In 1883, Leonidas Chaney was born in Colorado Springs, however the world would come to know him as Lon Chaney. Lon Chaney was one of the great American performers during the era of silent filmmaking. His success was due in part to the fact that he was extraordinarily skilled in his creation and application of makeup and prosthetics. But Chaney was more than just a great makeup artist. He was a highly expressive actor who utilized his entire body to create memorable characters. Though he is remembered mainly for his roles in early horror films, Chaney actually starred in films from many genres ranging from horror to westerns, from comedies to melodramas. When he died in 1930, at the age of 47, he left a gap in the industry that would never be filled.
The Ace of Hearts - 1921 (Newly scored by Vivek Maddala) A group of political dissidents target a powerful capitalist and whoever draws the Ace of Hearts will be the assassin. When the cards are dealt, Farallone (Chaney) watches in horror as his rival, Forrest is given the honor of being the assassin. But soon Farallone realizes that he has less to live for while the woman he loves, Lilith, has promised herself to Forrest. Farallone chooses to sacrifice himself so that the two lovers may be together.
The Unknown - 1927 Lon Chaney plays Alonzo, a knife throwing circus performer who supposedly has no arms (he throws the knives with his feet). In actuality he hides his arms because he has two thumbs on his left hand and this would identify him as the killer the police are looking for. Joan Crawford plays Nanon, Alonzo's beautiful assistant and the daughter of the circus owner. She has an unusual fear of being handled by men, which leads Alonzo to believe that she might fall in love with him. But one night he gets into a fight with the circus owner and strangles him. Nanon witnesses the crime but never sees the killer's face, only the two thumbs on his left hand. Alonzo decides to bribe a surgeon into amputating his arms and as he's already learned to use his feet to perform daily activities, he won't need them. The surgeon is forced to cooperate. When Alonzo returns to announce his love to Nanon, he finds that she's become engaged to the circus strongman, Malabar. The realization that he's had his arms cut off for nothing drives him into a murderous frenzy. He plots revenge on the two lovers. This strangely engaging film was directed by Tod Browning (Dracula and Freaks).
Laugh, Clown, Laugh - 1928 (Newly scored by H. Scott Salinas) Chaney plays Tito, a clown who falls in love with Simonetta, the abandoned girl that he raised (Loretta Young). But she only views him as a father figure, which breaks his heart. When she falls in love with a handsome young aristocrat, Tito is left distraught with only a clown's painted-on smile to hide his anguish.
London After Midnight - 1927 This is a photographic reconstruction of a lost film about a detective who poses as a vampire in order to uncover a murderous plot. This film was later remade as Mark of the Vampire starring Béla Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning.
This spectacular set includes the following bonus features: Three audio commentaries by Chaney biographer Michael F. Blake, photo galleries for each film, a great documentary about Chaney's life and career, two featurettes about the composers who created the new scores for Ace of Hearts and Laugh, Clown, Laugh. TCM Archives produced this terrific 2-disc set and as always Turner Classic Movies proves themselves to be a central force in the preservation and presentation of classic films. This set is a must-have for silent film enthusiasts and Chaney fans alike.
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