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Lon Chaney: A Day of Silence


Kuklapolitan

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I am fortunate that my job allows me a certain bit of independence, so I was able to watch all 16 movies yesterday, though there were some interruptions ( cat got out, worrisome friend wanting to talk about nothing). I also was able to record them all, doing it the old fashioned way on VHS. Took four tapes to get them all in, and was able to edit between movies.

I enjoy silent films, and am so glad TCM airs them. I am also very grateful that they decided to air 24 hours of the great Lon Chaney. A real treat.

I suppose one has to have an acquired taste for silent movies, and they are not for the taste of the majority. We are a society with a short attention span these days (hence the love of reality television). Audiences require action and special effects to keep their interest. We are a society that would rather play video games than to sit down and read a good book. Silent films require that one pays close attention to what is going on in order to understand the plot and the characters involved. All of us have grown up with sound, so it does take a transition when one tries to watch the silents. Most never attempt to do so, forming an opinion without ever trying to watch one; and that's too bad. Kind of like the radio station "Left of the Dial" that says, " Music for us, not for them".

 

o bad.

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I can completely understand the dislike for silents, even though I'm not in their camp. Silents are really best seen in a theater with an audience, not TV.

I was thrilled for an entire day of Lon Chaney and took the opportunity to record a few faves not included in either of my Chaney Box Sets. I took a chance and recorded "Todd Browning rarities double feature" ZANZIBAR & EAST IS EAST overnight.

 

I played the recording while on the phone with Mom who said, "I hated yesterday, I don't like being scared!" which shows just how people can wrongly pidgeonhole movies. TELL IT TO THE MARINES, nor UNHOLY THREE certainly aren't scary.

 

Reminds me of those who ask, "Is it in COLOR? I hate black & white movies."

 

Anyway, while just watching ZANZIBAR (while Mom "blah, blah, blah") I was so glad I recorded it.

 

The beauty of silent film is that you can watch them while on the phone!

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We have rules, but generally not inspectors. We aren't allowed washing machines, since all that is in the basement, but we had a case recently where someone was accused of having a washing machine. It turns out there is such a thing as a "suds quotient," so that if you put two apartments together and don't need the two kitchens, you can have a washer.

 

In any case, I'm way off topic!

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Having seen some of his earlier pix I would say the ones shown on TCM: his MGM years were a big waste. He was much better without MGM. Ace of Hearts was the best one on TCM. I dont think he did much with Fagin. It could be he had cancer the entire time with MGM as it takes a few years to kill you. The MGM stories were lame. By that I mean weak. Especially Mockery which is unwatchable.

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Do you know if the music for The Unknown was the original music? i.e. the music someone would of heard at the theater back in 27?

 

It really fit the picture. So I wonder if it was original and if so how this music 'comes with' the filim; i.e. how is the music retained so it can be shown for all time with the film. i.e was sound part of the actual film but just NOT spoken words????

 

 

 

 

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i simply loved the Chaney day- i never realized what an intense actor he was, i heard of course of his genius, but really appreciated it that day, please keep showing silents and Chaney, Gilbert and Garbo silents, they are a beautiful wonderful art form, totally different from sound.

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> jamesjazzguitar wrote: Do you know if the music for The Unknown was the original music? i.e. the music someone would of heard at the theater back in 27?

> It really fit the picture. So I wonder if it was original and if so how this music 'comes with' the filim; i.e. how is the music retained so it can be shown for all time with the film. i.e was sound part of the actual film but just NOT spoken words????

If I remember correctly, the score for THE UNKNOWN was written and performed by The Alloy Orchestra. It was commisioned after the rediscovery of this film, thought lost for many years, but re-discoved in an archive in France among other film cans with unidentified footage. Because all the cans were labeled "unknown", nobody thought that these film cans were actually the Chaney film THE UNKNOWN, but I'm glad that the finally were able to figure it out! :D

 

THE UNKNOWN was made before MGM began presenting many of its silent feature films with a musical score. The first MGM film to have its own soundtrack (music and effects only on discs) was WHITE SHADOWS IN THE SOUTH SEAS (1928). Its score was written by Dr. William Axt. Other Lon Chaney films that are presented with their original "vitaphone" style music accompaniment are WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1928) and WHERE EAST IS EAST (1929).

 

 

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I'm still disappointed that TCM did not play *THE BLACKBIRD (1926).* It is one of the best of the MGM Chaney's, Tod Browning collaborations, and it features Renee Adoree. Plus TCM has only aired the film one time in October of 2008, and I had something to do with that because originally they had a tough time finding the restoration produced with a Robert Israel score in 2005. For the guy who didn't liek *MOCKERY,* I don't get it because I had heard how bad this was, but when it debuted a couple years ago I found it to be one of Lon's most underrated films.

 

*THE UNKNOWN* is not complete. I don't know exactly how much is missing, but at least a reel and probably more is still lost. Same with *LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH.* And of course we have yet to see a true restoration of the 1925 *PHANTOM OF THE OPERA* the 1925 film is very different picture and far superior to the continuity of the 1929 re-issue which is what the Photoplay Restoration is based on. That being said. , I am glad that TCM is still running the Phtotplay Productions version with the great Carl Davis score, because it is now out of print on DVD from Image. In-fact, Image Entertainment is replacing it with a brand new version in October, and it will not have the Carl Dais music, even as an alternate track.

 

*TELL IT TO THE MARINES, THE BLACKBIRD,* and *WEST OF ZANZIBAR* have still yet to be released by Warner Archive.

 

 

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Someone tell me if I'm wrong here, but doesn't TCM usually show a version of The Phantom of the Opera with actual opera singing on the soundtrack during the bits where Carlotta and Christine sing on stage? I seem to recall that in the past (even a scream from Carlotta when the chandalier falls), but there was no singing in the version they ran the other night, just straight music.

 

Am I right?

 

ps- I liked the version with the singing better...that is, if I didn't imagine it.

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Aug 18, 2011 2:52 PM

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>The role and the (now dated) story demand some theatricality and flourish. I mean, does anyone want to see The Accountant of The Opera?

 

Nicely put, JG.

 

Last night I just finished watching the last recording of Lon Chaney Day and I agree-it was my favorite SUTS day so far.

 

For some reason I can look past the often ludicrous stories and just enjoy the fantasy aspect and dramatic quality of Chaney himself.

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Chaney's parents were deaf. I assume this is a reason he uses his pantomined gestures more (as well as because these are silent films of course). I wonder if in everyday life when talking with non deaf people he used this type of non verbal expressions (my Italian wife does, but sometimes I wish I was deaf!).

 

 

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BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORING. Not to diminish the outstanding acting ability of Lon Chaney, but a WHOLE DAY! Too much. Same thing with 24 hours of foreign films. Again, love them once in a while, but NOT a whole day. Get back to the movies we can listen to without going to the bathroom and missing something!

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The point of our responses was that there were many silent film actors that did not tread in the stereotypical path you described as "hammy." They eschewed the aghast countenances and raised hands and did something most actors never did, even in the sound era: act like a human being.

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Watched both Hunchback and Phantom. Never tire of either one. I think Chaney's acting technique just improved in the two years that seperated those films. While both characters were flamboiant, and allowing for the "out there" gestures sometimes required in silent films, his acting abilities continued to grow and I believe it shows. I was taken back however when during the un-masking scene in Phantom the picture quality went to hell. Couldn't believe it. The main shot in the otherwise pristine print was blurred! I get the two color mask of red death scene but what about the color changes in some of the other shots? Was this print pieced together or was that on purpose?

 

 

 

 

 

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