Horror expert David J. Skal joined me to discuss the life and career of Lon Chaney Sr.
Lon Chaney was born to deaf mute parents and learned to communicate using sign language and pantomime. After years of working on the stage, he entered films in 1913. He developed his own make up and was hailed by critics for his powers of transformation. In the 1920s people used to say "Don't step on that spider, it might be Lon Chaney." Some of his most famous films include "The Penalty", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", "The Phantom of the Opera", "He Who Gets Slapped" and "The Unknown". You can read his full bio at Chaney Entertainment, which is run by his family.
This recipe is from the Photoplay Cookbook of 1927 issued by Photoplay Magazine.
2 large potatoes
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lard
1 cup milk
Boil and mash potatoes. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Add potatoes and cream in the lard. Mix to a light dough with egg and milk. Roll out rather thin and bake in hot oven until brown. Serve hot. (*There were no further directions about the oven temperature or baking time, so we baked these at 400 degrees and checked on them frequently.)
Once again Hollywood horror expert David J. Skal agreed to be my special guest. He has written so many outstanding books including "Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond", "The Monster Show" and "Hollywood Gothic". You can find out more about his extensive body of work on his official website. His books are a really a must for any film lover's personal collection. I recommend taking a look at his official website to find out more.
Danny Miller is a journalist, editor and film history expert. He also co-authored the book "About Face: The Life and Times of Dottie Ponedel: Make-up Artist to the Stars" with Meredith Ponedel. He's been very generous about letting me invade his 1909 Craftsman home to shoot this episode!
The Final Product
We decided to use crisco instead of lard. The issue at hand seemed to be the potatoes. The biscuits felt dense and didn't have any of the rise and fluffiness that we would normally expect a biscuit to have. We were only able to really enjoy these when they were covered in butter. Then again tons of butter pretty much improves the taste of everything. At the end of the day, I would recommend using a more traditional sure fire biscuit recipe. I love the one from Knott's Berry Farm. He may not have spent much time in the kitchen, but there's no denying that Lon Chaney remains one of the most versatile and unique artists in film history.
I also want to give major credit to Fritzi Kramer of MoviesSilently. She has made this recipe before and gave me some advice. Her blog is excellent and she does a whole column about cooking with silent film stars. Be sure to check it out!
Kevin Brownlow made a documentary titled "Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces" narrated by Kenneth Branagh in 2000.