The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Release Year: 1925
Director: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney (uncredited), Ernst Laemmle (uncredited), Edward Sedgwick (uncredited)
Writers: Gaston Leroux (based on his 1910 novel Le fantôme de l’Opéra), Elliott J. Clawson (adaptation – uncredited), Raymond L. Schrock (adaptation – uncredited), Frank M. McCormack (uncredited)
Starring: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Gibson Gowland, John St. Polis, Bernard Siegel
A mad and disfigured composer living in the dungeons under the Paris opera seeks redemptive love from a young opera singer.
This early straight adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s famous horror novel is mainly remembered for it’s main star. Lon Chaney (London After Midnight, 1927) as The Phantom overshadows the film and steals every scene he is in. Chaney was with good reason known as “The Man with a Thousand Faces” and his make up for Phantom of the Opera is one of his most iconic. The film has some strong and iconic scene, particularly the unmasking of The Phantom, and his entrance down the great staircase as The Red Death. Apart from the more gruesome elements provided by Chaney and the wonderful setting and magnificent setpieces there is also a strong romantic storyline played by a veeery dramatic Philbin (The Man Who Laughs, 1928) and a great Kerry (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1923). The music set to the film suits it very well, especially when The Phantom’s organ music is weaved into it and the film is entertaining throughout. A classic horror of the silent era and a good place to start for people who are new to silent cinema. Highly recommended.
Univeral Studios forbade the release of any images of Lon Chaney’s make-up for The Phantom to make his unmasking in the film a complete surprise for audiences. Similarly, Mary Philbin had no idea what Chaney looked like in make-up and so her reaction in the film is quite real.
Gregory Peck’s earliest movie memory was being so scared by the look of The Phantom that his grandmother let him sleep in her bed.
Director Rupert Julian fought constantly with the cast and crew during filming. He and Lon Chaney were not on speaking terms, and Chaney is said to have taken over the direction of most of scenes he was in. Norman Kerry, who plays Raoul, even charge towards Julian on a horse in front of a group of onlookers and knocked him to the ground.
Picture Copyright: UIP