The Shock (1923 film)

The Shock is a 1923 American silent drama film directed by Lambert Hillyer and starring Lon Chaney as a cripple named Wilse Dilling.[1] The film was based on a story by William Dudley Pelley. This is one of the rare Lon Chaney films where he gets the girl.[2]

The Shock
Directed byLambert Hillyer
Produced byCarl Laemmle
Written by
Based onThe Pit of the Golden Dragon (magazine story)
by William Dudley Pelley
StarringLon Chaney
CinematographyDwight Warren
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 10, 1923 (1923-06-10)
Running time
64 minutes (7 reels, 6,738 ft.)
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)


In 1906, Wilse Dilling (Lon Chaney), a crippled gangster living like a brute in the savage streets of Chinatown, receives a coded message to go to the home of his boss, Ann Cardington (Christine Mayo), known as Queen Anne, a powerful crime boss feared in the underworld. When Wilse meets with her, she sends him to the town of Fallbrook, where he is to await her instructions in dealing with a former lover of hers, a banker named Micha Hadley (William Welsh), who had betrayed her. Dilling is to pose as a telegraph operator in his effort to watch the banker.

Being practically dependent on crutches and wheelchair-bound has not stopped Dilling from committing a lengthy series of crimes, but to his surprise, he finds that the small town atmosphere makes him feel differently about everything. He finds a good friend in Hadley's daughter Gertrude (Virginia Valli), whom Dilling not only falls in love with her but she helps him believe that he can make a fresh start. Gertrude, however, is engaged to Jack Cooper (Jack Mower).

Dilling's new-found contentment is soon shattered by a series of new developments which includes trying to stop Queen Ann's plot against Hadley and Gertrude. Threatened with exposure as a thief, Hadley lashes out at Dilling when he confesses his part in the scheme. When an attempt to blow up the bank goes badly, Gertrude and Cooper are caught in the blast. With Gertrude severely injured, Cooper's father forces him to break off their engagement.

With the bank records destroyed, bank examiners are unable to find evidence against Hadley. After surgery, his daughter is expected to make a complete recovery but Queen Anne still seeks his revenge. Dilling tries to recover a document that his boss is holding, but with her henchmen, she captures Gerturde to Dilling's despair. Before anything can happen, everyone in the Manadarin Cafe, the gangsters' headquarters, as well as the entire city, is caught up in the San Francisco earthquake. Dilling survives and later in recuperation, is able to recover the use of his legs, beginning a new life with Gertrude.



The working title of the film was Bittersweet.[3] The screenplay was based on William Dudley Pelley's magazine story, "The Pit of the Golden Dragon".[4] Although mainly shot in the Universal studios, the climactic earthquake scenes were a mix of model and archival film footage, mixed in with live action.[5] Principal photography on The Shock took place in June 1922, after Chaney finished work as Fagin on Oliver Twist (1922) in late May 1922.[6]

Preservation status

A print of the film is maintained in the Film Preservation Associates, Incorporated archive.[3]



  1. Anderson 1971, p. 29.
  2. Blake 1997, p. 86.
  3. "Progressive Silent Film List: 'The Shock'." Retrieved: May 9, 2016.
  4. Blake 1997, p. 74.
  5. Blake 1997, p. 87.
  6. Blake 1997, p. 70.


  • Anderson, Robert Gordon. Faces, Forms, Films: The Artistry of Lon Chaney. South Brunswick, New Jersey: A. S. Barnes, 1971. ISBN 978-0-4980-7726-5.
  • Blake,Michael F. A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures. Vestal, New York: Vestal Press, 1997. ISBN 978-1-8795-1121-7.
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