have the one with Abbott and Costello, and the Son of Dracula, and he does have a sadness which is perfect for those characters.
Those “Inner Sanctum” mysteries sound interesting-I may look them up.

Posted By Morlock Medusa : April 12, 2013 12:32 pm

Great article, Kimberly! What a burden to bear being the son of Chaney, but no one can doubt that Chaney Jr. made himself into as many interesting characters as his father did, to the level of the properties he was given to work in.

His empathetic soul comes through in so many of his movies, and also the wounded quality that makes him unforgettable.

Loved reading this!

Posted By Morlock Medusa : April 12, 2013 12:32 pm

Great article, Kimberly! What a burden to bear being the son of Chaney, but no one can doubt that Chaney Jr. made himself into as many interesting characters as his father did, to the level of the properties he was given to work in.

His empathetic soul comes through in so many of his movies, and also the wounded quality that makes him unforgettable.

Loved reading this!

Posted By Jeffrey Ford : April 12, 2013 3:50 pm

Wonderful appreciation of an underrated actor and series. I’ve always loved CALLING DR. DEATH and DEAD MAN’s EYES, but then, I grew up with them on the Friday Night Fright Flicks on Channel 8 in New Haven CT so many years ago (1975 or 76). “This is the Inner Sanctum…” Great memories, of Lon Jr. and all the Universal monsters.

Posted By Jeffrey Ford : April 12, 2013 3:50 pm

Wonderful appreciation of an underrated actor and series. I’ve always loved CALLING DR. DEATH and DEAD MAN’s EYES, but then, I grew up with them on the Friday Night Fright Flicks on Channel 8 in New Haven CT so many years ago (1975 or 76). “This is the Inner Sanctum…” Great memories, of Lon Jr. and all the Universal monsters.

Posted By Patricia Nolan-Hall : April 12, 2013 5:51 pm

I’m glad you shared your sympathetic and appreciative thoughts on the man my daughter and I refer to as “our beloved Larry” and my husband calls “poor old Creighton”.

Posted By Patricia Nolan-Hall : April 12, 2013 5:51 pm

I’m glad you shared your sympathetic and appreciative thoughts on the man my daughter and I refer to as “our beloved Larry” and my husband calls “poor old Creighton”.

Posted By B Piper : April 12, 2013 8:11 pm

In the next to last picture Chaney looks like a beefed up Jim Rockford. As a kid Chaney was my favorite horror star, and i still think he’s an underrated actor with his own bluff, big-lug charisma.

Posted By B Piper : April 12, 2013 8:11 pm

In the next to last picture Chaney looks like a beefed up Jim Rockford. As a kid Chaney was my favorite horror star, and i still think he’s an underrated actor with his own bluff, big-lug charisma.

Posted By Brian : April 12, 2013 9:08 pm

I wonder if some of the criticism aimed at Lon in some roles was coupled with intimate knowledge of his boozing and run ins with certain actors like Evelyn Ankers. Lots of wild stories and I’ll admit to having it affect my perception too.

It’s kind of like watching a movie with Charlie Sheen. He can be doing a credible role but I still can’t get the public figure out of my mind.

I remember being at a film festival where an inner sanctum movie was showing and everyone was laughing. Later that day The Wolf Man was showing and the same people were applauding at classic moments throughout the film.

With the exception of a few scenes he didn’t work for me in Son of Dracula but he he was still credible. Still, instead of seeing Dracula I just saw the big lug persona throughout most of the film.

Posted By Brian : April 12, 2013 9:08 pm

I wonder if some of the criticism aimed at Lon in some roles was coupled with intimate knowledge of his boozing and run ins with certain actors like Evelyn Ankers. Lots of wild stories and I’ll admit to having it affect my perception too.

It’s kind of like watching a movie with Charlie Sheen. He can be doing a credible role but I still can’t get the public figure out of my mind.

I remember being at a film festival where an inner sanctum movie was showing and everyone was laughing. Later that day The Wolf Man was showing and the same people were applauding at classic moments throughout the film.

With the exception of a few scenes he didn’t work for me in Son of Dracula but he he was still credible. Still, instead of seeing Dracula I just saw the big lug persona throughout most of the film.

Posted By Richard Brandt : April 12, 2013 10:33 pm

Chaney is so great in the Abbott & Costello flick because he plays it dead earnest, totally oblivious to Lou’s clowning; he’s like the dramatic straight man for the movie, while Lugosi’s Count is given some choice punch lines.

Posted By Richard Brandt : April 12, 2013 10:33 pm

Chaney is so great in the Abbott & Costello flick because he plays it dead earnest, totally oblivious to Lou’s clowning; he’s like the dramatic straight man for the movie, while Lugosi’s Count is given some choice punch lines.

Posted By Christine in GA : April 13, 2013 12:03 am

At last! So glad that others appreciate the late great Lon Chaney, Jr., (Creighton) as much as me. I think he was “hot” (I also find Robert Ryan and Sterling Hayden quite attractive). He was a manly man and he did look great in those suits! I love those pictures you included, Kimberly, and thank you so much! My favorite was the one autographed Creighton Chaney…WOW. I have the Inner Sanctum set and I’ve seen a couple of them and they are pretty decent. I think I got them through Amazon and they are reasonably priced. He was superb as the Wolf Man in all the wolf man movies and never got the recognition he deserved. Thanks again.

Posted By Christine in GA : April 13, 2013 12:03 am

At last! So glad that others appreciate the late great Lon Chaney, Jr., (Creighton) as much as me. I think he was “hot” (I also find Robert Ryan and Sterling Hayden quite attractive). He was a manly man and he did look great in those suits! I love those pictures you included, Kimberly, and thank you so much! My favorite was the one autographed Creighton Chaney…WOW. I have the Inner Sanctum set and I’ve seen a couple of them and they are pretty decent. I think I got them through Amazon and they are reasonably priced. He was superb as the Wolf Man in all the wolf man movies and never got the recognition he deserved. Thanks again.

Posted By DBenson : April 13, 2013 1:30 am

Will join the defenders of Son of Dracula. Chaney’s vampire is not a seducer; he’s been getting his way for centuries on the basis of pure power and naturally has trouble concealing his contempt for human cattle. His identity as an old world aristocrat is used to explain and often excuse his arrogance; you can imagine him impaling peasants out of pique.

Chaney might have been too crude for polite English drawing rooms, but in SOD’s noirish world he was quite at home. There, civilization was no defense against a bully at the door or a mystery in the night.

Posted By DBenson : April 13, 2013 1:30 am

Will join the defenders of Son of Dracula. Chaney’s vampire is not a seducer; he’s been getting his way for centuries on the basis of pure power and naturally has trouble concealing his contempt for human cattle. His identity as an old world aristocrat is used to explain and often excuse his arrogance; you can imagine him impaling peasants out of pique.

Chaney might have been too crude for polite English drawing rooms, but in SOD’s noirish world he was quite at home. There, civilization was no defense against a bully at the door or a mystery in the night.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : April 13, 2013 1:47 am

For most of my life I’ve been a big lug, so Lon Chaney, Jr. has always been close to my heart. It’s nice to read a fresh perspective on his singular talents.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : April 13, 2013 1:47 am

For most of my life I’ve been a big lug, so Lon Chaney, Jr. has always been close to my heart. It’s nice to read a fresh perspective on his singular talents.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 13, 2013 1:26 pm

Thanks to everyone who’s taking time to comment & share their thoughts about Lon Chaney Jr. and his movie roles! After reading a lot of negative stuff it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my appreciation of the man and the movies he made.

I’m very fond of SON OF DRACULA myself but it’s another film (and Chaney Jr. performance) that often gets dismissed even though the movie has a lot to offer. Love how the film is shot and it smartly plays with WW2 related fears of the time and I find Chaney effective for reasons different from Lugosi. Chaney’s physical strength and quiet menace scared me silly when I was a kid but now I can appreciate the melancholy aspect he brings to the role. As many of us have mentioned, Chaney has a wounded quality that works within the confines of the horror genre perfectly. I’ve always considered him one of Universal’s great horror icons so it’s frustrating that he’s never actually gotten the respect from Hollywood as well critics and film historians that his peers have.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 13, 2013 1:26 pm

Thanks to everyone who’s taking time to comment & share their thoughts about Lon Chaney Jr. and his movie roles! After reading a lot of negative stuff it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my appreciation of the man and the movies he made.

I’m very fond of SON OF DRACULA myself but it’s another film (and Chaney Jr. performance) that often gets dismissed even though the movie has a lot to offer. Love how the film is shot and it smartly plays with WW2 related fears of the time and I find Chaney effective for reasons different from Lugosi. Chaney’s physical strength and quiet menace scared me silly when I was a kid but now I can appreciate the melancholy aspect he brings to the role. As many of us have mentioned, Chaney has a wounded quality that works within the confines of the horror genre perfectly. I’ve always considered him one of Universal’s great horror icons so it’s frustrating that he’s never actually gotten the respect from Hollywood as well critics and film historians that his peers have.

Posted By robbushblog : April 15, 2013 10:26 am

It is crazy to think that Ryan Seacrest and Mary Hart have stars on the Hollywood walk of Fame and one of the classic Universal monsters does not. Some people have multiple stars on the Walk of Fame, like Gene Autry and Tony Martin. What must be done to get a star for a star? It’s all political, I know, but what is the process? Does anyone know?

Posted By robbushblog : April 15, 2013 10:26 am

It is crazy to think that Ryan Seacrest and Mary Hart have stars on the Hollywood walk of Fame and one of the classic Universal monsters does not. Some people have multiple stars on the Walk of Fame, like Gene Autry and Tony Martin. What must be done to get a star for a star? It’s all political, I know, but what is the process? Does anyone know?

Posted By Heidi : April 15, 2013 11:32 am

Awesome post! I am horrified at the negative press he reveived. I have alsways enjoyed him as an actor, and really like the roles he played in that were not the Monster roles. I think he did a fine job. I actually thought he was quite handsome, and these images just reinforce that!

Posted By Heidi : April 15, 2013 11:32 am

Awesome post! I am horrified at the negative press he reveived. I have alsways enjoyed him as an actor, and really like the roles he played in that were not the Monster roles. I think he did a fine job. I actually thought he was quite handsome, and these images just reinforce that!

Posted By George : August 19, 2013 5:20 pm

I watched THE FROZEN GHOST the other night on YouTube. Hadn’t seen it since the ’70s and it’s still a fun little mystery, which can be watched in a little over an hour. I think of Chaney and the gorgeous Evelyn Ankers as the Gable and Crawford of Universal horror and suspense.

Posted By Bob Golden : June 24, 2014 9:54 pm

I can’t believe he doesn’t have a star. He was the best Wolf Man as far as I’m concerned and I have watched all his horror movies. I purchased the Inner Sanctum set and thoroughly enjoyed it. Someone should start a campaign to get this man the star he deserves and is entitled to.

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