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An Informative Historical Research Essay On The Lon Chaney Classic "The Wolf Man"

2108 words - 9 pages

The "Wolf Man" Cometh.A Retrospective by Daniel NobleThe Universal monster films of the late 1930s and early 1940s, were quite a unique phenomenon. Although popular with audiences upon their initial release, they did not reach the height of their commercial appeal until the 1950s, when they reappeared on late night television, and spawned a completely new generation of fandom. Children of the 1950s and 60s, went "monster crazy", and along with screenings of "Frankenstein", "The Wolf Man" and "Dracula" on TV, came publications such as Famous Monsters of Filmland and Eerie not to mention countless others. It was thanks to the immense revisiting of these films, that we can attribute the popular ...view middle of the document...

This press book stated "A potential star is uncovered in the person of Lon Chaney, whose father, the late Lon Chaney, Sr. appeared in "The Phantom of the Opera"...and other early horror successes at the same studio"1. To understand the importance of the above statement, one must first be able to comprehend the scope of the popularity of the original Lon Chaney. Deemed the "Man of a Thousand Faces", Chaney, Sr., was one of the most celebrated actors of his era, noted for his ability to transform himself with the aid of self-applied makeup. Naturally this gift for transformation came into good use when starring in such classic silent Horror films as "Phantom of the Opera", "The Monster", and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".Lon Chaney Sr. died in 1930, at the height of his popularity, leaving the film world without its most lauded master of screen horror, and the studio without one of their major sources of revenue. A decade later when "The Wolf Man" began production, it must have came as little surprise, at least to those with any exposure to the often inventive tactics of film marketers, that the role of Larry Talbot, who in makeup became "The Wolf Man", was to be filled by the offspring of the fondly remembered Lon Chaney Sr. It is not widely known that the junior Lon Chaney's actual birth name was Creighton, having changed it only after the actor decided to follow the same career path of his successful deceased father. With a name like Lon Chaney, it quickly became apparent how studio execs would exploit the invaluable lineage of the young actor. With only one other notable film to his credit, 1939's "Of Mice and Men" (as Lennie), Chaney was thrust into a career strikingly similar to his father's, portraying monsters under heavy makeup. Another not so random coincidence occurred with the release of "The Wolf Man", it was the first time the "Jr." was dropped from Chaney's name, signifying the hope Universal had in the actor's ability to channel his father's image, which would hopefully result in similar box office receipts to the classic films of Chaney, Sr.If there was one star of "The Wolf Man", other then Lon Chaney Jr., it was no doubt the striking makeup work provided by Jack Pierce. Prior to the release of "The Wolf Man", Universal realized the appeal that Mr. Pierce's expertise had among audience members. In Universal Press materials, Pierce, also responsible for the makeup design in previous hits, such as "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy", was credited with spending".... five years researching werewolves, and worked for five months to find the correct combination of rubber, color and hair to create the character of "The Wolf Man"2According to the famed makeup artist Rick Baker, in an interview for the documentary "Monster by Moonlight", Jack Pierce was the subject of many press articles upon the release of his films, and many of the stills associated with the movie's release, feature the actors relaxing in their makeup chair as Pierce applies...

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