The brilliant reveal of Lon Chaney as the Phantom - some of the best makeup work in film history

My DVR is going nuts today as I record 9 films in the next 24 hours.  It’s Lon Chaney Day on TCM and if you’re not excited, you should be.  If you love film, then you should love Chaney.

I am up to the 90’s in my current two film series, but don’t think I’m not still looking back at classic films.  I was stunned to see that TCM had 9 Chaney films that I hadn’t seen and I intend to make sure I watch them.

How great is Chaney?  Well, I ranked his performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame as the third best of the 20’s and his performance in Phantom of the Opera as the sixth best.  Though I listed Emil Jannings as the best actor of the 20’s, I think now I was wrong.  In fact, since Chaplin made so few feature-length films, I think there is a strong argument to be made that Lon Chaney was the greatest actor of the Silent Era.  If you don’t believe me, then make sure you watch the films today.  They started at 6 this morning, but they go until 6 tomorrow, so you have plenty of time to catch them.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 9 AM: Oliver Twist
    • I had planned to write about Oliver Twist for my first Overlooked Film, until I realized how neglected Hunchback is on all the big lists.  But Oliver Twist is very good and Chaney is extremely good as Fagin.
  • 6:30 PM: Laugh, Clown, Laugh
    • I did write about this film here in my second installment, as the Overlooked Film of 1928.
  • 8 PM: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    More brilliant makeup for The Man of a Thousand Faces - The Hunchback.

    • I wrote about this film here in my first installment as the Overlooked Film of 1923, but really as the Overlooked Film of the Silent Era.  I ranked it the 10th best film of the 1920’s.
  • 10 PM: The Phantom of the Opera
    • The 9th best film of the 1920’s, and since four of the films above it are Foreign, that makes it the 5th best American Film of the 1920’s.  I also listed it here as the 12th best Horror Film of All-Time.  If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely need to.  It is a must-see classic.
  • 12 AM: The Unholy Three
    • One of his best performances.
  • 1:30 AM: The Unknown
    • Not as well known, but again, one of his best performances.  From Tod Browning, the director of Dracula.
  • 5 AM: London After Midnight
    • An intriguing film, again from Browning.  Much of it has been lost and filled in with titles and stills.  But what we can see is wonderful.
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