One screen legend tips his hat to another as James Cagney portrays horror film icon Lon Chaney in Man of a Thousand Faces. Joseph Pevney's bio-pic takes a somewhat whitewashed view of Chaney's career, but Cagney is nothing short of riveting in the lead. The film begins as Chaney, the son of two deaf parents, is tasting success in vaudeville as a knockabout juggler, mime, and quick-change artist. Chaney meets Cleva Creighton (Dorothy Malone) and hires her as his assistant. They fall in love and marry, but when Chaney reveals his parents are deaf mutes, she recoils in revulsion. When she gives birth to a son, she refuses to look at him, thinking their child will also be deaf. Chaney proves her wrong, but Cleva reveals an underlying psychological affliction that grows in intensity as Chaney's vaudeville success increases. When Chaney becomes a vaudeville star, Cleva walks out on both Chaney and her son. Chaney's son is sent to a home, since after Cleva's departure, he hasn't the money to support him. To get his son back, he travels to Hollywood and takes every bit role available, using his gift for creative disguises to land several roles in one film. Chaney becomes well respected for his talents and his popularity becomes greater, and he eventually becomes a superstar. Along the way, he meets Hazel Bennett (Jane Greer) and they fall in love and marry. But his happiness is shattered when Cleva comes back into his life and demands the return of her son.
by Paul Brenner synopsis