Blake examines Chaney's film roles in this follow-up to the author's earlier biography (Lon Chaney: The Man Behind the Thousand Faces, Vestal Pr., 1993). Via correspondence, studio notes, and reviews from the popular press, Blake thoroughly reconstructs the cultural context in which Chaney's films were produced, exhibited, and received. Although occasionally subject to silent film histrionics, Chaney created the role of the twisted antihero, and it is this contribution to the pantheon of screen types that Blake hails here. He tracks Chaney's rise from freelancer to MGM star, as well as his partnership with director Tod Browning, whose dark visions permitted Chaney's tortured protagonists to thrive. Unfortunately, Blake's passion as a fan and informed interest in Chaney's artistry (the author himself is a makeup artist) is suffocated by a turbid text. At times Blake overexplicates and makes obvious inferences. The text includes meticulous endnotes, copious photographs, and a bibliography. This in-depth look is recommended for larger film studies collections.-Jayne Plymale-Jackson, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens
Like fellow silent stars John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks, and Harold Lloyd, Lon Chaney is underremembered. His full repertory of classic performances is rarely exhibited (only the clunky "Phantom of the Opera"  is occasionally trotted out), and he is infrequently mentioned in the company of other American film pioneers. Blake seeks to redress this oversight, which is especially egregious in view of Chaney's writing, directing, and producing as well as acting credits. Most significantly, of course, Chaney was a master of makeup who crafted some of the most grotesque physical portrayals of human misery on film. Contemporary recognition of Chaney is limited by the fact that he made only one talkie, and that just before he died. Nevertheless, particularly because of his longtime teamwork with director Tod Browning, Chaney was what we would today call a superstar. Blake helps restore the proper luster to Chaney's status.