Man of a Thousand Faces - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Man of a Thousand Faces Reviews

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July 1, 2016
A superb hit in its day Man of a Thousand Faces is the extraordinary story of Lon Chaney Snr one of the greatest early actors of the Silent Era that could effortlessly transform into any character.

James Cagney does a great job with the role but in my opinion doesn't overly look like Lon Chaney did. However his story from stage to film is an interesting one.

Lon Chaney made some extraordinary films & became so many characters. He was so good at his roles that if he attended a Hollywood party no one knew him since his characters where so convincing.
October 23, 2013
I didn't like it at all but I really wanted to. Parts of the musical score was excellent doh.
August 15, 2013
Other reviewers have knocked the film because it is not historically accurate and I can't dispute that. But for me, James Cagney's performance makes this a film that is a must-see. True, the film is short on depicting Lon Chaney's film characters and although we do get to see Cagney in makeup as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, the scenes are extremely brief. Most of the film depicts Chaney's conflict with his first wife, wonderfully played by the stunning Dorothy Malone - whew, what a knockout!- and the stormy/ intense relationship with his son.
½ April 21, 2013
Strong bio pic with standout performance by James Cagney--Cagney Lifts It!!
September 16, 2012
Cagney is perfect. The film is a bit to long but I would watch it anytime for that great star.
September 11, 2012
Fairly standard biopic that nonetheless will be of intetest to any classic horror or silent film fan, this, the story of the original monster man -Lon Chaney Sr. The turbulent tale (filled with highs and lows) is depicted warts and all, including losing his son to the state for a period (the future Wolfman, Lon Chaney Jr.). Cagney is admirable if unspectacular in the lead role. An unknown would have proven easier to believe in this role, as a legend like Cagney is hard to dismiss, even under the thousand faces.
May 26, 2012
up until recently i hadn't seen many james cagney films. and the ones i had seen, didn't give me the impression that he had a lot of range. "man of a thousand faces" is the second film in a row of his i have seen recently that has made me feel i was completely wrong about him. he was a man with a lot of talent, that this film takes full advantage of. cagney plays lon chaney, a silent film star, who i hadn't previously heard of. the film is very sad and touching and one that many film classic lovers will enjoy.
May 18, 2012
Great central performance by James Cagney makes this worth seeing. Though the film is not factual, it does have a lot of merit in bringing Lon Chaney's remarkable talents to light.
May 2, 2012
good stuff this bio-pic of film great lon chaney
½ February 8, 2012
Interesting account on the life of Hollywood legend Lon Chaney. James Cagney is perfectly cast and gives a wide performance as the Man of a Thousand Faces.
½ November 13, 2011
An interesting biopic on cinema legend Lon Chaney with a strong performance from James Cagney. A must for film buffs!
½ October 10, 2011
Entertaining flick following the life of one of Hollywood's first Horror icons.
½ May 23, 2011
An interesting biopic on cinema legend Lon Chaney with a strong performance from James Cagney. A must for film buffs!
½ March 22, 2011
James Cagney gives an unforgettable performance as Lon Chaney in this fascinating story which unlike so many hollywood bios of the time tends to steer away from the usual character sanitization and confronts the darker side of Chaney, notably the conflict between Chaney and his first wife wonderfully played by Dorothy Malone
June 16, 2010
Cagney gives a wonderful performance playing Lon Chaney in this bio-drama of Chaney's life story. Cagney shows both his acting chops as well as his dancing and vaudiville talents in this. Jim Backus gives a good performance as well as his loyal friend and agent. This is more fact than fiction which is unusual for most biographies brought to the big screen and very well done and a right and proper homage to Lon Chaney.
½ April 19, 2010
By the book biopic of Lon Chaney starring James Cagney as the Man of a Thousand Faces. Cagney is excellent as Chaney, very convincing and never too over the top. And though Dorothy Malone is good as his first wife, I thought her storyline was way too over the top. It was as if the world had ended because she found out Chaney's parents were deaf (and I didn't know this about his parents). But anyway, it's a nice cast, a good score, and some great moments throughout.
½ February 23, 2010
"Man of a Thousand Faces" is a film where a brilliant, well-known actor (James Cagney) take on the very difficult cast of portraying another brilliant, well-known actor. And Cagney does a magnificent job in bringing the role to life; however, he might be the sole quality that stands out as exemplary in an otherwise disappointing film.
The film begins by informing the audience that celebrated actor Lon Chaney was so beloved that on the day of his death Universal Studios shut down for a day in his memory. We are then taken back to Chaney's childhood, where we have the chance to see the origins of this man who was so admired. It is here where the film begins to have problems. We learn that Chaney was the child of deaf parents, a fact that he was teased for often, and one that caused him to learn sign language as well as mimicry skills that would aid him much later in his career. We then fast-forward to his time on vaudeville as a clown, where he discovers that his wife, Cleva, at the time is pregnant, and reluctantly agrees to let her meet his parents. Upon learning his parents are deaf, the wife does not want to have the child because of the high possibility he could be born deaf as well. Chaney's first wife may be the weakest element of the film. Her objection to the child's possibly imperfection is pretty repulsive, and we are meant to know that because her delivery is excrutiatingly over-the-top and melodramatic. If this was a Douglas Sirk type picture where everyone is this extreme, this would be tolerable. But instead she sticks out as just bizarre and off-putting, while Cagney plays the scene as genuinely heartbreaking. The choice of music makes it more bizarre, as it is the soundtrack that would be used in a horror picture, not a moment of genuine drama. From this point forward the film seems to fall in and out of balance. Chaney loses his job on stage after Cleva attempts suicide and then flees, and he loses custody of his son for a time. He finally finds success in Hollywood as "The Man of a Thousand Faces", a master of makeup and mimicry that causes him to achieve a monumental level of success. This section of the film is probably the strongest; sure it seems to just spell out what Chaney was up to at the time and in some ways doesn't feel like it's going in any defined direction, but Cagney does it very well and replicates Chaney's classic roles beautifully........and then Cleva comes back in the picture, and the melodrama arrives once more, this time prompted by both Cleva and his now-teenage son Creighton (who would grow to become Lon Chaney, Jr. of "The Wolfman" fame). It is then that the movie loses its footing again, and once again makes for frustrating, awkward viewing.
I cannot completely assail the film, as it is based on a true story, and I can't completely condemn the script if it does indeed follow life events accurately, but I doubt the more dramatic scenes in Chaney's life were this exaggerated. It also suffers from playing too heavily with the "false epiphany" concept that is way too common in biopics. Let me give an example:

BOY: Pops great with faces, he's got a thousand of 'em!
AGENT: Imagine that, a MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES. We could run with that! (the film "Walk Hard" has a great running joke about this common flaw in biopics)

Skipping this film, you wouldn't be missing too much. If you do catch it, it's nice to learn some more about Lon Chaney's life and see a great performance by Cagney, but you'll still be stuck watching a film that's mediocre at best. If you want to see a fantastic Cagney biopic, stick with Yankee Doodle Dandy.
January 24, 2010
I really liked this movie that I may buy it one day. Even though Cagney was older in this movie he still did a great job! Loved the drama on Lon Chaney's life even though if some of it wasn't true.
December 22, 2009
Absolutely dramatic storytelling. Admittedly I have a vested interest in both James Cagney and Lon Chaney. Yeah, Cagney doesn't really look like Chaney at all but he was the man of a thousand faces. Why not one more? As you'd expect James Cagney is amazing in the role. He inhabits all the things Chaney was. The parts of his life the screenplay chooses to show are well timed and done with prestige. Starting with his childhood brought up by deaf parents and his career as a song-and-dance man, all the way up through his turn as Quasimodo. This was, after all, rushed into production as a tribute to the man. I think he'd be proud.
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