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The Films of
Lon Chaney

By Michael F. Blake

 

BOOK REVIEW

The Films of Lon Chaney
By Michael F. Blake

Madison Books : Lanham, Maryland : 2001
ISBN 1-5683-3237-8 : 304 pages : trade paperback : $18.95
The name Lon Chaney evokes images of grotesque hunchbacks, ancient Chinese, tough-as-nails gangsters, vampires in top-hats, man-apes, murderous musicians, armless circus performers and more. The name of Michael F. Blake evokes the name of Lon Chaney for anyone familiar with the three books and handful of articles Blake has written on the man of a thousand faces. Blake’s book The Films of Lon Chaney has now been published in paperback by Madison Books.

Blake has catalogued the films of Lon Chaney in listings that include the film title, production information, cast listings, a synopsis of the film written by Blake, contemporary reviews, and notes which include the archival locations of surviving prints of Chaney films. The book includes a few revelations in the form of films previously unidentified as Chaney films. A section notes several ‘unrealized projects’ that were announced as Chaney films but left unstarted and incomplete. Also included are more than 100 well-reproduced photographs from Chaney films and more.

While the book makes a great reference work to be consulted from time to time, those who read the entire contents reap extra benefits. Those readers gain additional insights into the story trends of films of the 1910s and 1920s produced by the companies Chaney worked for, contemporary critical reception trends of the individual films and of Chaney’s performances, and an overview of the proclivities of film critics of the period.

This excellent book is a must-have reference work, extensively and reliably researched, with portions of the filmography that document the contemporary reviews of the films and Blake’s own notes on the films. These notes make fascinating reading for both silent film enthusiasts in general and Chaney fans in particular. The Films of Lon Chaney is a valuable part of the trilogy collection of Michael F. Blake books on Lon Chaney and we recommend it highly.

 
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