Lon Chaney once said, “My whole career has been devoted to keeping people from knowing me.” On account of that, many people did not know the man behind the thousand faces. In the silent film era, Hollywood entrusted the screen to charming, handsome men to dominate theaters. Chaney, a big star in his own right, took a different direction from heartthrob Hollywood. He gravitated toward roles that portrayed him as something other than normal. Much like Johnny Depp of my generation, he sought out to change his appearance in roles that ranged from pirates to gangstas to vampires. He was dubbed, “The Man of a Thousand Faces.”
Much of his success could be because of his upbringing. As a child of deaf parents, he learned sign language and facial expressions to communicate. This graphic novel briefly touches upon his upbringing and how even his first wife cringed when she discovered his parents were deaf-thinking their unborn child could inherit it and that it equaled to being dumb. A weakness. He went on to prove that wrong.
I also learned about the pain he went through for his roles. In his move THE PENALTY, he played a man with amputated legs. He had to basically bend his legs back and stuff his knees into buckets during filming. In THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, he wore a 70-pound pack on his back. It was amazing to read how much he loved his work and what he was willing to sacrifice for it.
LON CHANEY SPEAKS also touches upon Lon’s aversion to fame, and how he hated interviews and publicity. He would much rather stay behind the scenes or behind his masks. I could relate to that. He was such a private man that nobody knew his life, his history, or even how many movies he’d actually starred in. I loved getting to know the man behind the mask. I remember watching HUNCHBACK in high school, and although I did not know his name, I knew the actor who played Quasimodo was pure genius. If he hadn’t died of lung cancer, how far would his career have gone? He was just getting started, and with Hollywood jumping into a new era, I’m sure he would have thrived.
What I loved about this novel were the scenes that cut into the story that portrayed Lon acting in his movies. it was a superb way to honor his career. Pat Dorian does an excellent job of sprinkling on both sides of his lives, his heartache, and also his joy. It was a pleasure to be able to read and review this book and I look forward to whatever Pat does in the future.
Thank you, Pantheon, for entrusting my review on this wonderful book.