Lon Chaney, Jr. Biography
( 1906 – 1973 )
Lon Chaney, Jr. was born Creighton Tull Chaney on February 10, 1906 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Chaney, Jr.'s destiny might have seemed apparent at birth: his father was an actor and his mother was a singer who performed in road shows with her husband. Chaney Jr.'s childhood was troubled, however, as a result of his parents' unhappy marriage. His mother made a public suicide attempt in Los Angeles, which prompted their divorce in 1913. From that time until 1916, Lon Chaney,Jr. lived in various homes and boarding schools.
When his father, now finding fame on the big screen, remarried Hazel Hastings, young Lon, Jr. moved back home. However, he tried to avoid his famous father's shadow and Lon Chaney, Sr. discouraged his son from pursuing an acting career. As a young man, Lon Chaney, Jr., found success with a Los Angeles appliance company.
After his father's death, Chaney, Jr., acted in his first movie; an uncredited role in Girl Crazy (1932). He acted under his birth name until 1935, when he adopted the name Lon Chaney, Jr., which was eventually shortened to, simply, Lon Chaney. 1939's Of Mice and Men brought him his first brush with stardom and critical acclaim. His role in The Wolf Man in 1941 typecast him for the rest of his career and he played the Wolf Man in several movies, Frankenstein's monster in others, mummies in still others, and Dracula in Son of Dracula. He is the only actor to bring to life all four of the major monsters: Wolf Man, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy, and Dracula. This was the height of Chaney's career; when he left Universal, he often played character roles in smaller films, due to typecasting and his battles with alcoholism. Eventually, he took to playing mute or taciturn characters given his battle with throat cancer, which had killed his father. Producer Stanley Kramer began casting Chaney in supporting roles in his classics such as High Noon, Not as a Stranger, and The Defiant Ones.
Lon Chaney, Jr. was married twice and fathered two children: Lon Ralph Chaney and Ronald Creighton Chaney. He died on July 12, 1973, of liver cancer in San Clemente, California.