Lon Chaney Jr.’s family sues Universal Studios

June 4, 2013

Deadline reports that monster movie actor Lon Chaney Jr.’s family went after Universal in the courts for more than $1 million in damages.

In a nine-page breach of contract and other claims complaint filed Monday in LA Superior Court, Chaney Entertainment alleges that Universal Studios Licensing uses the Wolf Man/Mummy/Frankenstein actor’s likeness for merchandise and goods and services despite the fact that a representation agreement between the studio and the company expired on December 31st, 2008. Though he played Lennie Small in 1939′s Of Mice and Men adaptation alongside Burgess Meredith, Chaney was best known for his performances as a monster in a series of Universal films in the 1930s and 1940s. In the years after his death in 1973, his heirs and their corporate entity entered into a number of agreements with Universal over the rights to his image and his film work. Seeking a 5-day jury trial, the complaint filed today also claims that Universal Home Video has not properly paid the Chaneys for the use of the long deceased actor’s image or voiceover in licensed film clips.

Universal’s continued exploitation of the Chaney’s rights has been done intentionally in conscious disregards of the rights of Chaney, and with malice, fraud, or oppression towards Chaney, thereby entitling Chaney to an award of punitive damages according to proof at trial,” says the complaint. Seeking restoration of full rights to the actor’s likeness and image, a full accounting and payment of funds allegedly due plus 10% per annum in interest, the complaint also wants all legal fees paid by the defendants as well consequential and punitive damages. Chaney Entertainment is represented by attorney Joseph F. Hart of Beverly Hills in their filing.

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