The exploitation of actor Rondo Hatton was not one of Hollywood's finer moments. Like Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton and countless midgets and dwarves, Hatton was used for his deformity--in his case, acromegaly--and showcased as a "freak act" in a series of low-budget horror films.
Little is known of Hatton's youth and early career. He was, apparently, a normal-looking man until his disease began to enlarge and deform his hands and the bones of his face. His first-known acting credit was in Henry King's "Hell Harbor" (1930), but Hatton vanished from sight until playing a small role in the hit "In Old Chicago" (1938), also directed by King. William Wellman cast the actor in "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), before Universal spotted him.
Hatton's horror roles began with Universal's 1944 Sherlock Holmes film "Pearl of Death," in which he played the murderous Oxton Creeper. The studio signed him to a long-term contract, seeing the actor as a great horror draw. Late in 1945, Hatton made three films for release the following year: he teamed up as henchman with villainess Gale Sondergaard in "The Spider Woman Strikes Back" and reprised his Creeper role in "House of Horrors." In the latter, a mad sculptor hires Hatton to kill recalcitrant art critics. It is difficult to assess Hatton's talents as an actor, as his face was fairly immobile and speaking was difficult for him.
Hatton's next film turned out to be his last. In "The Brute Man," Hatton played a scientist deformed by acid who goes on a killing spree, but fall in love with a blind girl who can only see his "kind heart." Hatton died of a heart attack early in 1946, before any of these films were released. "The Brute Man" was produced at Universal, but after Hatton's death, the company finally decided the subject matter was too distasteful and dumped it on the low-budget distributing firm PRC.
Cast (Feature Film)
Film acting debut, "Hell Harbor"
Played first horror role, The Creeper in "Pearl of Death"
Signed long-term contract with Universal
Final film, "The Brute Man"