The Blackbird (1926)

Article #682 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-26-2003
Posting Date: 6-25-2003
Directed by Tod Browning
Featuring Lon Chaney, Owen Moore, Renee Adoree

Two crooks vie for the attentions of a nightclub entertainer; the loser then tries to undermine the winner’s success.

This is another of Tod Browning’s and Lon Chaney’s exercises on the theme of deformity; Chaney’s character has a dual identity: a criminal called the Blackbird and a kindly but hideously deformed philanthropist known as the Bishop. It starts out very well, particularly during an opening scene in which faces from London’s limehouse district flash before us, and the story has some interesting twists to it. In some ways, it is reminiscent of THE UNKNOWN, only with the cards shuffled into a different order. Sadly, I feel it stumbles towards the end; the final twist is brought about by a specific physical occurrence that (for me) fails to be convincing, and unfortunately it is not possible for me to be more clear without engaging in spoilers of the worst kind. Let’s just say I didn’t buy the ending, and all the acting in the world from Lon Chaney (who does give a great performance throughout, as does Owen Moore) never quite makes me buy it.


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