Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

Article #1564 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2005
Posting Date: 11-23-2005
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Featuring James Cagney, Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer

The son of deaf parents becomes a movie star.

There are some actors who I end up rarely covering for this series because they made so few movies that fall without the bounds of fantastic cinema. Consequently, this is only the second time I’ve had a chance to do a movie featuring one of the great tough-guy actors of all time, James Cagney (the first was A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, in which he was just one of many stars in the film), and this one qualifies not so much for its fantastic content but rather for being about an actor who appeared in a lot of movies that do qualify – Lon Chaney. Cagney was an inspired choice; not only does he somewhat resemble Chaney, but he adds a lot of dimension to his character that might have been missing with a lesser actor. Reportedly, the movie isn’t particularly accurate (certainly, the closing moment with the makeup case is a piece of fiction), but then, how many Hollywood biopics are? At least it isn’t a piece of fluff, and it’s well acted and directed. It does manage to weave the various elements of Chaney’s life into a single story, and the scenes of him with his deaf-mute parents are quite touching. My only wish is that somehow they had managed to fit in a cameo for his real son somewhere in the proceedings.


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