Lon Chaney Jr. – Horror Film Star, 1906 – 1973
By Don G. Smith
Published by McFarland & Company, 1996. 236 pages
A lot has been written about Lon Chaney Jr., and a lot of it isn’t too kind. Much of it is about his drinking problem and the ultra low budget films that he made at the end of his career. But writer Smith really delves in Chaney’s history both in his personal life as well as his professional life, and shows he was so much more than a drunken actor struggling to make a living.
One of the things that I liked best about this book is that Smith is not just a huge fan of Chaney Jr., but is well ready to defend the actor. Countless times does he quote other books and authors who are critical of Chaney’s work, and then defends the actor and the work. So it’s not like some accounts where the writer is just “a big fan”. He’s got the ammo to back up his claims. And that is very refreshing.
Plus, there were quite a few things that I didn’t know about Chaney before reading this book. The biggest was his attempted suicide in April of 1948. Plus, I think anybody who reads this will not only learn something, but I think they’ll also see a very different actor than the standard public opinion.