Facts about Lon Chaney, Jr.
Lon Chaney, Jr. Biography
Lon Chaney, Jr. was a movie and television actor from the 1930s to the 1970s, most closely associated with his starring role in the 1941 horror classic The Wolf Man.
Born as Creighton Chaney, he was the son of silent film star Lon Chaney, but his father discouraged him from going into acting.
Instead, Creighton went into the plumbing business during The Great Depression and failed; after his father died in 1931, he pursued a career as an actor.
For marquee value, movie producers wanted him to go by Lon Chaney, Jr., and he reluctantly agreed after a few years of trying to make it on his own name. His first big break came in the 1936 movie The Singing Cowboy (starring Gene Autry).
Over a screen career that lasted more than three decades, Chaney worked regularly, often as a villain and mostly in westerns and horror films.
The horror films of Universal Studios made Lon Chaney, Jr. a star, first as Larry Talbot, the title character from The Wolf Man and many subsequent films. During his time with Universal, Chaney also played Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy and Dracula.
Chaney’s specialty was creating sympathy for movie monsters, thanks to his sad eyes and sometimes guileless and awkward demeanor.
Lon Chaney, Jr. also made dozens of guest appearances on television shows of the 1950s and ‘60s, often in westerns as a bartender, broken down lawman or ruffian.
His films included Jesse James (1939); One Million B.C. (1940); The Mummy’s Tomb (1942); The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942, as the monster); Son of Dracula (1943); Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948); High Noon (1952, starring Gary Cooper); Casanova’s Big Night (1954, starring Bob Hope); The Indestructible Man (1956); The Defiant Ones (1958, with Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis); and Welcome to Hard Times (1967, based on the book by E.L. Doctorow).
When Lon Chaney, Jr. (Creighton) was a boy, he traveled with his parents, Lon and Cleva, who were itinerant performers (his mother was a singer and dancer). The marriage was strained, to say the least — when Creighton was seven years old, Cleva drank poison (mercury chloride) in a failed suicide attempt, at the Majestic Theater where Lon was performing. After the couple divorced in 1913, Creighton spent time in state care before moving back in with his (remarried) father in 1916… The Chaney family story of Creighton’s birth is that he was premature and lifeless; his father brought him back to life by running outside and plunging the newborn into icy water.