Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Luis Bunuel

Luis Bunuel Portolés was born on 22 February, 1900 in Calanda, province of Teruel in the autonomous community of Aragón, Spain and died on 29 July, 1983 In Mexico City, Mexico. Luis was a Spanish-born filmmaker and naturalized Mexican who worked mainly in Mexico and France, but also in his native Spain and in the United States. Luis is considered one of Mexico’s finest directors, and one of the most important directors in the history of cinema.

Luis was born to Leonardo Buñuel and María Portolés; he had 2 brothers, Alfonso and Leonardo, and 4 sisters, Alicia, Concepción, Margarita and María. Luis had a strict Jesuit education at the Colegio del Salvador in Zaragoza from which he was expelled. Later he went to university in Madrid. While studying at the University of Madrid (current-day Universidad Complutense de Madrid) he became a very close friend of painter Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca, among other important Spanish artists living in the Residencia de Estudiantes. Luis first studied the natural sciences and agronomy, then engineering, but later switched to philosophy. In 1925, he moved to Paris where he began work as a secretary in an organisation called the International Society of Intellectual Cooperation. Luis later found work in France as a director’s assistant to Jean Epstein on Mauprat and Mario Nalpas on La Sirène des Tropiques and he co-wrote and then filmed a 16 minute short film Un chien andalou (1929) with Dalí. This film, featuring a series of startling and sometimes horrifying images of Freudian nature (such as what appears to be the slow slicing of a woman’s eyeball with a razor blade) was enthusiastically received by French surrealists of the time, and continues to be shown regularly in film societies to this day.

Luis followed this with L’Âge d’or (1930), partly based on the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. The film was begun as a 2nd collaboration with Dalí but became Luis’ solo project after a falling-out they had before filming began. During this film he worked around his technical ignorance by filming mostly in sequence and using nearly every foot of film that he shot. L’Âge d’or was read to be an attack on Catholicism, and thus, precipitated an even larger scandal than Un chien andalou. The right-wing press criticized the film and the police placed a ban on it that lasted 50 years.

Following L’Âge d’or, Luis returned to Spain and directed Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread, 1933), a documentary on peasant life. This was a convulse period which led, in 1936, to the Spanish Civil War. The times were changing quickly and Luis could see that someone with his political and artistic sensibilities would have no place in a fascist Spain. Luis co-wrote and produced a documentary short about the changing political climes in Spain entitled España 1936.

After the Spanish Civil War, Luis was exiled and moved to the United States. Luis moved to Hollywood to capitalise on the short-lived fad of producing completely new foreign-language versions of hit films for sales abroad. After Luis worked on a few Spanish-language remakes, the industry eventually turned instead to re-dubbing of dialogue. Luis then left Hollywood for New York, getting a job at the Museum of Modern Art (where he re-edited a shorter version of Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary on Hitler, Triumph of the Will).

In his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942), Dalí suggested that he had split with Luis because the latter was a Communist and an atheist. Luis was fired (or resigned) from MOMA, supposedly after Cardinal Spellman of New York went to see Iris Barry, head of the film department at MOMA. Luis then went back to Hollywood where he worked in the dubbing department of Warner Brothers from 1942 to 1946. In his 1982 autobiography [My Last Breath], Luis wrote that he submitted a treatment to Warners about a disembodied hand which was later adapted into The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) with Peter Lorre. Luis also wrote that, over the years, he rejected Dalí’s attempts at reconciliation.

In 1972, Luis, along with his screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and producer Serge Silberman, was invited by George Cukor to his house. This gathering was particularly memorable and other invitees included Alfred Hitchcock, Rouben Mamoulian, Robert Mulligan, George Stevens, Billy Wilder, Robert Wise and William Wyler.

Luis arrived in Mexico in 1946 and got the Mexican citizenship in 1949. The first film he directed there was the Gran Casino (1946), produced by Oscar Dancigers. Luis found the plot boring and it was not hugely successful. Luis later again collaborated with Dancigers in creating El Gran Calavera (1949), a successful film starring Fernando Soler. As Luis himself has stated, he learned the techniques of directing and editing while shooting El Gran Calavera. Its success at the box office encouraged Oscar Dancigers to accept the production of a more ambitious film for which Luis, apart from writing the script, had complete freedom to direct. The result was his critically acclaimed Los Olvidados (1950), which was recently considered by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage. Los Olvidados (and its triumph at Cannes) made Luis an instant world celebrity and the most important Spanish-speaking film director in the world.

Luis spent most of his later life in Mexico, where he directed 21 films. Those films included:

Él (1953)

Ensayo de un crimen (The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz) (1955)

Nazarín (1959) (based on a novel by Spain’s Benito Pérez Galdós, and adapted by Luis to a Mexican context)

Viridiana (1961) (coproduction Mexico-Spain and winner at Cannes)

El Ángel Exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) (1962)

Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert) (1965).

After the golden age of the Mexican film industry ended, Luis started to work in France along with Silberman and Carrière. During this “French Period”, Luis directed some of his best-known works: Le Journal d’une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid), free adaptation of the famous Octave Mirbeau’s novel Le journal d’une femme de chambre ; Belle de Jour ; Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire) ; and Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) – as well as some lesser-known films such as The Phantom of Liberty and La Voie lactée (The Milky Way).

After the release of Cet obscur objet du désir (1977) he retired from film making, and wrote (with Carrière) an autobiography, Mon Dernier Soupir (My Last Sigh), published in 1982, which provides an account of Luis’s life, friends, and family as well as a representation of his eccentric personality. In it he recounts dreams, encounters with many well known writers, actors, and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, and antics such as dressing up as a nun and walking around town. As one might deduce from these antics, Luis was famous for his atheism. In a 1960 interview with Michele Manceaux in L’Express, Luis famously declared: “I am still, thank God, an atheist.”

Luis almost seemed to repudiate this statement in a 1977 article in The New Yorker. “I’m not a Christian, but I’m not an atheist, either”, he said. “I’m weary of hearing that accidental old aphorism of mine, ‘I’m an atheist, thank God.’ It’s outworn. Dead leaves. In 1951, I made a small film called Mexican Bus Ride, about a village too poor to support a church and a priest. The place was serene, because no one suffered from guilt. It’s guilt we must escape from, not God.”

Luis married Jeanne Rucar in a town hall in Paris in 1934 and they remained married throughout his life. Luis’s sons are Rafael and Juan Luis Buñuel. Diego Buñuel, filmmaker and host of the National Geographic Channel’s Don’t Tell my Mother I am in… series, is his grandson.

Luis Buñuel’s films were famous for their surreal imagery; they include scenes in which chickens populate nightmares, women grow beards, and aspiring saints are desired by luscious women. Even in the many movies he made for hire (rather than for his own creative reasons), such as Susana, Robinson Crusoe, and The Great Madcap, he always added his trademark of disturbing and surreal images. Running through his own films is a backbone of surrealism; Luis’s world is one in which an entire dinner party suddenly finds themselves inexplicably unable to leave the room and go home, a bad dream hands a man a letter which he brings to the doctor the next day, and where the devil, if unable to tempt a saint with a pretty girl, will fly him to a disco. An example of a more Dada influence can be found in Cet obscur objet du désir, when Mathieu closes his eyes and has his valet spin him around and direct him to a map on the wall.

Luis never explained or promoted his work. On one occasion, when his son was interviewed about The Exterminating Angel, Luis instructed him to give facetious answers; for example, when asked about the presence of a bear in the socialites’ house, Luis fils claimed it was because his father liked bears. Similarly, the several repeated scenes in the film were explained as having been put there to increase the running time.

Many of his films were openly critical of middle class morals and organised religion, mocking the Roman Catholic Church for hypocrisy. Many of his most famous films demonstrate this:

Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929) — A man drags pianos, upon which are piled 2 dead donkeys, 2 priests, and the tablets of The Ten Commandments.

L’Âge d’or (The Golden Age, 1930) — A bishop is thrown out a window, and in the final scene one of the culprits of the 120 days of Sodom is portrayed by an actor dressed in a way that he would be recognised as Jesus.

Ensayo de un crimen (The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz, 1955) — A man dreams of murdering his wife while she’s praying in bed dressed all in white.

Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert , 1965) — The devil tempts a saint by taking the form of a bare-breasted girl singing and showing off her legs. At the end of the film, the saint abandons his ascetic life to hang out in a jazz club.

Nazarin (1959) — The pious lead character wreaks ruin through his attempts at charity.

Viridiana (1961) — A well-meaning young nun tries unsuccessfully to help the poor. Also there is is a scene in the film as The Last Supper (of Leonardo Da Vinci).

La Voie Lactée (1969) — Two men travel the ancient pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela and meet embodiments of various heresies along the way. One dreams of anarchists shooting the Pope.
The story of the making of Viridiana is illustrative. Luis’s earlier Spanish and French films from the 1930s were regarded as cinema landmarks — Un Chien Andalou, L’Âge d’or, and Las Hurdes (also known as Tierra sin Pan or Land Without Bread) (1933). The advent of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, however, caused the expatriation of many artists and intellectuals from the fascist dictatorship of Franco, whose military revolt and rise to power had had the strong backing of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy.

Had Luis stayed in Spain, his fate might have been the same as that of his friend, poet Federico García Lorca, who was assassinated at the outset of Franco’s military revolt. After some years of artistic silence forced by the difficult circumstances of his expatriation, Luis, then residing in Mexico, returned in full force to writing and directing with some of his best films, which once more won him international acclaim.

In 1960, for political propaganda reasons, Franco instructed his minister of culture to invite the country’s most famous filmmaker to return to Spain to direct a film of his choice. Luis accepted and proceeded to make Viridiana, promptly departing from the country after finishing the film, but leaving a few official copies. After viewing them, the copies were burned by the dictator’s authorities. The minister of culture was reprimanded for having passed the screenplay in the first place. A copy of Viridiana, however, had been smuggled to France, where it proceeded to win the Palme D’Or of the Cannes International Film Festival. The film was banned in Spain, but got international attention and praise (with some exceptions). The Vatican’s official press organ, l’Osservatore Romano, published an article calling Viridiana an insult not only to Catholicism, but to Christianity itself.

Luis’s style of directing was extremely economical. Luis shot films in a few weeks, never deviating from his script and shooting in order as much as possible to minimize editing time. Luis told actors as little as possible, and limited his directions mostly to physical movements (“move to the right”, “walk down the hall and go through that door”, etc.). Luis often refused to answer actors’ questions and was known to simply turn off his hearing aid on the set; though they found it difficult at the time, many actors who worked with him acknowledged later that his approach made for fresh and excellent performances.

Luis preferred scenes which could simply be pieced together end-to-end in the editing room, resulting in long, mobile, wide shots which followed the action of the scene. Examples are especially present in his French films. For example, at the restaurant / ski resort in Belle de jour, Séverin, Pierre, and Henri are conversing at a table. Luis cuts away from their conversation to 2 young women who walk down a few steps and proceed through the restaurant, passing behind Séverin, Pierre, and Henri, at which point the camera stops and the young women walk out of frame. Henri then comments on the women and the conversation at the table progresses from there.

Luis disliked non-diegetic music, and avoided it in his films, though traditional drums from Calanda sound in most of his films. The films of his French era were not scored and some (Belle de jour, Diary of a Chambermaid) contain absolutely no music whatsoever. Belle de Jour does, however, feature (potentially) non-diegetic sound effects, believed by some to be clues as to whether or not the current scene is a dream.

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Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Lon Chaney Snr.

Lon Chaney Snr. was born on 1 April, 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA and died on 26 August, 1930, nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” was an American actor during the age of silent films. Lon Chaney Snr. was one of the most versatile and powerful actors of early cinema. Lon Chaney Snr. is best remembered for his characterisations of tortured, often grotesque and afflicted characters, and his groundbreaking artistry with film makeup.

Lon Chaney Snr. was born Leonidas Frank Chaney  to Frank H. Chaney and Emma Alice Kennedy; his father had mostly English and some French ancestry, and his mother was of Irish descent. Both of Lon Chaney Snr.’s parents were deaf, and as a child of deaf adults Lon Chaney Snr. became skilled in pantomime. Lon Chaney Snr. entered a stage career in 1902, and began traveling with popular Vaudeville and theater acts. In 1905, he met and married 16 year old singer Cleva Creighton and in 1906, their 1st child and only son, Creighton Chaney (a.k.a. Lon Chaney, Jr.) was born. The Chaneys continued touring, settling in California in 1910.

Unfortunately, marital troubles developed and in April 1913, Cleva went to the Majestic Theater in downtown Los Angeles, where Lon Chaney Snr. was managing the Kolb and Dill show, and attempted suicide by swallowing mercury bichloride. The suicide attempt failed and ruined her singing career; the ensuing scandal and divorce forced Lon Chaney Snr. out of the theater and into film.

The time spent there is not clearly known, but between the years 1912 and 1917, Lon Chaney Snr. worked under contract for Universal Studios doing bit or character parts. Lon Chaney Snr’s outstanding skill with makeup gained him many parts in the highly competitive casting atmosphere. During this time, Lon Chaney Snr. befriended the husband-wife director team of Joe De Grasse and Ida May Parke, who gave him substantial roles in their pictures, and further encouraged him to play macabre characters.

Lon Chaney Snr. also married one of his former colleagues in the Kolb and Dill company tour, a chorus girl named Hazel Hastings. Little is known of Hazel, except that her marriage to Lon Chaney Snr. was solid. Upon marrying, the new couple gained custody of Lon Chaney Snr’s 10 year-old son Creighton, who had resided in various homes and boarding schools since Lon Chaney Snr’s divorce in 1913.

By 1917 Lon Chaney Snr. was a prominent actor in the studio, but his salary did not reflect this status. When Lon Chaney Snr. asked for a raise, studio executive William Sistrom replied, “You’ll never be worth more than $100 a week.”

After leaving the studio, Lon Chaney Snr. struggled for the 1st year as a character actor. It was not until 1918 when playing a substantial role in William S. Hart’s picture, Riddle Gawne, that Lon Chaney Snr’s talents as a character actor were truly recognised by the industry.

In 1919, Lon Chaney Snr. had a breakthrough performance as, “The Frog,” in George Loane Tucker’s The Miracle Man. The film not only displayed Lon Chaney Snr.’s acting ability, but his talent as a master of makeup. Critical praise and a gross of over $2 000,000 put Lon Chaney Snr. on the map as America’s foremost character actor.

Lon Chaney Snr. is chiefly remembered as a pioneer in such silent horror films as, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and most notably, The Phantom of the Opera. Lon Chaney Snr.’s ability to transform himself using self-invented makeup techniques earned him the nickname of “Man of a Thousand Faces”. In an autobiographical 1925 article published in Movie magazine that gave a rare glimpse into his life, Lon Chaney Snr referred to his specialty as “extreme characterisation”.

Lon Chaney Snr also exhibited this adaptability with makeup in more conventional crime and adventure films, such as, The Penalty, where he played an amputee gangster. Lon Chaney Snr. appeared in a total of 10 films by director Tod Browning, often playing disguised and/or mutilated characters, including carnival knife thrower Alonzo the Armless in, The Unknown (1927), with Joan Crawford. In 1927, Lon Chaney Snr. co-starred with Conrad Nagel, Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall and Polly Moran in the now lost Tod Browning directed horror classic, London After Midnight, quite possibly the most famous lost film ever. Lon Chaney Snr.’s last film was a remake with sound of his silent classic, The Unholy Three (1930), his only “talkie” and the only film in which he displayed his versatile voice. In fact, Lon Chaney Snr. signed a sworn statement declaring that 5 of the key voices in the film (the ventriloquist, old woman, parrot, dummy and girl) were in fact his own.

Although Lon Chaney Snr. created, in Quasimodo, the bell ringer of Notre Dame, and Erik, the “phantom” of the Paris Opera House, two of the most grotesquely deformed characters in film history, the portrayals sought to elicit a degree of sympathy and pathos among viewers not overwhelmingly terrified or repulsed by the monstrous disfigurements of the characters, who were merely victims of fate.

“I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice,” Lon Chaney Snr. wrote in Movie magazine. “The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback, such as The Phantom of the Opera, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three, etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do.”

“He was someone who acted out our psyches. He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies; he was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on-screen,” the writer Ray Bradbury once explained. “The history of Lon Chaney Snr. is the history of unrequited loves. Lon Chaney Snr. brings that part of you out into the open, because you fear that you are not loved, you fear that you never will be loved, you fear there is some part of you that’s grotesque, that the world will turn away from.”

Lon Chaney Snr.’s talents extended far beyond the horror genre, and stage makeup. Lon Chaney Snr. was also a highly skilled dancer, singer and comedian. In fact, many people who did not know Lon Chaney Snr. were surprised by his rich baritone voice and his sharp comedic skills.

Lon Chaney Snr. and his 2nd wife Hazel led a discreet private life distant from the Hollywood social scene. Lon Chaney Snr did minimal promotional work for his films and MGM studios, purposefully fostering a mysterious image, and he reportedly avoided the social scene in Hollywood on purpose.

In the final 5 years of his film career (1925-1930), Lon Chaney Snr. worked exclusively under contract to MGM, giving some of his most memorable performances. Lon Chaney Snr’.s portrayal of a tough-as-nails marine drill instructor in Tell It to the Marines (1926), one of his favorite films, earned him the affection of the US Marine Corps, who made him their first honorary member from the motion picture industry. Lon Chaney Snr. also earned the respect and admiration of numerous up and coming actors, as Lon Chaney Snr. was considered helpful towards new actors, showing them the ropes, and was always willing to talk to the cast and crew about his experiences between takes on films.

During the filming of Thunder in the winter of 1929, Lon Chaney Snr. developed pneumonia. In late 1929 he was diagnosed with bronchial lung cancer. Despite aggressive treatment, his condition gradually worsened, and 7 weeks after the release of the remake of The Unholy Three, he died of a throat hemorrhage. Lon Chaney Snr.’s death was deeply mourned by his family, the film industry and by his fans. The US Marine Corps provided a chaplain and Honor Guard for his funeral. Lon Chaney Snr. was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California, USA next to the crypt of his father. Lon Chaney Snr.’s wife Hazel was also interred there upon her death in 1933. For unknown reasons, Lon Chaney Snr.’s crypt has remained unmarked.

Lon Chaney Snr. as “Mr. Wu,” conducting an orchestra of women.In 1957, Lon Chaney Snr. was the subject of a biopic titled Man of a Thousand Faces, and was portrayed by James Cagney. Though much of the plot was fictional, the film was a moving tribute to Lon Chaney Snr. and helped boost his posthumous fame. During his lifetime, Lon Chaney Snr. had boasted he would make it difficult for biographers to portray his life, saying that “between pictures, there is no Lon Chaney Snr.” This was in line with the air of mystery he purposefully fostered around his makeup and performances.

Lon Chaney Snr. has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1994, he was honored by having his image designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, placed on a United States postage stamp.

The stage theater at the Colorado Springs Civic Auditorium is named after Lon Chaney Snr.

In 1929, Lon Chaney Snr. built an impressive stone cabin in the remote wilderness of the eastern Sierra Nevada, near Big Pine, California, as a retreat. The cabin (designed by architect Paul Williams) still stands, and is preserved by the Inyo National Forest Service.

Lon Chaney Snr.’s son, Lon Chaney, Jr., became a film actor after his father’s death, and is best remembered for roles in horror films, especially The Wolf Man. The Chaneys appeared on US postage stamps as their signature characters, the Phantom of the Opera and the Wolf Man, with the set completed by Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy.

Lon Chaney Snr. and his son Lon Chaney Jnr. are mentioned in the Warren Zevon song “Werewolves of London”.

Many of Lon Chaney Snr.’s colleagues held him in high regard and he would often give advice and help actors who were just beginning their careers. Lon Chaney Snr. was also greatly respected by the film crews and studio employees with whom he worked.

Following his death, Lon Chaney Snr.’s famous makeup case was donated by his wife Hazel to the Los Angeles County Museum, where it is sometimes displayed for the public. Makeup artist and Lon Chaney Snr.’s biographer Michael Blake considers Lon Chaney Snr.’s case the central artifact in the history of film makeup.

In 1978, Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS wrote a song about Lon Chaney Snr. called “The Man of A Thousand Faces” for his first solo album. Simmons had been influenced by the old black and white classic horror movies growing up in New York City.

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