Lon Chaney

By the Sun’s Rays
R: Charles Giblyn. D: Murdock MacQuarrie, Lon Chaney, Seymour Hastings, Agnes Vernon, Richard Rosson. P: Nestor Film Company. USA 1914

“This film is thought to be the earliest surviving Chaney film.” (Silent Era)

“Born on April 1, 1883, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Leonidas Chaney was one of four children born to deaf parents (his maternal grandparents founded Colorado’s first deaf school in 1874). As a result, Chaney learned how to communicate with his hands and face while growing up, expressing a variety of emotions without ever uttering a single word. At an early age, he was familiar with what it was like to be an outsider, to be at once a part of the everyday world and simultaneously distanced from it. This, more than anything, informed his choice of roles and provided him with the sensitivity to perform each of them extraordinarily well. (…)
It is unknown how many films Chaney made during his career (the official count stands at 157), given that he appeared as an extra in numerous films at Universal Studios. He was so adept at changing his appearance with makeup — a trade he learned during his many years on the stage — that Chaney forsook the leading-man roles and went for character roles instead. During his five years at Universal, Chaney essayed numerous types of characters, a trait that would later make him famous, and occasionally wrote and directed as well. In 1919, he made his mark in The Miracle Man, in which he played a bogus cripple who, along with other criminals, takes advantage of a blind faith healer only to be swayed by the goodness of the patriarch. After this performance, Hollywood began to notice Chaney. One of his other impressive roles during this period was as the legless criminal in The Penalty (1920). To simulate a double-amputee, Chaney devised a leather harness with stumps that allowed him to strap his legs behind him and walk on his knees.”
Michael F. Blake
American Masters

“Lon Chaney began his film career in in 1913 for Independent Moving Pictures Company, Incorporated. It was not long before Chaney stood out as a supporting player, and some writers today attribute his acting skills to his early family life communicating with his deaf parents. His forte as a character actor soon required Chaney’s advancing development of increasingly exotic makeup at a time when actors applied their own foundation colors, eye and brow enhancements, wigs, beards and face-altering putties. Chaney’s experimentation with makeup eventually led to his being dubbed ‘the man of a thousand faces’, culminating with his most famous makeup achievements in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).”
Silent Era