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Between Silence and Sound

Between Silence and Sound

The Lon Chaney Sensation

Chapter:
(p.37) 2 Between Silence and Sound
Source:
The Freak-garde
Author(s):
Robin Blyn
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816678167.003.0002

This chapter examines the freak show silent films of Lon Chaney, the so-called Man of a Thousand Faces. It argues that the revival of the freak-garde in film occurs amid revolutionary changes in the medium of cinema and the opportunities they presented for new models of subjectivity. It outlines the landscape of Hollywood cinema during the 1920s when the film industry erupted in experimentation due to technological innovations. It argues that these experiments unhinged sound and image from one another in the cinematic spectacle, which resulted to radical instability. It highlights films featuring Chaney such as The Unholy Three and The Unknown and analyzes their disintegration of the senses which leads to the liberation of repressed desires and rogue subjectivities.

Keywords:   freak show films, Lon Chaney, freak-garde, Hollywood cinema, cinematic spectacle, The Unholy Three, The Unknown, repressed desires, rogue subjectivities

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