Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Silent Star Smackdown: Lon Chaney versus Douglas Fairbanks

While I've been busy working on essays about F.W. Murnau, Jean Hersholt and Clara Bow, as well as researching the Katie awards for 1928-29, two of my most famous readers, Lon Chaney and Douglas Fairbanks, have been engaged in a bit of verbal smackdown in the comments section. Fairbanks claims Chaney "couldn't carry my saddlebags," while Chaney says Fairbanks "couldn't act [his] way out of a paper bag."

I invite all my faithful readers to weigh in on this most vital debate.

The Tale Of The Tape:

Lon Chaney
Birth Name: Leonidas Frank Chaney
Nickname: Man Of A Thousand Faces
Trademark: Master of early makeup techniques
Born: April 1, 1883
Height: 5'9"
Films: 161, including The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1923), The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)
Katie Awards: 1 win for Best Actor of 1927-28, 1 nomination for Best Actor Of The Silent Era
Other Awards: twice commemorated on U.S. stamps; first actor to be made honorary member of U.S. Marine Corps for his portrayal of a drill instructor in Tell It To The Marines (1926)
Other Achievements: directed 6 movies, wrote 6
Marriages: 2
Famous Children: Lon Chaney, Jr.
Salary: $3,750 per week The Unholy Three (1930)

Douglas Fairbanks
Birth Name: Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman
Born: May 23, 1883
Trademark: Stunt work
Height: 5'9"
Films: 49, including The Mark Of Zorro (1920), The Thief Of Bagdad (1924) and The Gaucho (1927)
Katie Awards: 1 nomination for Best Actor Of The Silent Era
Other Awards: Honorary Oscar (1940); Photoplay's Medal of Honor for Robin Hood (1922)
Other Achievements: co-founded United Artists, first president of AMPAS, produced 24 movies, wrote 18, directed 2.
Marriages: 3, including to Katie Award winner Mary Pickford
Famous Children: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Salary: $300,000 for Reaching For The Moon (1930)

Analysis: The film record indicates Chaney had tremendous upper body strength and likely could have carried anybody's saddlebags, let alone Fairbanks's. On the other hand, I have yet to see any movie where Fairbanks began a scene in a bag, so I can't say definitively whether he ever acted his way out of one. He did make one movie with Mary Pickford, though, 1929's The Taming Of The Shrew, so draw your own conclusions.

My personal opinion? A well-rounded film collection contains the work of both.

Keep it clean, gents.


L. F. Chaney said...


The name's Leonard, I'm 5'10" and, not that it's any of your business but, I was in the process of renegotiating my contract — and Metro still owes me bonuses.

L. F. Chaney said...

I wrote six produced pictures, one play and I'm the REAL director of "The Phantom of the Opera."

Douglas Fairbanks said...

You're a moving mannequin for Max Factor.

Get over yourself, Leonard

["Leonard" -- it's important to get that second "leonard in there" "in there" ]

I don't care if you win thirty Katies-Bar-the-Door -- I nailed Mary Pickford, I brought modern athleticism and realism to film [damned difficult in silent film, sirrah], I formed United Artists, and I built/restored the mansion that Pia Zadora leveled.

So fuck off.

L. F. Chaney said...

I just felt several strong bursts of hot air.

Is it Indian summer already?

Phantom Phreak said...

I think it's over Mr. Chaney...I believe those bursts of hot air you felt were actually the motions of "Mr. Pickford" choking on an ice cube from his latest soiree with the Barrymore boys. [yawn]

Demon O'Brien said...

Now while I'm a fan of Mr Fairbanks, I believe Mr Chaney has the most talent!
I never saw Mr Fairbanks in pounds of uncomfortable make-up giving an outstanding silent performance. And yes, Mr Fairbanks swashbuckled & swang on ropes, as did Mr Chaney. But Mr Chaney was usually wearing a lot more than Mr. Fairbanks.
So, being the HUGE Lon Chaney,sr fan that I am, I believe Mr Chaney is the overall winner of this "contest".
Blow West wind, blooooooow!!!

Douglas Fairbanks said...

Alas, in a battle of wits, I face an unarmed man.

Leonard -- if we're to be appraised by the weight of our respective pancake [or, in your case, greasepaint -- and ingloriously applied, I might add!], you surely win.

If we're to be appraised by our respective talents and performances, you may gladly carry my trophy. While I will have earned it, I can't begrudge a fellow Coloradan with a few minutes to feel the trophy's power.

Then, of course, you'll have to give it back.

L. F. Chaney said...

Gee, Doug — I didn't know they made trophies out of hollow clay. It must've been cast special, just for you.

No, thanks. I prefer the honor bestowed me by the truly mighty, glorious and powerful, the U. S. Marine Corps. And while I would offer for you to carry my plaque, in truth, you couldn't carry my shoelaces.

Now, if you don't mind (and I'm sure you do), I have better things to do than shoot at puffed pigeons. Besides being rather boring, I don't believe in cruelty toward dumb animals.

L. F. Chaney said...

By the way, thank you, Mr. Parker, for writing such an entertaining blog. I haven't had this much fun since Norm Kerry slipped a Mickey to Rupert Julian who, just before passing out in his BVDs, stood on a table, hoisted that damn megaphone of his to his ugly kisser and declared proudly before visiting performers from the Royal Shakespeare Company that he really was Kaiser Wilhelm.

Mister Parker said...

I, too, have been enjoying this little dust-up between you and your not-nearly-as-good-an-actor pal, Douglas Fairbanks.

And just let me say before we get too far away from this entry that -- with all due respect to faithful reader D.F. -- I officially declare Lon Chaney the winner of Silent Star Smackdown.

Douglas Fairbanks said...

I, too, have been enjoying this little dust-up between you and your not-nearly-as-good-an-actor pal, Douglas Fairbanks.
* * *

I officially declare Lon Chaney the winner of Silent Star Smackdown.
Why * I * . . {huff} *I* {puff}

. . . .

fuck the both of yez!

Although I will concede that I liked the use of BVDs . . . .