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The Phantom of the Opera(1925)

One of the most famous moments in silent movie history occurs when Mary Philbin, as the virginal opera singer Christine, unmasks Lon Chaney, the mysterious phantom of the opera, to reveal a skull-like face of horror. The makeup, kept out of the press until the film’s premiere, allegedly caused opening night patrons to faint. As with many of Chaney’s most famous creations, it also caused him more than a little pain, often cutting into his face and causing it to bleed. The shocking reveal wasn’t the only reason the film became one of his biggest hits. The sight of the masked Chaney skulking through the shadows struck a chord with audiences of the time, as he wasn’t much different from the World War I veterans who wore masks to disguise their injuries. Universal would film the tale of the reclusive composer in love with an understudy three additional times. When they reissued a version with a synchronized score and new talking scenes in 1930, its success inspired the studio to film Dracula (1931) and then Frankenstein (1931). The impressive opera house set, which still stands, has endured throughout the studio era. It was restored for Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966) and the bed in the Phantom’s lair resurfaced in Sunset Boulevard (1950). (d. Rupert Julian, 93m, Digital)

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