Lon Chaney Sr. was born April 1, 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His parents were Frank H. Chaney and Emma Alice Kennedy.
Both of Lon Chaney's parents were deaf and as a child of deaf parents, Chaney became skilled in pantomine.
As a young man, he worked as a tour guide at Pikes Peak, where he developed his love for the outdoor life. He next worked at the Colorado Springs Opera House as a property boy, scene painter and stagehand.
Lon Chaney began his stage career in 1902 and began traveling with Vaudeville and theater acts.
In 1910, Lon Chaney and his family would move to California. He found work as a stage manager, actor and choreographer working for Kolb and Dill.
Lon Chaney would make his film debut in an uncredited role in The Honor of the Family (1912).
From 1912 to 1919, Lon Chaney appeared in more than 100 silent films such as Poor Jake's Demise (1913), Shon the Piper (1913), Almost an Actress (1913), Remember the Mary Magdalen (1914), The Embezzler (1914), The Old Cobbler (1914), Her Life's Story (1914), The Measure of Man (1915), All for Peggy (1915), Father and the Boys (1915), The Price of Silence (1916), The Rescue (1917), Broadway Love (1918) and The Talk of the Town (1918).
In 1919, Lon Chaney had a breakthrough performance as "The Frog" in The Miracle Man. This film displayed Chaney's acting ability and his talent as the master of makeup. Lon Chaney was now America's favorite character actor.
Roles would soon follow in Treasure Island (1920), Oliver Twist (1922), Flesh and Blood (1922) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923).
In 1925, Lon Chaney would appear in his most famous role as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.
Lon Chaney's other movie credits include The Blackbird (1926), The Road to Mandalay (1926), Mr. Wu (1927), The Big City (1928) and While the City Sleeps (1928).
Lon Chaney, like Charlie Chaplin, shunned the transition to talking films and was one of the last of the silent screen stars to holdout against speaking roles.
Lon Chaney would appear in only one talkie a remake of his 1925 film The Unholy Three, in 1930 he would appear in the talking version recreating the role of Echo, a crook ventriloquist. In the 1930 movie, Lon Chaney would use five different voices thus proving he could make the transition from silent to talkies.
Lon Chaney, was a quiet person by nature and valued his privacy. He granted few interviews and disliked Hollywood's social whirl. Lon Chaney perferred spending quiet time with his family and a few close friends.
During Lon Chaney's 27 year film career he would appear in more than 150 movies. He frequently played villanious and sometimes bizarre roles.
Lon Chaney also wrote the screenplay for several of his films: The Menance to Carlotta (1914), The Tragedy of Whispering Creek (1914), Her Escape (1914), The Oyster Dredger (1915), The Chimney's Secret (1915) and The Trap (1922).
Lon Chaney also directed The Chimney's Secret (1915), The Trust (1915), The Violin Maker (1915), The Oyster Dredger (1915), For Cash (1915) and The Stool Pigeon (1915). He is also an uncredited director for The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Lon Chaney's ability to transform himself using self-invented makeup techniques earned him the nickname of "Man of a Thousand Faces." He served as a make up artist for The Unholy Three (1930), London after Midnight (1927), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923).
In 1957, Lon Chaney was the subject of a biopic titled Man of a Thousand Faces and was portrayed by James Cagney.
Lon Chaney is the father of Lon Chaney Jr. Together they would appear in only one movie, The Trap (1922) when Lon Chaney Jr. played an uncredited role and only his hands where shown.
On August 26, 1930, Lon Chaney died from a throat hemorrhage at the age of 47.