Lon Chaney: Erik vs. Quasimodo

 Lon Chaney characters

One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.

But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Quasimodo

Though it has been reported that movie mogul Irving Thalberg brought Victor Hugo’s hugely popular novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the big screen, in fact it was Chaney himself who suggested it be filmed…with himself in the lead role, naturally. It turned out to be a blockbuster for Universal, grossing over $3 million. More than that, though, Chaney’s empathetic performance as the pitiable deformed Quasimodo—with his own incomparable make-up effects on full display—made him a star.

The case for Erik

Gaston Leroux’s 1909 novel, The Phantom of the Opera, was, by contrast, not a hit in its day. Yet it was Chaney again who knew a good story when he read it and secured the rights to it. Because of the popularity of the story in recent years—and particularly Chaney’s look as the Phantom—it may come as a surprise that the box office take ($2 million) was less than Hunchback. Though this time he played a homicidal maniac, his nuanced performance as Erik still elicits sympathy—and much deserved worldwide praise.


Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!