Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Boxing a Glacier: The Slow-Paced Charisma of Lon Chaney Jr.

And the winner is...the Wolfman!

The Wolfman was portrayed most famously in film by Lon Chaney Jr. as "Larry Talbot," which has got to be the best monster character name ever. I love the idea of a monster named Larry.

My exciting "Who Is Your Favorite Halloween Monster?" poll (in which I myself voted twice) was stuck in a dead heat for a few days, until I personally asked some friends to break the tie, and John Anderson heroically stepped up to the plate.

Ann had voted for Frankenstein because she finds him poignant, but John's reasoning was based on different criteria. He reasoned that the Wolfman should win for being more alive and less, well, dead, than the other three contenders, the Mummy, Frankenstein, and Dracula.

A lifelong Dracula fan, Guy valiantly argued on his behalf that vampires are technically "undead" and thus, arguably less dead than the living, who will in fact eventually die.

This argument gained no traction with John, who is nothing if not stubborn, and he boldly cast his vote for the Wolfman, thus securing a winner.

However, if John had recently viewed Lon Chaney's film work, he might have reconsidered his assessment of the Wolfman's "alive" quality.

You see, Lon's portrayal of Larry Talbot does not exactly convey "feral beast" so much as "community theater actor, laboriously delivering dialogue loud enough for the back row to hear." His good-faith attempts to portray intensity and emotional angst unfortunately come across more like ineffectual wheedling.

Last night, Guy and I finished watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It offers an interesting contrast of speech patterns: the rapid-fire banter of Lou and Bud had absolutely no effect on Lon, who continued to plod methodically through his lines at his own leisurely pace. It reminded me of what Stephen Colbert said about interviewing Jesse Jackson: "You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants...at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier."

Yet in the final analysis, you really wouldn't want Lon Chaney Jr. to change a thing. His weird bad acting grows on you, and has its own endearing charm. After spending some time with Larry Talbot, you know that nobody else but Lon could ever fill those large, hairy shoes.

So congratulations, Wolfman! You'll always be a winner in my book.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, for a second I actually thought I'd clicked on the Turner Classic Movies blog (seriously!). I was thinking--wow, I have to send this to Beebo.:)
    FUNNY post!