Universal Studios began its reign as the studio of horror during cinema’s silent era.
The film starred Lon Chaney as the title character, who hides beneath the Paris Opera House and falls in love with budding music star Christine (Mary Philbin). So much so that the Phantom arranges for her to perform one night and then brings her to his lair. This is where the most famous unmasking scene in film history takes place.
Although the film ends on a more thrilling note than the novel, the movie became a smash hit.
It still looks impressive today, with its wonderful reconstruction of the Opera House. But the main reason the film has endured is because of Chaney, who famously distorted his face in order to give the Phantom a ghastly appearance.
The success of this film led to Universal making a sound version in 1943, with Claude Rains playing the Phantom. More famous, though, was the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the story, which first opened in 1986.
Chaney’s death in 1930 prevented Universal from hiring him in their following horror films, such as Dracula (1931).
However, Chaney’s son, Creighton-who would later change his name to Lon Jr.-followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an actor, with his most famous role being the title character in The Wolf Man (1941).