Horror cinema was at it’s spooky peak in the 1930s~ the era gave birth to some of the most iconic figures of the genre as well as highlighted some of the most beautiful & beloved heroines to ever light up the scream, oops I mean screen!!!!
We all love the corrupted, diabolical, fiendish and menacing men of the 30s who dominated the horror screen- the spectres of evil, the anti-heroes who put those heroines in harms way, women in peril, –Boris, & Bela, Chaney and March… From Frankenstein, to Dracula, from The Black Cat (1934), or wicked Wax Museums to that fella who kept changing his mind…Jekyll or was it Hyde? From the Mummy to that guy you could see right through, thank you Mr. Rains!
Last year I featured Scream Queens of 40s Classic Horror! This Halloween 🎃 – I felt like paying homage to the lovely ladies of 30s Classic Horror, who squealed up a storm on those stormy dreadful nights, shadowed by sinister figures, besieged by beasts, and taunted with terror in those fabulous frisson filled fright flicks… but lest not forget that after the screaming stops, those gals show some grand gumption! And… In an era when censorship & conservative framework tried to set the stage for these dark tales, quite often what smoldered underneath the finely veiled surface was a boiling pot of sensuality and provocative suggestion that I find more appealing than most contemporary forays into Modern horror- the lost art of the classical horror genre will always remain Queen… !
Let’s drink a toast to that notion!
The Scream Queens, Sirens & Heroines of 1930s Classic Horror are here for you to runs your eyes over! Let’s give ’em a really big hand, just not a hairy one okay! From A-Z
A British beauty with red hair who according to Gregory Mank in his Women in Horror Films, 1930s, left England for Hollywood and an MGM contract. She is the consummate gutsy heroine, the anti-damsel Irena Borotyn In Tod Browning’s campy Mark of the Vampire (1935) co-starring with Bela Lugosi as Count Mora (His birthday is coming up on October 20th!) Lionel Atwill and the always cheeky Lionel Barrymore… Later in 1958 she would co-star with Boris Karloff in the ever-atmospheric The Haunted Strangler.
Mark of the Vampire is a moody graveyard chiller scripted by Bernard Schubert & Guy Endore (The Raven, Mad Love (1935) & The Devil Doll (1936) and the terrific noir thriller Tomorrow is Another Day (1951) with sexy Steve Cochran & one of my favs Ruth Roman!)
The film is a Tod Browning’s re-take of his silent Lon Chaney Sr. classic London After Midnight (1927).
The story goes like this: Sir Karell Borotin (Holmes Herbert) is murdered, left drained of his blood, Professor Zelin (Lionel Barrymore) believes it’s the work of vampires. Lionel Atwill once again plays well as the inquiring but skeptical police Inspector Neumann.
Once Sir Karell’s daughter Irena ( our heroine Elizabeth Allan) is assailed, left with strange bite marks on her neck, the case becomes active again. Neumann consults Professor Zelin the leading expert on Vampires. This horror whodunit, includes frightened locals who believe that Count Mora (Bela in iconic cape and saturnine mannerism) and his creepy daughter Luna (Carroll Borland) who trails after him through crypt and foggy woods, are behind the strange going’s on. But is all what it seems?
Directed by the ever interesting director Maurice Elvey (Mr. Wu 1919, The Sign of Four, 1923, The Clairvoyant 1935, The Man in the Mirror 1936, The Obsessed 1952) Elizabeth Allan stars as Daisy Bunting the beautiful but mesmerized by the strange yet sensual and seemingly tragic brooding figure- boarder Ivor Novello as Michel Angeloff in The Phantom Fiend! A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s first film about Jack the Ripper… The Lodger (1927) starring Novello once again.
There is a murderer loose in London who writes the police before he strikes with a sword cane, he signs his name X. It happens that his latest crime occurs on the same night that the Drayton Diamond is stolen. Robert Montgomery as charming as ever, is Nick Revel the jewel thief responsible for the diamond heist, but he’s not a crazed murderer. The co-incidence of the two crimes have put him in a fix as he’s now unable to unload the gem until the police solve the murders.
Elizabeth Allan is the lovely Jane Frensham, Sir Christopher Marche’s (Ralph Forbes) fiancé and Police Commissioner Sir Herbert Frensham’s daughter. Sir Christopher is arrested for the X murders, and Nick and Jane band together, fall madly in love and try to figure out a way to help the police find the real killer!
Heather Angel is a British actress who started out on stage at the Old Vic theatre but left for Hollywood and became known for the Bulldog Drummond series. While not appearing in lead roles, she did land parts in successful films such as Kitty Foyle, Pride and Prejudice (1940), Cry ‘Havoc’ (1943) and Lifeboat (1944). IMDb notes -Angel tested for the part of Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939), the role was given to Olivia de Havilland.
Heather Angel possessed a sublime beauty and truly deserved to be leading lady rather than relegated to supporting roles and guilty but pleasurable B movie status.
The L.A times noted about her death in 1986 at age 77 “Fox and Universal ignored her classic training and used her in such low- budget features as “Charlie Chans Greatest Case and “Springtime for Henry.”
Her performances in Berkeley Square and The Mystery of Edwin Drood were critically acclaimed… More gruesome than the story-lines involving her roles in Edwin Drood, Hound of the Baskervillles or Lifeboat put together is the fact that she witnessed her husband, stage and film directer Robert B. Sinclair’s vicious stabbing murder by an intruder in their California home in 1970.
Heather Angel is Beryl Stapleton in this lost (found negatives and soundtracks were found and donated to the British Film Institute archives) adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holme’s thriller Originally serialised in The Strand magazine between 1901 and 1902.
In this first filmed talkie of Doyle’s more horror oriented story it calls for the great detective to investigating the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and solve the strange killing that takes place on the moors, feared that there is a supernatural force, a monstrous dog like fiend that is menacing the Baskerville family ripping the throats from it’s victims. The remaining heir Sir Henry is now threatened by the curse.
Mystery of Edwin Drood (played by David Manners) is a dark and nightmarish Gothic tale of mad obsession, drug addiction and heartless murder! Heather Angel plays the beautiful and kindly young student at a Victorian finishing school, Rosa Bud engaged to John Jasper’s nephew Edwin Drood. The opium chasing, choir master John Jasper (Claude Rains) becomes driven to mad fixation over Rosa, who is quite aware of his intense gaze, she becomes frightened and repulsed by him.
The brooding & malevolent Rains frequents a bizarre opium den run by a menacing crone (Zeffie Tilbury), a creepy & outre moody whisper in the melody of this Gothic horror/suspense tale!
Valerie Hobson plays twin sister Helena Landless, the hapless Neville’s sister. (We’ll get to one of my favorites, the exquisite Valerie Hobson in just a bit…) When Neville and Helena arrive at the school, both Edwin and he vie for Rosa’s affections. When Edwin vanishes, naturally Neville is the one suspected in his mysterious disappearance.
Though I’ll always be distracted by Baclanova’s icy performance as the vicious Cleopatra in Tod Browning’s masterpiece Freaks which blew the doors off social morays and became a cultural profane cult film, Baclanova started out as a singer with the Moscow Art Theater. Appearing in several silent films, she eventually co-starred as Duchess Josiana with Conrad Veidt as the tragic Gwynplaine, in another off-beat artistic masterpiece based on the Victor Hugo story The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Tod Browning produced & directed this eternally disturbing & joyful portrait of behind the scenes melodrama and at times the Gothic violence of carnival life… based on the story ‘Spurs’ by Tod Robbins. It’s also been known as Nature’s Mistress and The Monster Show.
It was essential for Browning to attain realism. He hired actual circus freaks to bring to life this quirky Grand Guignol, beautifully grotesque & macabre tale of greed, betrayal and loyalty.
Cleopatra (Baclanova) and Hercules (Henry Victor) plan to swindle the owner of the circus Hans, (Harry Earles starring with wife Frieda as Daisy) out of his ‘small’ fortune by poisoning him on their wedding night. The close family of side show performers exact a poetic yet monstrous revenge! The film also features many memorable circus folk. Siamese conjoined twins Daisy & Violet Hilton, also saluted in American Horror Story (Sarah Paulson another incredible actress, doing a dual role) Schlitze the pinhead and more!
Anyone riveted to the television screen to watch Jessica Lange’s mind blowing performance as Elsa Mars in American Horror Story’s: Freak Show (2014) will not only recognize her superb nod to Marlene Dietrich, but much reverence paid toward the Tod Browning’s classic and Baclanova’s cunning coldness.
( BTW as much as I adore Frances McDormand, Lange should have walked away with the Emmy this year! I’ve rarely seen a performance that balances like a tight rope walker, the subtle choreography between gut wrenching pathos & ruthless sinister vitriol. Her rendition of Bowie’s song Life on Mars…will be a Film Score Freak feature this Halloween season! No I can’t wait… here’s a peak! it fits the mood of this post…)
here she is as the evil Countess/duchess luring poor Gwynplain into her clutches The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Wendy Barrie (Dead End (1937) Five Came Back 1939), was a perky Blonde who started acting on the London stage in ‘Wonder Bar’ (1930) In 1933 she was discovered by Alexander Korda who gave her a screen test. She got the role playing Jane Seymour in The Private Life of Henry VIII co-starring along side of the inimitable Charles Laughton. Barrie then went to Hollywood and was often cast as the ‘ingenue’ for Paramount, Universal and RKO. Dead End (1937) Similar to Heather Angel she either performed in supportive roles or wound up in B movies.
“I’ve avoided all my life the romantic stuff which novels and movies are about. Never went in for that mush. Of course, I’ve missed what most people would call the ultimate human experience. But then, I’ve remained my own person, which at my age is a very satisfying state” – Madge Bellamy, at age 87.
Madge Bellamy pure and simple is an ethereal nymph. She moved from Texas to discover Hollywood and earned great reviews from the critics for her work in silent films, like The Hottentot (1922, Ankles Preferred (1927) and Mother Knows Best (1928)
When she landed the role of Madeline Short Parker in Victor Halperin’s moody, arty horror film working with Bela Lugosi as ‘Murder’ Legendre she had hoped it would give her career a jolt. It didn’t… After talkies, Bellamy’s career slowed down to a halt in 1945 with Northwest Trail. It would have been nice to see her do a few more off-beat films with layers of charisma she could sink her teeth into. But alas, White Zombie would be the only horror flick she would make. But what a film, with some memorable moments that still possess a disquieting not-so undertone vibe of, ethno-centric hysteria, racism, slavery, nechrophilia, egomania, stalking and geez some pretty imposing Zombies…
White Zombie (1932) A wealthy man Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) turns to ‘Murder’ Legendre (Bela) a Svengaliesque witch doctor to lure the object of his obsession Madeline (Bellamy’s hair was died blonde for the role) away from her doe-eyed ( yes I know it’s used to refer to a woman, so what’s your point?) fiance Neil Parker (John Harron), but rather than put a spell on her to fall in love with him, Legendre turns her into a zombie on her wedding night, making her a walking soulless doll. Then proceeds to slowly torture Beaumont with the same fate! No one’s ever known what was going to happen to them before!
Bellamy had the right look and fey body language for the role. This all takes place near a sugar cane mill where Lugosi’s character has basically turned all his enemies into mindless, soulless slaves, working the mill and doing his bidding. It’s a very dark and tense little gem!
Yet another red headed British actress who came to Hollywood seeking stardom! Perhaps most known for her performance co-starring with Gary Cooper as Lily Langtry in The Westerner (1940) Her career started off doing westerns.
Bond did show up in a bunch of great horror films. She landed a small part with Hurd Hatfield in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). In 1950, she appeared in one of my all time favorites, the outre creepy & wonderful The Maze in 3D! She was Annie Rowly in Hugo Fregonese’s The Man in the Attic (1953) but for our purposes of saluting the scream sirens of the 30s we’ll look at her wonderful role as Gladys opposite Melvyn Douglas in James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932) co-starring Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart!
The Old Dark House (1932) Lilian is Gladys DuCane an out of work chorus girl in James Whale’s hilarious romp through the creepy house genre! She and Robert Penderal fall in love amidst the weird goings-on and decide to get married.
Laughton is wonderful as Sir William Porterhouse, Gladys’ traveling companion. Massey and Wray are Philip and Margaret Waverton.
Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers come to the eerie, ever quirky Femm family estate, complete with menacing mute butler Morgan (Karloff wearing Jack Pierces make up) and the eccentric & unhinged relatives that lurk about on one bizarre dark and stormy night! “Have a potato!” -Horace Femm (Thesiger)
The demented family tree includes Elspeth Dudgeon as Sir Roderick Femm, Brember Wills as Saul Femm, Eva Moore as Rebecca Femm!
Carroll Borland attended Berkeley College and was a friend to Bela Lugosi when she was cast as his daughter Luna the silent film vampiress, and the film that would make her haunting image iconic, Mark of the Vampire (1935)
Variety (May 8, 1935) said of her performance “Borland plays the girl of the old castle, dead 100 years, who returns to life at night in quest of blood. She almost takes the picture away from Lugosi on the chiller end, her performance being exceptional. Miss Borland’s makeup is tops.”- source Midnight Marquee’s Hollywood’s Classic Scream Queens 1930s
You can thank William Tuttle for the superb make up job!
Borland actually went on to earn a doctorate in education, and went on to teach…
Carroll Borland to the right. Mark of the Vampire (1935) Elizabeth Allan to the left. Borland had a bit part in Flash Gordon 1936.
Lugosi plays Count Mora and Borland his daughter Luna, who haunt the castle where murder victim Sir Karell Borotyn. Enter fearless vampire hunter Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore). The villagers are in a panic, and Baron Otto von Zinden (Jean Hersholt) is scared he may be the next to be bitten and drained of his blood. And soon, Count Mora seduces Sir Karell’s daughter Irena (Elizabeth Allan).
Virginia Bruce has a unique beauty, she started acting in the 1920s having played a bit part as Enid Corbett, Eugene Pallette & Helen Ware’s daughter in the Pre-Code film Slightly Scarlet (1930) Becoming a lead player at MGM. Her performance in Kongo with Conrad Nagel and Walter Huston is nothing less than sublime.
From Universal Horrors’ Tom Weaver, Bruce was ‘cast in the lead of The Invisible Woman (1940) when Margaret Sullivan failed to report for the film’ also noting “Virginia Bruce is a pretty package of charm and energy in the title role.”
Virginia stars as Ann a young woman who is destined to wind up with a bitter cripple, the sadistic Flint (Walter Huston) living in the Congo. Believing that Ann is the daughter of his enemy Gregg (C. Henry Gordon) the man who stole his wife away and crushed his spine. Flint psychologically tortures Ann to the brink of madness. This is a VERY potent and disturbing horror film that does a superb job of re-visualizing the original Lon Chaney Sr. masterpiece.
IMDb trivia: Virginia Bruce married the handsome John Gilbert during the production of Kongo (1932)
Kathleen Burke is a sensual beauty born in Indiana but living in Chicago at the tim, she got the part as the Panther Woman by winning a Paramount sponsored contest. She made 22 films to her credit including The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) with Gary Cooper, early reform school exploitation film, School for Girls (1934)
Island of Lost Souls (1932) Kathleen brought to life the captivating Panther Woman in director Erie Kenton’s (Ghost of Frankenstein 1942, House of Dracula 1945, House of Frankenstein 1944) adaptation of H.G. Wells story of science gone depraved! Perhaps one of THE most disturbing as well as chilling films from the 1930s. Dr. Moreau is the profane scientist who experiments with animals, inflicting vivisection, transplantation, genetic research on them in the ‘House of Pain’. Laughton is incredible as the megalomaniac who rules over his creatures like a God as they lumber and scamper around the complex and the jungle in abject agony and in philosophical crisis searching for the roots of their soul and wrestling with the shades of right & wrong. Bela Lugosi is phenomenal even in hairy make up as the ‘Sayer of the Law’.
Murders in the Zoo (1933) Lionel Atwill is the crazed big game hunter/zoologist Norman Gorman. He is driven to a sadistic insanity by his wife Evelyn’s infidelity with Roger Hewitt (John Lodge). He also murders any man who might show the slightest interest in her. Gorman exacts a stomach turning form of vengeance when he sews Roger’s mouth shut… her other lover is killed by a Mamba snake. Some are fed to the lions and tigers oh my!!
The film also co-stars Gail Patrick (who lost out on the part of the Panther Woman in Island of Lost Souls) Randolph Scott and Charles Ruggles. Atwill is as usual a bit over the top with his suggested depravity.
Helen Chandler began her acting career as a child on the Broadway stage in the 1920s, then leaving for Hollywood where she played Ann in Outward Bound (1930) She’ll always be remember for her portrayal of the sylph like Mina who is pursued by the wicked Dracula. She appeared in William Wyler’s A House Divided (1931), director Dorothy Arzner’s Christopher Strong (1933) and in Michael Curtiz’s romantic comedy Goodbye Again (1933)
When Dracula didn’t seem to transmit the talent Chandler’s possessed on the stage, she decided to return in 1937. Unfortunately like many struggling stars she fell prey to alcohol & drug addiction.
Director Tod Browning’s foray into Bram Stoker’s legacy about the fiendish vampire, Count Dracula. Helen Chandler was cast as the beautiful heroine Mina, the object of Dracula’s bloodlust & other-worldy cravings, in the iconic film & role that not only put Bela Lugosi on the map in Hollywood, it set the tone for all the Dracula films to follow as (in my humble opinion) the reigning supreme personification of Dracula!
Though at times a parlor picture, so many seems photographed by Karl Freund (Metropolis 1927, The Good Earth 1937, Key Largo 1948) the claustrophobic castle in England, the initial sequences in Transylvania when Renfield (Dwight Frye) travels by coach across the Carpathian mountains through the fog soaked moors near Dracula’s castle. It’s there that Renfield becomes enslaved by Dracula, sworn to protect him, giving him a desire to eat bugs, showing that he has become a pitiful earthly halfwit, with inhuman desires.
It’s a moody and atmospheric masterpiece highlighted by Lugosi’s saturnine style and dreamy European poetry he brings to his malignant anti-hero, fiery stare, languid tone and flowing cape. The undercurrent of sexuality, as he ‘penetrates’ the jugular of any female whose gaze he holds in his supernatural power.
The story of the strangest Passion the world has ever known!
Edward Van Sloan plays Van Helsing, David Manners as Jonathon Harker, Frances Dade as Mina’s friend Lucy, Dracula’s first victim.
Marguerite Churchill has a bright and well-mannered quality, trained at the Theatre Guild Drama School in New York and making her stage debut in ‘Why Not?’ 1923.
During her stage training, even as a little girl Churchill learned how to fence, who became a skilled fencer in film, as well as an expert archer!
She began her film career in 1929 as Paul Muni’s sister Mary Douglas in The Valiant she began playing the leading lady in westerns and B-movies. In 1936 she starred in the interesting Warner Bros. horror/crime thriller The Walking Dead along side Boris Karloff!
Helen Chandler plays Nancy, a scientist who assists Dr. Beaumont (Edmund Gwen) in his research in re-animating hearts that have stopped beating.When John Ellman a piano playing ex-con is set up, framed for the murder of a judge by a group of criminals in high places led by Ricardo Cortez, he winds up going to the electric chair. Helen and her fiance Jimmy (Warren Hull) witness the thugs disposing of Judge Shaw’s body, plotting to make Ellman look like he had the motive and means for murder, the couple fail to come forward until it’s too late.
But Dr. Beaumont insists on getting the body to autopsy, so he can try his experiments on the recently fried Ellman. He succeeds in bringing the melancholy Ellman back to life, but the man is shadowed by a supernatural force that enables him to understand each man who was responsible for his execution.
Michael Curtiz creates a moody, beautiful horror film and Helen Chandler is swell as the clear minded Nancy, the young woman who finally gains the courage to do the right thing by Ellman, (though I wish she had spoken up and help clear Ellman before he went to the electric chair) since Beaumont becomes more obsessed with what Ellman brought back with him from the other side, a man of science suddenly delving into the spiritual at Ellman’s expense.
While Cortez and his henchmen, with names like Trigger and Betcha are planning on sending Ellman back to the grave, each one meets with a fateful death after being in the presence of the eerie Ellman.
Gloria Holden is enigmatic in this story of Countessa Marya Zaleska, or Dracula’s daughter who after finding her father has been properly staked by Van Helsing, is says a prayer along side her love sick and menacing companion Sandor (Irving Pichel) feeling like the family curse may finally be broken. Zaleska is tormented by her ‘unnatural’ urges and seeks out Doctor Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger) to help her kick her strange & unholy addiction. Garth is engaged to the feisty Janet played by our heroine Marguerite Churchill, who in the end must fight over Garth’s attentions and for her very life!
Churchill is marvelous as Janet, she’s much more spunky & pugnacious in this classic horror film than in The Walking Dead, the role giving her an opportunity to really shine as a anti-damsel heroine who is in command of the story and quite fearless even coming up against a Countessa who edges nearer to sinking her ‘desires’ into the lovely Janet’s jugular!
Source: Midnight Marquee’s Hollywood Classic Scream Queens, 1930s-From the Frankenstein pressbook- “The fascinating and talented Mae Clarke, who plays the feminine leading role of Universal’s Frankenstein… was born in Philadelphia and received her early education here. Discovered in an Atlantic City dancing school by musical comedy agents when in her early teens, she went to New York for various and sundry chorus girl jobs…” In 1924 she was one of “May Dawson’s Dancing Girls”
But… Mae Clarke as Elizabeth will always be a part of the immortal film images of Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster lumbering toward her in that gorgeous wedding dress. An iconic moment in the Carl Laemmle production, director Jame’s Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) Greg Mank notes in his Women in Horror Films, 1930s that ‘Mae had to focus on Boris’ little finger to remember it was Boris under the horrible makeup.’ (Jack Pierce’s incredible time consuming make up masterpiece)
As Elizabeth, due to marry Henry Frankenstein, the beautiful heroine eternally waits and anguishes over her beloved Henry who sends her this queer letter, “You must have faith in me, Elizabeth wait. My work must come first, even before you. At night the winds howl int he mountains-there is no one here. Prying eyes can’t peer into my secret.” Actually Victor Moritz (John Boles) and the poor monster are far more attentive to Elizabeth than Henry!
Frances Drake was born in New York City, who began as a night club dancer in London. She debuted in Hollywood in the film Bolero (1934) starring Carole Lombard and George Raft, after which she was cast as the archetypal women in peril in the (not initially well received Mad Love but now considered a classic Horror masterpiece), opposite Peter Lorre and The Invisible Ray (1936) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Her image has become icon as the raven haired vision, that caught the gaze of the mad Dr. Gogol. Drake also appeared as Eponine in Les Misérables (1935), There’s Always a Woman (1938) with Mary Astor and Joan Blondell, The Lone Wolf in Paris (1938) and in Jule’s Dassin’s The Affairs of Martha (1942).
IMDb tidbit- In her later years she became very active with animal rights… A girl after my own heart!
[In a 1986 interview] “One day I told Bela Lugosi that his daughter had come to call for him, and he said, ‘She is my wife.’ I wanted to sink through the floor for being so tactless! It might have hurt him, but I wouldn’t have done that for the world because he was such a charming man, very soft and very congenial… Lugosi, Frankie Lawton and I all had birthdays on that set in October.”
Director/Cinematographer Karl Freund creates some off-beat, macabre camera angles for Peter Lorre as Dr. Gogol to play at being pathetic & madly driven by his obsessive love for actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake).
In Mad Love the fetishist, Dr Gogol is over the top creepy in this fabulous adaptation of Maurice Renard’s The Hands of Orlac. Gogol the surgeon grafts the hands of a murderer recently guillotined, onto the concert pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive) whose hands were crushed in a horrible car accident, and Yvonne begs Gogol to help her husband. Gogol then becomes fixated on his wife who is the star of Paris’ Grand Guignol theater.
After the ‘hands’ transplant, Gogol proceeds to drive Stephen crazy so he can possess the beautiful Yvonne!
In this Grand Guignol story Dimitri Tiomkin underscores the irreverent atmosphere with his beautiful score. Drake is just exquisite as the heroine Yvonne who is drawn into Gogol’s web of madness.
One of the few pictures that brought both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together giving each his time in the spotlight. This incredibly well filmed and atmospheric horror film directed by Lambert Hillyer, concerns scientist Janos Rukh (Boris Karloff) who stumbles onto light rays from an ancient meteor in the Carpathian mountains. The rays possess something called ‘Radium X’ a substance that doses Rukh with a luminous radioactivity that kills people if he touches them.
He gathers a group of fellow scientists on an expedition to Africa to uncover the meteorite at it’s source. On the expedition is Dr. Felix Benet (Lugosi in another sympathetic role/ The Black Cat 1934) who comes up with the antidote to the radiation poisoning that Rukh has been exposed to. But while Benet has saved his colleagues life, back in London he becomes the center of attention from critics for his work with restoring eyesight to the blind. Rukh falls deeper and deeper into paranoia from the Radium X and it’s antidote, driven mad by the fame that has been bestowed on the other members of the excavation who have stolen his discovery!
The blonde Glenda Farrell was a Warner contract player in the 30s & the star of the Torchy Blane series, a wise-cracking gutsy dame with a perky comedic style and a pair of bedroom eyes to boot! She added the gumption and comedic relief as Reporter Florence Dempsey to the classic horror film Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) along side Fay Wray. Known for her performances in early crime dramas such as Ogla in Little Caesar (1931), I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) The Big Shakedown (1934) Johnny Eager (1941) I Love Trouble (1948).
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
When a slew of disappearances become big news, nosy and intrepid reporter believes that they are linked to a creepy sculptor and his eerie wax works.
GRACE FORD & Rafaela Ottiana
as the shrunken assistant Lachna in The Devil Doll (1936)
When you hear anything about Universal 30s starlet Sydney Fox, the most prevalent footnote is that she’s the nobody that took away top billing from Bela Lugosi in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) the film that was supposed to be his great follow up to Dracula (1931). Devoted Lugosi fans have poked fun at Fox’s performance as the tortured Camille, though she was trained on the Broadway stage, she appeared a year earlier in Strictly Dishonorable. Her coquettish woman in peril is actually the right tenor the ghastly Grand Guignol horror requires to bring energetic chills and thrills! Fox appeared in Midnight (1934) with Humphrey Bogart and School for Girls the same year.
“My greatest cross is that my face and body don’t match my mind and soul. People expect me to be an ingénue, a baby doll, and they’re terribly disappointed when they find I’m not. At parties, I’ve seen men ask to be introduced to me, and I knew they thought I was attractive, but after talking to me a few minutes they’d turn away in dismay. Men, in Hollywood especially, don’t like intelligent women.”- Sydney Fox
Tragically in 1942, a decade after the release of Murders in the Rue Morgue, Fox died, after an overdose of sleeping pills leading the authorities to believe it was a probable suicide.
Sydney Fox is the beautiful heroine Mlle. Camille L’Espanaye, and the banana of Erik the Ape’s eye! Directed by Robert Florey the film is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Gothic horror story about a 19th Century deranged scientist Dr. Mirakle in Paris who kidnaps women for use in his experiments by blending human blood with ape blood.
Nan Grey worked for Universal Studios in the 1930s, who is known for her two films with Deanna Durbin. I’ll always remember her as the pretty waif Lili who Sandor (Irving Pichel) brings to Countess Zaleska (Gloria Holden) for a late night meal! She appeared briefly in Tower of London (1939) and went on to co-star with Vincent Price in The Invisible Man Returns (1940) and House of the Seven Gables (1940)
Rose Hobart started out on the stage before heading for the glamour of Hollywood. She actually had the distinction of being one of the actresses blacklisted for her liberal politics. She reappeared on a few episodes of the 60s television series Peyton Place. Hobart deserves to be considered a true Scream Queen not only for her performance as Muriel Carew in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but Tower of London (1939) with Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, and straight into the 40s with The Mad Ghoul (1943), Soul of the Monster (1944), The Brighton Strangler (1945) Isle of the Dead (1945), and The Cat Creeps (1946)
Put yourself in her place! The dreaded night when her lover became a madman!
Director Rouben Mamoulian creates a Gothic palette for Fredrick March to run around in schizophrenic circles when he dabbles in research to unlock the dark side of the human mind to reach in and pull out the duel nature of good and evil that exists in eveyone. Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s brilliant novel, Rose Hobart is the heroine Muriel who falls in love with Dr. Henry Jekyll, who succeeds in unleashing his inner monster, by finding the right blend of chemicals, an obvious cautionary tale about drug addiction and sexual repression.
Directed by Rowland V. Lee’s Historical quasi – horror drama starring Basil Rathbone as Richard – Duke of Gloucester.
Wiki: The film is based on the traditional depiction of Richard rising to become King of England in 1483
Richard with the help of his ‘fictitious’ club footed assassin Mord in one of Boris Karloff’s most menacing roles, murders anyone in his way of his becoming sole heir to the throne of England. He even goes as far as to proclaim himself king then has Mord kill the two young princes, who in real life it is said they still haunt the tower. I’ve been there, it is an imposing place, the history oozes from it’s walls. The giant Ravens are really cool!
In the style of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, with each execution he relishes in the morbid deed by removing small figurines in a dollhouse. After the death of Edward IV (Ian Hunter) the fiendish Richard becomes III, King of England. Now Henry Tudor (Ralph Forbes) thrown into exile is the only one who is a threat to Richard!
What makes this historical film shaded by elements of horror are the scenes of torture and the sheer darkness of the story!
Rose Hobart, though a small part, plays Anne Neville wife/widow of Wales (G.P. Huntley), whom Edward convinces to marry him.
Valerie Hobson has over 35 films to her credit. Absolutely exquisite this British actress has appeared in many uniquely memorable films. Blackout (1940), Blanche Fury (1948), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)
The young Irish actress made 6 films in eight months during 1934-1935, including Chinatown Squad. She studied dance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, adding to her graceful & elegant style. Like many actresses from England (though she is originally from Ireland) Hobson went to Hollywood looking for a film career, but was not impressed with studio system. And so she returned to England and began getting cast as a leading British actress.
IMDB tidbits-*Her salary for Bride of Frankenstein (1935) was only $800, since she was a minor at the time…
*Husband John Profumo was a British political figure who became involved in a 1963 sex scandal that brought down Britain’s Conservative government. It was revealed that he was having an affair with the showgirl Christine Keeler, who was also having an affair with a Soviet military attaché named Eugene Ivanov. Hobson stood by him throughout the scandal.
*In her later years she was devoted to her charity work with mentally handicapped children and lepers.
For this homage to the Scream Sirens of 30s Classic Horror, let’s look at some of the iconic or notable genre films that award her the title of Scream Queen. As Mimi in The Man Who Reclaimed Her Head (1934), the beautiful Helena Landless in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) She was the quintessential heroine Elizabeth married to Henry Frankenstein in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Lisa Glendan in Werewolf of London (1935).
The Bride of Frankenstein pressbook featured the following article: Source Midnight Marquee’s Hollywood’s Classic Scream Queens 1930s-“Valerie Hobson playing the ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ in the monstrous thriller-sequel to Frankenstein adds to the beauty of the backgrounds of the story a wardrobe of exquisite gowns which contrast vividly with the horror sequences of the picture’s grotesque appearance of the two of the other principals, the Monster played by Karloff and the Monster’s Mate played by Elsa Lanchester.”
Now, you know I have a problem with any promotional review that merely objectifies our heroine and doesn’t focus on her acting ability as well. Hobson is a fine actress, not only possessing an extraordinary beauty but she was an extremely serious actress able to inhabit challenging roles, even when she was playing the lead’s wife! To me, Valerie Hobson is one of the most quintessential British actresses, a unique and instinctual power to draw our approval and yes our gaze!
Director James Whale’s best and hilariously campy tribute to the horror genre and commentary on life’s queerness that lies on the boundaries of morality. Loaded with sexual innuendo, coded gay humor and an irreverence that thumbed it’s nose at convention and censorship… When Henry Frankenstein’s monster demands that he have a mate, he creates the ultimate Bride (Elsa Lanchester), unfortunately she doesn’t want any part of the monster (Boris Karloff). Ernest Thesiger is still around as Dr. Pretorious to add the campy dialogue and gay swagger to the narrative.
Valerie Hobson spoke to Gregg Mank about Ernest Thesiger in an interview, “Yes, he was a duck! A darling duck of a person. He was a terribly sweet man–he really had a kind and gentle heart. He was one of the very first people to make almost camp fun. He did it as a serious thing, you know–oooh, the sort of arched eyebrow and arched nostril, and everything else, but in fact, it was what we would call nowadays camp. He was really sweet and terribly funny.”-Source Midnight Marquee’s Hollywood’s Classic Scream Queens 1930s
Henry Hull is Dr. Wilfred Glendon who is bitten by a wolf like creature in Tibet, Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) Glendon possesses the Tibetan flower that supplies the antidote that keeps him from turning into a werewolf when ever there’s a full moon of course! Valerie Hobson co-stars as his wife Lisa, whom he fears is in danger of becoming one of his victims, because it is said that the werewolf will go after the very person he loves the most!
Edwin Drood– is a dark Gothic tale of mad obsession, drug addiction and heartless murder! Heather Angel plays the beautiful and kindly young student at a Victorian finishing school, Rosa Bud engaged to John Jasper’s nephew Edwin Drood. Jasper is an opium chasing, choir master played by Claude Rains, who becomes driven to madness over his love for Rosa, who becomes suspicious and frightened of him.
Though it’s not a major role, Valerie Hobson plays twin sister Helena Landless, the hapless Neville’s (Douglass Montgomery) sister. When Neville and Helena arrive at the school, both Edwin and Neville vie for Rosa’s affections. When Edwin vanishes, naturally Neville is the one suspected in his mysterious disappearance.
Perhaps one of Hollywood’s most recognized face of the classic 30s horror genre because of her haunting portrayal of Countess Zaleska the Vera West gown wearing vamp who was Dracula’s Daughter. The strikingly beautiful Gloria Holden had performed in other films as a supporting actress, known for her portrayal of Mme. Zola in William Dieterle’s The Life of Emile Zola (1937) co-starring with Paul Muni. Holden also worked with director Tod Browning in his Miracles for Sale (1939) Wife vs. Secretary (1936) The Corsican Brothers (1941) Sister Kenny (1946) Killer McCoy (1947) The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) This Happy Feeling (1958)
Personal quote [Shortly before her death, a fan demanding an autograph mentions Dracula’s Daughter (1936)] “Oh, that awful thing.”
“SHE GIVES YOU THAT WEIRD FEELING!”
Countess Zaleska is a classic villainess who draws deeply upon our collective sympathy as she is not only a predator but also in a world of entrapment herself- Being the daughter of a century’s old vampire, she shares a clandestine legacy of blood lust and desire that she is driven to follow, leading her to the darkest parts of the self and makes her a very enigmatic force of female power.
Dracula’s Daughter is perhaps one of the best Universal horrors of the 30s. It also had the guts to cloak a story about lesbian desire in a film about a female vampire. Something that became more blatant in future vampire movies in the 60s & 70s.
Gloria Holden is Contessa Marya Zaleska who embodies a darkly mysterious sensual primacy, yet conflicted with this over-powering will that engulfs her, she seeks relief from the anguish and torment, the enslavement to a thirst for blood that has been the legacy of her family for centuries. She resists the ‘unnatural’, abhorrent, deviant desires that fuel her compulsion,–to parasitically hunt down young men and particularly the provocative gaze she holds for –women! and then feed off them. The unmasked lesbianism in the narrative was a bold proposal for 1936, which owes more of it’s influence from Le Fanu than Stoker. Holden’s use of her hands and eyes are expressive of her inner turmoil. Her companion, the loyal Sandor (Irving Pichel) has his own obsession as he is obviously in love the the countess. He’ll do anything to keep her from losing her supernatural powers, and embracing a life of conformity.
Zaleska seeks out the help of Dr. Jeffrey Garth,whom she thinks can cure her of her unstoppable desires. When release from her torment seems to be insurmountable, desperate and frenzied to quell this blood lust, she designs to take control of Garth for an eternity, using his spitfire of a fiancé Janet (Margueritte Churchill) as bait!
Miriam Hopkins was a Broadway actress, known for her snappy temper and over-dramatic style that would often upstage her co-stars. Of course you would remember her as Mrs. Lily Mortar, Martha Dobie’s egotistical, histrionic & opportunistic Aunt who disappears when a socio-pathic little girl at her niece’s boarding school finds the seed of truth in a vicious lie and the scandal at the boarding school threatens to embarrass her. Lily bolts instead of staying to help clear up the slander, leaving her niece to ruin and suicide in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour (1961)
Hopkins started out in films like 24 Hours (1931), and then went on to be cast in Paramount Pictures & director Rouben Mamoulian’s version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror tale of meddling with science that unleashes the darer and dual personality. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Frederick March, is perhaps the best adaptation of Stevenson’s story. Hopkins plays Ivy Pearson a prostitute who becomes the focus of Hyde’s rage. Filmed before the enforcement of the Production Code, the suggestive scenes of lust and desire are quite provocative.
The sadism and violence that Hyde inflicts on Ivy is rather disturbing in it’s brutality. Hopkins went on to do a wide range of films, ending her career with one of the most shocking Grande Dame Guignol exploits of the early 70s, as she plays an aging star of the silver screen who takes in a younger man as a companion, who happens to be a sexual sadist in Savage Intruder (1970). But let’s remember her finer days with Trouble in Paradise (1932), The Story of Temple Drake (1933), Design for Living (1933), Becky Sharp (1935), These Three (1936) where Hopkins actually plays Martha Dobie to Merle Oberon’s Karen Wright, Old Acquaintance (1943) with Bette Davis, and The Outcasts of Poker Flats (1952).
Hutchinson was a pretty red head who started out as part of Eva Le Gallienne’s Civic Repertory Theater garnered praise for her role in “Alice in Wonderland.” She left for Hollywood in 1934 with a contract from Warner Bros, co-starring with Paul Muni in “The Story of Louis Pasteur” (1936). In 1939, she got the part of Elsa von Frankenstein co-starring with Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill and Bela Lugosi as Ygor (Ygor: [laughing] “I died living they all died dead”) in Rowland V. Lee’s Son of Frankenstein.
Leila Hyams was a top billed actress in Pre-Code Hollywood. She co-starred as Robert Montgomery’s sister in The Big House (1930), The Phantom of Paris (1931) People Will Talk (1935) and as the lovable saloon girl co-starring with Roland Young in Ruggles of Red Cap (1935)Here’s the scene where she teaches Roland how to play the drums!
She also turned down the role of Jane in the Tarzan series, including Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) which went to Maureen O’Sullivan.
A natural likable actress whose characters were very accessible to the audience. Best known for her role two roles in early 30s horror masterpieces, first as the sensitive & sincere performer Venus who worked at the circus in Tod Browning’s controversial Freaks (1932). Venus was the antithesis of Baclanova’s Cleopatra! Next she was the beautiful heroine in Island of Lost Souls (1932).
IMDb tidbit: Leila Hyams was born May 1, 1905, in New York City to vaudeville comedy performers John Hyams (1869-1940) and Leila McIntyre (1882-1953). Both her parents had careers in films, and can be seen together in The Housekeeper’s Daughter (1939).
By 1928 she was appearing in starring roles, and achieved success in MGM’s first talking film, Alias Jimmy Valentine (1928) opposite William Haines, Lionel Barrymore and Karl Dane. She was once described as “The Golden Girl”
Based on H.G. Wells novel The Island of Dr Moreau, Erie C. Kenton directs this Pre-Code horror/sci-fi hybrid that stars Charles Laughton as the profane Dr. Moreau whose research tampers with the laws of nature, manipulating genetics with animals and humans, subjecting them to cruel and agonizing experiments in the ‘house of pain.’ Parker (Arlen) is shipwrecked on the island. The lovely Leila Hyams is engaged to Parker is the antithesis of the Panther Woman, as she finds him mixed up with Moreau’s unorthodox plans amidst the poor souls who are his subjects. Bela Lugosi is wonderful as the Sayer of the Law!
The very sensual Zita Johann was born on 1904 in Temesvar, Austria-Hungary. Best known for her role as Helen Grosvenor in The Mummy (1932), The Sin of Nora Moran (1933), and in director Howard Hawk’s Tiger Shark (1932) co-starring with Edward G. Robinson and Richard Arlen.
IMDb tidbit: She asked RKO to be released from her contract with the studio when they tried to make her appear in what she considered a tawdry melodrama, “Thirteen Women.” The role went to Myrna Loy. Given a contract with MGM she continued to turn down roles that she felt were ‘rubbish’, allegedly asking studio head Irving Thalberg why he made such “pictures that were awful.”
Directed by Karl Freund, this Universal horror classic stars Boris Karloff as Im-ho-tep, A living mummy who is convinced that Helen Grosvenor is the reincarnation of his lost love princess Ankh-es-en-amon
In 1921, an expedition to Egypt led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) and Dr. Muller ( Edward van Sloane) uncovers the resting place of the ancient Egyptian high priest Im-Ho-Tep, who had been buried alive for daring to try and bring back to life, his forbidden love, Ankh-es-en-amon. When Sir Joseph’s assistant Ralph Norton(Bramwell Fletcher) reads aloud from the Scroll of Thoth, the mummy rises, Norton goes insane with laughter from the fright and Im-Ho-Tep flees with the scroll, now looking for his beloved princess. Ten years later, he embodies the look of a modern Egyptian, and sets his sights on the extraordinarily beautiful Helen (Zita Johann).
The Mummy (1932): Life After 3,700 Years-A Review Published: The New York Times on January 7, 1933
“Fresh from his amiable massacres in “The Mask of Fu Manchu,” Boris Karloff—now billed austerely as Karloff the Uncanny—is spreading desolation at the Mayfair. That there is a place for a national bogey man in the scheme of things was demonstrated by the crowds that clicked past the box office yesterday. In “The Mummy” Karloff stalks out of his winding cloths after 3,700 years of restless sleep, and that is a hideous enough theme to freeze the most callous imagination. But the fable thereafter depends on mystic incantations, which are only words. It is comforting to know that Im-Ho-Tep can be stricken dead by murmuring: “Sehotpe-ib-re Mem-mosut Sit-sekhem,” but it is too simple a way out. When Im-Ho-Tep says, “Ruh, gab dar el bint,” it only means, “Bring that girl back here.”
For purposes of terror there are two scenes in “The Mummy” that are weird enough in all conscience. In the first the mummy comes alive and a young archaeologist, going quite mad, laughs in a way that raises the hair on the scalp. In the second Im-Ho-Tep is embalmed alive, and that moment when the tape is drawn across the man’s mouth and nose, leaving only his wild eyes staring out of the coffin, is one of decided horror. But most of “The Mummy” is costume melodrama for the children.
Rising from the dead, the hero of Nina Wilcox Putnam’s story terrorizes a British Field Museum expedition with a magic ring, a holy parchment and an evil eye. Thereafter, in his own peculiar romantic way, he expresses an undying passion for a young woman whom he conceives to be the vestal priestess Anck-es-en-Amon. In a flashback—with more incantations—it is revealed that Im-Ho-Tep, high priest of ancient Egypt, was punished with the nameless death because he loved the vestal and sought to bring her back to life with the sacred ritual of Isis. Such an infamy, the audience is shown, is an excellent way to make Isis and the general population of old Egypt exceeding wroth.
Mr. Karloff acts with the restraint natural to a man whose face is hidden behind synthetic wrinkles. Zita Johann and David Manners make a properly disturbed pair of lovers, and Arthur Byron has little to do but look startled as the leader of the expedition. The photography is superior to the dialogue.”
“There is no such thing as a person that nothing has happened to, and each person’s story is as different as his fingertips”-Elsa Lanchester
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester (28 October 1902 – 26 December 1986) Iconic English actress with a long career in theatre, film and television. I consider her to be one of the finest character actresses ever!, who also possessed a self-confident, no fucks given attitude and off-screen she finessed with her quick witted repartee. I plan on doing a special feature on Elsa Lanchester because her unique & spirited personality tickles me to the core… Lanchester graced some of the most memorable films, her career spanning 50s years of film, television and public appearances. At times cast as the flavoring in B Movie horror & mystery roles, Willard 1971, Terror in the Wax Museum 1973, Arnold 1974, Murder by Death 1976 (Hilarious portrayal of mystery writer Jessica Marbles) and tv’s Night Gallery Season 2 terrifying “Green Fingers.”
The Constant Nymph 1928, David Copperfield 1935, Naughty Marietta 1935, Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty (1936: unreleased) which wound up as an Alfred Hitchcock teleplay in 1958 starring Mildred Natwick as Millicent Bracegirdle! Ladies in Retirment 1941, Passport to Destiny 1940, The Spiral Staircase 1946, The Razor’s Edge 1946, The Bishop’s Wife 1947, The Big CLock 1948, Come to the Stable 1949, The Secret Garden 1949, Mystery Street 1950, Witness for the Prosecution 1957 with husband Charles Laughton, Bell, Book and Candle 1958, Mary Poppins 1964, Pajama Party 1964, That Darn Cat! as Mrs. MacDougall in 1965
A wonderful exchange between Sir Wilfred (Laughton) and Miss Plimsoll (Lanchester) in Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Sir Wilfrid: “I’d better take that thermos of cocoa with me. It helps me wash down down the pills.” Miss Plimsoll: “Let me see. My learned patient is not above substituting brandy for cocoa.” [opens thermos and smells] Miss Plimsoll: “Sniff, sniff. It is cocoa. So sorry.” Sir Wilfrid: “If you were a woman, Miss Plimsoll, I would strike you.”
Lanchester studied dance with Isadora Duncan as a child, after World War I she appeared in cabaret. She met actor Charles Laughton in 1927 soon after the two were married. She began taking on bit parts in British film with her husband Charles Laugton, as Anne of Cleves in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
Because of Laughton’s success in film they moved to Hollywood where again Lanchester took supporting ‘character’ roles, but never mistake her presence always added something superior to the film.
It wasn’t until she played the Bride, in Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein in 1935, that she began getting recognition for her work. Always known as a great character actress she would continue to take supporting roles from the 1940s through the 1950s. She was nominated for her performance as Miss Plimsoll in Witness for the Prosecution (1957) co-starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and of course her hubby as Sir Wildred Roberts. After Laughton’s death in 1962, Lanchester began her career once again, doing a few Disney films, some horror and television appearances. For our Scream Queen of Classic 30s we will always honor for being the true genius who brought to life the Bride of Frankenstein! Hissssss….
The Monster Talks and Demands A Mate!
Created in a weird scientist’s laboratory… from the skeletons of two women and the heart of a living girl!
She breathes, sees, hears, walks — but can she love?
Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein is coerced by the campy yet nefarious Dr.Septimus Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who has kidnapped his beautiful wife Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) to create a mate for the monster Boris Karloff! Unfortunately the Bride (our Elsa Lanchester) ain’t so keen on the idea!
Source: Midnight Marquee’s Hollywood’s Classic Scream Queens 1930s: From the pressbook for Bride of Frankenstein
“Any good looking woman who permits others to see her in anything but a beautiful pose or character, is remarkable. Elsa Lanchester is doubly remarkable. She is permitting herself to become a female monster in The Bride of Frankenstein!”
Lombard has been called-The Profane Angel… The Hoosier Tornado…The Queen of Screwball Comedy
Carole Lombard, the actress, was born. In early 1927 she was tested by the Mack Sennet Studio, who put her under contract, becoming the top comedienne at the studio.
She had a light, natural down to earth style about her, she was a brilliant comedian who’s timing and flair for body comedy was original and sexy as hell. She also didn’t give a darn about studio politics and called her own shots. She was able to make the transition from silent films to talkies easily. When she made Man of the World in 1931 co-starring with William Powell they fell in love and got married a few months down the road only to divorce two years later. Then she starred with Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own in 1932, and they hit if off, but they didn’t marry until 1939.
In 1936 Lombard got her only Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her brilliant work in My Man Godfrey, when she played the scatterbrained heiress Irene Bullock, who brings a bum home to the house so she could pass him off as a Butler, during a party game of treasure hunting, ah the idle rich.
Lombard wasn’t afraid to go head to head with the male dominated industry of studio big boys. She made Mr. & Mrs Smith in 1941 with Robert Montgomery that showcased some of her best body comedy and adeptness at making screw ball comedy seem like an art form and not ridiculous. To be hilarious, sexy, gorgeous and thoughtful simultaneously was Lombard’s gift.
Tragically Carole Lombard during WWII, was heading home to Indiana to support a war bond rally and on Jan 16, 1942 she died in a plane crash at the age of 33.With that kind of independent streak, vision and the gumption to be a beautiful renegade we can only just imagine what she would have been capable of…
IMDb Tidbits-Considered by many to be the prototype for the icy blondes in Alfred Hitchcock’s films.
According to Garson Kanin, she never had a dressing room when shooting a movie. Instead, she preferred to socialize with the cast and crew members during her breaks.
[on why she would not work with Orson Welles] I can’t win working with Welles. If the picture’s a huge hit, he’ll get the credit and, if it’s a flop, I’ll be blamed.
[on the concept of God] I don’t seem to get solemn about it, and some people might not understand. That’s why I never talk about it. I think it’s all here–in the mountains and the desert. I don’t think God is a softie, either. In the end, it’s better if people are forced back into–well–into being right, before they’re too far gone. I think your temple is your everyday living.
Leave Your Love Secrets At Home When You See “SUPERNATURAL”
Carole Lombard is our heroine Roma Courtney in this tale that is Supernatural!
Victor and Edward Halperin were given a slightly bigger budget at Paramount from the success of White Zombie (1932) Perhaps the Halperin brothers were able to create more of an atmosphere without all the gloss and glitz which explains the outre creepy tone that was so effective in White Zombie. But, Supernatural is still quite weird and menacing and has a very interesting concept with a variety of hair-raising and effective sequences in the film. There’s the opening scene with Rogen acting like a diabolical serial killer energized by her evil deeds. The séance which phony spiritualist Paul Bavian (Alan Dinehart) has Roma believing that she is seeing her dead brother’s ghost by using parlor tricks. He has moved in on Roma, in hopes of bilking her out of the family fortune.
What’s wonderful about Lombard’s performance is how she carries that very animated & articulate energy that is signature to her persona, when Ruth Rogen transmigrates into her body. Her facial expressions literally communicate the dead villainess’ spirit and temperament! Bavian sees it right away at the 2nd séance… you can almost see Vivienne Osborne under the cool blonde visage of our gorgeous heroine!
The opening is splendid, from the musical initiation that is an eerie chorale (uncredited), a few gloomy, ominous and lofty citations and an opening montage of newspaper headlines, the belligerent Ruth Rogen in jail, waiting for a pardon and ultimately walking to her death in the electric chair she still exudes a vicious blood lust, showing no remorse, but a craving for revenge against Paul Bavian the last man who betrayed her.
Supernatural involves a fake spiritualist Paul Bavian (Dinehart) who with his poisoning ring kills anyone who might get in his way of stealing money from unsuspecting pigeons or exposing his phony operation. When he betrays his partner-in- bunko crime Ruth Rogen (Vivienne Osborne), the police catch up with her and she is sent to the electric chair for the murders of her three lovers. But as she she goes to her death with an even stronger appetite for vengeance and murder! It’s an interesting little chiller in the heyday of Pre-Code Hollywood.
Now Paul (Dinehart) goes after wealthy heiress Roma Courtney (our heroine Carole Lombard), by claiming that he has made contact with her brother who has recently died. But… Roma’s doctor Dr. Carl Houston (H.B Warner) who dabbles with his theories on inherent evil and spirit transmigration– experiments with Osborne’s body.
The film opens with his explaining his belief that Ruth Rogen possessed a ‘powerful malignant personality with a will all its own’ Each execution, the spirit goes into another body and repeats similar vicious crimes.
Dr. Houston has gotten permission to autopsy her immediately after Rogen’s execution. He takes her body to his laboratory and captures the spirit of the dead murderess.
Rogen’s spirit takes possession of Roma, (Lombard) whose eyes glow in close up… she attacks and kills Paul (Dinehart)
The film also stars Randolph Scott as Roma Courtney’s fiancé Grant Wilson.
Beryl Mercer lends the comic relief to the film as Paul’s meddling nosy and intrusive landlady the boozed up Madame Gourjan who obviously likes to drink and doesn’t have a distaste for blackmail. Beryl Mercer is most familiar as James Cagney’s scatterbrained mother ‘Ma Powers’ in The Public Enemy (1931).
Roma Courtney: [Admiring Ruth Rogen’s portrait] “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Paul Bavian: “Yes, but repulsive… like a female spider that kills her mate when she’s through with it. She would have killed me if I hadn’t gotten rid of her first”
Vivienne Osborne who plays the vile Ruth Rogen is an actress, known for Two Seconds (1932) and I Accuse My Parents (1944)
Anita Louise was a child actress who had a delicate beauty, eventually became a star at Warner Brothers, getting roles in costume dramas like The Little Princess (1939), Anthony Adverse (1939), Madame Du Barry (1934), and as the ethereal Titania in A Midsummer’s Night Dream (1935), The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) and as Princesse de Lamballe co-starring with Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette (1938)
Louise was often cast in ingénue roles well into the 1940s, playing the nice girlfriend, wholesome sister and daughter. She found her way into the well that springs from the B-Movie, with films like Dangerous Blondes (1943), Nine Girls (1944), The Devil’s Mask (1946) and Bulldog Drummond at Bay (1947)
This is a very atmospheric old dark house whodunit, surrounding the beautiful Jenny Wren (Karen Morely) pressures strongly (along the quaint lines of blackmail!) Banker Priam Andes to hold a dinner party for all his rich and influential friends and their wives, at the Crestwood estate each of whom she has a set figure of money to be paid for her past um, ‘services.’ With the money they give her, she plans on running off and settling in Europe to live a very comfortable life.
Also at the party is her sister Esther who plans on marrying Frank (Matty Kemp) who’s mother Faith Andes (Pauline Frederick) doesn’t approve of her because she is not of the same pedigree. Suddenly an eerie ghostly death masked figure appears to Jenny, and she winds up murdered.
Everyone at the gathering is a suspect. Gary Curtis (Ricardo Cortez) is a career criminal and jewel thief planning on a heist, but realizing he’ll be framed for the murder of Jenny Wren sticks around with his gang and holds the guests at gunpoint until he can solve the case and catch the real murderer!
Special credit to: PAULINE FREDERICK
The Ritz Brother’s horror comedy starring Lionel Atwill as the wealthy Walter Stevens is threatened by a killer known as The Gorilla! Anita Louise co-stars as Norma Denby who runs into the menacing butler Peters played by Bela Lugosi! Patsy Kelly plays Kitty the maid. It’s a fun screwball romp with a little terror thrown in for good measure…
While the incredible Myrna Loy isn’t associated with the horror genre, she actually contributed two very dynamic roles to the 30s with The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) and Thirteen Woman that same year!
Myrna moved to Los Angeles at the age of thirteen after her rancher father died of influenza. She appeared in local stage productions and was discovered by Mrs. Rudolph Valentino who was responsible for getting her cast in a few movies. In 1925 she appeared in Pretty Ladies with Joan Crawford and the Warner Bros. film Satan in Sables (1925) Myrna Loy was able to make the shift from Silent films to talkies. At first she got bit parts and was type cast as a vamp, which would explain why she eventually got the roles of Fu Manchu’s equally nefarious daughter Fah Lo See and Ursula Gerogi in Thirteen Women.
She finally left Warner’s and signed with MGM where she got two substantial roles, in The Prize Fighter and the Lady (1933) and the other as we’ve all come to love as Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934) where she continued to appear in the series of 5 films. Myrna Loy had appeared in a total of 129 films in her illustrious career noted as the Queen of the Movies in 1936. Some other films that she will always be remembered fondly for are Topaz (1933), Wings in the Dark (1935), The Great Ziegfeld 1936, Libeled Lady 1936, The Best Years of Our Lives 1946, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer 1947, Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House 1948, Cheaper by the Dozen 1950, Lonelyhearts 1958, Midnight Lace 1960, The April Fools 1969 with great appearances on television like 1972 episode of Columbo ‘Etude in Black’ and Ironside’s ‘All About Andrea’.
IMDb tidbit: This was the only time that Myrna Loy worked with Boris Karloff; she had already worked with Bela Lugosi in 1930’s “Renegades,” and would conquer her ‘femme fatale’ typecasting by 1934’s “The Thin Man”.
Lucille Lund was born on June 3, 1913 in Buckley, Washington, USA. She was an actress, known for The Black Cat (1934) In Midnight Marquee’s Hollywood’s Scream Queens 1930s, the book refers to Edgar Ulmer casting Lund as Karen but when Lucille rejected his sexual advances, he “subjected her to terrible working conditions and deplorable harassment during the filming.” Ulmer left Lucille hanging in the glass case while the entire crew went to lunch!
IMDb Tidbit: She won a nationwide contest for ”most beautiful college coed,” in 1933 which included a small acting contract with Universal Studios.Minor 30s leading lady known for her long blonde tresses who came to Hollywood after winning a beauty and talent contest sponsored by Universal. Though she made about 30 films, her best known role was in The Black Cat (1934) as the beautiful victim/sacrifice of satanic high priest Boris Karloff. She retired for marriage and family, but returned sometimes on the film festival circuits, often making the amusing remark that people only remembered her because she “went to bed with Boris Karloff” (referring to a scene in the film).
Marian Marsh is an other-worldly beauty, the golden haired ethereal actress was born in the West Indies, her given name was Violet Ethelred Krauth the daughter of a German chocolate manufacturer. In the mid 1920s her older sister Jean became a contract player at Paramount, working at the historic Astoria studios in Queens New York. In 1929, Warner’s signed the sixteen year old who changed her name to Marian Marsh. She caught the attention of director Howard Hawk’s who cast her in a small part in Hell’s Angel’s (1930).
She won the part of Trilby in the Warners’ version of George Du Maurier’s novel ‘Trilby’ about an artist’s model who soars to fame as a diva under the hypnotic spell of the malevolent Svengali (John Barrymore in one of his most mesmerizing & charismatic performances) Dolores Costello, Barrymore’s gorgeous wife and silent screen goddess bares a striking resemblance to Marian Marsh, a reason, she attributes to finally getting the role of Trilby.
Warner Brothers recognizing the critical acclaim that Marsh garnered from her role, began to cast the actress in other parts that represented her as a heroine with a certain innocence and virginal sincerity. When her film Under 18 (1931) did not prove to be a success the studio did not pick up her contract. Marsh gave several strong performances co-starring with Edward G. Robinson in Five Star Final (1931), as Nana Carlova in another horror/drama, directed by Michael Curtiz- The Mad Genius (1931), as Susie Sachs in Beauty and the Boss (1932)]
Signing with Columbia next she made a series of pictures, the crime drama, Counterfeit (1936), and as the tragic young beauty Thea Hassel who is forced to marry Boris Karloff in The Black Room (1935). She played prostitute Sonya co-starring with Peter Lorre in Josef von Sternberg’s adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1935) and crime drama starring Ralph Bellamy in The Man Who Lived Twice (1936)
IMbd tidbit: In her character’s famous Pre-Code nude modeling scene from “Svengali” Marsh wore a body stocking, and in the scene where she runs out of the room, a body double was used.
[on her “Svengali” co-star John Barrymore] “He was really rather shy. Sometimes, after he would play a scene, everybody would applaud, and he would back into the wall! Always he was so helpful and so inspiring to me, and when you’re with the greatest, you have to try to come up to his level. He knew he was doing that… he did it many times before.”
A demented megalomaniac puppeteer Vladimar Ivan Tsarakov (Lionel Barrymore) becomes murderously obsessed with ballerina Nana Carlova (Marian Marsh) after he saves a little abused boy who becomes a great ballet dancer. But the boy falls in love with Nana and threatens to ruin Tsarakov’s plans.
Vladimar Ivan Tsarakov: I will create my own being: that boy! That boy will be my counterpart, he shall be what I should have been… I will mold him, I will pour into him my genius, my soul. In him all my dreams, all my ambitions will be fulfilled — the greatest dancer of all time!
Una Merkel was a stand-in for Lillian Gish in The Wind (1928) best known for her bleached blonde wise cracking spunk in supportive roles such as Lorraine a chorus girl in Lloyd Bacon’s star packed musical comedy 42nd Street (1933), as Lily Belle co-starring with Jimmy Stewart & Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (1939) Here’s a bar brawl that shows how feisty Merkel is, taking on Frenchie (Marlene) the cabaret singer!
Merkel originally signed for the title role in Blondie (1938) but was replaced before filming began. She died of an overdose of sleeping pills, her mother had committed suicide by turning on the gas in the 1945 almost killing young Una then.
Directed by Roland West had filmed an earlier silent version in 1926 The Bat, this B-movie programmer adapted from the stage play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood keeps a fun pace for a horror/comedy old dark house thriller with thunder storms, mysterious chambers and a masked killer called The Bat, a criminal mastermind who terrorizes people in their homes while he steals money and jewels. The Bat Whispers has some creepy atmospherics and actors that fill out the mystery with their quirky performances like good old Maude Eburne as the high strung Lizzie Allen and Grace Hampton as Miss Cornelia van Gorder. “Mrs. Cornelia Van Gorder, who is not going to be bluffed out of a house she has rented by any phantoms.” –New York Times review January 1931
Cornelia van Gorder: “Get the Ouija board.”
Lizzie Allen: “It’s got the Bible on top of it, keeping it quiet.”
Chester Morris plays Detective Anderson revises his earlier role and our courageous gal Una Merkel plays Dale van Gorder, Cornelia’s niece.
I have a fond memory of watching this fantasy film as a kid, I can still see the image of Mr. Brink (Sir Cedric Hardwicke stuck in the old tree outside Julian Northrup better known as Gramps (Lionel Barrymore) window. Originally a stage play, it is based on the novel by Lawrence Edward Watkin, On Borrowed Time is the story about our fear of mortality and the personification of death as a mischief making old business man just doing his job.
Pud (Bobs Watson) is an orphaned who now lives with his aging grandparents the Northrups, Julian and Nellie (Lionel Barrymore and Beulah Bondi) Gramps is a curmudgeon, a cynic and a cantankerous old cus but he develops a special bond with Pud. The film is poignant and funny especially because it deals with death who comes in the form of Mr. Brink, who shows up to collect Gramps and take him to ‘where the woodbine twineth’.
But Gramps is cunning and he tricks Mr.Brink and traps him in the old apple tree, at least temporarily, as they make a deal. All Gramps wants is enough time to make sure that Pud is going to be taken care of in the future. So death will just have to wait a bit!
Una Merkel is heart warming and real as Marcia Giles who takes care of the elderly couple. She’s got smile that could keep death away just as easy as Gramps trickery… Though the film is more fantasy than horror, I felt that it belonged here and that Una certainly ranks as a splendid 30s Scream Queen because she’s courageous and likable.