TV Stories: TCM's 'The Projected Image' Puts Spotlight on Disabilities in Film


“TCM’s ‘The Projected Image’ Puts Spotlight on Disabilities in Film” 

By Robert Ito 

Los Angeles Times 

October 2, 2012 

In the 1927 silent film "The Unknown," Lon Chaney plays Alonzo the Armless, a circus performer who hurls knives with his feet at his comely assistant, played by a young Joan Crawford. During the movie's quieter moments, Alonzo uses his toes to drink wine, smoke cigarettes and strum a guitar. 

Though Chaney was blessed with a myriad of theatrical abilities, smoking cigarettes with his feet was not one of them. For those moments in the film, the director employed an armless double, Paul Desmuke, a knife thrower and sometime violinist. Later in the film, the viewer discovers that Alonzo actually has arms, but up until that point, one might wonder: When casting the role of an armless man, why not just hire an armless actor? 

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