Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

DailyView: Day 243, Movie 338

Former Vaudevillian and silent picture star Lon Chaney was known as the Man of 1000 Faces for his ability to create characters with wild made up faces and masks. He became a legend for being a “mystery man” and a horror icon.

In this biopic, Lon Chaney (James Cagney) and his life is examined from his early days as a child in a home where his father and mother were both deaf to his career in motion pictures.

The first part of the film dealt with his first marriage to Cleva (Dorothy Malone), a singer who became pregnant with Lon’s son. However, when Lon took her to meet his family, Cleva responded with anger and repulsion over Lon’s parents’ disability and she claimed that she did not want to have a baby that had this passed along to her.

I found Cleva totally horrible. I hated this character so much because of her ugliness of spirit and her ignorant mind. She was selfish and mean-spirited, even after the baby was born with his hearing. The film tried to rehabilitate the character at the end of the movie, but her cruelness in the first half did not make me think any better of her.

There were some horrible things that happened to Lon during this time frame of the film, including having the custody of his son taken by the state until he could provide a suitable home, which was another thing that I found terrible. This was the emphasis for Lon to leave Vaudeville and head to California to get work in pictures.

James Cagney is great as Lon Chaney. I believed him as the actor from the minute I saw him and he does a bunch of physical acting, including dancing, that makes him stand out and shows what a talented person Lon Chaney was.

Cleva was the character I hated most in movies this year. I had a much softer place in my heart for Norman Osborn {Spider-Man spoilers} after he killed Aunt May {End of Spoilers} than I did for this woman. There had to be some form of mental illness involved in this woman’s life that could have helped suss her out more and help the audience understand why she took the extreme steps she took instead of what we got to see.

I found this picture to be an excellent movie and I learned a lot about the life of Lon Chaney. The film may have been 10-15 minutes too long, but that is a minor gripe.

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