Honestly, he’d be upset to be billed here as Lon Chaney, Jr. Leaving aside that he wasn’t one—he was born Creighton Tull Chaney and indeed credited as Creighton Chaney in his first films, and his father was Leonidas Frank Chaney—he knew exactly why he was billed as such. He wanted very much to be his own man, too; he wasn’t following his father into the business. He was doing what he loved. He was doing what he was good at, come to that. It’s not his fault that a lot of what he was in was turkeys; that was a combination of typecasting and the fading of good horror.
He didn’t make movies until after his father’s death because his father, despite teaching young Creighton his makeup tricks, didn’t want the boy in the business. (Ironically, by the time Creighton would want to do his own makeup for things, union rules prevented it, despite the fact that there was no such thing as a professional makeup artist in Lon’s time.) Universal insisted that he be billed as Lon Chaney, Jr., to cash in on Lon’s career. Interesting to consider that this was also in the days where silent films weren’t particularly valued, but Lon was still remembered and admired.
One place he was like his father was that he was capable of far greater range than he is remembered for. Yes, he would be typecast as the Wolfman, and MST3K devotees would remember him for his assorted appearances there and on RiffTrax. (Including, of course, The Undersea Kingdom and Indestructable Man, which made him the only person so far to appear in both a short and feature of the same episode.) On the other hand, he was launched into real success as Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men.
Creighton appeared in a wide array of stone-cold classics. Wider, I think, than people realize. High Noon, for example. The Defiant Ones. And My Favorite Brunette. All on top of Of Mice and Men. That is a pretty broad sweep of genre. Sure, most of his television career seems to have been “hey, look, it’s Lon Chaney, Jr.!” Still, he did The Monkees. A lot of Westerns. And, to my astonishment and bewilderment, he was actually the original Riley when Life of Riley was adapted to television, in the unaired pilot.
He wasn’t quite as universally liked as his father. From what I can tell, he was mostly liked except by people he didn’t himself like, which seems fair. A bigger problem was his alcoholism. Apparently he and Broderick Crawford were known on the Universal lot as “the monsters” because of their drunk and violent wanderings. No matter how nice you are other than that, it’s the sort of thing that wears thin.