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 Freakswhich 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)
THE SILENT YEARS: When we started not giving a damn on screen!
In celebration of our upcoming Anti Damsel Blogathon on August 15 & 16, I had this idea to provide a list of bold, brilliant and beautiful women!
There was to be no indecent exposure of the ankles and no SCHWOOSHING! Not in this Blogathon baby!
From the heyday of Silent film and the advent of talking pictures, to the late ‘20s to 1934 Pre-Code Hollywood, films were rife with provocative and suggestive images, where women were kicking up a storm on screen… The end of the code during the early 60s dared to offer social commentary about race, class, gender and sexuality! That’s our party!
In particular, these bold women and the screen roles they adopted have become legendary. They sparked catchy dialogue, inspired fashion trends, or just plain inspired us… All together there are 111 of SOME of the most determined, empowered and uniquely fortified femmes of classic film…!
First of course I consulted the maven of all things splendid, shimmery and SILENT for her take on silent film actresses and the parts that made them come alive on the immortal screen…. Fritzi at Movies Silently has summoned up thesefabulous femmes….
Now to unleash the gust of gals from my tornadic mind filled with favorite actresses and the characters that have retained an undying sacred vow to heroine worship… In their private lives, their public persona and the mythological stardom that has & still captivates generations of fans, the roles they brought to life and the lasting influence that refuses to go away…!
Because they have their own unique rhythm to the way they moved through the world… a certain kind of mesmerizing allure, and/or they just didn’t give a hoot, a damn… nor a flying fig!
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud”-Coco Chanel
Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!
The following actresses and their immortal characters are in no particular order…!
Based on the novel by William Temple and adapted to the screen and directed by Terence Fisher, this intriguing, thought provoking British sci-fi melodrama invokes the question of creation, playing god, obsession and fate.
Barbara Payton (Bad Blonde 1953) plays both Lena and Helen a beautiful women caught between two friends who have adored her since they were children. The brilliant Bill (Stephen Murray) invents a duplication machine, and has pined for Lena since he and Bill used to vie for her affections playing knights with wooden swords. But Lena has always been in love with Robin (John Van Eyssen) the other friend that make up the love triangle.
After succeeding in duplicating watches and rabbits Bill wants to try a human subject. One in particular! Tinges of Lang’s Metropolis...
When Lena and Robin get married, Bill asks Lena to allow him to reproduce her in his contraption so he can possess her too. And Lena agrees… the results are disastrous. Co-starring James Hayter as the sympathetic Dr. Harvey.
Karloffstill possesses that lyrical majesty and does the best job he can with this slightly meandering 50’s schlocky script, directed by noir, cult, television drama and big box office–producer/directorHoward W. Koch and written byRichard H Landauwho scripted The Quartermass Experiment 1955, The Girl in the Black Stockings 1957
As always Karloff’s presence makes any film a joy to watch. He always took his acting seriously and it shows here, which makes this odd little modernity meets old mad science horror flick with some interesting set design and chilling moments worth watching.
Karloff plays the last of the line of Frankensteins who desperately needs money in order to continue his arcane experiments on the reanimation of the monster, he has hidden beneath the family crypt in the Castle. The monster is kept bandaged through out the film, (saves on make-up) and becomes a lumbering bandaged plaster of Paris block head with two hollow holes for eyes. Is it effective or defective… well, I focused onBoris Karloff most of the time.
Frankenstein is now using atomic energy to resurrect his ancestors creation (the lab is actually very groovy Strickfaden would approve), but needs a few more things, like an atomic reactor, brains, eyeballs etc.
Baron Von Frankenstein whose face is badly scarred from the Nazi’s who tortured when he refused to experiment on their victims, allows a film maker and his crew to shoot their low budget horror picture on the grounds, finds their presence an immortal intrusion but he is broke and must put up with the nuisance.
But– the aggressive and meddlesome bunch uncover Dr. Frankenstein’s secret laboratory and it just gets chaotic from there…
Rudolph Anders plays the Baron’s confidante Wilhelm Gottfried, and Norbert Schiller plays the very simple butler Shuter… poor poor Shuter…
Boris Karloff is the diabolical genius Fu Manchu who only wishes to conquer the world with the help of his beautiful but equally nefarious daughter Fah Lo See played by the exquisite Myrna Loy.
Sir Nayland Smith of the British Secret Service played by Lewis Stone rushes to the Gobi Desert to find the mysterious mask and sword of Genghis Khan. He must get there before Fu Manchu possesses it’s power.
Fu Manchu kidnaps Sir Lionel Barton and tortures him in order to find out where the great treasures of Genghis Khan are buried in his lost tomb, but Barton refuses to tell…
Mean Sir Lionel’s daughter Sheila (Karen Morely) Sir Nayland Smith, Terrence Granville (Charles Starrett) and Von Berg (Jean Hersholt) set out to uncover the whereabouts of the relics before the evil menace can use them in his diabolical plan to conquer the world!
The Mask of Fu Manchu boasts the wonderful Kenneth Strickfaden designs!
Directed by Vincent J. DonehueLonelyhearts is a compelling look at loneliness, human frailty often ugly and pathetic, infused with a wry cynicism yet underpinned with an air of redemption. Considered to be a bit of Noir, the milieu of the Newspaper room, the darkened city with it’s sordid inhabitants mulling about, and a man who is not quite what he appears to be has many of the tidings of a good noir, but I would say this film falls more into the genre of psychological melodrama. Based on Nathanael West’s (Day of the Locust) novel ‘Miss Lonelyhearts.’ and penned for the screen by producer/writer Dore Schary.
Montgomery Clift plays Adam White, a young writer hiding the truth about his childhood in the orphanage from his devoted girl Justy Sargeant played by the lovely (Dolores Hart).
Adam is hired by The Chronicle’s harshly cynical Editor William Shrike played as only the gruff and unceremoniously sexy Robert Ryan can pull off , to be the exacting voice and conscience behind the “Miss Lonelyhearts”column for the paper.Myrna Loyplays a sympathetic and sad character as Shrike’s wife Florence who has fallen from grace in her husbands eyes, due to a prior indiscretion, something that Shrike continues to punish her for years later. The scenes between Loy and Ryan are captivating.
The film’s dialogue is outstanding, as it plunges you into a dark night of the soul, while Shrike maliciously tries to teach his moral apprentice the bitter truth about life and what really lies behind the assortment of needy folk who reach out for advice. The wonderful stage actress Maureen Stapletonreceived a nomination for an Academy Award for her dramatic portrayal of the very desperate and troubled Fay Doyle, in her first screen role. Equally commanding is character actor Frank Maxwell as Fay’s frustrated, crippled husband who loves his wife but hasn’t been able to make love to her in years.
Shrike’s relentless determination to wear away the selfless and compassionate exterior of young Adam White and lay bare his failings as well as disarm him is like watching two boxers fight with their wits as Montgomery Clift’s Adam is so deft at maneuvering with his vastly layered, always intelligent and sensitively nuanced performance as an imperfect man struggling to be a good man. His altruistic ideals are blown to bits as he delves into the lives of the people who write in for help only to discover that he too a tortured soul in need of saving and self reflection.
West’s novel reveals Adam White’s character as even more of a Christ like Archetype who suffers and must bear the weight of everyone else’s sins. Montgomery Clift, one of the finest actors tragically taken away from us way too soon, is always so compelling to watch, and while others are huge fans and rightfully so, of James Dean, I myself remain a die hard Monty Clift worshiper.
I do feel that the film leans too heavily toward demonizing woman as ‘tramps’ a word that comes up several times during the course of the film. But the performances, dialogue and mood of the piece are just too good to miss.
Also co-starring Onslow Stevens(Angel On My Shoulder 1946, Them 1954) as Mr. Lassiter, Adams’ father now in jail for murdering his adulterous wife. Mike Kellin and Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester) as fellow newspaper men Frank Goldsmith and the jaded Ned Gates. And Frank Overton who plays Justy’s kindly father.
You can always reach out to me if you’re ever lonely dear hearts- Yours forever MonsterGirl