Heroines & Scream Queens of Classic Horror: the 1940s! A Halloween treat!

Evelyn Ankers
promo shot for The Wolf Man- Evelyn Ankers

THE WOMEN OF CLASSIC HORROR: THE 1940S!

You could say that Evelyn Ankers is still the reigning queen of classical 1940s horror fare turned out by studios like RKO, Universal and Monogram. But there were a host of femme screamtales that populated the silver screen with their unique beauty, quirky style and/or set of lungs ready to wail, faint or generally add some great tone and tinge to the eerie atmosphere when ever the mad scientist or monster was afoot. Some were even monstrous themselves…

For this upcoming Halloween I thought I’d show just a little love to those fabulous ladies who forged a little niche for themselves as the earliest scream queens & screen icons.

ELSA LANCHESTER 1902-1986

I’m including Elsa Lanchester because any time I can talk about this deliriously delightful actress I’m gonna do it. Now I know she was the screaming hissing undead bride in the 30s but consider this… in the 40s she co-starred in two seminal thrillers that bordered on shear horror as Mrs Oates in The Spiral Staircase 1945 and a favorite of mine as one of Ida Lupino’s batty sisters Emily Creed in Ladies in Retirement 1941

I plan on venturing back to the pre-code thirties soon, so I’ll talk about The Bride of Frankenstein, as well as Gloria Holden (Dracula’s Daughter, Frances Dade (Dracula) and Kathleen Burke (Island of Lost Souls) Gloria Stuart and Fay Wray and so many more wonderful actresses of that golden era…

Elsa Lanchester in The Spiral Staircase
Elsa Lanchester as Mrs.Oates in director Robert Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase 1945
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The Sisters Creed in Ladies in Retirement 1941 starring Elsa Lanchester, Ida Lupino and the wonderful Edith Barrett (right)

ANNE NAGEL  1915-1956

Anne Nagel
the playfully pretty Anne Nagel
Anne Nagel & Lon Chaney Man Made Monster Promo photo
Anne Nagel & Lon Chaney Jr in a promo shot for Man Made Monster
Anne Nagel, Lon Chaney & Lionel Atwill Man Made Monster
Anne Nagel strapped to the slab and at the mercy of the ever mad Lionel Atwill. Here comes the glowing Lon Chaney Jr! in his electric rubber suit in Man Made Monster!

The depraved mad scientist Lionel Atwill working with electro biology pins gorgeous red headed Anne Nagel playing June Lawrence, to his operating slab in Man Made Monster 1941. Lon Chaney Jr. comes hulking in all aglow as the ‘Electrical Man’ which was his debut for Universal. He carries Anne Nagel through the countryside all lit up like a lightning bug in rubber armor. Man Made Monster isn’t the only horror shocker that she displayed her tresses & distresses. She also played a night club singer named Sunny Rogers also co-starring our other 40’s horror heroine icon Anne Gwynne in the Karloff/Lugosi pairing Black Friday in 1940.

She played the weeping Mrs.William Saunders, the wife of Lionel Atwill’s first victim in Mad Doctor of Market Street 1942. And then of course she played mad scientist Dr Lorenzo Cameron (George Zucco’s) daughter Lenora in The Mad Monster 1942. Dr Cameron has succeeded with his serum in turning men into hairy wolf like neanderthal monsters whom he unleashes on the men who ruined his career.

Anne Nagel and Lionel Atwill Mad Doctor of Market Street
Anne Nagel and Lionel Atwill Mad Doctor of Market Street

Poor Anne had a very tragic life… Considered that sad girl who was always hysterical. Once Universal dropped her she fell into the Poverty Row limbo of bit parts. Her brief marriage to Ross Alexander ended when he shot himself in the barn in 1937, and Anne became a quiet alcoholic until her death from cancer in 1966

Anne Nagel Lon Chaney Lobby Card

Lon Chaney Jr and Anne Nagel Man Made Monster

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Dr Cameron’s daughter Lenora (Anne Nagel) discovers the wolf-like man in his laboratory in The Mad Monster
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Glenn Strange as Petro the Hairy man in The Mad Monster 1942

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the sultry Anne Nagel and Bela Lugosi in Black Friday 1940 photo courtesy Dr Macro

MARTHA VICKERS- 1925-1971

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the beauty of Martha Vickers

Martha was in noir favorites The Big Sleep 1946 & Alimony 1949. This beauty played an uncredited Margareta ‘Vazec’s Daughter’along side Ilona Massey as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein and the marvelous older beauty Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva the gypsy! in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man 1943. Then she played heroine Dorothy Coleman in Captive Wild Woman 1943 and Miss McLean in The Mummy’s Ghost 1944.

Originally Martha MacVickar she started modeling for photographer William Mortenson.David O Selznick contracted the starlet but Universal took over and put in her bit parts as the victim in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and in other ‘B’ guilty pleasures like Captive Wild Woman & The Mummy’s Ghost. She was also the pin-up girl for WWII magazines.

Martha also starred in other noir features such as Ruthless 1948 and The Big Bluff 1955. She was Mickey Rooney’s third wife.

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Martha Vickers and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep photo courtesy of Dr Macro
Martha Vickers and Lon Chaney in Frankenstein Meets the wolf man
Martha Vickers and Lon Chaney in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Martha Vickers and John Carradine in Captive Wild Woman
Martha Vickers and John Carradine in Captive Wild Woman
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I just can’t resist Vicker’s sex appeal here she is again… Wow!

FAY HELM  1909-2003

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Fay Helm as Nurse Strand with John Carradine in Captive Wild Woman

Fay Helm played Ann Terry in one of my favorite unsung noir/thriller gems Phantom Lady 1944 where it was all about the ‘hat’ and she co-starred as Nurse Strand along side John Carradine in Captive Wild Woman. Fay played Mrs. Duval in the Inner Sanctum mystery Calling Dr. Death with Lon Chaney Jr. 1943

Ella Raines and Fay Helm in Phantom Lady
Ella Raines and Fay Helm in Phantom Lady

Fay Helm plays Jenny Williams in Curt Siodmak’s timeless story directed by George Waggner for Universal and starring son of a thousand faces Lon Chaney Jr in his most iconic role Larry Talbot as The Wolf Man 1941

Fay as Jenny Williams: “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

Fay was in Night Monster 1942. Directed by Ford Beebe the film starred Bela Lugosi as a butler to Lionel Atwill a pompous doctor who falls prey to frighting nocturnal visitations. I particularly love the atmosphere of this little chiller with it’s swampy surroundings and it’s metaphysical storyline.

Dr. Lynn Harper (Irene Hervey) a psychologist is called to the mysterious Ingston Mansion, to evaluate the sanity of Margaret Ingston, played by our horror heroine Fay Helm daughter of Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan) a recluse who invites the doctors to his eerie mansion who left him in a wheelchair.

Fay gives a terrific performance surrounded by all the ghoulish goings on! She went on to co-star with Bela Lugosi and Jack Haley in the screwball scary comedy One Body Too Many (1944)

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Night Monster
Fay Helm in Night Monster
Fay Helm with Bela the gypsy in The Wolf Man
Fay Helm with Bela the gypsy in The Wolf Man

LOUISE CURRIE 1913-2013

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Louise Currie and Bela Lugosi in The Ape Man

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Bela Lugosi as half ape half man, really needed a shave badly in The Ape Man 1943, and Louise Currie and her wonder whip might have been the gorgeous blonde dish to make him go for the Barbasol. One of the most delicious parts of the film was it’s racy climax as Emil Van Horn in a spectacle of a gorilla suit rankles the cage bars longing for Currie’s character, Billie Mason the tall blonde beauty. As Bela skulks around the laboratory and Currie snaps her whip in those high heels. The film’s heroine was a classy dame referred to as Monogram’s own Katharine Hepburn! She had a great affection for fellow actor Bela Lugosi and said that she enjoyed making Poverty Row films more than her bit part in Citizen Kane! And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that she appeared in several serials, from both Universal & Republic like The Green Hornet and Captain Marvel.

Tom Weaver in his book Poverty Row HORRORS! described The Ape Man as “a Golden Turkey of the most beloved kind.”

Louise Currie followed up with another sensational title for Monogram as Stella Saunders in Voodoo Man 1944 which again features Lugosi as Dr. Richard Marlowe who blends voodoo with hypnosis in an attempt to bring back his dead wife. The film also co-stars George Zucco as a voodoo high priest and the ubiquitous John Carradine as Toby a bongo playing half-wit “Don’t hurt her Grego, she’s a pretty one!”

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Pat McKee as Grego, Louise Currie, John Carradine and Bela Lugosi in Monogram’s Voodoo Man 1944
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the outrageous Voodoo Man 1944

EVELYN ANKERS 1918-1985

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From Gregory William Mank’s Women in Horror FIlms, 1940s “Universal leading ladies had been a fascinating lot. A striking sometimes kinky parade of beauties and talents. Often almost as eccentric as the horror shows themselves.”

Then came Evelyn Ankers... looking stunning in her Vera West 40s glamour gowns. As Mank says in his fantastic book, “She had a lush, classic full throated scream”, and gave “charming, low-key performances.”

This blonde bombshell who lit up the screen with her intoxicating good looks and a set of lungs that made her one of THE BEST screamers in horror cinema of the 40s! Alexander Korda signed her to MGM when she was merely 18. Her first film was The Bells of St. Mary’s 1936 Her first leading role was in a British thriller called Murder in the Family 1938 co-starring Jessica Tandy, Roddy McDowall and Glynis Johns. On Broadway in 1940 she played the maid in the theatrical version of Ladies in Retirement which starred the wonderful Flora Robson.

Universal spotted her while on tour with the play in L.A. They needed a leading lady to play Norma Lind for their Abbott & Costello romp Hold That Ghost 1941. Bud & Lou play gas station attendants who inherit a gangster’s fortune and find themselves stranded in an old dark house that’s haunted!

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The comic pair were forever goosing Evelyn on the set. But she found her niche and went on to become immortalized as Gwen Conliffe who’s ill fate it was to fall for the doomed to be hairy by the light of the full moon… Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.)

One of the great voyeuristic moments in The Wolf Man is when Larry using the giant phallic telescope in his dad’s ‘observatory’ focuses it on Gwen’s bedroom and spies on her while she poses in front of the mirror at her dressing table. Then the flirtatious augury occurs when Gwen shows Larry the silver wolf’s head cane in her father’s antique shop. At the film’s climax the lovely Evelyn Ankers rushes through the fog filled forest, the gnarly trees silhouetted by the full moon and she in her best high heels comes upon The Wolf Man who fondles her with his hairy clawed hands. With his hot canine breath he bares his massive fangs and snarls in her face, as she screams hysterically right on cue!

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Ankers went on to play Elsa Frankenstein the daughter of Ludwig Frankenstein (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) in The Ghost of Frankenstein 1942. Again, Ankers got to let out one of her memorable screams when she’s in her father’s study one stormy night, reading over Henry Frankenstein’s notes on the mysteries of life and death.

Ralph Bellamy plays the heroine’s fiance Erik.

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Ralph Bellamy and Evelyn Ankers in The Ghost of Frankenstein-courtesy of Dr Macro

She catches a monstrous shadow on the wall only to discover Lon Chaney Jr as the Monster and Bela as Ygor staring at her though the rain splattered window. She of course let’s out one of her signature screams!

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Lon Chaney Jr with Evelyn Ankers in The Ghost of Frankenstein-photo courtesy of Dr Macro

She played Kitty in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror in 1943 and then went on to get star billing as Beth Coleman the girlfriend of a circus lion tamer in the lurid Captive Wild Woman where John Carradine has his first starring role as Dr. Sigmund Walters who likes to fiddle around with genetic not unlike Island of Lost Souls’ Dr. Moreau! He transforms a gorilla into Aquanetta!, the sensual ape woman who lusts like a wild animal.

Ankers then played Isabel Lewis in The Mad Ghoul 1943 George Zucco is Dr Alfred Morris a mad chemistry professor who experiments with ancient Mayan nerve gas on his medical students, creating a ‘living death’ turning David Bruce into the film’s title character who must sustain himself by murdering people for their hearts.

Evelyn Ankers is the perfect as the object of beauty, a concert singer engaged to college student Ted Allison (David Bruce) She falls in love with her pianist Eric Iverson (Turhan Bey) The mad Dr. Morris is also fixated on Isabel and will do anything to get her handsome fiance out of the way. What ghoulish fun!

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David Bruce The Mad Ghoul holds Evelyn Ankers who has swooned from his musty cologne!
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Evelyn and George Zucco in The Mad Ghoul
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Evelyn Ankers in The Invisible Man’s Revenge
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Evelyn Ankers and John Carradine in Captive Wild Woman

Captive Wild Woman

The Wolf Man 1941 Lon and Evelyn
The Wolf Man 1941 Lon and Evelyn

Evelyn Ankers and Lon Chaney wolf man promo

PEGGY MORAN  1918-2002

Peggy Moran promo shot The Mummy's Hand

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Wallace Ford, Peggy Moran and Dick Foran in The Mummy’s Hand courtesy Doug McClelland Collection

Scene from The Mummy's Hand

Peggy a contract player at Universal was in one of their most profitable “B’ movies. She plays Marta Solvani in The Mummy’s Hand 1940  co-starring with Wallace Ford, George Zucco, Eduardo Ciannelli, Cecil Kellaway , Dick Foran and Tom Tyler as the love lorn Mummy Kharis. Here Ford and Foran have to rescue Marta from the lecherous clutches of George Zucco’s Professor Andoheb who offers her eternal life!

She also played along side Dick Foran once again, this time as Wendy Creighton in Horror Island 1941 a little horror jaunt about hidden treasure on a haunted island directed by George Waggner. Interesting tidbit, Peggy Moran had dated Franchot Tone in 1940 during her final 1940 film where she co-starred with the handsome actor in Trail of the Vigilantes, before Joan Crawford had cast her spell on him.

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MARIA OUSPENSKAYA  1876-1949

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Maria Ouspenskaya the beautiful Russian actress who plays the old gypsy woman Maleva had been nominated for an Academy Award for her role as in Dodsworth 1936 co-starring one of my favs Mary Astor. Ouspenskaya has a regal aspect whether she’s driving an old caravan or portraying the Baroness Von Obersdorf. And it’s not just because I’m a Russian gypsy too… well maybe just a little.She looks an awful lot like my great Aunt Edith who used to read the cards. And let’s face it, it’s just really fun to say Ouspenskaya…!

She’s theatrical and wonderful to watch as the ill fated Lon Chaney Jr as Larry Talbot wanders through the fog soaked screen chasing after Evelyn Ankers in Jack Pierce’s fabulous fur make-up. His poor father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains another fav of mine) having to wield the silver wolf’s head cane in order to strike the fatal blow to his own son.

Maleva and Larry in The Wolf Man

Ouspenskaya The Wolf Man

The Wolf Man 1941 as the memorable Maleva the gypsy  she reprises her role as Maleva in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man 1943

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Not just a gypsy -Maria Ouspenskaya in Dodsworth 1936
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Maria in Mervyn Leroy’s Waterloo Bridge 1940 looking as regal as ever, next to Vivien Leigh

Madame Cecile Roget in Mystery of Maria Roget 1942 A detective tries to unravel the strange circumstances surrounding the death of a young actress, with Patrick Knowles and Maria Montez.

Maria Ouspenskaya & Maria Montez
Maria Ouspenskaya & Maria Montez in Mystery of Marie Roget
Maria Ouspenskaya with Ona Munson in Shanghai Gesture
Maria Ouspenskaya with Ona Munson in The Shanghai Gesture 1941
Maria reads Evelyn's Palm promo for The Wolf Man
Maria Ouspenskaya reads Evelyn Anker’s palm in a promo shot for The Wolf Man

LENORE AUBERT

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UNA MERKEL  1903-1986

The Catman of Paris (1946)

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Catman of Paris

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

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Lenore Aubert A & B Meet Frankenstein

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Abbott & Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)

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Una Merkel is Aunt Margaret Wentworth  Lionel Atwill plays the consummate mad scientist who’s experiments on reanimating the dead from a frozen state, becomes exposed and so he must flee to a tropical island where he can continue his on the locals. Una Markel is marvelous as she adds some comic relief in The Mad Doctor of Market Street 1942

Una is best known for her role, playing the ditsy daughter of W.C. Fields in The Bank Dick.

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Una Merkel and Anne Nagel in Mad Doctor of Market Street the window
Una Merkel and Claire Dodd in Mad Doctor of Market Street

Una Merkel Mad Doctor still

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The outre sexy Una Merkel photo by George Hurrell

EDITH BARRETT  1907-1977

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Edith Barrett was married to actor Vincent Price from 1938 to 1948. That just makes me like her right off the bat. And…They have a son, Vincent Barret Price. To Edith Barrett’s classical horror credit Ladies in Retirement 1941, I Walked With a Zombie 1943, The Ghost Ship 1943, Jane Eyre 1943

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Lucky lady married to Vincent Price holding Jr Price. Daddy must have just told Jr a scary bed time story!

During the 1930s, she performed with Orson Welle’s Mercury troupe. It’s while performing in The Shoemaker’s Holiday in 1937 she met and married leading man Vincent Price. Perhaps her most notable role is the mother in law Mrs Holland in I Walked with a Zombie 1943. Interesting that she played Tom Conway’s mother yet Edith was actually three years younger than her co-star.

She is best remembered for her films “Ladies in Retirement” (1941), “I Walked with a Zombie” (1943), “The Song of Bernadette” (1943), “The Ghost Ship” (1943), “Jane Eyre” (1944), “Strangers in the Night” (1944), “The Keys of the Kingdom” (1944), “Ruthless” (1948).

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Edith Barrett in ‘Strangers in the Night’ 1944

Edith Barrett played the childlike oddball Louisa Creed in Ladies in Retirement, In Val Lewton’s I Walked With a Zombie she played Mrs. Rand, Ellen Roberts in The Ghost Ship, and Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre.

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Edith Barrett in Val Lewton’s masterpiece prequel to Jane Eyre- I Walked With a Zombie
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Edith Barrett (left ) with Ida Lupino and Elsa Lanchester (right) Ladies in Retirement- Fabulous trio…

ELIZABETH RUSSELL  1916-2002

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The striking Elizabeth Russell as The Cat Woman in Val Lewton’s Cat People
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Elizabeth Russell and Bela Lugosi in The Corpse Vanishes

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The Corpse Vanishes 1942, The Seventh Victim 1943 as an uncredited Cat Woman in Cat People, The tragic yet deranged Barbara Farren in Curse of the Cat People 1944,as Mistress Sims in Bedlam 1946 Val Lewton regular. She got to play an uncredited telephone operator in one of my fav 50s sci-fi The Monolith Monsters ’57

In Gregory Mank’s book he refers to Russell as a ‘satanic Marlene Dietrich’…

She was part of Val Lewton’s RKO horror unit. Blonde and long legged, again Mank writes, “remarkably striking actress evoked in the movies some Renaissance painter’s concept of Lucifer’s mistress.”

Lewton produced films that seemed to bare a confluence of blending two distinct essences, beauty and fear. Russell played Mimi the death fearing prostitute in The Seventh Victim, Kitty- Boris Karloff’s gin swigging tramp in Bedlam. And for me the most powerfully evocative menacing yet sad and loveless Barbara Farren in The Curse of the Cat People.

For Monogram Pictures she played the evil Countess Lorenz who’s husband Bela Lugosi kidnaps young brides in The Corpse Vanishes. Using their spinal fluid to keep his nefarious wife young and beautiful!

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Elizabeth Russell and Julia Dean as the troubled mother and daughter Farren in Val Lewton’s marvelously haunting Curse of the Cat People 1944

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Elizabeth Russell and Bela in The Corpse Vanishes
Elizabeth Russell, Bela Lugosi & Angelo Rossitto in The Corpse Vanishes 1942
Elizabeth and Lon in Weird Woman
Elizabeth and Lon in Inner Sanctum’s Weird Woman 1944

ELLEN DREW   1915-2003

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Isle of the Dead with Ellen Drew and Boris
Boris Karloff and the gorgeous Ellen Drew in Isle of the Dead
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Boris and Ellen again Isle of the Dead
Ellen Drew in The Monster and the Girl
Ellen Drew in The Monster and the Girl 1941

Ellen Drew somehow never gained the attention other Hollywood actresses managed to. She remained on the  fringe most her career. Although she did appear in Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July 1940 and playing Nelle Marchettis in noirs Johnny O’Clock (1947) But I’ll always be fond of her beautiful smile and her roles in…

Thea in Isle of the Dead, Strange Confession 1944, The Monster and The Girl & The Mad Doctor 1941 not to mention how beautiful she looked as Nina Martin in The Crooked Way ’49 noir amnesia thriller with John Payne.

SIMONE SIMON  1910-2005

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Simon is best known for her role as Irena Dubrovna Reed in Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941

Val Lewton was a young producer newly chosen at RKO to head up a horror project for the film studio. It was a production that was set to compete with the success that Universal was having with it’s monster pictures. The news was that it was an avant-gard horror script written by DeWitt Bodeen, who had imbued his story with the knowledge of Lewton’s real-life phobia of cats. But the true mystique of the film was it’s star Simone Simon as the ‘cat woman’ Irena Dubrovna. In tabloid style there were hosts of rumors about this sensual woman born in France but traveled all over the world as a child. That she walked a leopard on a leash. According to Mank’s book, she once tore her 20th Century-Fox dressing room to shreds during a tantrum. She was known to be temperamental on the sets of her films. At RKO she played the bedazzling witch from the mountains in The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941. Val Lewton had personally picked Simon for the role of Irena in Cat People becoming one of the most iconic faces of classic horror in history. She gave an intensely marvelous performance filled with an eroticism and tragic sensibility. She then went on to create a gentle shade of Irena in The Curse of the Cat People. As the ghostly friend to the troubled wispy child Ann Carter. Simon remembers Jacques Tourneur being a very nice man and seeing Elizabeth Russell all made up on the set of Cat People and being so striking!

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Simone Simon Curse of the Cat People

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Simone Simon and Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941

Twentieth Century Fox-Inside the Photo Archive.

JANE RANDOLPH  1915-2009

Jane Randolph

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Jane Randolph is being stalked by an unseen force in Cat People

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Jane Randolph in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

RKO picked up Jane’s contract from Warner Bros. She is known for her vulnerable femmes in distress in film noir, classics like Jealousy (1945) and Railroaded! (1947)

Jane plays the squeaky clean Alice Moore love interest to Kent Smith’s Oliver Reed. Menaced by the sexually ferocious yet ambivalent Irena (Simone Simon) who stalks her by the pool in the Lewtonesque shadows. Finally getting to marry Oliver and becoming a mother to little antisocial Amy (Ann Carter) who is the only one who sees the ethereal Irena, a kind and gentle spirit or is she the manifestation of childhood loneliness?

Jane Randolph’s only release in 1943 was RKO’s The Falcon Strikes Back, directed by Edward Dymytryk

One of Jane’s last movies would be the classic comedy thriller Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Randolph remembers Abbott & Costello as being extremely funny and marvelous to work with. Also saying that Bela Lugosi was a nice person and Lon Chaney was easy to work with.

Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, The Mysterious Mr. M, and noir films Jealousy and Railroaded!

ANNE GWYNNE  1918-2003

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As IMDb mini bio starts out saying Anne is a ‘Vivid, strikingly beautiful actress Anne Gwynne arrived in Hollywood a typical starry-eyed model looking to become a big film star, and ended up one of Universal Studio’s favorite screamers in “B” horror films”.

Such films as…

Black Friday 1940, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, The Black Cat 1941, as Elaine Winslow, The Strange Case of Dr Rx, Murder in the Blue Room and House of Frankenstein. The Ghosts Go Wild, Killer Diller and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome with Boris Karloff , Teenage Monster 1958 and noir films like Breakdown ’52

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Anne Gwynn starts in The Black Cat 1941

Anne Gwynn in an all star cast The Black Cat 1941 featuring Basil Rathbone, Hugh Hubert, Broderick Crawford, Bela Lugosi, the great Gladys Copper and Gale Sondergaard, Clair Dodd and Alan Ladd.

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The Strange Case of Dr Rx (1942) starring Anne Gwynn, Patrick Knowles and Lionel Atwill and Mona Barrie
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Buster Crabbe and Anne Gwynn

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Lon Chaney Jr in Weird Women

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ILONA MASSEY  1910-1974

Ilona Massey

Co-starred in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and Invisible Agent 1942

Ilona Massey had played sophisticated seductresses in thrillers and spy capers but is probably best known for her role as Baroness Elsa Frankenstien in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman 1943 and romping around with those ribald Marx Bros in Love Happy 1949

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The stunning Ilona Massey
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Ilona Massey in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man 1943 there’s Maria Ouspenskaya
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Ilona Massey in Invisible Agent

PATRICIA MORISON
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Patricia Morison played Barby Taviton in film noir’s The Fallen Sparrow starring John Garflied. She was Mrs.Hilda Courtney along side Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Homes in Dressed to kill 1946 and Stella Madden alongside Lon Chaney Jr. in Calling Dr Death 1943 Eve Ruppert in Danger Woman 1946.

She also played Empress Eugenie in The Song of Bernadette 1943. Morison with her raven like dark tresses was herself a trained singer.

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Patricia Morison in Calling Dr Death
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Patricia Morison and Lon Chaney Jr Calling Dr Death

Bruce Morison and Rathbone

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Patricia Morison and Nigel Bruce in Dressed to Kill
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Patricia Morison in Tarzan and the Huntress

Patricia Morison

JEAN PARKER  1915-2005

Jean Parker - 1930s

Jean played wise cracking Det. Humphrey Campbell’s (Chester Morris) wife, Louis Campbell in No Hands on the Clock 1941. Then as Mary Kirk Logan on death row in Lady in the Death House 1944. But she attains a horror heroine badge from me as she was Heather Hayden in Dead Man’s Eyes with Lon Chaney Jr in 1944 and then as the object of desire/death Lucille Lutien to John Carradine’s Gaston Morel in Bluebeard 1944.

She also appeared in One Body Too Many with Fay Helm.

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Jean Parker and John Carradine in Bluebeard

ACQUANETTA   1921-2004

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Aquanetta and Tarzan

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Wonderful make-up design once again by the great Jack Pierce transforming the gorgeous Aquanetta into the ape woman

 

 

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The ‘B’ beauty

Aquanetta was a B-rated movie actress (born as Mildred Davenport) in Ozone, Wyoming in 1921. She was nicknamed the “Venezualan Volcano” by Universal Studios.

In 1942, she landed a contract at Universal Pictures, where she played a succession of jungle girls and exotic beauties in forgettable films. She was nicknamed “The Venezuelan Volcano by publicists. She is perhaps best remembered for her role in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946) where she was the leader of the jungle cat cult.

Other films included Arabian Nights (1942), Captive Wild Woman (1943), and The Sword of Monte Cristo (1951). She also appeared in the Inner Sanctum Mystery Dead Man’s Eyes (1944) with Lon Chaney, Jr

I’d like to be able to say that I found other flattering photos of this beauty not drenched in sexualizing leopard skin that erotizes ‘exotic’ females and I use that word facetiously as I find the word exotic offensive as if women who are not white are somehow ‘other’ But this is a fun post so I won’t go into a sociological rant. The point is, I couldn’t find a photo of Aquanetta not baring more animal skin and even more of her own skin! You don’t see Evelyn Ankers in a get up like that with animal print unless it was one of her fancy hats!

Captive Wild Women, Jungle Woman, Dead Man’s Eyes Tarzan and the Leopard Woman

SUSANNA FOSTER   1924-2009

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as Christine in the The Climax 1944 with Boris Karloff!

From the IMDb mini bio

Susanna Foster was brought to Hollywood at the age of 12 by MGM, who sent her to school and groomed her for a singing and acting career.Two of her classmates in school were Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Oddly enough, MGM never used her, and she was signed by Paramount in 1939, where she made The Great Victor Herbert (1939). William Randolph Hearst was so impressed with her, after seeing her in that film, that he had her flown out to his mansion for a private recital for him and Marion Davies. She signed with Universal in 1941, and was used basically as leverage against Deanna Durbin, to keep her in line. Reportedly, Phantom of the Opera (1943), Susanna’s most famous role, was a Durbin reject.

JEAN BROOKS   1915-1963 

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Jean Brooks those haunting eyes in The Seventh Victim

That strikingly beautiful face, iconic hair style and haunting dazzle in those darkly sad eyes from producer Lewton’s Gothic morbid masterpiece The Seventh Victim cast the right woman as Jacqueline Gibson for this quietly disturbing tale of urban devil worship. Jean has an otherworldly quality. I can hear her voice in the film, “I run to death, and death meets me as fast, And all my pleasures are like Yesterday.”

She also did another Lewton film as Kiki the showgirl heroine in The Leopard Man. Losing her Cleopatra style hair and wicked spirit, revealing her own blonde hair.

She had a small role in the New York City-filmed The Crime of Doctor Crespi 1935

She had been married to writer/director Richard Brooks. She was finally dropped by RKO by 1946. For many years she was listed as a “Lost Player” who’s memory was kept alive by several magazine articles written by Doug McClelland. Sadly and tragically she died from complication of alcoholism in 1963

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Jean Brooks and Kim Hunter in The Seventh Victim

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Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks) The Leopard Man
Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks) The Leopard Man

Jean Brooks Blonde

Jean appeared in The Seventh Victim, The Leopard Man, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and The Invisible Man Returns. Check out the rest of this intriguing actresses’ films at IMDb

LOUISE ALLBRITTON   1920 -1979  

Louise Allbriton

Louise Allbritton in Son of Dracula with Lon Chaney Jr and Evelyn Ankers

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Allbritton appeared in Son of Dracula 1943, and Walked a crooked mile 1948

ELENA VERDUGO

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Before she was kindly Dr Marcus Welby’s all around nurse and good egg Consuelo Lopez but she starred as Ilonka in House of Frankenstein 1944 and Nina Coudreau in The Frozen Ghost along side Lon Chaney Jr and Evelyn Ankers.

GALE SONDERGAARD 1899-1985

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Gale Sondergaard

Miss Lu The Cat and The Canary 1939, The Black Cat 1941 as Abigail Doone, The Invisible Man’s Revenge 1944, The Spider Woman 1943, The Climax 1944 Miss Zenobia Dollard in The Spider Woman Strikes Back & The Time of their Lives 1946, The Letter 1940, 

From IMDb Bio-Sly, manipulative, dangerously cunning and sinister were the key words that best described the roles that Gale Sondergaard played in motion pictures, making her one of the most talented character actresses ever seen on the screen. She was educated at the University of Minnesota and later married director Herbert J. Biberman. Her husband went to find work in Hollywood and she reluctantly followed him there. Although she had extensive experience in stage work, she had no intention of becoming an actress in film. Her mind was changed after she was discovered by director Mervyn LeRoy, who offered her a key role in his film Anthony Adverse (1936); she accepted the part and was awarded the very first Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.

LeRoy originally cast her as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but she felt she was not right for that role. Instead, she co-starred opposite Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola (1937), a film that won Best Picture in 1937. Sondergaard’s most-remembered role was that of the sinister and cunning wife of a husband murdered by Bette Davis‘ character in The Letter (1940). Sondergaard continued her career rise in films such as Juarez (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940), The Black Cat (1941), and Anna and the King of Siam (1946). Unfortunately, she was blacklisted when she refused to testify during the McCarthy-inspired “Red Scare” hysteria in the 1950s. She eventually returned to films in the 1960s and made her final appearance in the 1983 film Echoes (1982). Gale Sondergaard passed away of an undisclosed illness at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, at the age of 86.

What can I say… I adore Gale Sondergaard. She’s got one of those memorable demeanors like Agnes Moorehead that you get instantly drawn to. At least for me that is. From her stalwart housekeeper Emily in The Time of Their Lives to her outrageous portrayal of The Spider Woman who adores her killer Venus Flytrap in The Spider Woman Strikes Back. Any role Gale Sondergaard touched turned to cinematic gold.

GaleSondergaard with Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone
Gale Sondergaard with Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone
Gale and Gang the time or their life
Gale Sondegaard as Emily with Bud and Lou, Marjorie Reynolds, Binnie Barnes and John Shelton in The Time of Their Lives 1946
Sondergaard Cat and The Canary
Gale Sondergaard as Miss Lu in Cat and The Canary 1939

the spider lady strikes back

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Gale Sondergaard The Letter 1940 as the ruthless Mrs Hammon
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Gale Sondergaard and Bette Davis in The Letter 1940

VIRGINIA CHRISTINE

Virgina Christine

Virginia Christine-Mummys Curse
Virginia Christine in The Mummy’s Curse

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Virginia Christine and The Mummy’s Curse promo with Lon Chaney Jr

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Virginia, Burt and Ava in The Killers
Virginia Christine, Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner in one of the best noir masterpieces by director Robert Siodmak The Killers 1946

Virginia Christine has appeared in too many films and television series to mention in my little collection of 40s horror heroines. Just click on her name and it will take you to IMDb’s profile of her prolific acting career. Quickly imagine, Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956, The Killer is Loose, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 1967,tv movie Daughter of the Mind 1969, and tv shows like The Invaders, The Fugitive, Perry Mason, Ben Casey and THRILLER

But for our horror heroine of the 40s purposes we’ll give her credit for The Mummy’s Curse 1944, House of Horrors 1946 and hell she gets points from me for even being in the violently brilliant noir thriller, The Killers 1946

Virginia Christine is also perhaps one of my favorite character actors, that familiar face you see on retro television programs that just make you smile when ever she shows up. Sometimes I forget that she was carried off in Lon Chaney Jr’s gauze wrapped arms in The Mummy’s Curse!

FRANCIS DEE    1909-2004

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Frances Dee as Nurse Betsy Connell walks with Christine Gordon in Val Lewton’s superb shadowplay ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ 1943

Dee was in Payment on Demand in 1951 co-starring with Bette Davis

Frances Dee met Joel McCrea on the set of the 1933 film The Silver Chord. The two were married later that year in Rye, New York. They were married for  57-years til McCrea died in 1990. Dee hadn’t acted since the mid-50s, and said she didn’t miss it.

JUDITH ANDERSON-1897-1992

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barry fitzgerald walter huston And Then They’re Were None also starring hayward judith anderson and young

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Dame Judith Anderson is known for her remarkable presence in The Specter of the Rose 1946, Rebecca 1940, Laura 1944 and And Then There Were None 1945

WANDA McKAY

Wanda McKay The Monster Maker and Voodoo Man
Wanda McKay and Terry Frost in The Monster Maker

Known for The Monster Maker 1944 Bowery at Midnight, The Black Raven and Voodoo Man

Once she moved to New York City to become a model. She splattered the covers on many national magazines, and was selected as the model for the Chesterfield Girl. Wanda McKay’s face appeared on Chesterfield ads and billboards across the United States! But you can see her as Patricia Lawrence in The Monster Maker with J. Carol Naish as the twisted Dr Igor Markoff who injects Patricia’s father (Ralph Morgan) a concert pianist with the  acromegaly virus. Patricia happens to resemble Igor Markoff’s dead wife!

Bowery at Midnight

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VIRGINIA GRAY   1917-2004

Virginia Gray

House of Horrors 1946, Strangers in the night 1944, Unknown Island

Directed by Jean Yarbrough An unsuccessful sculptor saves a serial killer “The Creeper” (Rondo Hatton) from drowning. Seeking revenge, he tricks the psycho into murdering his critics. Virginia Grey plays an art critic Joan Medford who has great instincts and pushes to find out about a mysterious bust Marcel De Lange (Martin Koslek) has suspiciously covered in his studio. Maybe it’s a marble flesh eater?

Unknown Island

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house of horrors

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House of Horrors Rondo Hatton grabs Virginia Grey

JANE ADAMS Born August 7th 1921-

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1945_HouseDracula Jane Adams

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Best remembered as the sympathetic hunchbacked nurse, Nina, in House of Dracula (1945) with John Carradine

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Jane Adams promo shot with Glenn Strange for House of Dracula 

Jane Adams House of Dracula

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Rondo Hatton the Brute Man menaces lovely Jane Adams

40s classic horror heroine films she’s notable for….

House of Dracula 1945  as Nina the hunchback, The Brute Man 1946, as Helen Paige and….in

Lost City of the Jungle 1946 as Marjorie Elmore

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Lost City of the Jungle 1946 with Jane Adams and Russell Hayden

ANNE REVERE    1903-1990

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Anne Revere in Boris Karloff's lab where he communicates with the dead

I’ll always think of Anne Revere very fondly as an earthy and quietly dignified actress. Rooted in a humanistic realism that she brought to her roles. I particularly love her contribution to Boris Karloff’s beautifully eerie gem directed by Edward Dmytryk The Devil Commands 1941.  It’s one of my favorite films. Revere plays Mrs Blanche Walters a phony medium who assists Karloff yet has sinister designs on his work. This is one of his sympathetic scientist roles as Dr Julian Blair who has lost his wife in an auto accident. Blair does research in brain waves, using a very esoteric type of machinery likened to the Medieval torture devices, where ones dons bizarre metal helmets as he attempts to communicate with the dead, obsessively trying to contact his wife. Revere is magnificent as the nefarious Mrs Walters! It’s one of my all time favorite classic horror films.

Anne Revere was a versatile veteran character actress born on June 25, 1903 in New York City. A direct descendant of American Revolutionary hero, Paul Revere. Her first film was 1934’s Double Door. An intriguing mystery where she plays Caroline Van Brett the timid and brow beaten sister to the matriarchal borderline psychotic sister Victoria played by Mary Morris.

Revere’s career spanned over 40s years where she inhabited the role of the maternal mother figure. She played Monty Clift’s mother Hannah Eastman in  A Place in the Sun 1951.

She played Gene Tierney’s mother Abigail Wells who is distant from her daughter, in Joseph L Mankiewicz’s dark and disturbing Dragonwyck 1946 with Vincent Price as Nicholas Van Ryn who terrifies his wife, the servants, the farmers he rules over as he hides up in his tower doing god knows what?

Anne Revere and Gene Tierney Dragonwyck
Anne Revere and Gene Tierney as Miranda Wells in Dragonwyck

She nominated for the Academy Award for The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) for which she won an Oscar.

Anne Revere was blacklisted for refusing to testify before Senator Joe McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities that were rooting out communists Hollywood. Ironic that she was a descendant from a patriot yet! She remained off screen for over twenty years unable to find work, returning the stage in 1961 winning a Tony Award for Toys in the Attic.
Anne Revere died of pneumonia on December 18, 1990 at her home on Long Island , New York where I hail from.

The Devil Commands, Fallen Angel, Dragonwyck, Double Door 1934 & Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond The Door 1947

Anne Revere as the dominating sister Carand Joan Bennett in Secret Beyond The Door
Anne Revere as Michael Redgrave’s dominating sister Caroline Lamphere and Joan Bennett as his wife in Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond The Door 1947

double door

ANNA LEE    1913-2004

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Anna Lee takes on Boris Karloff in Bedlam

anna lee and karloff in Bedlam

She had been in The Man Who Live Again 1936 along side Boris Karloff where she portrays Dr Clare Wyatt.

Anna Lee was first in an anthology of three loosely connected occult tales of an ironic and romantic nature, stories based on Oscar Wilde..It’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful hidden surreal horror gems from the 40s directed by Julien Duvivier Anna Lee plays Rowena in the second segment of Flesh and Fantasy 1943

Most memorable for me is her performance in Val Lewton/Mark Robson’s Bedlam 1946 Anna Lee was marvelous as Mistress Nell Bowan a strong willed woman who challenges the cruel and psychotic Boris Karloff as Master George Sims of St. Mary’s of Bethlehem Asylum or Bedlam. Nell becomes a trapped inside the asylum and must find a way out while still on a mission to reform the conditions of the place. Lee brings a strength and clarity to her role as Nell Bowan who starts out a rebel and becomes savior. Bedlam is perhaps one of Lewton’s best works.

Then Anna Lee appeared in The Ghost and Mrs Muir 47 which starred the gorgeous Gene Tierney as Mrs Muir. Anna plays George Sanders wife Mrs Miles Fairly.

HEATHER ANGEL- 1909-1986

Twentieth Century Fox-Inside the Photo Archive

From IMDb Mini Biography

Heather Grace Angel was born in Oxford, England, on February 9, 1909. She dabbled on the stage for a time before coming to California to try her luck on the screen. Heather was 20 years old when she landed a bit part for the 1929 film, Bulldog Drummond (1929). Although she didn’t know it at the time, she would become a staple of that particular series eight years hence.

Lifeboat Heather Angel
Heather Angel and Tallulah Bankhead in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat 1944

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Heather Angel in The Undying Monster

Heather Angel in Shadows on the Stairs

Heather Angel appeared in these 40s tinglers! Shadows on the Stairs, Suspicion, The Undying Monster & Alfred Hitchock’s Lifeboat. and earlier in the 30s appeared as Mary McPhillip in John Ford’s The Informer 1935

Victor Mclaglen, Joe Sawyer, Preston Foster and Heather Angel The Informer '35
Victor Mclaglen, Joe Sawyer, Preston Foster and Heather Angel The Informer ’35
Angel is absolutely stunning in this film!

LENORE AUBERT

Annex - Aubert, Lenore_01

Annex - Aubert, Lenore (Return of the Whistler, The)_01
The Return of the Whistler with Lenore Aubert
Annex - Aubert, Lenore (Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff)_01
Lenore Aubert still from Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer with Boris Karloff
Annex - Aubert, Lenore (Catman of Paris, The)_01
The Catman of Paris with Lenore Aubert

Lenore Aubert appeared in Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, Abbott & Costello meet the Killer, and The Catman of Paris.

BRENDA JOYCE    1917-2009

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inner sanctum The Pillow of Death
Brenda Joyce Lon Chaney Jr in Pillow of Death inner sanctum mystery

Pillow of Death Inner Sanctum mystery

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Brenda Joyce stars in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman
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Johnny Weissmuller and Brenda Joyce in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman courtesy of Dr Macro

the Whispering GHosts

Strange Confession Brenda Joyce

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Strange Confession

MARTHA O’DRISCOLL  1922-1998

Martha O Driscoll

House-of-Dracula-Hypnotism

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1945 House or Dracula John Carradine and Martha O’Driscoll
Martha O Driscoll in The Ghost Catchers
Martha O’ Driscoll in The Ghost Catchers
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Tom Neal and Martha O’ Driscoll in noir’s Blond Alibi 1946

RUTH HUSSEY  1911-2005

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Ruth Hussey Gail Russell and Ray Milland The Uninvited 1944

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Ruth played the lovely Pamela Fitzgerald in The Uninvited 1944

RAMSAY AMES   1919-1928

Ramsay Ames

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Ramsay Ames from Calling Dr Death
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The Mummy’s Ghost 1944 Lon Chaney Jr with Ramsay Ames
inner_sanctum-calling dr death Ramsay Ames
Ramsay Ames with Lon Chaney Jr in Calling Dr Death an Inner Sanctum mystery

Ramsay appeared in Calling Dr Death, The Mummy’s Ghost, Ghost Catchers noir The Black Widow and Green Dolphin Street

WELL THAT’S IT FOR NOW FOLKS, WE’LL BE BACK WITH THE LADIES OF CLASSIC 30s HORROR HEROINES!

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Special mention to Linda Darnell for Hangover Square and Merle Oberon for The Lodger ’44 and Gene Tierney for Dragonwyck & The Ghost and Mrs Muir!

Thanks to such great source material by Gregory William Mank’s book Women in Horror Films, 1940s!

 Woman screams at man in gorilla suit

See you around The Last Drive In Snack Bar-Hope you enjoyed this little Halloween treat!!!!

Your Ever Lovin’ MonsterGirl

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14 thoughts on “Heroines & Scream Queens of Classic Horror: the 1940s! A Halloween treat!

    1. Yes!!!! These women are the most fabulous of all. I couldn’t have covered these films without showing my genuine appreciation for their contributions they made. Adding character and depth and they were beautiful too. So glad you liked my little tribute-

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  1. Joey, you’ve outdone yourself in this stunning salute to all the fabulous scream queens of the 1930s and ’40s! I was especially pleased you mentioned gals like Martha Vickers and Elena Verdugo (never missed MARCUS WELLY M.D.), Patricia Morison, the LADIES IN RETIREMENT, and so much more! You could write a book about this, girl! BRAVA, my friend!

    By the way, since we’ve all got Lon Chaney on the brain with your fab Blogathon on the horizon, you might also enjoy the beginning of our pal Jim Lane encoring his series on Chaney’s LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT! Here’s the link:

    http://jimlanescinedrome.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-fog-of-lost-london-part-1.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JimLanesCinedrome+%28Jim+Lane%27s+Cinedrome%29

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    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post. I must do one for the 30s and 50s as well! And thanks for sharing your new blog. I will definitely visit. My site is very varied, and people say I’m cheeky so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it!
      Cheers Joey

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  2. The actress listed in Lifeboat was not Heather Angel,,her name was Mary Anderson,who passed on recently..Check out the boat scene..

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  3. In the Anne Nagel section, that’s Claire Dodd pictured with Lionel Atwill in Mad Doctor of Market Street, easy to confuse as her face is in shadow. Great tribute to Ms. Nagel though, of whom I am a big fan, and all the other wonderful ladies, very nice job on your part.

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    1. Mike! Thanks so much for pointing that out to me. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it then… so many women so little time… I appreciate you pointing it out. As soon as I looked at the photo I saw it…

      And thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on my little tribute. Cheers Joey

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    2. Thanks again Mike-I fixed the caption. I appreciate you pointing that out for me. As soon as I looked I saw Claire there! So many women, so little time! ha…I’m going to be doing a women of the 30s but I might save that for Halloween… Thanks for stopping by here at The Last Drive In…. Cheers Joey

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    1. Soooo glad you like it! Last year I covered the heroines from the 40s… this year I went backwards and covered the 30s and next year, it’ll be a big project! The gals from the 50s!!! Lots of guilty pleasures and brave dames to go around… Julie Adams and of course Beverly Garland!!! Thanks so much for stopping by the last drive in… Happy Halloween too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great blog. I’ve been working on something like this, but like all my projects a work in progress.

    One bit of advice. You may be better breaking blogs like this into 2. It’s a lot to go over in 1 post.

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