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Lon Chaney

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(Courtesy Denver Silent Film Festival)
Colorado Springs native Lon Chaney in the 1925 silent film “Phantom of the Opera.”
Lon Chaney

He was called “the man of 1000 faces.” Lon Chaney was born in Colorado Springs in 1883. The child of deaf parents and grandson of the founder of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, Chaney mastered pantomime at a young age. After a start as prop boy at the Colorado Springs Opera House, he became an actor – first vaudeville stages, then Hollywood during the era when body language and facial expressions did the talking.

In film after film, using makeup and sometimes torturous costumes, he played the role of the outsider with conviction: strapping his shins behind him to become a man with no legs, bending his nose upward with wire for the skull-like face of the Phantom of the Opera, and harnessing 50 lbs to his shoulders as the Hunchback of Notre Dame. And he did it all for more than shock value. As Chaney wrote, “the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice.”

About Colorado Postcards

Colorado Postcards

Colorado Postcards are snapshots of our colorful state in sound. They give brief insights into our people and places, our flora and fauna, and our past and present, from every corner of Colorado.