The Unknown | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Before Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, before John Wayne and John Ford, Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning forged an ongoing collaboration--nine films from 1920 to '29--whose macabre stories and carny/underworld settings mocked the bright lights of the Jazz Age. Their most delirious project was The Unknown (1927), a perverse melodrama about an armless circus performer (Chaney) and a beautiful bareback rider (18-year-old Joan Crawford) with a phobia of men's hands. With its undercurrents of frigidity and castration anxiety, the story was excellent material for Browning, and the film races along with the awful momentum of a bad dream. 65 min. Screening as part of the Portage Park Silent Film Festival; Dennis Scott will provide live organ accompaniment. Fri 5/26, 8 PM, Portage.

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