His most notable eartly role was as a contestant in the "ugly man competition" (which he loses to Charles Laughton) in the RKO production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
March 5, 2006 2:46 PM   Subscribe

There was a time when his scowling, oversized visage, his battered black fedora, and his long black coat, were as familiar to horror fans as such characters as Frankenstein and Dracula. This character, who appeared in three films, was called "The Brute Man" or "The Creeper."

Only that terrifying face wasn't a mask or a creation of makeup. It was an actual face, a product of a condition called agromegaly. And The Creeper never planned to be an actor at all, he was simply decorated war veteran-turned-Tampa reporter who had shown up one day to cover a film. The movie's director noticed him and recommended he move to Hollywood and pursue a career as a character actor.

He was Rondo Hatton.
posted by Astro Zombie (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Anyone who has seen 1991's The Rocketeer has seen a near-perfect recreation of Rondo Hatton in the hulking character played by Tiny Ron, named "Lothar."
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2006

More trivia: in the 2000 AD comics, Judge Dredd's first appearence without his helmet depicted him with Rondo's face; it was part of a storyline involving criminals who disguised themsleves as classic film stars while robbing banks.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:12 PM on March 5, 2006

I was just about to comment that Lothar looked like him. Neat stuff.
posted by brundlefly at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2006

Great post! As a side note, Hollywood during the 40's actually used agromegaly at least once as a plot device. There was a fun but extremely low budget horror movie called The Monster Maker about a mad scientist with a killer gorilla who gives people agromegaly to further his evil schemes.
posted by unreason at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2006

An online community of horror/monster fans has dedicated their annual classic horror awards to Hatton.
posted by infidelpants at 3:26 PM on March 5, 2006

posted by tiny purple fishes at 3:35 PM on March 5, 2006

Rondo Hatton, eh? Was he related to "The Amazing Rando!"?

posted by cog_nate at 3:46 PM on March 5, 2006

Rondo Hatton! I was just thinking about him the other day. What a great face that man had-- he was a true-born natural star for genre films. In more recent years, roles that might in the past have gone to Hatton have been graced with the features of Michael Berryman.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2006

He was great in that Sherlock Holmes movie where he played The Creeper.
posted by unreason at 3:54 PM on March 5, 2006

Hard to believe he was once good-looking enough to be voted Most Handsome in high school.

Paul Benedict, George Jefferson's twittish neighbor, had the good fortune to have his acromegaly diagnosed and arrested before his face became a grotesquery.
posted by nikzhowz at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2006

Didn't the make-up artist Keven Aucoin have this condition as well?
posted by lunalaguna at 4:30 PM on March 5, 2006

posted by lunalaguna at 4:39 PM on March 5, 2006

Thanks for linking to the saddest story of my life, lunalaguna. :|
posted by nonmerci at 5:18 PM on March 5, 2006

In layman's terms, I was taught that agromegaly is a 2nd puberty. But because the growth plates in your body have calcified, you can't grow taller – so your bones become fatter instead. IIRC, the bones of the skull, feet, and hands are most affected.

I believe Andre the Giant had agromegaly as well.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2006

Er, and what tiny purple fishes said. I was also taught it was spelt differently.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:46 PM on March 5, 2006

His image was also in the original 'Rocketeer' comic book by Dave Stevens that later made it into the Disney adaptation of the comic. A very sensual Betty Page clone was Cliff Secord's love interest in the comic, her body was doubled by Steven's wife at the time, B movie scream queen Brinke Stevens (some images NSFW).
posted by mk1gti at 8:43 PM on March 5, 2006

I always thought Rondo looked kind of cool.
posted by bpm140 at 8:59 PM on March 5, 2006

Once upon a time, acromegaly may have been a sign of beauty and royalty. Some Mesoamerican archaeologists believe that Mayan sculpture depicts acromegaly, clubfeet, and polydactyly as inherited traits among Palenque kings and rulers. See Physical Deformities in the Ruling Lineage of Palenque, and the Dynastic Implications (PDF).

The giant Olmec heads and Easter Island moai look pretty intriguing, too.
posted by cenoxo at 9:42 PM on March 5, 2006

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