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Profile of the Day: Lon Chaney

On this day in 1883, stage and silent film actor Lon Chaney was born. Known for his versatility and physical transformations for each role, Chaney was dubbed “The Man of a Thousand Faces.”

Image: Lon Chaney / Wikimedia Commons

Chaney was born Leonidas Frank Chaney on April 1, 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both of his parents, Frank H. Chaney and Emma Alice Kennedy, were deaf and as a result, Chaney was skilled at communicating through his hands and facial expressions.

He began his career on stage before transitioning to film as an extra in numerous films for Universal Studios. His background in theater made him adept at using makeup to change his appearance, a skill that would ultimately set him apart as a leading star in Hollywood. Chaney would become known for his ability to transform his appearance through his groundbreaking makeup techniques and captive performances in silent horror films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera.

Like many silent film actors at the time, Chaney was resistant to transitioning to talking films. In 1930, he filmed his one and only talking role, a remake of the film The Unholy Three. Shortly after the film’s release, Chaney died on August 26, 1930 at the age of 47.

Explore Lon Chaney’s family tree on Geni and share your connection to the film star.

View Lon Chaney’s Geni Profile

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