Get ready for more extreme perversity in West of Zanzibar (1928), as Chaney abuses both Warner Baxter and Mary Nolan, while the great-looking Mr. Wu (1927) offers Chaney as a Chinese creep about to destroy the life of lovely Renée Adorée — one of the best and prettiest actresses of the 1920s. Adorée — who was just as effective in her few early talkies — died of tuberculosis in 1933. Also worth mentioning, the great John Arnold was Mr. Wu’s cinematographer.
I’m no fan of Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), or The Phantom of the Opera (1925), but Chaney’s work in them — especially in Hunchback — is quite remarkable. I mean, his performances aren’t necessarily great, but they’re certainly unforgettable. Chaney’s leading ladies — all of whom are in love with younger, better-looking men — are Loretta Young (Laugh, Clown, Laugh), Patsy Ruth Miller (as The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Esmeralda), and Mary Philbin (The Phantom of the Opera). Norman Kerry is Chaney’s rival in both Hunchback and Phantom; Nils Asther plays the other man in Clown.
A bit of trivia: Lon Chaney was one of MGM’s official five stars in 1925. The other four were Lillian Gish, Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert. In August 1926, Chaney, Novarro, and Gilbert were each making $3,000 a week (approximately $37,000 today); Norma Shearer was making $2,000. Lillian Gish, under a special per-picture contract, was making $7,692.20.
Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:
7:30 AM THE UNHOLY THREE (1930) A ventriloquist, a strong man and a midget form a criminal alliance. Director: Jack Conway. Cast: Lon Chaney, Lila Lee, Elliott Nugent. BW-72 mins.
9:00 AM OLIVER TWIST (1922) A young orphan falls in with a man training children to be thieves. Director: Frank Lloyd. Cast: Jackie Coogan, Lon Chaney, Gladys Brockwell. BW-74 mins.
11:00 AM HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924) In this silent film, a scientist flees his tragic past to become a circus clown. Director: Victor Seastrom. Cast: Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert. BW-72 mins.
12:15 PM THE MONSTER (1925) In this silent film, a mad scientist engineers car wrecks so he can experiment on the survivors. Director: Roland West. Cast: Lon Chaney, Gertrude Olmsted, Hallam Cooley. BW-87 mins.
1:45 PM TELL IT TO THE MARINES (1926) In this silent film, a tough drill sergeant and a spoiled recruit become romantic rivals. Director: George Hill. Cast: Lon Chaney, William Haines, Eleanor Boardman. BW-103 mins.
3:30 PM MOCKERY (1927) A peasant saves a countess during the Russian Revolution. Director: Benjamin Christensen. Cast: Lon Chaney, Ricardo Cortez, Barbara Bedford. BW-70 mins.
4:45 PM MR. WU (1927) In this silent film, a Chinese patriarch goes mad when his daughter falls for an Englishman. Director: William Nigh. Cast: Lon Chaney, Louise Dresser, Renée Adorée. BW-91 mins.
6:30 PM LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH (1928) In this silent film, a circus clown falls for a young innocent in love with another. Director: Herbert Brenon. Cast: Lon Chaney, Bernard Siegel, Loretta Young. BW-74 mins.
8:00 PM THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923) In this silent film, a deformed bell-ringer gives sanctuary to a beautiful gypsy accused of witchcraft. Director: Wallace Worsley. Cast: Lon Chaney, Ernest Torrence, Patsy Ruth Miller. BW-117 mins.
10:00 PM THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) In this silent film, a hideously deformed man haunts the sewers beneath the Paris Opera. Director: Rupert Julian. Cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry. BW-90 mins.
12:00 AM THE UNHOLY THREE (1925) In this silent film, a ventriloquist masquerades as an old lady to front a crime ring. Director: Tod Browning. Cast: Lon Chaney, Mae Busch, Matt Moore. BW-86 mins.
1:30 AM THE UNKNOWN (1927) In this silent film, an escaped killer pretends to be a sideshow’s armless wonder. Director: Tod Browning. Cast: Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford. BW-50 mins.
2:30 AM WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1928) In this silent film, a mad African dictator plots revenge on the trader who stole his wife. Director: Tod Browning. Cast: Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan. BW-65 mins.
3:45 AM WHERE EAST IS EAST (1929) An animal trapper in Indochina fights to keep his former mistress from destroying their daughter’s life. Director: Tod Browning. Cast: Lon Chaney, Lupe Velez, Estelle Taylor. BW-67 mins.
5:00 AM LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) In this silent film, vampires are suspected in an unsolved murder. Director: Tod Browning. Cast: Lon Chaney, Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall. BW-47 mins.