Who Am I?

By day, I am Jon Mirsalis, Ph.D.,D.A.B.T., holder of Ph.D. degrees in genetics and toxicology, and Managing Director of the Biosciences Division at SRI International where,among other things, I run the drug development program for all infectious disease drugs being developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. I am an author on over 100 articles and book chapters in prestigious scientific journals such as Nature, Carcinogenesis, CRC Reviews, Annual Reviews, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Mutation Research.

But by night, I metamorphose into an obsessed film buff and 16mm film collector, with broad interests in film, especially silent films, and especially Lon Chaney, Sr. Among my many film activities, I am a two-time President of the Society for Cinephiles, and I have been providing piano accompaniment for silent films for over 20 years, and can frequently be heard performing at The Niles Film Museum in Niles, CA. My scores can also be heard on many video releases including the Milestone releases of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and A LITTLE PRINCESS, LSVideo's VICTORY, Flicker Alley's Valentino collection, and Kino International's THE MARK OF ZORRO, DON Q SON OF ZORRO, OTHELLO, WAXWORKS, WOMAN IN THE MOON, THE MAN FROM BEYOND, and several of the shorts in the DW Griffith box set. I also did the score for the documentary Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows (2007).

My interest in Lon Chaney began at the ripe old age of 10 by reading Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland. By the time I reached college at Kent State University, I was puzzled why I had only seen THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. Where were all these great Chaney films I had read about like LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT and A BLIND BARGAIN? At the time, I wasn't aware that there was such a thing as a "lost film."

In 1974, appalled by the paucity of information on Chaney's films, I began to assemble a notebook of information on each of Chaney's films. The same year I began collecting films, and my first purchase was an 8mm print of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. When I entered graduate school at North Carolina State University in 1975, I made regular trips to Washington, D.C. where I began to research Chaney's films in earnest, spending days paging through old issues of Moving Picture World, Universal Weekly, Motion Picture News, Variety, Motography, Photoplay, and other trade journals of the era. This research continued well into the 1980s, until I had acquired copies of every contemporary review, synopsis, press kit, and copyright file on each of Chaney's films.

In 1981 I moved to California and became active in many Chaney exhibition projects. In 1983, I programmed a film series at the Pacific Film Archive to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chaney's birth. I have also programmed, written film notes for, and introduced Chaney screenings at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and other events. I also provided a number of rare Chaney films for a large Chaney retrospective at the National Film Theater in London in the late 90s. Several of my 16mm prints have been used for video releases put out by Kino, LSVideo, and Sinister Cinema.

I have also played an active role in restoration projects of several Lon Chaney films. In 1983, working with historian and archivist David Shepard, Dan Woodruff at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and MGM (before it was acquired by Turner Entertainment), I reconstructed THE ROAD TO MANDALAY (1926), and my restoration is the only material currently available at Warner Bros. Classics, or anywhere else. I also assisted in the Library of Congress restorations of THE OUBLIETTE (1914) and THE SCARLET CAR (1917). I did the preservation of the only extant home movies of Lon Chaney for Pacific Film Archive, and some of this footage can be seen in the Kino International Chaney documentary Behind the Mask. I also provided material to Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury for their superb documentary on Lon Chaney.

I have done some writing on Chaney including a 1988 article on Chaney's extant films that was published as an introduction to Phil Riley's book A Blind Bargain that can still be purchased from MagicImage Books. I have assembled a fairly large manuscript on the films of Lon Chaney, much of which is included in the filmography section of this web site. This project was turned down by Citadel for their Films of series as being "not commercial enough." (They also turned down proposals from other authors for The Films of Fred Astaire and The Films of Burt Lancaster as being equally "uncommercial.") Since I do this as a hobby and don't need the money, I decided to put most of the material on the web so that others can obtain this information for free.

I currently live in the San Francisco Bay area with my wife and three children.

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