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Pantomimic Acting

by Isaac Rooks

Lon Chaney is doubly constrained in this iconic moment: his face is largely obscured by makeup and the technology does not allow him to use his voice. However, his expressive physical performance allows one to quickly grasp a quite complex and rapid shift of emotions. Play the clip through and ask students to identify how the Phantom's emotions progress in the scene. At first he is shocked and perhaps hurt that he has been revealed. He turns in accusatory anger and 'plays' the monster in response to the woman's fear/disgust. This quickly gives way to sadness and shame. Students are still likely to laugh at the extravagant nature of the performance, but it demonstrates the extreme and specialized level of skill necessary to create such an iconic performance despite considerable handicaps.

Silent Film Acting - The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

The iconic unmasking scene showcases Lon Chaney's ability to physically convey a complex emotional arc.

from The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Creator: Rupert Julian
Distributor: Universal
Posted by Isaac Rooks