Tag Archives: Lon Chaney Jr.

Of Mice And Men

Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by Lewis Milestone
Written by John Steinbeck (novel)
Eugene Solow
Starring
Burgess Meredith
Betty Field
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Charles Bickford
Bob Steele
Noah Beery, Jr.
Music by Aaron Copland
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
Studio Hal Roach Studios
Distributed by United Artists
Release date December 30, 1939
Running time 111 minutes
Language English

The 1939 version Of Mice And Men is a film that has perhaps been forgotten a bit over time, especially when compared to some of the other movies that came out during  1939/40. It is quite easy to forget just how great this movie was and how iconic the performance of Lon Chaney Jr. is as Lennie. I guess part of the reason for it to be forgotten in this country could be because it was banned from being released here in Australia for about twenty or so years, thanks to our diligent Chief Censor Creswell O’Reilly who deemed this film to be morally inappropriate to be screened here because… well actually after watching the film I cannot see any reason for it to be banned other than we were (and probably still are) quite prudish. That there doesn’t seem to have been much outrage at the time that a best picture nominated film was banned from being seen by us Aussies is a bit of a concern.

As I said earlier in this post Lon Chaney’s performance as Lennie is quite iconic and it is a shame that it has been overshadowed by his latter role as the Wolf Man. The Lennie character and Chaney’s portrayal of him were parodied numerous times over the next two decades by animators Tex Avery at MGM and Chuck Jones at Warner Bros with the most obvious parody is the Avery cartoon Lonesome Lenny in which Lenny calls Screwball Squirrel ‘George’ and… well see for yourself.

Of course when ever you see a cartoon character talking about ‘tending the rabbits’ they are parodying Chaney.

Also I think Burgess Meredith’s performance as George should be mentioned. Most people only know Meredith as The Penguin from the Batman TV series or as Mickey from the Rocky films, so it is good to see him in his younger days. He gives a great performance as George who is always looking out for the ‘slow witted’ Lennie as can be seen in the final scene where he must make a harrowing decision.

Overall this is a prety good film. I have previously seen the 1980s version with Randy Quaid as Lennie but feel that this version was much better. It is of course based on John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel which is also a great read.


Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Robert Arthur
Written by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo & John Grant
Starring
Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Bela Lugosi
Glenn Strange
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Frank Gross
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date 15 June 1948 (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was one of my favourite films as a kid. It was a film that I found to be both scary and funny in equal parts. I really loved this movie so much that I just had to order it from Amazon because I could not find it for sale anywhere in Australia, and I desperately wanted to see it again. I just wanted to know if the film held up as well now as it did back when I was a kid.

I popped the DVD disc into my Sony DVD player the other day and found that the film really lived up to my expectations. Whilst I no longer find the film as scary as I did as an eight year old there were still a few heart pounding moments, especially the scene when Lou is unknowingly being stalked by the Wolfman in the hotel room. (See picture below) Also, like most seventy year old comedy films, the humour has dated quite a bit, but there are still a few chuckles to be had, especially the look of fright on the Frankenstein Monster’s face when he first lays his eyes on Costello. It’s funny to see the Monster being so afraid as someone as harmless as Lou.

It is probably true that this film was probably the beginning of the downward spiral in A&C’s popularity even though they did have a few box office hits after this film. Their popularity really waned as Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis became the #1 Hollywood comedy team, and A&C started to go back to the same ideas again and again (ie; going back to the team ups with Universal’s monster icons). They really weren’t known for their innovation, especially as they really only liked to use gags and routines that they had honed to perfection by performing them thousands of times on the vaudeville circuit. Still A&C Meet Frankenstein is a classic and a movie that I recommend for anyone who likes both classic comedy and classic monster movies.


The Wolfman


Directed by George WaggnerProduced by George Waggner
Written by Curt Siodmak
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
Claude Rains
Warren William
Ralph Bellamy
Patric Knowles
Bela Lugosi
Maria Ouspenskaya
Evelyn Ankers
Cinematography Joseph Valentine, ASC
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 12, 1941
Running time 70 min
Language English

“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”

Since the new Wolfman movie comes out next month I thought it would be good to have a new look at the original. As a kid this movie really scared me and has since given me a lifelong fear of werewolves. The Wolfman is one of the classic Universal horror movies from the 1930s and 40s which also includes Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein and the Invisible Man, but by the time that The Wolfman came along Universal were just about coming to the end of their monster movie cycle, and the films of the 1940s did not have the budgets or quality of their predecessors. That does not mean that it’s a bad film.

This movie is from 1941 and stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the  unfortunate Lawrence Talbot, the man who is cursed when he is bitten by a werewolf. Having just watched this film yesterday I would say that it is not so much as horror movie, as there are really no instances of tension, fear or horror, however it does work as a great psychological study of a man who is tormented by the things he will do when the moon is full and he changes into a dreaded werewolf. This is of course Chaney’s signature role and what he is best known for today, although his performance here does echo his earlier role as Lenny in the 1939 Academy Award nominated version of Of Mice And Men, for which Chaney won much critical acclaim.

The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak, a German Jew who fled the Nazi atrocities of the 1930s for America. He is the person responsible for much of the traditions that are today associated with the werewolf legend, such as the transformation at the full moon, the werewolves’ victim being marked by a pentagram and that the only way to kill a werewolf is with silver. According to the excellent documentary that accompanied the DVD, Siodmak wrote The Wolfman as an allegory to the genocide occurring in Europe at the time and how even the nicest of men could become beasts if the conditions were right.

Then there is the performance of Lon Chaney Jr., as Larry Talbot, the man who must carry the terrible curse of the werewolf. His acting seems quite over the top and hammy here but it does add to the fun of the film. The Wolfman became Chaney’s signature role and makes this movie a lot of fun to watch. Jack Pierce’s make up work is great and the transformation scenes are very good considering this film is almost 70 years old. It is an enjoyable film and I only hope the remake is half as much fun.

* Buy The Wolfman from Amazon* (Note this is a region 1 DVD and requires a region free DVD player to be played outside North America)