During 1923, Universal Weekly, a magazine published by Universal Jewel and Universal-Super Jewel films, featured advertisements for two of the reigning movie queens at Universal, Priscilla Dean, who was appearing in Drifting, and Virginia Valli, appearing on screen in A Lady of Quality. It claimed that "millions will read this advertising in The Saturday Evening Post." and included outlines for particular Exploitation Campaigns. The Motion Picture News Booking Guide of 1924 provided a brief synopsis of the film "Drifting", "Melodrama with a Chinese locale dealing with the dope game and efforts of those against it to kill it and those in it to get away with the big stakes."
The six reel film "Wicked Darling", directed by Tod Browning and starring Priscilla Dean and Lon Chaney, is famous for not being a lost film- apparently there was one acceptable print of the film held by Pthe Film Musuem in the Netherlands. It is a crime drama and in fact the first film on which Chaney and Browning collaborated. Before making the film, Dean had been touted by the studio as the "Wonder of the Year", her having appeared in "The Wildcat of Paris" and "A Silk-Lined Burgler".
" 'To be wicked,' said Lon Chaney, in a recent interview, 'is to my mind one of the most difficult things for an actor to undertake. And at the same time it is one of the most infinitely interesting and fascinating sides of the actor's art'." Chaney was quoted by The Moving Picture World during the first run publicity campaign for the film "Outside the Law" One writer has noted that director Tod Browning uses almost no camera movement during the filming of the 1921 film "Outside the Law". The technique of the film is typified by its cross-cutting. Lucien Hubbard was quoted by Motion Picture News as having contributed as a writer on the continuity of "Outside the Law" and as a scenario editor, a firm believer in "the superiority for picture purposes of the story written for the screen, not the play or novel". Hubbard explained, "Given equal thought and preparation it is evident that a story written expressly for the pictures will be more effective than one designed for other medium, and then trimmed and altered to fit. in 'Outside the Law' we had this advantage, for so experienced a director is Browning thinks I terms of pictures. There was no excess verbiage to dispose of, no flowing description of mental processes that could not be translated to the screen." What Hubbard might be alluding to is the exigencies of the Photoplay and female spectatorship, perhaps, a putting the female into the scene, or putting the female into the plot, tailored by the needs of the director as the narrative voice behind the lens. Motion PIcture World also saw the screenplay as an original endeavor, "When Tod Browning wrote 'Outside the Law' for Priscilla Dean, he not only provided this popular Universal star with the best role of her career, but created a character especially for Lon Chaney, than whom there's no more accomplished actor on the screen. The director knows better than any other writer the dramatic heights which Chaney can scale and he created a role that permits him to sound the depths of deviltry and to excessive his dramatic skill to the utmost." The film spotlights Lon Chaney with actress Priscilla Dean and her real life husband, Wheeler Oakman. And yet if it seems as though Tod Browning and Lon Chaney would tire of the crime drama and eventually leave actress Priscilla Dean behind to establish a genre of horror film, Prsicilla Dean very quickly had retained top billing at Universal during 1921 with two films made for director Stuart Paton, "Reputation" and "Conflict", both establishing her as a dramatic leading lady.
Motion Picture News in 1923 reported that, "Wallace Worsley, the director, aided by Perley, Poore Sherman and E.T. Lowe Jr, the adapters, as well as by Chaney, have taken extraordinary measures to assure that every character of the fifteenth century classic will be faithfully reproduced in the screen version of Hugo's book" The announcement was accompanied by the title, "Gladys Brockwell Added to 'Hunchback' Cast", the actress chosen to support the already signed Lon Chaney. Exhibitor's Herald provided eight stills from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in a two page layout during 1923, "The locale is Paris of 1482 and Notre Dame Cathedral is reproduced as it appeared at that time...That interiors were not neglected in the interest of exterior elaborateness is shown in another photograph on the opposite page." The magazine noted that over 4,000 actors were employed during the filming.
Exhibitor's Herald reviewed "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" during 1923. "The outstanding figure of the play is the hunchback- Lon Chaney. Chaney appears in a most extraordinary make up and the first impression is that of grotesqueness, and at that moment of first appearance, it hardly seems possible that the characterization can ever become real and vital, but before many scenes are passed, Chaney becomes convincing in a remarkable degree. It seems to us that Chaney in this production has just about touched the high mark of character acting in pictures because he not only registers effectively the called for touches of the role, but in addition, he puts over from behind his hideous mask a make up a spiritual phase of the character that unquestionably has been the chief feature in making the Victor Hugo story immortal."
The criteria as to whether a film is lost or not, whether only an incomplete version exists, is whether it's general release print survives. The original release print of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was 12 reels with 10 reels released later to theaters. Therefore although there were 12 reels of its Photoplay filmed, the film is considered to survive today in its complete form with the fragment of two reels missing as they were not seen by movie goers during its first run, now treated as deleted scenes.
During the summer of 1925, Lon Chaney was on the magazine's cover for the film The Phantom of the Opera. The Film Daily of 1925 reported of the film's enigmatic, or perhaps the film's eerie, star, The question may arise whether women will like the appearance of Chaney as the Phantom. he is first shown with a a mask, but when the mask is pulled away the distorted features may appear unpleasant to some, but at that he gives a great performance and again demonstrates that his is a master of make-up." The magazine, while describing the type of story as a "dramatic mystery" and a "thrilling mystery story", not only gave credit to the film's director, but noted the supplemental work of Edward Sedgewick. The magazine was consistent with the advertisements run by the studio itself as it recommended a Box Office Angle for the film, "Should get a lot of money in the larger houses particularly." Motion Picture Magazine of 1925 promised that the spectatorship of audience reception would be an exchange of commodification, "You will have all the thrills you hope for: murders are committed, people are drowned and terror reigns supreme. When you go see 'The Phantom of Opera' wear plenty of bandoline, or whatever it is that keeps hair from standing on end."
It is suprising to see, but Exhibitor's Trade Review ran sandwiched between its table of contents and its editorial pages an anomaly- a magazine advertisement disguised as an article, every look of the page having the appearance of a review written by the magazine and every word pointing to it having been written by Universal Studios. The clue on the bottom of the page reads, "Universal Is Filming A Photodrama Which is Confidently Expected to Equal the Famous Hunchback in Sensational Glamour." The advertisement introduces Mary Philbin as being cast in the film, "The film depicts many tense episodes and she has proven herself equal to the task of registering the entire gamut of human emotion before the camera." Looking through other issues of the magazine it would seem that this type of advertisement-review can now only be called a "Courtesy Advtertisement", and their might have been plenty of reason why the magazine would substitute a full page of its own due to editorial considerations and the lurid grotesque make up of Lon Chaney and still take it upon itself to promote the film to remain in a favorable light with its patrons, thereby maintaining the integrity of its look and feel with the artwork used within its pages.
Importantly, scholar Linda Williams, although taking the premise that with Phantom of the Opera, the horror film could be seen as a pre-established albeit mostly new genre, compares the "Woman's Look of Horror" to the male voyer subject to reiterate the relationship between the female spectator and the female protagonist and the desire of spectator for protagonist. Williams notes that during the Phantom of the Opera, Christine, the student of the Svengali-like Phantom, only sees his masked face after he has been shown to the audience; she is shown in a two-shot with the Phantom, coyly, demurely from behind him. Again, during the abrupt, unmasking scene, they are shown in two-shot and she is behind him as the mask is removed, the viewer therefore seeing the Phantom's real face before she- we are left with the desire to see the reaction of the female protagonist and we desire, as interpellated subject, to experience the emotion in the silent actresses' face.
The author Ian Conrich sees the film made in the United States by Universal Studios between 1923-1928 as being horror-spectacular, full legnth films that, along with the films of Douglas Fairbanks, tried to near the lI'm arge-scale production standard of Griffith. Silent film pioneer D. W. Griffith had already by 1922 promised audiences entering the dark of the silver-nitrate screen's public spherPe of reception One Exciting Night, a film purportedly built more for atmosphere and devices that would gradually become standard in mystery film than for plot twists and complications, its emphasis having been on trap doors that lead to hidden passageways known only to ghostlike persons. After starring in the film, Henry Hull was interviewed by Picture Play magazine and said, "But on the screen without my voice and without artificial disguise, what would I be. i wondered. 'But we don't photograph the face,' Mr Griffith assured me, 'we photograph the thought, the soul.'" Carol Dempster, who appears in the film was known to audiences as having been paired with John Barrymore in the film Sherlock Holmes By 1923 Silent Film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau had already made The Haunted Castle and Nosferatu, his continuing with Phantom and Driven from Home. The former cast Lil Dagover with Frieda Richard, and actress who filmed under the direction of several, in not numerous, silent filmmakers and appeared in Robert Dinesen's film Claire (Die Geschichte eines jugen madchens, 1924). Whether or not pertinent to every Nosferatu-Vampyr hollywood tale, if the idea of a precise, fully descriptive shootingscript intiated by silent film director Thomas Ince can be rediscovered from the photoplay, paricularly if it can be reconcieved passed any nouveau roman or nouvelle vague notion of film poetry only as an avaunt guarde act, it is interesting, without feeling that Griffith worked entirely without a script or that Ince wrote novels in the form of picture plays, that author Kenneth Macgowan associates Murnau with his camerman Karl Fruend and scriptwriter Carl Mayer in a way that makes theirs a reinterpretation of the ideas of keeping a shootingscript and of adding within it cameramovements that popularized the use of cameramobiltiy. "Mayer's scripts were detailed. They indicated every shot...In order to visualize action nad movements as he wrote, he used a camera viewfinder, a device that shows what ones shot will cover." From these script camera instructions Freund added subjectivity, reinterpreting the shootingscript with point of view. Still, it is certainly evident that by 1927, the horror film and art film Pwould merge in eerie, atmospheric silent film essay on shadowplay and the black and white tones of mood and suspense, Paul Leni's The Cat and the Canary. To add to the mystery of silent film director Rubert Julian, the sound remake of the film The Cat and The Canary entitled The Cat Creeps (1930) is lost. Stills from the film show actress Helen Twelvetrees in the lead role. From a screenplay adapted from the novel by the Universal/Jewel script department, director Rupert Julian in 1925 would throw swirling silver shadows across the screen waiting untill Mary Philbin would remove the mask of the Phantom of the Opera. The Mystery of the Yellow Room, written by Gaston Leroux had been filmed earlier, in 1919, with Joseph von Sterberg as its assistant director, the film written and directed by Emile Chautard. Behind the mask and costumed in red during the tinted sequences, silent film actor Lon Chaney not only filmed on the famous Phantom of the Opera backlot, but he also appered in front of the camera at MGM, where he that year starred with Gertrude Olmsted in The Monster (Roland West, seven reels) and with Mae Busch in the silent film The Unholy Three (Tod Browning, seven reels). Mary Philbin later appeared in the 1928 silent Drums of Love (D. W. Griffith, nine reels) and in the 1929 silent The Last Performance (Paul Frejos, seven reels). Before becoming known to audiences as the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, Clive Brook would appear with Jetta Goudal.
After running advertisements for the film Phantom of the Opera, The Reel Journal, a sister publication to New England Film News, announced that the two would be paired together at DeMille studios under the direction of Rupert Julian during 1926 in the film Three Faces East, whereas Universal was to be filming The Radio Detective, "a mystery story by Arthur B. Reeve, as a chapter-play" Upon being invited to follow a story that began in Victorian-Edwardian London, 1925 Silent Film audiences were also that year thrilled by the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle as they were led by Challenger on an expedition into The Lost World through the magic lantern silent film. In 1925, Bela Lugosi had appeared on theater marquees starring in the film The Midnight Girl (Wilfred Noy, seven reels), with Lila Lee and Garreth Hughes. Lila Lee would appear under the direction of Scott Pembroke in the film The Black Pearl (1928,six years). Although two years earlier, he had appeared in the film Silent Command (J. Gordon Edwards, eight reels), it may be noted that Bela Lugosi appeared of the screen under the direction of F. W. Murnau while in front of the lens of Karl Fruend in the silent film Dr. Jeckell and Mr.Hyde/The Head of Janus (Der Januskopf, 1920), filmed in Germany.
Universal had entered the film Dark Stairways (Robert F. Hill) with the actress Ruth Dwyer into the filming of mystery in 1924. Photoplay in 1929 reviewed The Thirteenth Hour, an MGM entry, "Another mystery yarn wI'm ith secret panels, trapdoors, underground passages and a series of other mysterious what-nots", only to later add Paramount's Something Always Happens, "It's dangerous business, girls, to pray to for something to "happen". You might get such a surprise as Esther Ralston gets when she finds herself in this haunted house of musty stains, sliding panels, walking chairs, ect." Not only is it uncertain from where magician Harry Houdini screened silent film in 1927, but the name of his director is shrouded in a cranking up of the kem light, he being listed as producer of his silent film. When he appearred in the the film The Grim Game (1919), serial "cliffhangers", adventure films much like the Danish melodramas and silent Sherlock Holmes, were still being made, the title of his being The Master of Mystery. He continued with the silent film Terror Island (1920), The Soul of Bronze (1921), The Man From Beyond (1922) and Halldane of the Secret Service (1923). Not only was there Houdini, the query Does Rudy Speak from Beyond- Natacha Rambova Talks of the Spirit Messages she claims to have recieved from Valentino appreared in Photoplay Magazine during 1927 from the pen of Fredrick James Smith.
Lon Chaney participated in the art form of silent film as well as establishing the genre of the American horror film, a genre which was still being sold to audiences during the silent era and one that still needed to fully originate in the consumership of the spectator and be rediscovered from the magician's trunk of George Melies. Several of Chaney's films that are not centered upon characters within horror melodrama include characterizations, despite the use of make up, that involve the classical narrative indicative to Photoplay as an art form, one often mentioned by Bordwell and Thompson.
During 1922 Lon Chaney was paired with actress Hope Hampton to appear in the film Light of Faith, originally titled The Light in the Dark. it's director was Clarence Brown who would soon thereafter become the originator of the "pull-back shot". After deigning the plot to be trite, it concerning a young, inexperienced woman falling in love with a millionaire, Film Daily magazine saw a remarkable opportunity for exhibitor's to exploit the film on the merit of its color tinted sequences symbolically woven into the plot. "The color work insistently demands attention. The story of the search for the Holy Grail from Tennyson's poem is done masterfully. Not only are the colors soft, without fringe, and unusually attractive...." The magazine praised the photography as "good-color process probably best ever shown in this country" while it pointed out the excellent climbing done as a screen thrill by either Chaney or s stunt double, it claiming it didn't know which, during an escape scene. "while you can use the name of the star to advantage and easily promise the best picture she has ever made, you can also promise your people the finest colored photography ever shown in this country....Get some stills of the colored reel and use them around the lobby. If they are in color, so much the better. They will be excellent as an attraction....Also use stills of the star. She looks very beautiful in one. The title hardly lends itself to catch lines, but you can talk about Faith being the Light in the Dark and perhaps work it in. Also, use the name of Lon Chaney."
"The Man of a Thousand Faces" had already been placed underneath the name of Lon Chaney by 1922. The reference to his make up kit, and his versitility at pantomine, was featured in studio advertisements for the film "The Trap" placed by the publicity department in Universal Weekly. The film was directed by Robert Thornby and photographed by Virgil Miller. Along with a synopses of the plot, Motion Picture News Booking guide provided a brief description of the film, "French-Canadian melodrama carrying primitive action and romance."
1922 saw two full page advertisements in Exibitor's Herald, seriously presented in typeface for the thoughtful investor for the film "Shadows" directed by Tom Forman and starring Lon Chaney, "Confidently proclaimed the greatest story told to motion pictures" I lent the advice that "Shadows wasadaptated as a title because it has mystery, meaning and merit as a box office aid. it has the advantage of being a one-word title and lends itself admirably to advertising and exploitation."
Silent Film: Lost Film, Found MagazinesGreta Garbo had been slated to film "The Ordeal" with Lon Chaney as his co-star under the direction of Marcel de Sarno; it is not a lost film of which there are no surviving copies, it was left unmade and is an unrealized film script, an abandoned photoplay.Lon Chaney is quoted as having said, "I told Garbo that mystery served me well and it would do as much for her." The advertisements published in advance by M.G.M during 1926 announced the film as an adaptation of a novel by Dale Collons, Motion Picture News having described the upcoming film as a "sea story" and having announced that Ray Doyld, formerly a newspaper reporter, was preparing the scenario. "Garbo in Support of Lon Chanet in 'The Ordeal' announced Greta Garbo as the "featured feminine player opposite Chaney. A similar report appeared in Moving Picture World that year. Film Daily during 1927 reported that John Griffith Wray had been signed to direct Lon Chaney in "The Ordeal", it neglecting to mention entirely Chaney having been previously signed to the film or Marcel deal Sarno having been dismissed as its director.
"Towar of Lies" in which Lon Chaney starred under the direction of Victor Sjostrom is in fact a lost film; there are no surviving copies of the film and the best way to find the content of the film is to search through magazine articles printed during it first run for reviews and synopses. The publicity department of M.G.M often, if not incessantly, centered its magazine advertisements around the attraction of the studios "stars", that is to say it claimed to have the greatest number of the most popular screen actors, the particular film a then afterthought- in The Film Daily during 1926 it directly addressed exhibitors, "Then take 'The Tower of Lies', Victor Sjostrom, director; Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer stars. It's an angle when exhibitors advertise this thrilling attraction as a 'successor to "He Who Gets Slapped" with the same director and stars.'."
During 1925, Lon Chaney, in an article entitled My Own Story and published by Movie Magazine, while pointing to the themes of "self-sacrifice and renunciation" in his films wrote, "The picture I have just completed, Tower of Lies, is the story of a father's enduring love and sacrificep, even to death, for his wayward daughter. I do not know that it is my favorite of all roles that I have portrayed, but certainly it is one of them and I consider Victor Seastrom, who directed it, the greatest director in the motion picture profession." Also in 1925, The Reel Journal, a sister publication to the magazine New England Film News, reviewed the films of Lon Chaney with the article "Lon Chaney Turns to Less Grotesque Roles". The article initially began by noting that, in regard to depiction of thematic character, "Lon Chaney, who has attracted stardom by playing roles of a weird and grotesque character, is turning to portrayals depending on more deeply human qualities for their interest.", the professionalism as a make-up artist on the part of Lon Chaney is not without having been noticed, "In his first Metro-Goldwyn Mayer picture, Victor Seastrom's production of Leonid Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped...Chaney donned two make-ups, one as a European scientist, and the other as a clown. It was said by critics of the latter that this portrayal was the first circus clown interpretation to express the humanity which lies behind the painted mask of a mountebank...In The Tower of Lies, his make-up demonstrates a transition from middle age to old age." Both films The Tower of Lies and The Unholy Three were unreleased at the time of the review.
Although there accounts of Lon Chaney only having taken a small role in the film, "The Next Corner", directed by Sam Wood in 1924 is a lost film. The film, made by Paramount, stars Dorothy Mackaill and its length is seven reels.
It is not entirely suprising that Lon Chaney was cast with John Gilbert in their respective dramatic roles. John Gilbert would later star as a magician in a 1931 adaptation of a story written by Gaston Leroux for the film "The Phantom of Paris", which was apparently slated for Lon Chaney before his death. There are no existing copies of the film "While Paris Sleeps" in which Lon Chaney and John Gilbert appeared on the screen together under the direction of Maurice Tourneur during 1923.
There are no existing copies of the film "A Blind Bargain" starring Lon Chaney, directed by Wallace Worsley during 1922. It is an adaptation of the novel Octave of Claudius, written by Barry Bain. Appearing in the film with Chaney is actress Jaqueline Logan. Exhibitor's Herlad remarked upon Chaney's performance in the film, "This tragic story by Barry Bain has a wealth of good acting by Lon Chaney in a dual role. Indeed it would be difficult to imagine any other actor...who could handle these two contrasting characterizations with one half the dramatic finesse that is Chaney's." Whereas both Tod Browning and Lon Chaney had previously centered on the morality of the crime drama to arrive at plot lines, they would soon begin to establish the genre of the silent horror film and its commodification- Motion Picture News Booking Guide introduced the Lon Chaney film "The Blind Bargain" as Mystery Melodrama. It added, "Star plays Dual role...A struggling author agree to allow doctor to experiment on him in return for financial and medical aid for his mother, who is dying...the author escapes the fate of other victims chained in the doctor's private dungeon when one of those men breaks the bars engaging him and crushes the doctor to death. Romance between author and publisher's daughter."
"Voices of The City", or "The Night Rose", starring Lon Chaney under the direction of Wallace Worsley, six reels released toward the end of 1921, is also a lost film of which there are no existing copies. The film, a heavily censored crime drama that was recut before its release, also starred actress Leatrice Joy. That year Chaney had also appeared in the six reel film "For Those We Love", a romantic melodrama directed by Arthur Rossen and starring Betty Compson. The actress had co-produced the film with Goldwyn Studios. The library of Congress has no listings of archived holdings of the film, it presumed to be lost and there being no surviving copies.
Director George Loane Tucker was responsible for the scenario of the eight reel film "The Miracle Man", of which only a three minute fragment now remains. Released in 1919, the film starred Lon Chaney with Betty Compson and Elinor Fair. Silent film proponent, author, perhaps icon, Anthony Slide, has casually mentioned that it was not untill the film "Miracle Man" that character actor Lon Chaney gained recognition as a film artist and the film may have catapulted him toward stardom- it may also be taken for granted that the majority of the earlier film made by Chaney before "The Miracle Man", not to mention several made after, are lost in their entirety, including numerous short films made between 1914-1915 and possibly a dozen feature films in which Chaney appeared between 1916-1917. The Man of a Thousand Faces before becoming a celebrity is now invisible on the screen as an aspiring star, the celluloid having been destroyed.
Although one of Chaney's best films, Laugh, Clown Laugh, directed by Herbert Brenon during 1928, is often screened to modern audiences, the Library of Congress lists the film as surviving only as incomplete and missing an entire reel. There exists no copy of the fourth reel of the film. Of the film, Photoplay expressed the emotion that "it is the greatest relief to have him minus his usual sinister make up...Loretta Young, as Simonetta, reveals an unexpected display of dramatic ability."
Among the films to which there are no holdings listed by the library of Congress are two six reel films directed by Tod Browning during 1919, both starring Mary McClaren, both presumed to be lost and their present survival unknown, "Petal on the Current", based on a story by Fanny Hurst and "The Unpainted Woman", adapted from the work of Sinclair Lewis.
In regard to Lost Fim, Found Magazines, the idea that there is no existent copy of the film, but history can be studied by looking at the neglected magazine articles of one hundred years ago, some of the most beautiful magazine art of the Tweties belonged to the regular output of Bluebird Photoplays, a subsidiary of Universal Manufacturing Company- most of the films of Bluebird Photoplays made between 1916-1919 are unknown to survive. Although not strictly mystery or horror films, it being too early in the history of Universal Film to belong to a developed horror adventure genre, they include the work of three notable directors: Rupert Julian, Rex Ingram and Tod Browning.
Rupert Julian not only directed his own films, but like Victor Sjostrom in Sweden, often appeared in front of the camera. One such film was "The Mysterious Mr. Tiller" in which the director starred with Ruth Clifford during 1917- the film is thought to be lost. Motion Picture Weekly reported that in the film Julian directed himself in a dual role, "He changes before the eye of the camera from a debonair gentleman of the world, in conventional evening dress, to a desperate, sinister criminal, one with distorted features and threatening leer in his eyes." The magazine saw the transformation as clever and the film as a mystery, mysteries then growing in popularity- the film was a "corker". It is unknown whether the 1916 five reel film "The Evil Women Do" in which the director starred with Elsie Jane Wislon and Francella Billington is presently lost. The Photoplay was based on a novel by Emile Gaboriau. Bluebird Photoplays also produced Rupert Julian's adaption of Alfred Lord Tennyson, "Naked Hearts" from 1916, in which the directed and starred with Francellia Billington. It is also unknown if there are still surviving copies of the film. Two five reel films in which actress Ruth Clifford was directed on screen by Rupert Julian for Bluebird Photoplays, the 1917 film "The Door Between" and the 1918 film "Hands Down (The Highest Card)" are both in fact presumed to be lost films.
Included among the myriad of films that cannot be viewed by modern audiences are The The Chinese Parrot (1927, seven reels), adapted for the screen from the pen of Earl Der Biggers by Paul Leni and starring Marian Nixon and Florence Turner and Four Devils, filmed in the United States by F. W Murnau in 1928 and starring Janet Gaynor. Photoplay, while providing a still from the film, saw The Four Devils as the "long awaited successor" to Murnau's Sunrise and as a source of a plot summary to the film, it alludes to the film's tone, "the final shot implies a happy ending. The film will probably be cut to eliminate the over drawn scenes before it is released." Paul Rotha in The Film till now, a survey of the cinema opined, "Murnau's second picture for Fox was Four Devils, a story of the circus ring, which (save for some moving camera work) an uninteresting film." Laurence Reid of Motion Picture Classic magazine, The Celluloid Critic, reviewed the film in an article that read, "There are some highly graphic scenes- the outstanding being the expansive one of the trapeze act with the spectators seated Pin rows after the manner of the Roman Coliseum. there are suggestions of 'Variety' in this incident pertaining to the acrobatic work, though Murnau has used initiative in developing the story in his own dramatic way. So I highly recommend 'Four Devils', which is colorful, appealing and moving."
Silent film journals have noted that no matter how star struck audiences may have been, John Barrymore's film When a Man Loves was eclipsed and while thought to be a lost film, it was not screened between 1927 to 2000, but add to this that the film The Lotus Eater (Marshall Neilan, 1921), in which he appeared with Colleen Moore and Anna Q. Nilsson, was also during that entire time taken to be a lost film; one source listed as many as thirteen films in which John Barrymore starred that are believed to be missing. The five reel film "The Test of Honor", in which John Barrymore starred during 1919, is a lost film of which there are no surviving copies. It is a film adaptation of the novel The Malefactor, written by the prolific mystery-romance writer E. Philips Oppenheim. The present author having spent a summer having read twelve novels written by E. Phillips Oppenheim while collecting first editions at a used bookstore in Boston, my hardcover copy of The novel The Malefactor Was printed in 1907 by Collier.
If all that exists of The Chinese Parrot is a still photograph, the caption from Photoplay Magazine, cautioned that, alhtough mysteries were not meant to be divulged, the adaption had not kept faithful to the Earl Der Biggers plotline. In addition to "The Mountain Eagle", an early silent starring actress Nita Naldi directed by Alfred Hitchcock during 1926 being listed as lost with no surviving prints, there were several films which Hitchcock, before having become director, wrote the intertitles for as an apprentice in the screenplay department of Famous Players-Lasky British made between 1920-1922. All the films for the studio on which Hitchcock worked appear to now be non-existant.
Picture Play magazine, in two full pages using six still photographs toward the end of 1927, introduced the new Lon Chaney film, title The Hypnotist. the director and author was Tod Browning, with Chaney as "a Scotland Yard detective with a mystery to solve by means of mesmerism and a terrifying disguise. "the bat girl, played by Edna Techener, is an eerie creature." For silent film detectives piecing things together, when Ruth Waterbury interviewed Lon Chaney for Photoplay, she reported the film having been completed in its entirety that morning under the title The Hypnotist, a week ahead of schedule, " 'Tonight, I start out for the high Sierras,' Lon crowed. 'No shaving, no make up, no interviews, for four long lazy weeks.' " Chaney had planned to embark directly on a fishing trip with his wife. in the article The Life Story of Lon Chaney, Waterbury describes the actor filming," Earlier that day I had sat on The Hypnotist set watching Lon enact a monster creeping through a fearful room. Then he had worn a black frock coat and a high black hat. he had a wig matted grey ly about his shoulders and from his slobbering mouth, pointed teeth gleamed and tears of agony flowed from his awful distended eyes." The True Life Story of Lon Chaney would become ancedote rather than reporting for Waterbury of Photoplay, "He loathes people on the set. Yet he saw to it that I always had a comfortable place on 'The Hypnotist' set so that I might witness how easily he worked and with what economy of guesture. Arriving one day at the studio I was told he was in his dressing room. I did not find him there. On the company stage, I observed Tod Browning, his director, and the Kleigs were blazing. Suddenly I heard a voice calling me. Up against the roof of the stage, some thirty feet high, was a monster bat, waving its hand at me. Of course it was Lon. He had been rigged up there for hours. At that distance the camera couldn't catch his face and any other man would have used a double. Lon thought the bat business important to his characterization, so he did it." In two of its numerous, weekly Studio briefs, Motion Picture News Magazine during September of 1927 announced that during the week, Henry B. Wathall, Claude King, and Andy McClelland had each individually been added to the cast of "The Hypnotist", a "new Metro Godlwyn Mayer vehicle for Lon Chaney."
At first glance, it would seem that the studio itself gave Lon Chaney the name of "the man of a thousand faces" the phrase having appeared in one of its magazine advertisements for the film "The Hypnotist". The advertisement read, "Chaney, the man of a thousand faces and a thousand arts, once again will delight audiences with a role that has within its range all the curious and the novel, the fiendish ness and the sacrificial redemption that has gone with his greatest efforts. M.G.M. Is banking heavily on the power in The Hypnotist. Just in all Chaney stories the Suprise elements make the plot, and it is divi cult to divulge them in a cold brief paragraph."
In regard to Lost Films, Found Magazines, Photoplay reviewed the film London After Midnight, "Lon Chaney has a stellar role in this mystery drama and the disguise he uses while ferretting out the murderer is as gruesome aPs any has ever worn...Chaney plays a dual role." The Motion Picture News Booking Guide of 1929 provided a brief synopsis of London After Midnight, directed by Tod Browning, "Theme: An uncanny mysterious drama laid in a haunted manor house in England. Lon Chaney in the role of a Scotland Yard detective invades the precincts of ghosts and apparitions and utilizes hypnotism in a scientific manner." Carl Sandberg reviewed the film in 1928, "No wonder Inspector Burke is played by Lon Chaney with little or no make up. The world had forgotten what Lon Chaney's real face looks like and when he lets his own countenance shine forth he is disguised most of all...The story of how Inspector Burke solves the mystery is one of the most diverting and suspenseful in all the long associations of Chaney, the actor, and Tod Browning, the director. Conrad Nagel, Marceline day and H. B. Walthall have parts, but do not have them seriously enough to interfere with Mr. Chaney and his performance." National Board of Review magazine wrote, "An interesting mystery story. The story is tense and the acting excellant...The effect rendered by the use of vampires is eerI'm ie and the whole story is of an unusual nature." The Film Spectator during 1928 provided an eye witness account of London after Midnight, "For once, Tod Browning gets too deep for my poor understanding. I do not know if I was expected to take it seriously as a treatise on the application of hypnotism to crime detection or whether I was to regard it as a fanciful joke...This is about one reel of story embellished by six reels of utter rot. if the Scotland Yard man wants to hypnotize Conrad Nagel and Henry B. Eat hall surely he could have managed it without dragging in a vampire for which is no authority other than Slavic folklore, an old man with starling teeth and a woman who looks like a bit of animated death."
With "London After Midnight", the seven reel silent film The Big City, directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney is also lost. Only the trailer, of which there are existing fragments, can be seen today.. Browning co wrote the scenario with Waldemar Young in 1928 and starring in the film Chaney are Betty Compson, Virginia Pearson and Madeline Day. From stills and reviewers, the film is principally Chaney without make-up. Picture Play Magazine used two full pages to carry six stills from the film The Big City that begin to provide clues as to the tone, atmosphere and dramatic content of the film, despite the director's film technique and editing being difficult to surmise from only stills. The photo captions allude to its plot and character motivations for plot by announcing a love interest between Betty Compson and Lon Chaney. "As the heroine of a crook picture should be." The title to the two page layout was "A Stir in the Underworld".
An earlier film directed by Tod Browning, A Dangerous Flirt (1924), starring Evelyn Brent, is also included among the lost films of Silent Hollywood. A review of the lost film can be found in the magazine Photoplay. "an intriguing little drama spiced with the risqué. Threatened with a scandal because she has been out all night with a youth whose car broke down our heroine agrees to marry the hero. She loves him, but is afraid of love. Not understanding, he leaves for South America. She follows."
Of Silent film director Tod Browning, Iris Barry wrote, "Browning has a peculiar gift for managing dramatic suspense, only rivaled by some of the Germans, though achieved by methods less dramatic than theirs." That Devil Bateese (William Wobert, 1918) in which Lon Chaney starred with Ada Gleason, is a lost silent film.
Lon Chaney would return to the screen in 1926 in the films The Blackbird (Tod Browning, seven reels), The Road to Mandalay (Tod Browning, seven reels) and Tell It To the Marines (George Hill, ten reels).
The Motion Picture News Booking Guide provided a brief synopsis of the film Road to Mandalay, directed by Tod Browning, "Melodrama of a degenerate parent who gets a streak of redemption when he would save his daughter from evil partner. She has no knowledge of her father's identity."
Picture Play Magazine looked at the director's technique while providing a brief synopsis to the film "Blackbrid", directed by Tod Browning. " 'The Blackbird' is a perfectly fine melodrama of London's Limehouse district, that convenient locale where we can always find crooks of the better sort...When Lon Chaney takes to play a double role- He is in this a tough, tough, thug known as The Black Bird, and he lives with his brother, a holy man, known as The Bishop of Limehouse. The Blackbrird makes trouble and the Bishop tries to undo it...However, not to deceive you too long, Lon Chaney plays both parts...Tod Browning has a remarkable sense of melodrama. He photographs bits of action and fleeting glimpses of faces, making in a few seconds a point that many directors could make in several reels of action."
In 1927, Lon Chaney starred in front of the camera of silent film director William Nigh to portray Mr. Wu (eight reels), the film co-starring Renee Adoree and Gertrude Olmstead. It was reviewed in Photoplay as a "gory story and one that is not likely to equal most of Chaney's films in popularity." The Motion Picture News Booking Guide provided a brief synopsis of the film "Mr. Wu", "Theme: Adapted from the stage play. Melodrama of Chinese vengeance when mandarin's daughter prefers American's love in preference to a Chinese marriage. "
1927 was a year in which Rupert Julian, director of Phantom of the Opera was collaborating with screenwriter Garret Fort on the film Yankee Clipper to showcase actress Elinor Fair. Tod Browning that year would be filming "The Show", starring John Gilbert, Renee Adore and Lionel Barrymore. Motion Picture Magazine published a photograph of Browning on the set filming a topshot from a platform or what looks like the roof of a three wall set. Still referring to the film as "The Day of Souls", the photcation read, "Now in order to be a good cameraman you have to be able to swing from chandeliers and do any other feat which will result in action being photographed in an unusual way. This scene...is to be photographed with the camera shooting down upon it."
While one of the ten films then being produced by M.G.M, also among them being "Masks of the Devil", directed by Victor Seastrom, and "The Mysterious Lady", directed by Fred Niblo, it was reported by Exhibitor's Daily Review that the film "West of Zanzibar", starring Lon Chaney and directed by Tod Browning, would be made with sound effects. The photographer to the film would be Percy Hilburn. A photo caption in Exhibitor's Herald and Moving Picture World was directed toward moving going audiences, " Grim visages from Lon Chaney's latest 'West of Zanzibar', which is as distinguished for unusual characterizations as Chaney pictures usually are."
Photoplay Magazine reviewed the film "Where is East is East", directed by Tod Browning in 1929 and starring Lon Chaney with Lupe Valez and Estelle Taylor. "Gather round folks for another Chaney bedtime story- A very bad woman, wife of an animal trapper, deserts her husband only to return later to steal the affections of the boy who lives her own daughter. Not nice at all, this woman, but Estelle Taylor plays her to perfection." The film being the last on which Chaney had starred under the direction of Browning, it would mark the tenth film on which the two had collaborated.
While looking for films that might have played on the same marquee as double features, on early horror film from 1926 include "Midnight Faces" (1926) in which Francis X. Bushman and Kathryn McQuire appeared under the direction of Bennet Cohen.
Based on the novel by Somerset Maugham, "The Magician", directed for M.G.M by Rex Ingram, brought more horror and suspense to the movie theaters of 1926. Alice Terry and Gladys Hamer star in the film. Motion Picture News magazine reviewed the film with "Fantastic Picture by Ingram aha it's Moments"- "It is weird, fantastic, adequately suspension and shivery-and no matter how it is accepted, no one is going to dismiss it as something that doesn't belong...Here in the new opus, the symbol of the title role is a coiling cobra. The magician...is determined a la Svengali, to get a beautiful girl in his clutches in order to solve his problem of human life. if he can squeeze her heart's blood into his formula he will solve his age old riddle."
Interestingly, the first film directed by Rex Ingram was "Black Orchids", the script cowritten by Ingram and the leading lady of the film, Cleo Madison. Filmed for Universal during 1917, a lack of support for the film required Ingram to remake it five years later for Metro with Barabara La Marr under the title "Trifling Women". Motion Picture Magazine describes Cleo Madison as the "French Vampire" placing more on her being seductuctress than supernatural while starring in "the main incidents of a drama which deals almost exclusively with open defiance of all moral law but which nevertheless holds the spectator's unidivided attention to the end of the last reel." Bluebird Photoplays, a division of Universal, subtitled the film, The Love Affairs of A Heartless Woman, "the film a five reel romance bearing the Bluebird Seal", which is indicative of the sensationalism of the second decade of the century centering upon an immorality of sexuality, whereas during the third decade of the century it would embrace the macabre more often in the thrill seeking of the Photoplay and photo dramatist. Although a Bluebird Photoplay, purportedly, a print of the five reel film "The Chalice of Sorrow", in which Rex Ingram directed actress Cleo Madison, does presently exist in Los Angelos it fortunately not being one of the several Universal-Bluebird films in need of restoration or preservation. It is unknown whether the five reel Bluebird Photoplay "The Reward of the Faithless" directed by Rex Ingram during 1917 still exists and it is unknown whether the five reel film "Pulse of Life (Humanity)" directed by Ingram in 1917, starring Molly Malone and Gypsy Harte, still exists.
It could be purported that while the silent film was well suited as a visual art form for the horror film, that one reason for the genre taking so long to be established was not only was it a genre that was being imported for Europe-it being easily seen that "The Cabinet of Caligari" (1920) and "The Golem" (1920) were soon followed by "The Hands of Orlac" (1922) and "Waxworks" (1924); one volume, The New Spirit of Cinema, published in 1930, having alleged just that, that Expressionism itself was exploitation, with the paragraph, "The circumstances that linked the commercial and aesthetic tendencies together are not difficult to trace." - but that the popular form of melodrama untill 1920 was the serial, or cliffhanger, and that adventure films were sold in installments as narratives, which would account for Universals first Chaney films, Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame being literary adaptations that almost collide with the costume drama, as with Fairbanks and the Three Musketeers. If mystery suspense films are presently lost and are without surviving copies, one primary reason to look for is if they were made as serials and released in shorter multi-reel form. It need only casually noted that to return to film appreciation, despite the clifferhanger being escapist, it avoiding the themes that leave us with a spiritual experience of having looked at the dramas within the world, the pull they have that brings costumers into the theater is part of fantasy having been taken up by art, irregardless of how they sit next to films like "The Joyless Street", "The Scarlet Letter" or "The Gold Rush". Propheticly, the magazine Exceptional Photoplays during 1922 reviewed the film "A Blind Bargain", "Whatever the case was Mr. Chaney has succeeded in lending the true horror note and placing his picture in that limited category which is headed by the John Barrymore screen version of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde."
Scholar Casper Tybjerg has written that the Expressionist films of the mid-twenties were "precursor" films of the genre of horror films, possibly not yet "full-fledged" horror films, and yet it is difficult to exclude "Nosferatu" from the genre if only to begin with the film "The Man Who Laughs". Tybjerg looks for similarities in the films where they can be considered "Fantastic Films" and he in fact includes a Danish serial starring Olof Fonns, Homunculus (1916) of which only a fragment exists and no full copy of the work survives- there are less than two of is six parts that can be screened at present. Despite the effect of The Great War on the European film industry, Casper Tybjerg includes the influence of the film "Der Student Von Prag" (1913) as well as the next entry directed by Stellan Rye, the 1914 film "The Eyes of Ole Brandis" (Die Augen de Ole Brandis), which is a lost film. It is hopefully history itself that Professor Tybjerg confidently provided a plot summary of a film which we longer have a copy of adding his his efforts in film preservation and that in light of that I can employ the subtitle "Lost Film, Found Magazines" to my own internet writing more often. Author Leonaordo Quanesimo views the Homunculus character as inevitably derived from the Gothic Novel. Quanesimo writes, "The Frankenstein creature in this sense is the ancestor and begetter of this character. The Nosferatu of Galean/Murnau is its direct successor. This last link seems very transparent. Homunculus' features in numerous and obvious ways are already those of the vampire from 1921."
To the contrary, without a vague sentiment of a well laid out genre, the program reader to the six reel film "The Phantom Honeymoon", written and directed by J. Searle Dawley during 1919 read, "If you don't believe in ghosts please come to this theater next week and see 'The Phantom Honeymoon'. Should it happen that you do believe in ghosts will you kindly attend the showing of 'The Phantom Honeymoon' next week. Whether you do or don't, be sure and attend this theater next week and you may change your present opinion about some ghosts. We cannot go any further." Motion PIcture News gave the advice to exhibitor's that presaged the new genre, that, "title and theme is the thing to excite their curiously and these are what should be displayed in every possible place." This was to be despite the notoriety of the film's star, Marguerite Marsh. The plot line entails a "ghost romance" involving a groom who loses a duel on his wedding night, having exposed his arm to a deadly snake, and the bride who implores to die with him, a double exposure showing the couple traveling around the world during the afterlife. During the same week, Motion PIcture News reviewed the film 'A Scream in the Night', starring Ruth Budd, and it noted to its movie going readers that, "No part of either the theme or action suggests the title." the magazine, as early film criticism, implying that not only were films a sellable product, but were works of art being advertised for their "pull", their box-office draw.
Untill they are found and or restored, the films made in the United States continue to lurk within the shadows of the silver screen theaters, and although many of the theaters, with all their granduer that introduced the films are also gone, particularly in Boston where as historic districts theater districts have shifted while being rebuilt, the detectives of film can find them in the world of Lost Film, Found Magazines with each newly discovered poster, still or full page advertisement.
When Photoplay reviewed the film Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), it held, "You won't get very excited about this so-called mystery story because you feel down underneath that it will turn out to be a dream. The denoument is not quite as bad as that, but almost...Thelma Todd manages to look both beautiful and freightened while Chreighton Hale makes his knees stutter."
Photoplay magazine in 1927 reviewed a unique foreign film, "A story of the City of the future, I'm weirdly imagined, technically gorgeous, but almost ruined by terrible acting and awful subtitles. The settings are unbelievably beautiful; the mugging of the players unbelievably bad." In the United States, a newer version of the Silent Film Metropolis is currently being presented by Kino International. Karl Freund was the film's cameraman. Apparently, possibly as a lietmotif or metaphor for cranking up the kem and its dusty archive of sprockets and outdated take up reels once a tradition at Harvard, the University overlooked the dilapitated condition of the Fogg Art Musuem and screened actress-machine Brigitte Helm in the Silent Film at its Film Archive during September along with the film Sunrise (Murnau).
|Without the films, all that is left are magazine advertisements where the screen star cordially invites our consumership, not only our consumership as spectators for the advertised product, but as spectators for the fantasies of 'a now by gone era', the look of the female directed to a time only preserved as being seldom seen on the silent silver screen, once captured by the moving camera and now guessed at through the pages of magazines. |
Nils Asther had appeared in the films Laugh Clown Laugh (Herbert Brenon, eight reels) with Lon Chaney and Loretta Young, The Cardboard Lover (eight reels), The Cossacks (George Hill, ten reels) with John Gilbert, Dream of Love (Fred Niblo, six reels) photographed by William Daniels and Oliver Marsh and starring Warner Oland, Adrienne Lecouvrer, and The Blue Danube (Paul Sloane, seven reels) with Seena Owen.
Exhibitor's Herald stressed in a photo caption that Chaney was the "King of Make Up" while introducing Loretta Young as "the cuppie". Talking Picture Magazine would in retrospect later remind its readers that, although virtually unknown, it had only been after fifty girls had been given camera tests, that Loretta Young had been awarded the leading feminine part in the film "Laugh, Clown, Laugh".
During 1929, "The Last Warning", from a play by Thomas F. Fallon, would conclude the career of film director Paul Leni. Exhibitor's Hearlad and Moving Picture World referred to Leni as "the wizard who put the fear of the unknown into 'The Cat and the Canary'....He is an artist of lights and shadows. he can do more with a spotlight and shadow than many directors can do with a full cast of players. 'The Last Warning' will be absolutely the last word in attractions next season...This will be all the more certain when it is known that Alfred A. Cohn, scenario ace, has prepared the script." During 1928 notice had been given that, "the final scenes...have been photographed and the picture is now in the cutting room...The story revolves around the staging of a play in a haunted theater, unoccupied for years. The picture will have sound effects."
|Louise Brooks, whom in 1929 he had directed in the films Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl (Das Tagebuch einer verbrenen), was during that same year introduced to the sound film by being paired with William Powell in The Canary Murder Case. While A Cottage On Dartmoor (Anthony Asquith) includes a dialog intertitle written by the director reading,"Will you come with me to a talkie tonight?". |
Vampyre, Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer's use of the vampire, in the form of Jullian West, as thematic context, was filmed almost silently, with sound added, in Germany in 1932. While Danish film director Benjamin Christensen had by 1913 had begun directing with his first film, Sealed Orders (Det hemmelinghstulde X), a melodrama that, irregardless of its belonging to or being typical of the genre of the early Danish spy film, had included the use of montage in his editing, Carl Th. Dreyer had in fact begun rather as a writer, contributing the screenplay to the film The Brewer's Daughter (Byggerens datter, 1912), directed by Rasmus Ottesen and starring Emmanuel Gregers. He was to write every screenplay that he was to direct. Of the film Leaves in Satan's Book (1919), Forsyth Hardy wrote, "In the selection of his theme we see both the influence of Griffith and the preoccupation with the forces of good and evil which has been characteristic of all Dreyer's films."
As the silent era was approaching nearer still to its close, The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929), directed by Rowland Lee, pitted silent film actor Warner Oland against O.P. Heggie. Jean Arthur co-stars in the film. Warner Oland would become a nemesis by continuing in two sequels, The Return of Dr. Fu Man Chu (Rowland V. Lee, 1930) and Daughter of the Dragon (Lloyd Corriton, 1931).
The first Charlie Chan film, The House Without a Key is lost. Based on the novel by Earl Der Biggers, it appeared in 1926 as part of a two-reel serial with Betty Caldwell and Carry Egan with George Kuwa appearing on as the sleuth. The silent film was directed by Spencer Bennet. Oddly, the remake of "The House Without A Key", "Charlie Chan's Greatest Case", directed by Hamilton MacFadden during 1933 and starring Warner Oland as Derr Biggers aphorism touting sleuth Charlie Chan, is also lost. There are no surviving copies of either film.
The review of one of the first "all-talking" or "talkie" motion pictures in which Warner Oland had starred in during 1929 while at Paramount explains the script and plotline centered around a foriegn film director, "No doubt you read the thrilling mystery in PHOTOPLAY. Perhaps you were among the many thousands who took part in 'The Studio Murder Mystery Contest' In any event you will still wnat to see 'The Sudio Murder Mystery" because it is a corking mystery melodrama with plenty of dramatic kicks and suprises. The story deals with the murder of a prominent actor in a big studio at midnight." We will not rI'm eveal the murderer here either. The 1936 film Charlie Chan at the Opera would reunite Swedish actor Warner Oland and British actor Boris Karloff; they had both starred together with actress Pearl White in the silent serial The Phantom Foe (1920) directed by Bertram Millhauser, who would later write the screenplays to the Universal filmsThe Spider Woman (1944), The Peal of Death (1944) and The Woman in Green (1945), starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
During 1927 the studio itself released advertisements predicting that Lon Chaney would return to the screen in an adaptation of the Writing of Gaston Leroux, it announcing to audiences that the film "Seven Seas" was on its way as a coming attraction, which was only to be left unmade as an unrealized film script. It was to plunge him into "a swirling action that seethes aboard a convict ship on its way to Devil's Island. A revolt throws into his hands the man responsible for his plight and Chaney's sardonic revenge is tempered only by the softening influence of the girl who is the one redeeming breath of beauty into his life. Power and tenderness mingle together in a great narrative whose tense drama is heightened by the surging background of the Seven Seas."
A 1929 issue of Photoplay Magazine reported, "Lon Chaney has overcame his microphone phobia. One of his first talkies will be "Cher-Bibi", by Gaston Leroux. It then pealed with the announcement, "Snow storms, trainwrecks, and floods" were in fact promised, "with Lon Chaney at the throttle of the locomotive, with the film, "Thunder". In Chaney Talks!, Harry Lang lends insight to what lay behind Hollywood legend, the extratextual discoursI'm e that enveloped stage performer and screen character, while writing for Photoplay Magazine, "'I'll tell you frankly,' said Chaney, sitting back with his inevitable cap and his not so often seen horn-rimmed specs on, 'that my first talking picture is going to make me- or break me! Inside, I mean; in here...' He tapped his breast." Lon Chaney remarked the the film Thunder would have been more aptly titled "Snow" in light of its exterior locations. The New Movie Magazine during 1930 provided an article by journalist Ruth Biery entitled "Lon Chaney Goes Talkie- He is not going to retire from the screen and he is going to use voice in pictures when the righ time comes." Biery recorded, "It was not easy to find him...the studio didn't know where he was and the Chaney house would give no information. I found him finally. he was in bed in a Hollywood hospital. He had just had his tonsils removed. The climax of his first illness in fourteen years...He just wanted to be with his wife and she was beside him every moment. 'Say, I told you before that if I had my way, I'd never give an interview. I want to be a mystery. Don't you remember."
Close Up Magazine during 1929 suggested that Lon Chaney and Tod Browning were to separate for individual projects while Browning direct Bela Lugosi on the M.G.M lot. it announced, "Lon Chaney, who, with Charlie Chaplin, has signed a pledge never to do a talkie, will next be seen, but not heard in a picturization of Major Zinor Peckloff's 'The Bugle Sounds'. It is a story dealing with the Foreign Legion. George Hill, the director, sometime ago made a special trip to the actual scenes of the book and secured many thousand feet of atmospheric shots." Motion Picture News during 1929 ran the studio's advertisements announcing, "Lon Chaney will appear in three pictures. There will be a sound and silent production of each" Two of the three films were listed as only Title to Be Announced- Sound or Silent. In s synopsis of "The Bugle Sounds", Chaney was to play a character "reckless, grim-visaged, yet vulnerable finally in the combat of love....Lon Chaney will appear in two other pictures for which elaborate plans are underway, assuring motion picture audiences new vistas of adventure-thrill, new character-portraitures by the master Lon Chaney who grips the world's imagination."
In the same Issue, Close Up, in its Hollywood Notes section, looked at the latest film from Tod Browning. "The Thirteen Chair, directed by Tod Browning, is forthcoming M.G.M mystery play. It's locale is Calcutta and an added touch of realism is given to the picture by the inclusion to the cast of Lal Chand Mehra, a nephew of the Swami Pranavenanda." Hollywood Filmograph reviewed the all talking production as a "conglomeration of screeches, seances, murders and investigations none too adeptly combined by Tod Browning....Several scenes, as it happens, depend entirely upon sound for their effect. The lights on the settings are turned off and the screen is a glimmering grayness. One hears shrieks, screams, thuds and the effect is a sense of uncanniness." National Board of Review Magazine reviewed the film "The Thirteenth Chair", almost as though it were disguising film theory during the new discussion of whether sound would integrate audiences into narrative or whether it would detract from the primacy of the visual image, which was central to narrative; perhaps it was merely eavesdropping. "The talkies of course add many thrills to the mystery story which were unknown to the silent film....In this picture is the oft used method of discovering the murderer by reenact ing the scene of the crime in order to frighten a confession from the guilty person- the guests at a seance during which the murder was committed are placed in exactly the same positions they occupied before and the same proceedings followed." New Movie Magazine also put the silent film into a direct comparison, or direct chronology, with the sound film in its review of "The Thirteenth Chair", but in applauding actress Margaret Wycherly for playing the fortune teller twice, it seems to imply that she appeared in the 1919 film, where she actually had played the role on stage, it being her husband Bayard Veiller who had been involved in both projects, writing both the silent Photoplay and sound screenplay when remade. The magazine offered, "This melodrama has been neatly transformed into a talkie, although the crime has been shifted to another character." Bela Lugosi and Conrad Nagel would appear under the direction of Tod Browning in a mystery made more spine-tingling by the performances of Lelila Hymas, Helene Millard and Mary Forbes.