Acromegaly is a condition that develops in some people when they’re adults. It’s hard to pronounce, and even harder to live with. The actor Paul Benedict, who played Mr. Bentley on The Jeffersons had it. And so did Universal horror star Rondo Hatton.
Ironically Rondo had been voted the most handsome guy of his graduating class in school. But as a teen, he hadn’t begun to show signs of the disease, which is caused by an excessive growth hormone. It tends to enlarge one’s facial features, hands and feet. As the disease continues, these features become increasingly grotesque in appearance. In college Rondo studied writing and journalism. His work as a journalist is what led him into the movies. But he still had a more normal-looking appearance then.
It was in 1930 when director Henry King was filming a motion picture in Florida when Rondo was ‘discovered.’ He and King hit it off, and King cast him in an uncredited role in HELL HARBOR. There was another small role in a different film the following year, but Rondo continued to work as a journalist. He stayed in touch with King who invited him out to Hollywood five years later and cast him in an Alice Faye picture at Fox.
At this point, Rondo decided to give acting a shot full-time. He found a series of roles, mostly uncredited, where he played characters that were supposed to be somewhat frightening on screen. He was cast in roles that took advantage of his now evident facial deformities. Besides his work at Fox, Rondo was also directed by Henry King’s brother Lou at Paramount. Plus there was a memorable turn at RKO where he appeared in a scene with Charles Laughton in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.
After this he moved over to Universal, a studio known for its horror films. Universal understood that with his looks he could authentically play villains in its B crime flicks and assorted chillers. Soon Rondo appeared in two Sherlock Holmes movies. In one of them he was a scary bad guy named ‘The Creeper,’ a character that was re-used in a separate film series. Rondo was basically dying of acromegaly at the time, but he managed to make two Creeper horror flicks, which were released after his death. In later years Rondo and his image took on a cult status, and he is not forgotten.
- the pearl of death (1944); universal; crime; basil rathbone; 69 mins.
- the jungle captive (1945); universal; horror; otto kruger; 63 mins.
- the spider woman strikes back (1946); universal; horror; gale sondergaard; 59 mins.
- house of horrors (1946); universal; horror; robert lowery; 65 mins.
- the brute man (1946); universal; horror; tom neal; 58 mins.