Entries in phantom opera (1)


Red Aries #3: Lon Chaney

The red of Aries excites and vivifies, but it also shocks and terrifies.

Actor Lon Chaney (born 1 April 1883) developed his expressivity as the child of deaf parents. The silent screen is heavily populated with Aries, which must make itself known over all obstacles. Many of the most memorable were Aries-born: Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery, Harold Lloyd, George Arliss, Fatty Arbuckle, Freddie Bartholemew, not to mention Marcel Marceau, Houdini, Bill Irwin and David Blaine; there’s no silencing Aries.
For the range of his extreme characterizations Chaney was known as the ‘Man of 1000 Faces’,  recalling Aries Joseph Campbell’s mythic ‘Hero with 1000 Faces’. (In his one talkie Chaney played a ventriloquist with five voices.)

Chaney as The Masque of the Red Death
Opposite Joan Crawford in the gruesome 1927 silent The Unknown, Cheney plays Alonzo the Armless, a circus knife thrower. He excelled at the grotesque, the Hunchback of Notre- Dame, the scarred Phantom of the Opera, pathos and grotesque deformity are his Self. The Aries unconscious teems with primitive horrors, and a distinct terror of nothingness, as if recalling the suffocation of the womb.  

Chaney's talents extended far beyond the horror genre and stage makeup. He was also a highly skilled dancer, singer and comedian. In fact, many people who did not know Chaney were surprised by his rich baritone voice and his sharp comedic skills.  

Purposefully fostering a mysterious image, he  avoided the social scene in Hollywood. He tried not to be photographed undisguised and said “Between pictures there is no Lon Chaney."

Mars-ruled Aries is partial to the military. Chaney’s portrayal of a tough-as-nails marine drill instructor in Tell It to the Marines (1926), one of his favorite films, earned him the affection of the US Marine Corps, who made him their first honorary member from the motion picture industry, and provided a chaplain and Honor Guard for his funeral. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California, next to the crypt of his father. His wife Hazel was also interred there upon her death in 1933. For unknown reasons, Chaney's crypt has remained unmarked.