Who Is Today’s “Man of a Thousand Faces”?
Actor Lon Chaney was the movies’ original “Man of a Thousand Faces.” Who is the man (or woman) of a thousand faces today?
“Don’t step on that spider!” a popular joke in the 1920s went. “It might be Lon Chaney!” For film fans of the Roaring Twenties, Lon Chaney, “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” could be anything—a terrifying Phantom of the Opera, a snarling gangster, or a grotesque Hunchback of Notre Dame (shown above). Chaney, born April 1, 1883, essentially perfected the art of movie makeup, which, added to his immense acting skills, made him one of the most beloved actors of the Silent Film era. Every actor who’s used makeup to build a character since owes a debt to the legacy of Chaney. But who is the movies’ man (or woman) of a thousand faces today?
Chaney grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the son of deaf parents. To communicate with them, Lon developed ways to speak with his hands and face, the perfect training for someone hoping to enter into films in the pre-dialogue days. After working on the stage for several years, Chaney found work as a supporting actor in Westerns and other film dramas. Having to do his own makeup in live theater, Chaney studied makeup techniques and developed several new ones of his own to create his many memorable characters, including the Vampire from Tod Browning’s “lost” silent film, London After Midnight (shown above). Who Chaney was beneath the makeup remained a mystery to the public. “Between pictures,” the actor claimed, “there is no Lon Chaney.” Some of that mystery was studio publicity at work, but Chaney himself was a very private man.
Beneath those “thousand faces,” however, Lon Chaney often revealed the same character—an outsider who hid emotional depths beneath the surface, including sadness over never, ever getting the girl. In Mr Wu (above left), Chaney sensitively depicted an Asian character—no small feat in the often racist films of the period. His makeup-less depiction (unless you count the uniform) of the tough Marine sergeant with a heart of gold in Tell It To The Marines won Chaney the honor of the branch naming him an honorary Marine. Even in drag, as he was in both the silent and sound remake of The Unholy Three, Chaney created characters that were more than just makeup. Chaney claimed that “the success of the makeup relied more on the placements of highlights and shadows, some not in the most obvious areas of the face.” In the same way, the nuance and shading Chaney gave to each character led viewers to find humanity in the less-obvious figures, the monsters we too quickly judge and dismiss.
But who is the Lon Chaney of today’s films? Who is our “Man of a Thousand Faces”? Well, first of all, we should be asking in 2016 who the man or woman of a thousand faces is. Meryl Streep (shown above), Helen Mirren, and many other actresses certainly have the versatility to play any role, yet the opportunities for women to work under heavy makeup in films are slim. Women actresses continue to struggle with the reality that their appearance too often defines their position. For now, the horrible truth is that most monsters are played by men. Take one look at this graphic of the many faces of Gary Oldman, for example, and you can see the gender imbalance in terms of transfigurating roles.
Putting aside the gender issue for a moment, my money’s on Andy Serkis as today’s “Man of a Thousand Faces.” Serkis is the undisputed master of performance capture roles in which his voice and movements are used to create computer-generated characters that seamlessly interact with real-life actors. Serkis’ Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy owes as much to technology as to Serkis’ acting skills (as shown in the video above). Whether it’s playing Gollum in LOTR or Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes or (most recently) Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Serkis always adds a human spark—often a conflicted one—to the character that no computer can generate. If Lon Chaney were working today, he’d most likely forgo putty and wigs for today’s cutting-edge technology in portraying his typical troubled, romantic outsiders. For both Chaney and Serkis, the most memorable and complex face among that thousand will always be their own, real face lurking beneath and giving life to all the others.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Great ideas in philosophy often come in dense packages. Then there is where the work of Marcus Aurelius.
- Meditations is a collection of the philosophical ideas of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
- Written as a series of notes to himself, the book is much more readable than the dry philosophy most people are used to.
- The advice he gave to himself 2,000 years ago is increasingly applicable in our hectic, stressed-out lives.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
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