Sunday, February 4, 2024

Tod Browning: The Lon Chaney Films

One name was Charles Albert Browning, Jr., the other was, Leonidas Frank Chaney. Fans of horror movies know both fondly by their nicknames, "Tod" and "Lon"! This is a small look at the ten-feature-films the two made together.

Above left, Tod Browning with Lon Chaney on the set of 1926', "The Road to Mandalay".

Briefly, Before Their First Film Together

Tod Browning:

Browning was born on July 12, 1889 in Louisville, Kentucky, to bricklayer, machinist, and carpenter, Charles Albert and Lydia Browning. 

A little trivia for baseball fans, his uncle was professional baseball center and left fielder, Pete Browning, of the "Louisville Eclipse/Colonels". His nickname was the "Louisville Slugger" and his nickname transferred to a type of bat he preferred and is still used today.

At the age of 16, not finishing high school, Charles ran away, joined the circus, and became a barker. By 1901, Charles was a song and dance man on the riverboats and a contortionist for the "Manhattan Fair and Carnival Company". He developed a live-burial act that he performed while with the "Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus". While in 1906, he was briefly married, changed his name to "Tod", the German word for "Death", abandoned his wife, and became a vaudeville entertainer. In 1909, Tod Browning gave up the vaudeville stage and started motion picture acting. It is documented that he appeared in some 50-comedy shorts without credit. His first credited role was portraying "The Under Taker", in the 1913, short comedy, "Scenting a Terrible Crime". Tod Browning's first film as a director was the dramatic short, 1915's, "The Lucky Transfer". Also that year, he wrote his first scenario (silent film version of a screenplay), for 1915's, "Queen of the Band". Tod Browning's first feature as a producer would be his first film with Lon Chaney.

Lon Chaney:

He was born on April 1, 1883, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to barber Frank H. Chaney and Emma Alice Kenney Chaney. Both of Lon's parents were deaf, and in 1874 his maternal grandfather Jonathan Ralston Kennedy, founded the "Colorado School for Mutes", now called, "The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind". Being raised by two deaf parents, the young boy learned to communicate through "American Sign-Language". In 1902, he started traveling the vaudeville circuits, and in 1905, 22-years-old Lon Chaney, met 16-years-old singer, Francis Cleveland "Cleva" Creighton on the circuit. (A major age difference from James Cagney and Dorothy Malone in "Universal International's" biography, 1957's, "Man of a Thousand Faces").

In 1906, their only son, Creighton Tull Chaney, was born. My article is "LON CHANEY, JR: "OF MICE AND WEREWOLVES" at:

Lon and Cleva continued touring and in 1910 moved to California where the two continued to perform. However, martial troubles developed while Lon was managing the popular vaudeville team of Clarence Kolb and Max Dill.

During a performance by "Kolb and Dill", on April 30, 1913, at the "Majestic Theatre", in downtown Los Angeles, Cleva came on stage and in front of the audience, swallowed Mercuric chloride, destroying her vocal chords, but surviving her suicide attempt. This became a scandal, divorce followed, but it also forced Lon Chaney out of the legitimate theater and into films.

Once again tossing aside the "Hollywood Biography", I suggest my reader go to the website, "Chaney Entertainment" at for the true story of the birth of the young man that took the name Lon Chaney, Jr., and the events leading to the action of popular stage singer Francis Cleveland "Cleva" Creighton Chaney and her divorce.

The first confirmed film with Lon Chaney was 1913's, "The Ways of Fate", starring Wallace Reid and Vivian Rich, the complete cast for this short was five-actors. By the time Lon Chaney first appeared in a motion picture directed by Tod Browning, he had appeared on-screen 114-times, 83 of which were short dramas. Those roles included two classics, portraying "Frog" in 1919's, "The Miracle Man" and "Blind Pew" in the 1920 version of Scottish author Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Treasure Island".

Above, Lon Chaney as "Frog", and below as "Blind Pew". The 1920 "Treasure Island" is part of my article, "Pirates of the Motion Picture Screen: A Sampling", found at:

The first film pairing Director Tod Browning with Actor Lon Chaney was a crime romance thought to be lost:

THE WICKED DARLING premiered in New York City on February 2, 1919

The scenario was based upon a short story by Evelyn Campbell, "The Moth". Campbell would write stories for east-coast magazines and worked for several newspapers as she moved from the east to the west-coast. Besides writing scenarios, she would write a series of western novels and in 1921, her small acting career took her to the "Ziegfeld Follies" on Broadway.

The scenario is credited to Waldermar Young, who started writing stories and scenarios in 1917. His name would be connected with other films I will be mentioning. After the silent era, among the sound screenplays he worked upon were Cecil B. DeMille's, 1932, "Sign of the Cross", 1934's, "Cleopatra", 1935', "The Crusades", and 1936's, "The Plainsman". In 1932, Waldermar Young worked on the adaption of British author Herbert George "H.G." Wells's, "The Island of Dr. Moreau", for the motion picture "Island of Lost Souls".

Harvey Gates is referred to as a "Writer". He had been writing scenarios, which he normally received credit for since 1913, and his film credits changed to screenplays with the advent of sound. His work totaled 224 by 1948, the year of his death. However, it is more than probable that Harvey Gates wrote the "Title Cards" for Waldermar Young's scenario for this motion picture. 

Director Tod Browning had just filmed the 1918 comedy, "Set Free", and he followed this feature with another Priscilla Dean picture, 1919's, "The Exquisite Thief".

Priscilla Dean portrayed "Mary Stevens". Dean had been appearing in film shorts since 1912, and switched to feature length productions in 1917, at which point she became a "Universal Pictures" star. However, her career ended with sound films in 1932 and never was seen on-screen again.

Wellington A. Playter portrayed "Kent Mortimer". All I could locate about English actor Wellington A. Playter was that he acted on-screen 43-times between 1913 and 1921, and directed one film.

Lon Chaney portrayed "Stoop Connors". Chaney was just seen in the 1918, "Danger, Go Slow", and followed this feature film with the 1919, First World War drama, "The False Faces".

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

"Kent Mortimer" is a wealthy man attending a party with his fiancee, "Adele Hoyt", portrayed by Gertrude Astor, and reveals he is bankrupt and needs to sell his home and other property to pay his debts. "Adele" walks out on him, returns all the gifts he gave her, except for a string of pearls that she accidentally drops on the street. Along comes pickpocket, "Mary Stevens", a member of a gang of pickpockets and shop lifting thieves who finds it. Just then, the police spot and recognize her and start a pursuit. "Mary" finds an unlocked door and enters a mansion to hide, but finds the owner inside. He is "Kent Mortimer", she learns he is the owner of the pearls, but doesn't reveal she has them. Later, "Mary" becomes a waitress, still having the pearls and not having revealed them to the other gang members that includes "Scoop Connors".

One day, into the restaurant walks "Kent Mortimer", this will lead to a romance, but "Connor's" is jealous and in a confrontation shoots "Kent" in the arm, which brings him even closer to "Mary". Next, she helps "Kent" pay his overdue apartment rent, by pawning two of the pearls to a fence named "Fadem", portrayed by Spottiswoodes Aiken.  "Fadem" alerts "Scoop" to the pearls existence, and the two search "Mary's" apartment. Revealing to "Kent", "Mary's" gang membership in the past and he breaks off their romance.

"Mary", does the right thing and sends the pearls back to "Adele". Who, in turn, sends them to "Kent", which reveals to him, that "Mary" returned the pearls instead of keeping them. "Kent" now goes to apologize to "Mary", but can't find her. She has been kidnapped by "Scoop" and "Fadem" to force her to reveal the location of the pearls. All leading to a typical 1919 climax, of "Kent Mortimer" confronting "Fadem" and "Scoop" to save his "Mary" and the two gang members "Slinking off like the Rats they are". While, "Mary" and "Kent" are reunited.

The next collaboration of Tod Browning and Lon Chaney was described as a crime romance thriller and was a "Universal Pictures JEWEL SUPER PRODUCTION".

OUTSIDE THE LAW premiered in Los Angeles on December 26, 1920

The following is from an article about the history of "Universal Pictures" found on Wikipedia to explain what a "Jewel" production for the studio was:,high%20budgets%20using%20prominent%20actors  

In 1916, Universal formed a three-tier branding system for their releases. Unlike the top-tier studios, Universal did not own any theaters to market its feature films. Universal branding their product gave theater owners and audiences a quick reference guide. Branding would help theater owners judge films they were about to lease and help fans decide which movies they wanted to see. Universal released three different types of feature motion pictures:

  • Red Feather Photoplays – low-budget feature films
  • Bluebird Photoplays – mainstream feature release and more ambitious productions
  • Jewel – prestige motion pictures featuring high budgets using prominent actors

The original story is attributed to director Tod Browning. Browning had previously done the double-play, co-writing, and directing, 1920's "The Virgin of Stramboul", starring Priscilla Dean and Wallace Beery,  and followed this motion picture with 1921's, "No Woman Knows", based upon the novel by Edna Ferber. 

The scenario writer was Lucien Hubbard. He started writing scenarios in 1917, among his work is both a scenario and then sound screenplay for the 1929, silent/sound hybrid of French author Jules Verne's, "The Mysterious Island", starring Lionel Barrymore. He also wrote the original 1931 version of author Raymond Chandler's "The Maltese Falcon", and 1943's, "Gung-Ho!': The Story of Carlson's Making Island Raiders", starring Randolph Scott. 

The title cards were written by Gardner Bradford, who did that one task for 47-silent shorts and feature films between 1920 and 1929.

Priscilla Dean portrayed "Molly Madden (Silky Molly)". The actress had just been seen in 1920's, "The Virgin of Stramboul", and followed this feature with 1921's, "Reputation".

Wheeler Oakman portrayed "Dapper Bill Ballard". Oakman started on-screen acting in 1912, and co-starred with Priscilla Dean in 1920's, "The Virgin of Stramboul", and followed this movie co-starring with 7-years-old Jackie Coogan, "Uncle Fester" on televisions "The Addams Family" 1964-1966, in 1921's, "Peck's Bad Boy".

Lon Chaney portrayed two roles, "Black Mike Sylva", and "Ah Wing". Chaney had just co-starred with Lewis Stone, "Judge Hardy" in the Mickey Rooney "Andy Hardy" series, in 1920's, "Nomads of the North".

Above, Lon Chaney as "Black Mike Sylva", and below as "Ah Wing".

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

"Silent Madden", portrayed by Ralph Lewis, a San Francisco crime boss and his daughter "Molly", have given up a life of crime after consulting with "Chang Lo", portrayed by E. Alyn Warren, a Confucianist scholar in Chinatown. 

Another gangster without any religious morals, "Black Mike Slyva", frames "Molly's" father for murder, resulting in her loss of faith and return to crime.
"Black Mike" plans to double-cross "Molly" by making it look like she was behind a large jewelry theft.  However, her gangster boyfriend, "Dapper Bill Ballard", learns of it and the two take down "Black Mike".

The film is notable for a climatic shootout in Chinatown that took two-weeks to film. Through some clever editing for the year, I could not locate the name of the editor, Lon Chaney's character of "Ah Wing" kills his character of "Black Mike Sylva" in the same scene. 

It should be noted that Tod Browning was a "Freemason" and used religious symbolism in many of his motion pictures. For the redemption of "Silky Molly" and her boyfriend, "Dapper Bill Ballard", according to film critic Alec Charles, in his 2006, "Double Identify: Presence and Absence in the Films of Tod Browning", referring to the great Soviet Union filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein:
Five years earlier than Eisenstein, Browning had employed a similar piece of [Christian] symbolism (in the form of a shattered kite) suggesting that the film’s two thieves [Dapper Bill and Silky Molly] might, in a squalid, broken and unglamorous way, find their own salvation...and escape the fate of [crucifixion]...the possibility of advancing an athletic comparison...authorizes a reading of Browning’s discontinuities as intentional [and] anticipating Eisenstein…


It would be five-years before Browning and Chaney came together again. Lon Chaney had made for "Universal Pictures" both the 1923 version of French author Victor Hugo's, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and the 1925 version of French author Gaston Leroux's, "The Phantom of the Opera". While Tod Browning had made British novelist Ouida (Marie Louise de la Ramee's), 1867, classic novel, as his 1922, "Under Two Flags", starring Priscilla Dean, and followed that by directing eight other feature films.

THE UNHOLY THREE premiered on July 4, 1925 in San Francisco

The motion picture was produced by "The Boy Wonder", Irving Thalberg. It was Thalberg who convinced Carl Laemmle, the owner of "Universal Pictures", to spend the money to make French author Victor Hugo's, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". It was Irving Thalberg who cast Lon Chaney as "Quasimodo", and came up with the tag line, "The Man of a Thousand Faces".

Depending upon the source, either Louis B. Mayer, or Tod Browning's name was also listed as producers.

The motion picture was directed by Tod Browning. He had just directed the crime drama, 1924's, "Silk Stocking Sal", and followed this feature film with the 1925, drama, "The Mystic".

The motion picture was based upon the 1917 novel "The Unholy Three", by American horror and mystery novelist Clarence Aaron Robbins, who wrote as Tod Robbins. 

The scenario was written by Waldermar Young, he had just written the scenario for the 1925 western, "The Great Divide", starring Wallace Berry, and followed this feature by writing the scenario for 1925's, "The Mystic".

Lon Chaney portrayed "Echo - the ventriloquist". Lon had just been seen in the comedy horror film, 1925's, "The Monster". He followed this feature film by co-starring with Norma Shearer in 1925's, "Tower of Lies".

Mae Busch portrayed "Rosie O'Grady". She started on-screen acting in 1915, and immediately before this feature film was in the 1925 western, "Flaming Love". Busch followed this film with 1925's, "Camille of the Barbary Coast".

Matt Moore portrayed "Hector McDonald". Irish actor Moore's 221-films started with 1913's, "Plain Jane", a short, and ended in 1958, with Richard Boone's, horror film, "I Bury the Living".

Victor McLagen portrayed "Hercules". McLagen was nine-years away from his first motion picture for director John Ford, 1934's, "The Lost Patrol", and ten-years from his "Best Actor Academy Award" for Ford's, 1935, "The Informer".

Kurt "Harry" Earles portrayed "Tweedledee". He was born in Stolpen, Kingdom of Saxony, Germany in 1902. Kurt was the brother of three sisters, the four known as "The Doll Family" and appeared in 1939's, "The Wizard of Oz". This was Harry's first motion picture and he would appear in Tod Browning's 1932, "Freaks", and the sound version of this movie.

Above, Victor McLaglen and Harry Earles.

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

The movie opens at a side show with a young man heckling "Tweedledee", who attacks the heckler starting a melee. As a result, along with his two friends, "Echo" and "Hercules", they leave the side show and decide on a criminal scheme to become rich.

"Echo" now becomes grandmother "Mrs. O'Grady" running a pet store.

"Tweedledee" becomes her grandson, "Little Willie".

"Hercules" becomes an employee of "Mrs. O'Grady's" pet store.

"Rose O'Grady", a pickpocket and "Echo's" girlfriend, becomes the granddaughter of "Mrs. O'Grady". 

The pet store works as a perfect cover and when wealthy clients purchase an animal. They are delivered free by "Mrs. O'Grady", who takes her grandson with her, because she's baby sitting. While explaining to the owners their new pets, mostly parrots that "Echo" can throw his voice to make them talk, no one pays attention to the baby crawling on the floor casing the place.

At the pet store is another employee, "Hector McDonald", who is completely unaware of what's going on. 

Also at the shop is "Echo's" pet ape, I tried to find out who played him but couldn't.

As the story progresses, two things take place, "Hector" and "Rosie" are falling in love, and "Hercules" is also in love with her. Then, when everything is going just as "Echo" planned, it goes wrong.

It is discovered that a ruby necklace is in the house of "Mr. Arlington", portrayed by Charles Wellesley, and the three plan to go after it. "Echo" wants caution and tells his two confederates he needs to be sure of things, before the robbery takes place. 

However, "Hercules" and "Tweedledee" decided to go ahead without "Echo".

The next morning "Echo" reads in the paper that, "Mr. Arlington", was murdered obviously by "Hercules" and "Arlington's" little daughter was injured, having been choked into unconsciousness by "Tweedledee". (The robbery sequence was filmed by Tod Browning, he considered it too violent, and had it edited out of the released motion picture).

"Echo" confronts his two associates and discovers that "Hercules" has no feeling of remorse and seems to have enjoyed the murder, remarking that "Mr. Arlington" pleaded for his life.

Because "Mr. Arlington" had purchased a "Talking Parrot" from the pet shop, a police investigator comes over to question the three and "Hector". A decision is made to place the necklace and some other jewelry in "Hector's" room and frame him.

Meanwhile, "Hector" proposes to "Rosie", who refuses him, but as he closes the door, "Hector" hears her crying, reenters and "Rosie" admits her love for him. At which point she confesses her criminal past, but he says he loves the new "Rose O'Grady" and forgives her past life. As the police arrive and arrest him. "Rosie" tells "Echo", "Hercules", and "Tweedledee" that she plans to testify at "Hector's" trial for the defense. This forces the three to abduct "Rosie" and flee to a mountain cabin along with "Echo's" pet ape.

Spring comes and "Hector" is to go on trial. "Rosie" tells "Echo" that she will marry him, if he will help save "Hector". "Echo" agrees and leaves for the city and the trial. While he is gone, "Tweedledee" overhears "Hercules" revealing his own love for "Rosie" and asks her to flee with him and all the jewelry. "Tweedledee" unleashes "Echo's" ape to attack "Hercules". The strongman strangles "Tweedledee" to death and is himself killed by the ape.

At the trial, "Echo" battles within himself over what to do, finally he rushes forward to confess everything and save "Hector". Both men are freed by the judge.

When "Rosie" now goes to "Echo" to keep her promise of marrying him, he lies, and tells her he was only joking and to go to "Hector".

The movie ends with "Echo" back at the sideshow giving his spiel to the audience, but adding:
That's all there is to life, friends, ... a little laughter ... a little tear


The "Hollywood" trade paper, "Variety" wrote:

Here is about the best bet from a box office standpoint that has come along in a while...It is a wow of a story in the first place...And there's another thing about this picture, and that is that Lon Chaney stands out like a million dollars. He'd done that before, but always with a more or less grotesque make-up. No make-up this time. He isn't all hunched up, he isn't legless, he isn't this, that or the other thing in deformities. He's just Lon Chaney, and he's great. 


THE BLACKBIRD the feature had a double premier on January 9, 1926 in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Tod Browning wrote the story, "The Mockingbird", the planned film title, that the scenario was based upon. The actual scenario was written by Wandemar Young, this picture followed Tod Browning's, 1925, "The Mystic". Young followed this film with the scenario for the 1926, adventure romance, "The Flaming Forest". The titles were by Joseph Farnham, since 1918, it was Farnham's title cards that provided dialogue for audiences. In 1929, he switched to adding dialogue for hybrid motion pictures part silent, part sound.

Lon Chaney portrayed the dual roles of "twin brothers (?)", "Dan Tate the Blackbird", and "The Bishop of Limehouse". As I previously mentioned, the movie audiences saw Lon co-starring with Norman Shearer in 1925's, "The Tower of Lies". He would next appear in the next movie I will be mentioning.

Above, Lon Chaney portraying "Dan Tate the Blackbird", and below, "The Bishop of Limehouse".

Owen Moore portrayed "Bertram P. Glayde aka: West End Bertie". Moore first appeared on-screen in a 15-minute, 1908 film, by director D.W. Griffith, "The Guerrilla". His 287th-role was in the original 1937, "A Star is Born".

Above, Owen Moore with Lon Chaney.

Renee Adoree portrayed "Mademoiselle Fifi Lorraine". Renee Adoree was a French actress portraying a French woman in a silent film where her accent cannot be heard. She had just portrayed another French woman in director King Vidor's classic First World War drama, 1925's, "The Big Parade", and followed this feature film with another of director King Vidor's movies, 1926's, "La Boheme". That film was based upon the 1895 Italian opera, without singing, by Giacomo Puccini, which was based upon the 1851, "Scènes de la vie de Bohème", by French novelist Henri Mugger. The movie starred Lillian Gish and major silent leading man, John Gilbert, whose career died with the advent of sound and the sound of his voice.


Above, Lon Chaney and Renee Adoree.

Doris Lloyd portrayed "Limehouse Polly". Lloyd's on-screen career began in 1920, and she made the transfer to sound co-starring with British stage and film actor George Arliss in 1929's, all-sound historical biography, "Disraeli". She co-starred in director James Whale's, 1931 version of playwright Robert E. Sherwood's, "Waterloo Bridge". In 1933, Doris Lloyd was in the cast of the Reginald Owen, and Anna Mae Wong's, version of British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, "A Study in Scarlet", but my reader may know the actress for portraying "Mrs. Watchett", in producer George Pal's, 1960 version of H.G. Wells', "The Time Machine", or the "Baroness Ebberfield" in director Robert Wise's, 1965 version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein II's musical, "The Sound of Music".

Above, Doris Lloyd and Lon Chaney.

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

Joseph Farnham's opening title card sets the films setting as in "Limehouse District":
with its lust, greed and love, a sea of fog, a drama of human faces

The title card is followed by the first filmed sequence at a cheap music hall overseen by the very tough "Dan Tate". Who also runs a small gang of thieves under the alias of "The Blackbird". As a cover for his activities, "Tate" poses as his own twin brother, the good hearted man known as the "Bishop of Limehouse". Who supposedly lives above the adjoining mission to the music hall.

The police arrive at the mission, not the music hall, find "Tate" and accuse "The Blackbird" of a robbery. "Dan Tate" replies that the was sleeping in his room and will get his brother to confirm his story. "The Blackbird" goes upstairs to his brother's alleged room and quickly changes clothing and his appearance. While "Tate" is changing personalities, the police hear what seems to be two distinct voices speaking to each other. "The Bishop" comes down and confirms his "Brother's" story.

Later, a group of wealthy Londoners that are slumming, arrive at the music hall, and are led by respectable "Bertram P. Glayde", better known to the "Blackbird" as the thief, "West End Bertie". At the same time, "Dan's" wife, returns to the music hall after a long absence and his displeasure. While, both "Dan" and "Bertie" are attracted to "Fifi Lorraine", a puppeteer performing on stage.

"Fifi", although, is attracted to a diamond choker worn by one of the wealthy women that "Bertie" brought to the music hall. "Bertie", of course, arranges for his own group of thieves to steal the jewelry, but is met at his home by "The Blackbird".

"Dan" insists he is owed a portion of "Bertie's" haul, and with a flip of a coin, "Dan Tate" leaves with the diamond choker. The following night, "Bertie" succeeds in getting "Fifi" to come to his home, after "Dan" unsuccessfully attempted to woo her. Meanwhile, "Polly" is attempting to appeal to her ex's better nature and reconnect.

"Bertie" and "Fifi" have fallen in love and they go to "The Bishop" to ask him to perform the marriage ceremony. In his disguise as his twin brother, "Dan" exposes "West End Bertie" to "Fifi" and the "gentleman thief" promises to reform and return all his stolen goods to their owners.

The jealous "Blackbird" informs the police who raid "Bertie's" home and "Dan" shoots one of the police officers expecting that it will be blamed on "West End Bertie". Who the "Blackbird" hides after "Fifi" pleads for his help. As "The Bishop", "Dan" works on getting "Fifi" and "Bertie" against each other, but one of "The Blackbird's" men informs the police as to who actually shot the officer. 

"Polly goes to warn "Dan", but finds him kissing "Fifi", who then leaves the room. Later, hoping to throw the police off of the "Blackbird". Just behind the closed door of the "Bishop's" room, Dan" stages a fight between his two identities. The door is suddenly opened, causing "Dan", as the "Bishop", to fall breaking his back. The police enter, find the "Bishop" on the floor, lift him to his bed, and go after the fugitive "Blackbird".

"Polly" now enters and "Dan" asks her to burn "The Blackbird's" clothing, hidden in a corner of the room. "Polly" now becomes the only person to know the truth that the brothers were all one man. However, "Dan's injuries are very serious and he shortly dies as "The Bishop of Limehouse". The locals mourn the loss of their dear "Bishop", and "Fifi" and "Bertie" are free to marry.

The reviews for "The Blackbird" all seem to point out one thing, Tod Browning and "MGM" were attempting to make another "The Unholy Three", but may have failed. The following three examples of the films reviews come from Michael F. Blake's, 1998, "The Films of Lon Chaney".

"They're still playing up the fact that Lon Chaney can make himself more hideous and misshapen than anybody in pictures...THE BLACKBIRD is an okeh (sic) picture---good for the first runs and the smaller houses. What's more remarkable about it is that Chaney, who has recently had a great run of pictures (with a corresponding rise in fame), sticks to his more or less old line with outstanding success." ---Variety

"Mr. Chaney's acting is wonderful but the story is weak. The attempt to produce another The Unholy Three success therefore has missed fire. Mr. Chaney assumes a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde role. In the "cripple" part, his acting is superb. Long lines formed at the Capitol last Sunday even though the weather condition was very bad. It is evident that the picture will draw." ---Harrison's Reports

"This is one of the finest characterizations to Chaney's credit. He doesn't resort to heavy makeup to put over his character....Tod Browning's direction is just as mystifying that we'll wager you'll like to see it again" ---Photoplay

Tod Browning and Lon Chaney's next motion picture was originally titled "Singapore". However, the title became:

THE ROAD TO MANDALAY and premiered in Los Angeles on June 26, 1926

Tod Browning directed this motion picture immediately upon completion of "The Blackbird". He followed it with the non-Lon Chaney drama, 1927's, "The Show", starring John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, and Lionel Barrymore.

The story was co-written by Tod Browning and Henry Jacob Mankiewicz. Who co-received the "Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay" with Orson Welles for 1941's, "Citizen Kane". Although, even as I write these words, there is a strong argument that Orson never wrote a single word of that screenplay. 

The actual scenario was written by Elliott J. Clawson, who started writing scenarios in 1913. It was the uncredited Clawson who adapted French author Gaston Leroux's, "Phantom of the Opera", for the Lon Chaney, 1925 classic. His last film work was the sound motion picture, 1929's, "High Voltage", starring future "Hopalong Cassidy', William Boyd, and Carole Lombard. The wife of Clark Gable, who was tragically killed in a plane crash.

Joseph Farnham wrote the titles for the original production. Farnham had just written the title cards for the 1926, romantic drama, "Paris", starring Charles Ray and Joan Crawford. He followed this picture with the Norma Shearer, romantic comedy, 1926, "The Waning Sex". 

Ludwig Meier was a title card translator and translated Joseph Farnham's cards into different languages for the movie to be shown in foreign countries.

Lon Chaney portrayed "Singapore Joe". This movie was followed by director George W. Hill's, 1926's, "Tell It to the Marines", about a tough Marine sergeant and a young recruit vying for the love of the same girl. In the below still, note Lon's left eye, the contact lenses used by him for the eye. Can be seen in his make-up case at the "Natural History Museum" in Los Angeles.

Lois Moran portrayed "Joe's daughter". The following year, the actress had a brief affair with American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald wrote the character of "Rosemary Hoyt" in his 1934 novel, "Tender is the Night", based upon Lois Moran. 

Owen Moore portrayed "The Admiral". Moore had just been seen in the 1926 comedy, "Money Talks". Owen Moore followed this motion picture by co-starring with the mistress of newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, in 1927's, "The Red Mill".

Henry B. Walthall portrayed "Father James". Walthall portrayed "Colonel Ben Cameron 'The Little Colonel'" in director D.W. Griffith's, 1915, "The Birth of a Nation". Immediately before this feature film, Walthall appeared in the First World War drama, 1926's, "The Unknown Soldier". He followed this role by co-starring with Lillian Gish, in the 1926 version of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne's, "The Scarlet Letter".

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

"Singapore Joe" is the captain of a ship bound for Mandalay with a gravely ill wife in labor. After giving birth to their daughter, "Singapore Joe's" wife dies and he gives the baby to his brother, a priest known as "Father James", living in Mandalay, who raises her. 

Twenty-years pass and  "Singapore Joe" has become a criminal and lost an eye. He now runs a brothel with a Chinese partner named "English Charlie Wing", portrayed by Japanese actor Sojin Kamiyama aka just, "Sojin. He returned to Japan and made movies there between 1931 and 1954. He was the "Blind Musician" in director Akira Kurosawa's classic, "The Seven Samurai". There is a third partner in the background of the brothel, a once well to-do Englishman, known only as "The Admiral".

Whenever, he's in Mandalay, "Singapore Joe" goes into a curio shop run by his daughter, who doesn't know he's her father, to see her. However, "Joe's daughter" is repulsed by his face and his fake eye.

One day, the "Admiral" comes into "Joe's Daughter's" shop and the two start to fall in love. While, "Singapore Joe" tells his brother that he wants to change his ways and take his daughter away with him. However, his brother warns him that he has too many sins weighing him down to just change overnight. "Singapore Joe" leaves thinking over "Father James's" advice. Later learning that his daughter is about to be married.

Sneaking into the Mandalay church to witness his daughter's marriage, "Singapore Joe" is shocked to discover she is about to marry his silent partner, "The Admiral". "Singapore Joe" prevents his brother from performing the wedding. His men kidnap "The Admiral" and smuggle him back to "Singapore Joe's" brothel in Singapore. "Joe's Daughter" now travels to Singapore to rescue her fiancé. Arriving at the brothel, "English Charlie Wing" is able to get "Joe's daughter" upstairs and is about to rape her. When her father comes into the room and his Chinese partner flees as "The Admiral" enters. The two men fight and "Singapore Joe" is winning, his daughter takes a knife and fatally stabs her father. Without revealing who he really is, "Singapore Joe" tells "The Admiral" to take his daughter and leave together. "Father James" arrives in time to see his brother who now dies.

There are no complete versions of the motion picture, but a condensed French version does exist and the title cards were reversed translated into English. 

The "Hollywood Trade Paper", "Variety", wrote:

It's a story of the underworld of Singapore. Chaney has another of those characteristic roles. This time, his deformity is a sightless white eye.... The picture is Chaney, who unquestionably has a big following...The picture undoubtedly will go over big. It appeals to the modern taste for what is called 'morbid,' but which nowadays is spoken of as 'sensational.

"Motion Picture Magazine", wrote:

This picture cannot be called any "great shakes". Chaney saves it however. He appears as a one-eyed derelict of Singapore who rises from the depths only whenever he comes in contact with his pure and undefiled offspring....a girl reared in the sanctuary of sweetness and light.

Below, Lon Chaney and other actors visit Greta Garbo on the set for her, 1926, "The Temptress".

The next motion picture from the team of Browning and Chaney, gave Lon two interesting co-stars and his first horror film for Tod Browning.

THE UNKNOWN premiered on May 29, 1927 in Springfield, Missouri

As I previously mentioned, Tod Browning had just directed 1927's, "The Show", and would follow this picture with the next film I will be mentioning.

Although Tod Browning received credit for writing the story this picture is based upon. There is a reference for an unnamed novel, supposedly written by American mystery authoress, Mary Roberts Rinehart. I found this mystery, pun intended, novel referenced in several reviews, or articles about this motion picture. However, I could not find any novel by Rinehart that is connected with this story, or any article about her that mentions a connection to this movies scenario. Additionally, her name does not appear on posters, or in media promotional materials.

The idea that the reference to Mary Roberts Rinehart is false can be backed-up by both Stuart Rosenthal in his 1975, "Tod Browning: The Hollywood Professionals, Volume 4", and, Vivian Sobchack's, 2006, "The Films of Tod Browning: An Overview Long Past", Both writers reference the following quotation from Browning:

The story writes itself after I have conceived the characters. The Unknown came to me after I had the idea of a man [Alonzo] without arms. I then asked myself what are the most amazing situations and actions that a man thus reduced could be involved...

Waldemar Young wrote the scenario, he had just written the scenario for the 1927 drama, "Women Love Diamonds", and followed this feature with the next picture I will be mentioning.

The title cards were by Joseph Farnham and he followed this scenarios title cards with those for Renee Adoree's, 1927 crime comedy, "On Ze Boulevard".

Lon Chaney portrayed "Alonzo the Armless". Lon had just portrayed dual Chinese roles in director William Nigh's, 1927, "Mr. Wu", as the title character and the his grandfather. The character actor would follow this motion picture with 1927's, "Mockery", set during the Russian Revolution.

Above, it appears that Lon Chaney was actually using his own feet to lift a cup to his mouth to drink. As Jeff Stafford for "Turner Classic Movies (TCM)" writes:

It was widely believed at the time that Chaney really had learned to throw knives with his feet and light cigarettes with his toes for The Unknown. In some wide-angle scenes, he does use his own feet but for medium and close-up shots Browning used a double named Dismuki who was born without arms. Later, Dismuki went on to tour with the Al G. Barnes Circus and Sideshow where he was billed as "The Man Who Doubled for Lon Chaney's Legs in The Unknown".

Norman Kerry portrayed "Malabar the Mighty". Kerry had already appeared in two Lon Chaney classic's, he was "Pheobus de Chateaupers" in the 1923 version of French author Victor Hugo's, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and "Vicomte Raoul de Chagny", in the 1925 version of French author Gaston Leroux's, "The Phantom of the Opera".

Joan Crawford portrayed "Nanon Zanzi". Joan Crawford's first on-screen appearance was in a 1925 short entitled, "A Studio Tour", made by "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" to introduce some new faces to movie audiences. At the time she was introduced with her birth name of Lucille Fay LeSuer. Her first motion picture was the same year as an uncredited body double in the Norma Shearer, "Lady of the Night". Just prior to this motion picture, Joan Crawford starred in the 1927, adventure drama romance, "The Understanding Heart", with co-star, Francis X. Bushman, Jr. The young actress followed this feature film co-starring with John Gilbert, in the 1927 drama, "Twelve Miles Out".

The motion picture was originally to be titled, "Alonzo the Armless", and Joan Crawford's role was originally named "Estrellita". In his 2008 article, "The Unknown", for the website for the "San Francisco Silent Film Festival", Brogan writes that:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer originally sought to pair new Swedish property Greta Garbowith Chaney “the man of a thousand faces” who was emerging as the studio’s top box office draw in 1927, but the female lead went to the eighteen-year-old Joan Crawford, another M-G-M starlet 


A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

Once again Tod Browning uses his favorite setting of either a circus, or sideshow. "Alonzo the Armless" throws knives with his feet and fires a rifle the same way. His favorite target is his partner "Nanon". 

What "Nanon" and the others at the sideshow do not know, except "Cojo the Dwarf", portrayed by John George, is "Alonzo" is a fraud. He does the tricks with his feet, but he is actually a criminal hiding out from the law with arms, strapped tightly to his body.

"Alonzo" is in love with  "Nanon", as is "Malabar the Mighty", but she has a fear of "being pawed" by a man and shuns the strongman. "Nanon" however, feels safe and unthreatened with"Alonzo the Armless".

This is actually a love story turned into a horror film. One day "Nanon" kisses "Alonzo" and he tells "Cojo" how happy that made him, but the dwarf warns that should "Nanon" hold him to tightly, she might feel his arms. 

Above left to right, Joan Crawford, Nick De Ruiz portraying "Nanon's father Antonio Zanzi", John George, and Lon Chaney

The circus owner, "Antonio Zanzi" discovers "Alonzo's" secret and is strangled by him. "Nano" is looking outside of her coach during a dark storm and sees it happening, a bolt of lightening reveals not the killers face, but that he has two thumbs on one hand. 

Of course, "Alonzo" is not even considered a suspect, because he has no hands.

The circus leaves the town it was performing in, but "Alonzo" is able to convince "Nanon" to remain behind with him in a plan to completely win over her love. However, he knows if she sees his arms "Nanon" will know he's a fraud and the murderer of her father. Especially, because he has the two thumbs on one of his hands she saw.

In what makes this drama a horror story is what "Alonzo" does next. He blackmails a surgeon to remove his arms, so that he can truly be "Alonzo the Armless" and the man "Nanon" loves, or so he believes.

According to the PBS Series, "America Masters", Season 17, Episode 2, "The Man of a Thousand Faces".

When he saw the amputation sequence, actor Burt Lancaster allegedly: 

commented on Chaney’s performance that in one particular scene, Chaney gave “one of the most compelling and emotionally exhausting scenes I have ever seen an actor do.”

Not only was Lancaster a fellow actor to Lon Chaney, but like Tod Browning, he also ran away as a teenager to join the circus and become an acrobat. For those of my readers who might be interested, my article is "Burt Lancaster: Circus Acrobat Turned Actor" at: 

While "Alonzo" is having his arms removed, "Nanon" is being pursued by "Malabar". Time passes with the other away and she overcomes her phobia to having a man's arms around her and "Nanon" and "Malabar" plan their wedding.

At this point "Alonzo" returns and is told by "Nanon" that she and "Malabar" are to be married. In shock, "Alonzo" realizes he has cut off his arms without gaining his love and starts to cry. "Nanon" misunderstands the other's tears and happily tells "Malabar" that "Alonzo" is crying for their happiness.

Revenge seems sweet to "Alonzo" and learns the "Malabar" has a new strong man act with "Nanon". Two horses appear to be pulling his arms out of his body, but they're on treadmills and that is the source of the illusion the audiences see as he brings them back under control.

During the first audience performance of the new strongman act, "Alonzo" stops one of the treadmills in the hope that it will at least maim, but perhaps kill "Malabar". Suddenly, "Nanon" attempts to turn the treadmill back on, and "Alonzo" threatens her with a knife, telling her to step back. She now turns to the two horses and attempts to calm them down, but they react violently. "Alonzo" pushes her out of the way to safety and is trampled by both horses to death. "Nano" turns the machinery off, saving "Malabar".

The next motion picture Lon Chaney made for Tod Browning is lost, the last known copy was destroyed in the "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" film vault fire in 1965. In 2002, in association with "Turner Classic Movies (TCM)", a reconstructed version of the motion picture using only known stills and the scenario as a guide was made by film preservationist Rick Schmidlin and shown on "TCM".

LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT released in the United States on December 23, 1927

Like 1926's, "The Road to Mandalay", this motion picture was also produced by Irving Thalberg, and directed by Tod Browning. Browning had written an unpublished short story, "The Hypnotist", and that became the basis for the scenario written by Waldemar Young with title cards by Joseph Farnham.

The feature is considered a horror story by many, but it is up to my reader to determine that.

Lon Chaney portrayed the dual roles of "Professor, or is it Inspector, his title seems to change throughout the scenario, Edward C. Burke", and "The Man in the Beaver Hat". He would follow this feature with the next Tod Browning movie.

Above, Lon Chaney, center, as "Professor/Inspector Burke", and below, as "The Man in the Beaver Hat".

Marceline Day portrayed Lucille Balfour". This is the one motion picture Day made that has kept her name alive in film history. Besides "London After Midnight", the actress made 16-other "Lost Films" during the silent era that contained her comedies opposite both Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon. She worked in "B" Westerns opposite Hoot Gibson and two major, but forgotten silent movie cowboys, Art Acord and Jack Hoxie. Maxine Day made the transition to sound, but only in Westerns and retired during the 1930's.

Henry B. Walthall portrayed "Sir James Hamlin". Walthall had just appeared in the drama, 1927's, "A Light in the Window", and followed this feature by appearing in the Lewis Stone and Marceline Day, 1928 drama, "Freedom of the Press".

Above, Lon Chaney with Henry B. Walthall.

Claude King portrayed the dual roles of "Sir Roger Balfour", and "The Stranger". King was first seen on-screen in 1912. He was in the Lon Chaney, Louise Dressler, and Renee Adoree, 1927, "Mr. Wu". He was also in the Warner Oland, Neil Hamilton, and Jean Arthur, 1929, "The Mysterious Fu Manchu", and the Clive Brooks, 1932, "Sherlock Holmes".

Above, Lon Chaney, Percy William portraying the "Balfour butler", and Claude King.

Edna Tichenor portrayed "Luna - the Bat Girl". She had just been seen in Tod Browning's, 1927, "The Show", and followed this feature with her 11th and final on-screen appearance in another Tod Browning and Lon Chaney feature film I will be mentioning.

It is Tichneor's "Luna" that set the look of most females vampires for many years. My article is "Female Vampires of the Silver Screen 1927 - 1960: Edna Tichenor to Annette Vadim", at: 

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

The following is from my article "Tod Browning: Lon Chaney Meets Bela Lugosi: A Tale of Two Motion Pictures" at:

For five years after the declared suicide of "Rodger Balfour", his house remained vacant. Now with the arrival of two new tenants in the "Balfour" house and "Sir James Hamlin's" passing servants, one night, describing them as "Vampires". "Professor/Inspector Edward C. Burke", the man who declared "Rodger Balfour" as a suicide is called back by "Sir James Hamlin" to investigate. When "Burke" arrives at the home of "Sir James". He finds "Lucille Balfour" now the ward of "Sir James" living there. Along with "Rodger Balfour's" faithful butler "Williams" and "Arthur Hibbs" the nephew of "Sir James".  Additionally "Burke" meets "Lucille's" maid "Miss Smithson" and handyman "Hank".

At dinner events start to unfold. While speaking of the strange nocturnal neighbors of "Sir James". The discussion naturally turns to the "Suicide" of "Rodger Balfour" and the reminder that "Arthur Hibbs" was the only one, other than the Butler "Williams", in the "Balfour" house when he died. Also to "Burke", it appears there may be something, now, more to the relationship between "Lucille" and "Arthur".

After dinner in the garden "Burke" tells  "Lucille" he believes her father was murdered and she needs to put her safety in his hand and do whatever he asks of her. He then protects her bedroom from the two vampires living in her old home with a plant called bat-thorn.

"Burke" next asks "Arthur" to come to his room for a little talk. In actuality he has just hypnotized the young man to recount what he saw the night of "Roger Balfour"s" death. After clearing him of any  wrong doing "Burke"s tells him to go to sleep. 

"Sir James Hamlin" finds his nephews room empty and encounters "Burke". The "Inspector" than lies that he's been waiting 3 hours to see "Hibbs" and the young man hasn't shown up. After "Sir James" leaves "Professor Burke" wakes "Arthur Hibbs" from his trance. "Arthur" thinks he fell asleep in "Burke's" room while reading waiting for him.

Just as everyone turns in for the night a shot rings out. "Burke" meets "Sir James" in the downstairs hall and says somebody was attempting to either kill him, or "Arthur". Next the Butler "Williams" shows up claiming he was awoken by the shot and came to investigate. However, he is wearing dress shoes, but "Burke" lets him go telling"Hamlin" he'll questioned the other later.

After the three return to their rooms. "Miss Smithson" has a visitor.

Even later that night "Professor Burke", "Sir James" and "Arthur" find "Lucille" and "Miss Smithson" missing and "Lucille's" bedroom ransacked.

The Vampire "Luna" has taken "Lucille" back to her old house.

"Arthur Hibbs" wants to call the police, but "Professor Burke" thinks there's no need as "Arthur" knows exactly where "Lucille" is. "Arthur" asks why is he being accused as the vampires may be killing "Lucille". He storms out and "Burke" tells  "Sir James" that everything is working out just as the two planned. He gives the other his gun and tells him to go to the old house and ask for "Rodger Balfour". Then ads:

Whomever you meet stare straight into their face. Show no fear!

 At the her old home "Lucille" meets "The Stranger" playing the piano and seems to believes he is her father. While "Arthur Hibbs" attempts to save "Lucille" from the Vampires and climbs through an open window. He is captured and "Professor Burke" appears and orders that he be locked in a room and he'll deal with "Hibbs" later. "Lucille" is given instructions to carry out and she leaves and goes toward the home of "Sir James".

"Sir James" approaches the house and outside "The Man in the Beaver Hat" awaits him. "Hamlin" stares into the vampire's eyes and suddenly it's five years ago at "Rodger Balfour's" house. "Rodger Balfour" is telling "Sir James" that he has made him the "Executor of His Will". Happy to hear that "Sir James Hamlin" states that he wants to marry"Rodger's" daughter "Lucille". Her father is against it, because of how young she is. "Hamlin" rephrases his request to say he meant some years from now.

The audience now knows that the events they're seeing are in "Sir James Hamlin's" mind only. He sees "The Stranger" and thinks he's the real "Rodger". Observing the scene play out "Professor Burke" tells "Miss Smithson" that he always knew a killer could recreate their crime.

"Lucille Balfour" is dressed as she was back then and playing her role. It is now later that night and  "Sir James" returns and points a gun at "Rodger Balfour" and tells him to dictate his "Suicide" note. After it's completed "Sir James Hamlin" murders his friend "Rodger Balfour", or it appears to the hypnotized man. The gun has blanks and "The Stranger" plays his role perfectly.

"Detective Burke" now knows how  "Rodger Balfour" committed "Suicide" and ads that "Sir James" also planned to kill his nephew "Arthur Hibbs". So he could have "Lucille" and the estate to himself.

"Sir James Hamlin" is arrested and "Arthur" is let out of the locked room to start a life with "Lucille".

The audience now finds out that "Luna" was really an actress name "Lynette". Who has a stage act as "Luna the Bat Girl" and that "The Man in the Beaver Hat" was really "Professor Edward C. Burke".

Tod Browning and Lon Chaney went from "London After Midnight" to a straight crime drama located within:

BIG CITY released on March 24, 1928

The screenplay was from a story, once again, by the features director, Tod Browning, but its tone suggests that both Browning and Chaney wanted a break from their previous works and into something simpler for this film. Which also was lost in the "MGM" vault fire.

Waldermar Young, once again, turned Browning's words into a scenario, and Joseph Farnham turned Young's scenario into title cards for the audience.

Lon Chaney portrayed "Chuck Collins". His next feature film would also be by Tod Browning. 

There are two leading ladies in the picture and probably because of the film and other paperwork were "Lost". Depending upon whose information I look at, their characters names and roles are interchangeable.

Above, Betty Compson, Marceline Day, and Lon Chaney. Which of the two actresses actually portrayed either "Sunshine", or "Helen" is debatable. According to the website "LostMediaWiki":

"Compson" portrayed "Helen", and "Day" portrayed "Sunshine". While, "Wikipedia" and some others I looked at have the roles reversed,

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

Gangster "Chuck Collins" runs the "Black Bottom Nightclub", and uses his girlfriend "Helen's" dress shop as a front. "Collins" gets word that rival gang leader, "Red Watson", portrayed by Matthew Betz, plans to rob the patrons of the "Black Botton Nightclub" of their jewelry. The robbery goes off, but before the jewels can get to "Red", "Chuck" robs the robbers. Next, after looking over the jewels with two of his men, "Curly", portrayed by Jame Murray, and "Blinkie", portrayed by Eddie Sturgis, "Chuck Collins" hides the jewels with the help of "Helen". 

A naive dress shop employee, "Sunshine", almost exposes the jewels to the police who are at the dress shop investigating. "Red" is convinced that "Chuck" has the jewels and goes to the nightclub to force him to reveal them, but the place is raided by the police and in the confusion, "Collins" and "Curly" slip away to hide out in "Helen's" apartment. There, "Sunshine" keeps coming and going and "Chuck" starts to fall in love with her, but "Sunshine" and "Curly" are in love with each other. 

A jealous "Helen" tips "Red" off and he steals the jewels. However, "Chuck" steals them back and turns the jewelry over to the police and goes straight into the arms of "Helen" and congratulates "Curly" and "Sunshine".

There were some interesting comments by the critics on the performance by Lon Chaney, and I start with the Hollywood trade paper "Variety":
Not much better than a light-weight underworld picture for a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer program release, but with the possible novelty of showing Lon Chaney playing a human being in modern dress...Chaney as Chuck Collins, one of the crook leaders, is a consummate actor, in this as well as in character otherwise.

Another trade paper, "The Exhibiters Herald", wrote at the time:

It is even more pleasant, perhaps, to see the gifted Mr. Chaney as the gifted Mr. Chaney and not as a dinosaur, a pygmy or the survivor of several major operations...I seize this opportunity to repeat my former plea [from a review of TELL IT TO THE MARINES] to Mr. Chaney to leave the trick makeup, henceforth, to those lesser actors who need something of the sort to get them by. Mr. Chaney quite emphatically does not.

Lon Chaney made two films without Tod Browning after "Big City", including 1928's, "Laugh Clown, Laugh", which gets confused with an earlier clown portrayal in 1924's, "He Who Gets Slapped". Now the actor reunited with Browning for a South Seas horror film.

WEST OF ZANZIBAR released on November 24, 1928

Although he directed this motion picture, Tod Browning was not involved in the story. The scenario was an adaption of the Chester M. DeVonde and Kilbourn Gordon's, 1926, play "Kongo", that played at the Biltmore Theatre, in New York City, from March 30, 1926 into July 1926. However, the names and the title had to be changed by Waldemar Young in his adaption, because the "Hayes Censorship Office" had banned the use of the play "Kongo" from being filmed. The actual scenario was written by Elliot J. Clawson.

Lon Chaney portrayed "Phroso ("Dead Legs" Flint)". Immediate before this feature film, Chaney starred in the crime drama, 1928's, "While the City Sleeps". Lon Chaney followed this motion picture with his last with Tod Browning.

Lionel Barrymore portrayed "Crane". The oldest Barrymore sibling, the others are sister Ethel and brother John. Lionel first appeared on-screen in 1905. He was one feature film away from portraying French author Jules Verne's, "Prince Dakkar" aka: "Captain Nemo" in the 1929 hybrid, part silent, part sound, "The Mysterious Island". 

Above Lionel Barrymore and Lon Chaney

Mary Nolan portrayed "Mazie". Her first 21-on-screen appearances were billed as Imogene Robertson, her birth name was Mariam Imogene Robertson, but 17 of those movies were made in Germany. She had gone there, because while performing in the "Ziegfeld Follies", as "Bubbles Wilson", during the 1920's, Mary had a scandalous affair with one of the comedians that reached the front pages of newspapers coast to coast. This was her first motion picture using the new name of Mary Nolan, but her film career went down hill and she made her last on-screen appearance in 1932.

Warner Baxter portrayed "Doc". Baxter's film career started in 1918, and his 3rd-film in 1928, was starring opposite Dolores del Rio in "Ramona". Baxter directly followed this motion picture with the all sound, 1929 "In Old Arizona", portraying for the first time, "The Cisco Kid", and in 1932, he was Broadway director "Julian Marsh" in the Busby Berkeley musical, 1933's, "42nd Street".

Above in front of the counter, left to right, Lon Chaney, Mary Nolan, Warner Baxter, and Lionel Barrymore. Behind the counter is Tiny Ward portraying "Tiny".

Jacqueline Gadsden portrayed "Anna". Her film career was short and started in 1923 and ended portraying Lionel Barrymore's daughter, billed as Janes Daly, in 1929's, "The Mysterious Island".

Edna Tichenor portrayed a dancing girl.

There is a belief that Tod Browning used this movie to practice ideas for what became 1932's, "Freaks". According to the story, Tod Browning shot scenes of Lon Chaney in a duck suit and those scenes were edited out of the release. There is a belief that those shots were never actually filmed and Chaney in a duck suit was just a publicity stunt. To date, no one has proven either theory, but here is the shot of Tod Browning and Lon Chaney.

A Brief Overview of the Scenario:

"Anna" has been married to professional magician "The Great Phroso" and a part of his act for years.

However, she has met and fallen in love with an ivory trader named "Crane", and is afraid to tell her husband that she is leaving him. While "Crane" is not, and tells "Phroso" that he is taking "Anna" away with him to Africa. An argument follows and "Crane" pushes "Phroso" so hard that the magician falls over a railing, hits the floor below, and becomes a cripple without the use of his legs.

For the next year "Phroso" learns to survive and get around using a small wooden platform. Next, the bitter magician learns "Anna" returned from Africa abandoned by "Crane" and with her small daughter. He is informed both are at a small church, but finds "Anna" has died from starvation. "Phroso" vows revenge on both "Crane" and the girl that he will adopt. The two move to Africa and 18-years pass.

"Phroso", nicknamed, "Dead Legs", rules over a small African outpost with his men, "Tiny", "Babe", portrayed by Kalla Pasha, and a native named "Bumbu", portrayed by Curtis Nero. Also at the outpost is a man simply called "Doc". Using his magic, "Dead Legs" has subjugated the local natives into calling him "White Voodoo". "Babe" is sent to bring back blonde, "Mazie", "Anna's" daughter, a prostitute in one of the lowest dives in Zanzibar, with the promise she is to meet her father. 

When "Mazie" arrives, she was worried that "Phroso" was her father, but he assures her he is not and that her father is coming. She witnesses a ritual, where the body of a man who died is to be burned in a native ceremony that includes burning his wife and daughter, alive, with his him.

However, "Mazie" befriends the perpetually drunk "Doc", who appears to be the only good person at the outpost, even when drunk. However, "Phroso" is able to turn "Mazie" into an alcoholic as part of his means of revenge against "Anna".

"Phroso" has been robbing "Crane" of his ivory and now sends word to come to the outpost to learn who's robbing him. When "Crane" arrives, he introduces the alcoholic "Mazie" to her father. However, to "Phroso"s surprise, "Crane" starts laughing.

He tells the other that "Anna" never went to Africa with him and the "Mazie" is actually "Phroso's" own daughter. Before the magician can absorb what was said, the natives shoot and kill "Crane". Next, they want "Mazie", per custom, to be burned alive with "Crane", to them, her father.

"Phroso" realizing what he has done and wanting to save his daughter, places her in the same cabinet he used in his old act. 

As the natives watch, the magician closes the cabinet door, and reopens it with "Mazie" now a skeleton. While the natives stare in amazement, "Doc", "Mazie", "Tiny", Bumbu", and "Babe" are already downstream rowing farther away from the outpost. "Phroso" claims an evil spirit took "Mazie", but the natives do not fall for it and start to close around the crippled magician.

Ashes in what was once a funeral pyre are seen as a native pulls out the medallion worn by "Phroso". As the film ends with a sober "Doc" putting his arms around "Mazie" in the boat with the others.

With the advent of sound, "West of Zanzibar" would be re-released with a synchronized musical score.

The motion picture trade paper "Harrison's Reports" put out this warning to movie theater owners:

If you run West of Zanzibar, you will run it at the peril of alienating many of your regular customers. What mother will allow her young daughter to set foot into your theatre again?.... The stupidity of producers seems to be unbounded. They know that 95 per cent of the people of the United States do not want such trash as they have been putting out. And yet they insist on putting it out....How any normal person could have thought this horrible syphilitic play could have made an entertaining picture, even with Lon Chaney, who appears in gruesome and repulsive stories, is beyond comprehension. Demand that it be taken off your contract!
While another trade paper, "The Motion Picture News", took the opposite view:
If you do not have a Standing Room Only sign in your theatre, you had better order one immediately before playing this picture.

The final motion picture made by Tod Browning and Lon Chaney was far from "West of Zanzibar's" horror:

WHERE EAST IS EAST released on May 4, 1929

This motion picture, although silent, would be released with a synchronized musical score.

Tod Browning directed and co-wrote the story. His co-story writer was Harry Sinclair Drago, a novelist of Westerns using six pen-names besides his own. Most of his film work, starting in 1916, were credits for the novels and there are several gaps over his film career, because he was writing novels.

The scenario was written by Waldemar Young, with title cards written by Joseph Farnham. Additionally, there was a continuity writer, Richard Schayer, who was the scenario editor on James Whale's, 1931, "Frankenstein", and co-wrote the story for 1932's, "The Mummy".

Lon Chaney portrayed "Tiger Haynes". Chaney would have one more silent, 1929's, "Thunder", and then his last motion picture and the only one with sound dialogue, the 1930 remake of "The Unholy Three". Tod Browning had no connection to that final film, but Irving Thalberg produced it. The remake premiered on July 3, 1930 and Lon Chaney died the following month, on August 30, 1930.

Lupe Velez portrayed "Toyo Haynes". The Mexico born actress would make a group of eight Hollywood comedies as "The Mexican Spitfire", between 1939 into 1943. Back in 1932, Lupe Velez co-starred with Walter Huston in "Kongo", with a shocking pre-production code screenplay that cause problems in different areas of the country.

Lloyd Hughes portrayed "Bobby Bailey". Hughes started on-screen acting in 1918 and in 1925, portrayed "Reporter Ed Malone" in stop motion animator Willis O'Brien's , 1925, version of British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, "The Lost World". In 1929, Hughes joined Lionel Barrymore in Jules Verne's, "The Mysterious Island".

Estelle Taylor portrayed "Madam de Sylva". Taylor first was seen on-screen in 1919, five-years after 14-years old Estelle Taylor married a banker and the two moved to New York City and she started acting classes. She stopped acting in 1939, but returned for one role in 1945's "The Southerner".

The story is perhaps the simplest of all ten films.

"Tiger Haynes" captures wild animals for zoos and circus's around the world and lives in a small Asian country. His face reflects the dangers with the animals he traps and his life revolves around one thing, his daughter "Toyo". While he was gone, "Bobby Bailey", the son of "Tiger's" best customer has arrived from the United States, and both "Toyo" and "Bobby" have fallen in love. At first, "Tiger" isn't sure of their plan to be married and "Bobby" himself. However, when a tiger gets loose and "Bobby" immediately goes to protecting "Toyo" from it, "Tiger" changes he mind and approves of the young man.

"Tiger" and "Bobby" next take the animals downstream on a barge and reach a rest stop. There, "Bobby" meets the alluring "Madame de Sylva", but "Tiger" gets him away from her. 

Explaining that she is "Toyo's" mother and that "Madame de Sylva" deserted her baby and "Tiger". "Bobby" makes "Tiger" promise not to mention this to "Toyo" and he agrees. Next, the barge reaches the main port, but "Tiger" is worried that "Bobby" will be sailing with "De Sylva" across the Pacific Ocean. However, "Bobbie" decides to return to the jungle compound with "Tiger" instead of accompanying the animals for his father.

Next, "Madame de Sylva" arrives at the compound and is welcomed by the unsuspecting "Toyo". Meanwhile, "Tiger" and Bobby" return and are surprised by who they see there. Immediately, "Madame de Sylva" starts to work on "Bobby". However, "Toyo" learns the truth as she overhears a heated argument between her parents. 

"Toyo" tells "Bobbie" she just wants to be happy, which frees "Bobby" from the spell "Toyo's" mother has been weaving. "Tiger" secretly opens the cage of "Rangho the Gorilla", portrayed by Richard Neil, that was mistreated by "Madame de Sylva".

Unplanned by "Tiger", "Toyo" and "Bobbie" see the gorilla enter "Madame de Sylva's" room, he runs into the room. It is implied that "The Femme Fatale" is killed with the gorilla and "Tiger" is injured, but he does not let on to his daughter and "Bobbie". Shortly afterwards, "Tiger" is present as the two are married by a local "Padre", portrayed by Louis Stern, and watches them leave together, never revealing how serious his wounds were.

Tod Browning would direct 9-movies through 1939 and retire. Those features included, 1931's, "Dracula", 1932's, "Freaks", 1935's, "Mark of the Vampire", and 1936's, "The Devil Doll". On October 6, 1962, in Malibu, California, 72-years-old Browning passed away.

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