RONDO HATTON – The Creeper

The Creeper

Rondo Hatton was born in Hagerstown, Maryland on April 22, 1894 to Missouri-born teachers. Young Rondo spent much of his youth travelling the East Coast of the United States with his parents his father passed away and his mother finally settled in Tampa.

As a teenager Rondo was not only regarded as an intelligent young man by his teachers, he was also quite handsome. In fact he was so handsome that he was even voted most handsome by his high school peers. Following high school Rondo became a sportswriter for the local Tampa Tribune newspaper and remained a journalist until just after World War one, when his fortune changed.

Shortly after the war, Rondo’s handsome features began to change. The changes were subtle at first, little more than swollen eyes, but Rondo quickly became alarmed and sought a diagnosis. Eventually Rondo was diagnosed with a fairly rare pituitary disorder known as acromegaly.

Symptoms of acromegaly generally develop during adulthood and Hatton’s head, face and extremities gradually but consistently became bulbous and disfigured. Severely disfigured, Rondo was understandably upset by his situation. While he continued to work at the Tribune Rondo spiralled into depression and those close to him worried that his state of mind was fractured and he was possibly becoming a danger to himself. But in 1930, while covering the filming of Hell Harbour, his fortune changed once again.

Director Henry King spotted Rondo Hatton and immediately cast him in Hell Harbour as a burly tavern keeper. During the experience Rondo’s was amazed to be praised for his unique physical features and was flattered by the attention. Rondo surmised that he could parlay his freakish face into a prolific acting career and he quickly moved to Hollywood.

For most of the 1930’s, Rondo played the part of background goon in several films. In fact, until the mid 1940’s his acting was limited almost entirely to bit part silent roles. His unique appearance still drew attention from the studio executives and in 1944, at the height of his physical disfigurement, he signed a deal with Universal Studio. He made his first appearance for the studio in the Sherlock Holmes movie The Pearl Death, again playing a mute back-breaking hulk villain named Hoxton Creeper. Rondo expected little from the role as he had practically played the part many times before. However, those roles had been background characters and Creeper was front and center. The public devoured the character and they demanded to see more of the physically gifted Rondo.

Universal threw their considerable weight behind Rondo Hatton and initiated an impressive campaign championing their latest movie monster. The promotion took on Barnum-like qualities when press released claimed Rondo’s disfigurement was due to wartime mustard gas exposure.  Over the next year and a half, Rondo Hatton played supporting Creeper-like roles in three more Universal films. In his final film, The Brute Man, Rondo was cast as the star. The plot of the film was semi biographical as the story revolved around a handsome college athlete scarred and turned into a monster by an accident.

Rondo Hatton died on February 2, 1946 nearly eight months before the theatre release of his final film due to heart issues brought on by his acromegaly.

Interestingly enough, Rondo’s death did little to curb his fame. In fact his popularity reached its greatest heights during the 1960s and 1970s when a booming interest in Universal’s classic horror movie monsters led numerous film buffs to Hatton’s body of work. Rondo’s unique visage gained something of an iconic cult status.

Rondo Hatton’s famous face lives on in all manner of cinematic, comic book and pop culture tributes.  Most notably, the main henchman in Disney’s The Rocketeer is visually based on Rondo as are characters in both Judge Dredd and The Goon comics. Furthermore, The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards represent Hatton in both name as well as in likeness. The physical award is a cast bust of Hatton’s exceptional features.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

20 Comments

  • Reply October 1, 2008

    Maverick Mercury

    You’ve been tagged…because I LOVE YOUR BLOG.

  • Reply October 9, 2008

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Thank you for the love Maverick. It’s much appreciated.

  • Reply November 2, 2008

    Mae

    The Brute Man is one of my favorite movies, I didn’t know much about Rondo Hatton, though, thank you for posting this.

  • Reply January 4, 2009

    Jon

    I’ve actually seen The Brute Man. It was on the show Mystery Science Theater 3000.

    I’m glad to know that he did reach some sort of peace with himself pertaining to his appearance.

    Also, a little known fact : There are some who believe that Abe Lincoln also suffered from acromegaly. The largest indicators were his size, his elongated hands, and facial features.

  • Reply January 7, 2009

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Thanks for your comments Jon. I’ve heard the Lincoln rumor before, but it is not a fact as of yet. Lincoln may have also suffered from Marfan’s syndrome instead, or simply been a lithe fellow.

  • Reply February 25, 2009

    Paul R Wilson

    I would not want to jangle with anybody who looks like THIS in a dark alley. He looks like a tough thug !!

  • Reply March 5, 2009

    Lexie Jones

    His features don’t make him homely, I think. He has the face of a refined, albeit, creepy man. The kind that woos a woman with words and, at the same time, brings her chills.

  • [...] Not unlike Daryl Hall’s face, actually. If you haven’t paid much attention to Hall & Oates lately — and let’s face it, why should you? — you may be surprised to note that Daryl has… well, he’s had some work done. The eye job is the most obvious change, but a side-by-side comparison shows an odd lengthening of the chin, as if all his facial features have migrated slightly northward. It might be a face-lift gone awry, or a bone-distorting disease like acromegaly; in any case, if this keeps up, Daryl Hall will eventually resemble Rondo Hatton. [...]

  • Reply May 31, 2009

    Lobo

    Thanks for all the wonderful material in your website. I will bookmark it and recommend it to my friends.

    I found this tribute video to be quite appropriate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1j3EYrhqv0

    Lobo.

  • Reply December 24, 2009

    Bear

    Hello ,
    I’m wondering if you might help me… Am very interested in finding information about a man known as the Swedish Angel , Phil Olaffson is his name . He was a professional wrestler many years ago and many have thought he sufferd from acromegaly. Thank you so much

    • Reply March 13, 2013

      Marvin McKenzie

      The Swedish Angel was one of the Strong Men who put the original Mighty Joe Young to a test of tug-o-war. The movie also starred a young Ben Johnson. And Mighty Joe was created by the same special effect wizards that gave us the original King Kong. There is also a scene in the movie that takes place at the bar in the night club; you’ll catch another familar face Irene Ryan (Granny) from Beverly Hillbillys fame.

  • Reply March 3, 2010

    Lora

    i just have to say, .. it creeped me out when i see his date of birth.. and how alike it is too mine lol… he was born april 22 1894 and i was born april 22 1994. I KNOW THAT OBVIOUSLY people will have the same bdays its just that the only thing thats different is that he was born in the 1800s and i was the 1900s. And of course because of his story aswell.

  • Reply May 27, 2010

    HectoR

    I allways pretended to be “the Creeper” when i was kid, walking around with my hands out an making a face. anyway you should see this bust i sculpted in tribute to Mr. Rondo Hatton.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50502573@N08/4643232166/in/set-72157624019074385/

  • Reply July 21, 2010

    Lilly-Rose

    he is quite handsome in a dangerous creepy way

  • Reply August 16, 2010

    Jacqui B.

    I agree with Lilly-Rose.

    By the way, I wonder if people with acromegaly are what used to be referred to in ancient times as giants, or if those were simply tall for the time people (like 6 foot, which is nothing special these days).

  • Reply November 11, 2010

    Rolf

    Rondo would not have wanted to instill fear in ANYone.
    He was known to be a mild-mannered, sensitive gentleman.
    He was a reporter for a Tampa, Florida newspaper, for a living before he was utilized in horror movies.
    He also was an accomplished Violinist, and Guitar virtuoso. He gave lessons in classical guitar up to the time of his death.
    He was working on the day of his death from heart failure on February 2nd, 1946.
    He was buried in Tampa, Florida under the auspices of war veterans.

  • Reply December 8, 2010

    Tim Ohr

    I need an image of Rondo Hatton to use in Florida’s Illustrated Historical Places. It will go in the chapter “Hollywood in Florida.” Do you own and can you provide an image, hopefully high resolution on CD, that I can use? If not, can you refer me to someone who might be able to help? Thanks.

  • Reply May 30, 2011

    shmuel

    It’s suprising, I’m normal and I don’t know why he is so scary? Maybe because the photo is in black and white?

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    Joys Division

    For those interested in paying their respects, Mr. Hatton is interred in Tampa, Florida:

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=22367

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