Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014; 2nd ed. 2016).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From Creepy Old Flicks...Part Two

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Thanks to our ever-vigilant readers and friends, new material (which is really old material) necessitates the need for new posts (with things that really belong in the old  posts).  Blogging allows that sort of thing nicely.

Some time ago, over at the Long-Forgotten Thread, TheHatboxGhost suggested another example of influence on the Haunted Mansion from old movies.  THG thinks that the Hatbox Ghost was inspired by the Man with the Beaver Hat in the lost 1927 Lon Chaney film, London After Midnight.  At the time, I was only half convinced, but after seeing a lot more stills from the film, I think THG is right.  Whether you look at the original Marc Davis concept sketches or at the prototype figure or the real deal, the resemblance between the HBG and the Chaney character is often striking.  it's hard to resist the conclusion that we're dealing with a source of inspiration.




In most of the stills, the Chaney character is paired up with a female spook, a vampiress apparently.  She looks nothing like the Attic Bride in any of her incarnations, but the mere fact that ol' Smiley is continually seen with a lovely young thing standing by is certainly agreeable to the Mansion motif of the two characters with a kind of bride-and-groom karma going on.  In one still they're even in a scene reminiscent of an attic:

Add a heartbeat and a bridal gown and ta da, welcome to Disneyland

You'll note that more often than not, ol' Smiley poses with a lantern in a hatbox-hoisting style:


London After Midnight is one of the most famous of all lost films.  The last known copy perished in a fire in 1967.  (Say...isn't that just two years before the Hatbox Ghost appeared and then immediately disappeared?)  Film buffs, especially Lon Chaney fans, keep hoping that some day, oh some day, the film will return.  Perhaps a copy will be found in somebody's private collection, or on a dusty shelf in the closet of an old theater.  Hey, maybe in an attic.  By a curious twist of fate, the Man with the Beaver Hat has come to occupy the same psychic space as the Haunted Mansion character he helped inspire.  He's out there somewhere, and some day....

A big tip o' the hat goes to Mr. Fenwright for this next one.  It's the 1920 Harold Lloyd film, Haunted Spooks.  This is another flick that is perhaps most famous for a fiery accident.  During a publicity photo shoot in the middle of production, a prop bomb went off in Lloyd's hand, taking two fingers with it and burning the comic actor's face, temporarily blinding him.  He fully recovered and wore gloves in his films from then on.  His salary also doubled.  The finger thing was kept secret.  Lloyd didn't want people feeling sorry for him when they're supposed to be laughing.

Anyhoo, Fen draws our attention to this title card and wonders if it may have inspired the phrase, "grim grinning ghosts":


"But wait a minute," say you faithful Forgottenistas, "hasn't it already been established that 'grim grinning ghosts' comes from line 933 of Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis' "?

"Hard-favour'd tyrant, ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of love,"—thus chides she Death,—
"Grim grinning ghost, earth's worm, what does thou mean
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath,
Who when he liv'd, his breath and beauty set
Gloss on the rose, smell to the violet?

Yep, that's an exact match, but here's the mental calculus I'm using.  You have to weigh the greater precision of the Shakespeare quote against the greater precision of the Haunted Spooks provenance.  In other words, we know that the Imagineers (including X Atencio) researched old ghost films, and sure enough here we have a haunted house movie with "ghastly grinning ghosts" right there on a title card.  The setting for the Shakespeare quote, on the other hand, is far removed from such things.  The change from "ghastly" to "grim" is a natural move to enhance the alliteration (grim grinning) and could easily happen independently, without even knowing that by remarkable coincidence you're now quoting Shakespeare.  Perhaps too the Shakespeare line was actually what inspired the Haunted Spooks screenwriter, consciously or unconsciously, so the Bard still sneaks in through the back door.

I also noticed how similar the artwork on that title card is to some Fantasia "Night on Bald Mountain" concept art, which is something that in turn may have inspired HM Imagineers.  Besides, I'm sure lots of you have never seen this particular piece, and it's pretty enough to post even without a flimsy pretext.


See?


But I'm not going to push that one, since we're dealing with such obvious visual clich├ęs here.

Our last film is not really an update to the Creepy Old Flicks post but rather the Death Coach post.  Forgottenista ww12345 pointed out a movie that I must admit I had not heard of, a Swedish film from 1921.


It goes by various names in English; usually "The Phantom Carriage" or "The Phantom Chariot."  I understand it's considered a real classic, a landmark among Swedish films, and it's received some fresh, recent attention with the release of a Blu-Ray DVD edition.


I watched it yesterday.  It's essentially a morality tale in the tradition of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," which is also a ghost story, of course.  Enjoy, but don't expect any scares.  It does have one particularly good line in it:


The Phantom Carriage catches our attention because it provides yet another definition of the Death Coach, reminding us of how flexible the image is, adaptable to any number of storylines.  Here's how it works this time around:


So don't be that guy, because the gig sucks.  Message received.


12 comments:

  1. I wonder what the odds are that some Imagineer saw the "ghastly grinning ghosts" line and in the back of his mind, it made him remember a line from a Shakespeare poem he read back in high school. Or that he mentioned "ghastly grinning ghosts" to someone else who thought of it.

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  2. Another fascinating entry. Thankies for sharing!!!

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  3. ...or X shrunk it to "grim" while working with Buddy Baker on the tune? "Ghastly" would have required a very different melody in order to work. There are lots of possibilities, including, of course, sheer coincidence for the whole thing.

    You're welcome, noj!

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    1. I don't really see how it would need the tune to be drastically modified. You'd just have to repeat the "grim" note as a two-quaver formula instead, moving from this: http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/univerduck/images/c/cf/Grim.png/revision/latest?cb=20160404102305&path-prefix=fr

      to this: http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/univerduck/images/0/04/Ghast-ly.png/revision/latest?cb=20160404102244&path-prefix=fr

      Which would be a pretty minor difference.

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  4. True, HBG2 - there really aren't that many appropriate one-syllable words that start with "g," are there?

    I guess I'm just one of those people who can't help being skeptical about coincidences!

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  5. Good catch on the Chaney connection. Marc, in particular, was very vocal about how the studio was always renting films from where-ever they could during the 30s and 40s and screening them for inspiration, so the Disney studio staff ended up seeing some things that have since become "horror classics" long before Famous Monsters was really promoting them to kids... things like Haxan, and Caligari, and Nosferatu. Davis was of the right generation to have strong memories of Lon Chaney silents, so I think that one's a real natural. As one of Lon's most striking makeup jobs, it makes sense Davis would remember it well.

    Of course the film is a horror comedy about the investigation of a murder, so there's that as well. MGM re-made it as Mark of the Vampire with Bela Lugosi doing his Dracula routine. Ray Bradbury, who saw it when it was new, has pointed out that Chaney's odd shuffling walk in the film appears to have inspired Groucho Marx.

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  6. I just found out that I was more right than I ever thought!

    One of my friends is Facebook pals with Makeup Artist and Author Michael F. Blake who has written three books on Lon Chaney, Sr.: "Lon Chaney: The Man Behind The Thousand Faces," "A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures" and "The Films of Lon Chaney." My friend shared your link with her pal.

    Michael Blake replied (quoted from Facebook):

    "Marc Davis was influenced by Chaney, as he used Lon's look in ROAD TO MANDALAY on one of the pirates in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN ride. He told me his dad knew Lon and used to see him at the fights."

    Chaney was a boxing fan and would attend matches fairly regularly at the Hollywood Legion Stadium.

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  7. Well, that's mighty cool. Thanks for the info. You've pointed out the "Road to Mandalay" POTC pirate before (on the LF Thread at Micechat); was that perchance the result of previous conversations with your friend or was it an utterly independent observation that has now been confirmed?

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  8. Several years ago, someone mentioned to me that one or more pirate heads were based on one or more Lon Chaney characters. However, looking at them, I could not tell which one(s). Then, someone said that the figure was somewhere around the bride auction scene. But, again, I could not tell which figure(s).

    Much later, on MiceChat, Flickr or some other site, I saw the photos that I re-posted of the animatronic pirate beside the well, the one that is leading the dunking of the mayor. (At least, I assume it's the mayor.) The figure was in the process of being cleaned and had been stripped of its wardrobe, wig and beard. It was only then that I could see the clear resemblance to Chaney's character, Singapore Joe.

    I met Michael Blake online and in person much after that. He and another Chaney fan/expert, an archivist or film collector whose name escapes me, confirmed the pirate figure inspiration. The Hatbox Ghost/Man in the Beaver Hat connection was confirmed by Blake in reply to my recent email. I had been noticing the similarity for some time; and, like you, the more I saw stills of Chaney in character, the more obvious it became to me as to whose ghost Hattie really is.

    From what I know, Walt Disney was quite a Lon Chaney fan. "Spooks," an early Oswald The Lucky Rabbit cartoon that was made the same year Chaney died, is clearly inspired by his "Phantom of the Opera." And, as you and others have pointed out on MiceChat, The Phantom himself used to lurk right outside of Disneyland's Main Street Cinema.

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  9. I should say that the Hatbox Ghost/Man in the Beaver Hat connection was confirmed by Blake in reply to my recent email that was forwarded to him by my friend. I don't know him personally. I was introduced to him at Cinecon and, in the past, we've left comments on the same movie message board.

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  10. As a cinemaphile, I LOVE the phantom carriage, i watched the film last year some time and was amazed at the soundtrack (of all things). I only recently started reading your blog and when you mentioned it in a previous post I had this wonderful moment of "Hey! I know that movie!" Anyway, I love your blog, it has been so interesting and enlightening. I love learning about these fascinating little tidbits about a ride I adore so much. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into each of these posts, it is greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

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