Rondo "The Creeper" Hatton

In the 1970s, Zappa sometimes introduced himself on stage as Rondo Hatton, and there is a bootleg called The Rondo Hatton Band.

Rondo Hatton in profileZappa liked to identify himself (and his band) with ugly people, and Rondo Hatton was an ugly film actor of the 1930s and '40s, who suffered from a disease called acromegaly, and thus looked a bit odd. He got to play bad-guy parts, and was billed as the "ugliest man in movies" and "the monster who needs no make-up". But as these pictures reveal, he actually looked rather commonplace [1]. Remember, these were the audiences that were frightened by the Little Strings on the Giant Spider. :)

Acromegaly is a condition where the hypophysis produces abnormal amounts of hormones, resulting in extra growth of the hands, feet, nose, chin and lips. This malfunction is caused by a benign brain tumour, in the anterior pituitary gland, and often accompanied by diabetes. It is not a fatal condition, but one that is bound to grow more pronounced over time. From the tome Pathology, edited by Emanuel Rubin & John L Farber, pages 1126-1127 (the Endocrinic System chapter, written by Victor F Gould & Sheldon C Sommers):

Pituitary adenomas that secrete growth hormone produce dramatic bodily changes. If a somatotropic adenoma develops before adult growth is achieved, the individual becomes a giant. [2] [---]

Should the somatotropic pituitary adenoma develop after the long bone epiphyses have fused and the full adult height has been achieved, some bones still respond to excess growth hormone. These are, in particular, the bones of the hands, feet, mandible and maxilla. The afflicted person develops coarse facial features, with overgrowth of the mandible, mandibular and maxillary prognathism with spaces between the upper incisor teeth, a thickened nose, and enlarged, broad, "spade-shaped" hands and feet. These osseous and associated soft tissue abnormalities are encompassed under the term acromegaly (Greek acron, extremities; megale [dash above final E], great). The viscera are also hypertrophied. Although these persons are deformed to a greater or lesser degree, they are not necessarily handicapped.

Rondo Hatton in colourPerhaps for promotional reasons, it was claimed that Rondo's features had been distorted by poison gas in the World War One trenches (some writers, such as Ben Watson, have bought into this). Rondo may very well have been exposed to chemical warfare agents, but this would in all likelyhood not have given him the special type of brain tumor that causes acromegaly. (Rondo has been far from the only acromegalic movie actor - see if you can think of others!)

As Rondo was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, you may think that he was from right around Zappa's own birthplace in Baltimore. But as the below map of Maryland shows, there is more than a hundred kilometers between them. (Rondo was born on April 22, 1894, and died of a heart attack (acromegaly is often accompanied by heart problems) on February 2, 1946, when Frank was already six years old, which may rule out reincarnation, depending on how you look at it.) By the way, legend has it that Rondo was voted "handsomest boy of his year" in high school.

A map of Maryland; the smaller square is Hagerstown and the larger square is Baltimore

Finally, this Rondo Hatton filmography was printed in (an unknown issue of) FilmFax Magazine:

  • 1930 HELL HARBOR - as dock-side saloon proprietor. Clips with Rondo from this film used in CONTRABAND (1936), the serial THE BLACK COIN (1936), and GUN CARGO (1937)
  • 1938 IN OLD CHICAGO - as Rondo
  • 1939 THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME - first contender in King of Fools contest
  • 1939 BIG GUY, THE- bit as ugly convict
  • 1939 CAPTAIN FURY - unknown bit
  • 1940 CHAD HANNA - bit as circus canvas man
  • 1940 MOON OVER BURMA - bit as sailor
  • 1942 CYCLONE KID - unbilled extra
  • 1942 THE MOON & SIXPENCE - bit as leper
  • 1943 THE SLEEPY LAGOON - as a hunchback
  • 1943 THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (also known as STRANGE INCIDENT) - as Gabe Hart, one of the lynch mob
  • 1944 THE PRINCESS & THE PIRATE - as Gorilla, a pirate
  • 1944 THE LODGER - unbilled extra? (unconfirmed)
  • 1944 RAIDERS OF GHOST CITY (serial) - unbilled extra? (unconfirmed)
  • 1944 JOHNNY DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE - as B. Graves, an undertaker
  • 1944 THE PEARL OF DEATH (a Universal Sherlock Holmes mystery starring Basil Rathbone) - as The Hoxton Creeper, a hulking murderer
  • 1945 ROYAL MOUNTED RIDES AGAIN (serial) - as Moose
  • 1945 JUNGLE CAPTIVE (also known as WILD JUNGLE CAPTIVE) (third Universal "Paula the Ape Girl" thriller, starring Otto Kruger and Vicki Lane) - as Moloch, the mad doctor's henchman
  • 1946 THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK (Universal horror combining two interesting characters from the Sherlock Holmes series: Gale Sondergaard and Rondo) - as Mario, a mute servant
  • 1946 HOUSE OF HORRORS (also known as JOAN MEDFORD IS MISSING) (Universal horror co-starring Martin Kosleck) - as The Creeper
  • 1946 THE BRUTE MAN (Universal horror released by PRC) - as The Creeper, previously Hal Moffat

The filmography found its way here from FilmFax via George "E-gor" Chastain. The two pictures of Rondo are reproduced without permission. If rightsholders wish to come forward with objections, they should mail the maintainer, after which the pictures will be removed and replaced with an artist's interpretation of Rondo Hatton.


1. Rondo was not really the "ugliest man in movies" even in the 1930s - the movie FREAKS from 1932 sported an all-star cast of real-life side-show attractions, with various deformities and handicaps. Nevertheless, several acromegalic men have followed Rondo's example and made acting careers, usually playing bad-guy parts - one of the most famous being Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in the James Bond movies THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) and MOONRAKER (1979). From Paul Caporino:

Even though Richard Kiel played the monster caveman in the 1960s B-movie EEGAH! [1962], he was arguably more handsome than the hero/male lead, Arch Hall Jr., who sort of resembles a full-sized Cabbage Patch doll.

Paul also adds

The British actor Paul Benjamin (he had a small role as an hotel desk clerk in the film THIS IS SPINAL TAP and is best known in the US as the next door neighbor Mr. Bentley on the TV show THE JEFFERSONS). I'd read that he'd suffered from acromegaly at a young age.

Moto Rock corrects the above vigorously:

The actor's name is Paul Benedict, NOT Paul Benjamin. And he isn't British, either (he's an American), although he's often mistaken for an Englishman, probably due to his role as Mr. Bentley on The Jeffersons.

2. This happened to for example André the Giant, a giant in American pro-wrestling, who also appeared in several movies.


For more ugly people in film, see Dr Vail Reese's Manifestation of Evil page.

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