Death by Cornflake
August 26, 1930 - Lon Chaney died on this day. Known as the "Man of a Thousand Faces," he used his skill as a makeup artist to transform himself into some of the most grotesque characters in film history.
His parents were both deaf, so from an early age Chaney became an expert at the art of pantomime, which he parlayed into a successful career on the Vaudeville circuit.
He is most remembered for his iconic roles as Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and as Erik in The Phantom of the Opera. What many people don't know is that Chaney was also an excellent song and dance man.
Chaney didn't shy away from straight dramatic roles (without ghoulish makeup). One of those was his final performance as a railroad engineer named Grumpy Anderson in 1929's Thunder. This film is particularly noteworthy as being one of the last silent films ever made by a major Hollywood studio. Sadly the movie has been lost with only a few minutes of footage surviving.
While on location in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Chaney was already reeling from being diagnosed with lung cancer. During the filming of a winter scene he accidentally inhaled a cornflake that was used as artificial snow. An infection spread and his condition gradually deteriorated. Within 6 months he was dead.
He left behind a devoted wife and a son, Lon Chaney, Jr. who would follow in his father's footsteps.
As a final mysterious footnote, Lon Chaney's grave in Hollywood remains unmarked.