Rondo Hatton

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Rondo Hatton
RondoHatton.JPG
Hatton's acromegalic features made him a Hollywood horror film icon.
Born(1894-04-22)April 22, 1894
Hagerstown, Maryland, United States
DiedFebruary 2, 1946(1946-02-02) (aged 51)
Cause of deathHeart attack
Resting placeAmerican Legion Cemetery
Other names"The Ugliest Man in Pictures"
EducationHillsborough High School
OccupationJournalist, actor
Years active1930–1946
Spouse(s)
Elizabeth Immell James
(m. 1926; div. 1930)

Mabel Housh (m. 1934–1946)

Rondo Hatton (April 22, 1894 – February 2, 1946),[1] nicknamed "the Ugliest Man in Pictures", was an American journalist and occasional film actor with a minor career playing thuggish bit and extra parts in Hollywood B movies, culminating in his elevation to horror movie star-status with Universal Studios in the last two years of his life, and posthumously as a movie cult icon. He was known for his unique facial features, which were the result of acromegaly, a syndrome caused by a disorder of the pituitary gland.

Early years[edit]

Hatton was born in Hagerstown, Maryland.[2] The family moved several times during Hatton’s youth before settling in Hillsborough, Florida.[3] He starred in track and football at Hillsborough High School and was voted Handsomest Boy in his class his senior year.[3]

Rondo Hatton as he appeared in the 1913 Hillsborough High School yearbook.

In Tampa, Hatton worked as a sportswriter for The Tampa Tribune. He continued working as a journalist until after World War I, when the symptoms of acromegaly developed. Acromegaly distorted the shape of Hatton's head, face, and extremities in a gradual but consistent process. He eventually became severely disfigured by the disease.[4] Because the symptoms developed in adulthood (as is common with the disorder), the disfigurement was incorrectly attributed later by film studio publicity departments to his exposure to a German mustard gas attack during service in World War I. Hatton served in combat and served on the Pancho Villa Expedition along the Mexican border and in France during World War I with the United States Army,[2] from which he was discharged due to his illness.

Acting career[edit]

Director Henry King noticed Hatton when he was working as a reporter with The Tampa Tribune covering the filming of Hell Harbor (1930) and hired him for a small role.[4] After some hesitation, Hatton moved to Hollywood in 1936 to pursue a career playing similar, often uncredited, bit and extra roles. His most notable of these was as a contestant-extra in the "ugly man competition" (which he loses to a heavily made up Charles Laughton) in the RKO production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He had another supporting-character role as Gabe Hart, a member of the lynch mob in the 1943 film of The Ox-Bow Incident.

Universal Studios attempted to exploit Hatton's unusual features to promote him as a horror star after he played the part of The Hoxton Creeper (aka The Hoxton Horror) in its sixth Sherlock Holmes film, The Pearl of Death (1944). He made two films playing "the Creeper", House of Horrors (filmed in 1945, but not released until 1946, after his death) and The Brute Man (1946, also released posthumously).[5]

Death[edit]

Around Christmas 1945, Hatton suffered a series of heart attacks, a direct result of his acromegalic condition.[3][5] On February 2, 1946, he suffered a fatal heart attack at his home on South Tower Drive in Los Angeles.[3] His body was transported to Florida and interred at the American Legion Cemetery in Tampa.[6][7]

Legacy[edit]

Hatton's name – and simple but brutish face – have become recurring motifs in popular culture. In season 6, episode 4 of the 1970s television series The Rockford Files ("Only Rock-n-Roll Will Never Die, part 1"), Jim Rockford, exasperated at a friend who dismisses himself as unattractive, exclaims "You're no Rondo Hatton!" Hatton's physical likeness inspired the Lothar character in Dave Stevens' 1980s Rocketeer Adventure Magazine stories, and in Disney's 1991 film version, The Rocketeer, in which the character is played by actor Tiny Ron in prosthetic make-up.

The 2000 AD comic book character Judge Dredd, who is rarely seen without his helmet, used "face-changing technology" to make himself look like Hatton in issue 52 (18 February 1978) – the first time the character's face was shown unobscured. The name "Rondo Hatton" was also in a list of suspects obtained by Dredd during the case.[8] As the artist Brian Bolland revealed in an interview with David Bishop: "The picture of Dredd’s face – that was a 1940s actor called Rondo Hatton. I've only seen him in one film."[9] Additionally, the character "The Creep" in the Dark Horse Presents comic-book series strongly resembled Hatton.

Hatton is regularly name-checked in the novels of Robert Rankin, (often referred to as "the now-legendary Rondo Hatton") and credited as appearing in films that are either fictional, or in which he clearly had no part, such as the Carry On films. Rankin's references to Hatton routinely occur in the form of "he had a Rondo Hatton" (hat on). Another namecheck occurs in Rafi Zabor's PEN/Faulkner-award winning 1998 novel The Bear Comes Home, where the name is used as a nickname for good-natured but unrefined minor character Tommy Talmo. In the 2004 Stephen King novel, The Dark Tower VII, a character is described as looking "like Rondo Hatton, a film actor from the 30's, who suffered from acromegaly and got work playing monsters and psychopaths..." The episode of Doctor Who entitled "The Wedding of River Song" features Mark Gatiss as a character whose appearance (achieved through prosthetics) is based on Hatton's, credited under the pseudonym "Rondo Haxton" for his performance.[10]

The musical play The Return of Dr. X, written by Welsh playwright Chris Amos, contains a dedication to Rondo Hatton, and the story (that of a horror star named Gabriel Haydon) is loosely based on Hatton's life.[citation needed]

A documentary being produced in 2017, Rondo and Bob,[11] looks at the lives of Hatton and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre art director Robert A. Burns, a self-described expert on Hatton.[12]

Rondo Hatton Awards; cultural references[edit]

Since 2002, the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards have paid tribute Hatton in name and likeness.[13] The physical award is a representation of Hatton's face, based on the bust of "The Creeper", whom Hatton portrayed in the 1946 Universal Pictures film House of Horrors.

Acromegaly and Rondo Hatton are both mentioned in the 2008 Mickey Spillane novel The Goliath Bone.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
1927 Uncle Tom's Cabin Slave (film debut, uncredited)
1930 Hell Harbor Dance Hall Bouncer (uncredited)
1931 Safe in Hell Jury Member (uncredited)
1936 Wolves of the Sea Bar Proprietor (uncredited)
1938 In Old Chicago Rondo - Body Guard
Alexander's Ragtime Band Barfly (uncredited)
1939 Captain Fury Convict Sitting on Floor (uncredited)
The Big Guy Convict (uncredited)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Ugly Man (uncredited)
1940 Moon Over Burma Sailor (uncredited)
Chad Hanna Canvasman (uncredited)
1942 It Happened in Flatbush Baseball Game Spectator (uncredited)
Tales of Manhattan Party Guest (Fields sequence, uncredited)
Sin Town Townsman (uncredited)
The Moon and Sixpence The Leper (uncredited)
1943 The Ox-Bow Incident Gabe Hart (uncredited)
Sleepy Lagoon Hunchback (uncredited)
1944 Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore Graves (uncredited)
The Pearl of Death The Creeper
The Princess and the Pirate Gorilla (uncredited)
1945 The Jungle Captive Moloch the Brute
The Royal Mounted Rides Again Bull Andrews
1946 The Spider Woman Strikes Back Mario the Monster Man
House of Horrors The Creeper
The Brute Man Hal Moffat/The Creeper (final film)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Duryea, Bill (June 27, 1999). "Floridian: In love with a monster". St Petersburg Times.
  2. ^ a b Raw, Laurence (2012). Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930-1960. McFarland. pp. 100–102. ISBN 9780786490493. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Fleming, E. J. (2015). Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Seventeen Driving Tours with Directions and the Full Story, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 102. ISBN 9780786496440. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b Guzzo, Paul (October 24, 2017). "Hillsborough High honors courage of horror-star alumnus The Creeper". Tampa Bay Times. tampabay.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Meehan, Paul (2010). Horror Noir: Where Cinema’s Dark Sisters Meet. McFarland. p. 109. ISBN 0-786-46219-1.
  6. ^ Weaver, Tom; Brunas, John (2011). Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931–1946 (2 ed.). McFarland. p. 557. ISBN 0-786-49150-7.
  7. ^ Levesque, William R.; Shopes, Rich. "On eve of Memorial Day, candles at Tampa cemetery mark sacrifice of veterans". Tampa Bay Times. tampabay.com. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  8. ^ Thargs Nerve Centre, prog 61[citation needed]
  9. ^ Bishop, David (24 February 2007). "Vicious Imagery: 28 Days of 2000 AD #24: Brian Bolland Pt. 1".
  10. ^ BBC (7 October 2011). "Extended Matt Smith and Mark Gatiss Interview - Doctor Who Confidential - Series 6 - BBC Three" – via YouTube.
  11. ^ {{http://www.rondoandbob.com Rondo and Bob official site. Retrieved June 4, 2017. "Info" page archived from the original on June 4, 2017. "Screening and Press" page archived from the original on June 4, 2017.
  12. ^ "Documentary on man who put the gore in 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'". Austin American-Statesman. Texas. June 4, 2017. Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  13. ^ Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, dreadcentral.com; accessed August 30, 2016.

External links[edit]