Well, you knew him from the monster movies but what about his other films? And did you realize that he was one of classic Hollywood’s most popular good guys offscreen — often described as “sweet” — but still in all given to tippling and roughouse practical jokes.
Lon Chaney Jr. died of throat cancer and heart problems in 1973; he always was a heavy drinker, which accounts for some of his onset antics often in conjunction with fellow tippler, actor Broderick Crawford (the two known as “the monsters” at Universal).
Chaney portrayed many a screen monster as a centerpiece of Universal’s trademark horror franchises. This led to starring roles in movies although you could hardly recognize the actor that was beneath the makeup. Later in his career, Lon became a first class character actor.
So, again, how much did you know about Lon Chaney Jr.? Let’s get to our Mini-Quiz answers. To review the questions, just take a look at the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: a) True. Chaney really was key to Universal’s horror film strategy throughout the Forties, starting with 1941’s The Wolf Man. And much like Boris Karloff’s portrayal of Frankenstein, it typecast him for the rest of his career.
2) Answer: d) the 1939 movie adaptation of novelist John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Chaney was a big man who stood 6-feet-2, and weighed in at 220 pounds. He was perfectly cast as the physically strong but dimwitted ‘Lenny,’ and made quite an impression. A bit of trivia: Chaney was then considered for the role of ‘Quasimodo’ in the 1939 remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Chaney Sr. had played the part in a 1923 silent version), a role that famously went to Charles Laughton.
3) Answer: All EXCEPT d) Vampira, the character created by actress Maila Nurmi in the 1950’s. As ‘Vampira” she hosted a tv horror show, and appeared most famously in one of the most popular film fiascos of all time, Plan 9 From Outer Space. Nurmi is perhaps best known today for her friendship with the late James Dean.
4) Answer: As mentioned above, a) Broderick Crawford. He and Chaney, lifelong friends, used to enjoy their fistcuffs with one another.
5) Answer: b) False. The role of Lon Chaney (Sr.) in 1957’s biopic, Man Of A Thousand Faces, is played by James Cagney. Lon Jr. did not appear in the movie at all. (He is portrayed by four different actors including Roger Smith, perhaps best known today as Mr. Ann-Margret.) The movie’s title refers to Chaney Sr., not Chaney Jr.