April 8, 2016

The Fiancée de Frankenstein

French actress Audrey Tautou, perhaps best know as the shy and gently eccentric heroine of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s AMÉLIE (2001) posed for the May 2006 issue of Elle magazine as a goth Bride of Frankenstein in a red satin cocktail dress.

The same month, a New York Times article entitled “Sans Makeup, S’il Vous Plaît” discussed the French “Le No Makeup Look”, directly referencing the Elle issue as the cover featured Tautou, “the anti-star”, sporting what they called the “Le Bare Face Look” in direct contrast with her powdered face and dark-eyed, frizzy-haired appearance within, suggesting, perhaps, that overdone makeup is only suitable for Frankenstein’s Fiancée.

 If you ask me, both versions of Ms Tatou look great.

April 6, 2016

The Return of Frankensteinia

The hiatus is over, and it’s back to blogging! 

It has been a busy start to the year as a freelance writer — no complaints! — and setting up a new computer. Upside is, I’ve spent all my free time away from the blog researching Frankenstein and things related, and countless hours have yielded endless riches. I am very excited about the new material I have dug up and I will now begin sharing with you.

The logo you see here celebrates the 85th Anniversary of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN and will accompany upcoming posts devoted to the film. Yes, believe me, there’s still LOTS to discover and enjoy about this enduring classic. 

We’ll also be celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the novel, which actually spans a period of three years. Mary Shelley conceived of and began writing Frankenstein in the summer of 1816, and the finished book was published in 1818. 

So let’s get busy. 

December 24, 2015

Red Frankenstein by Darryl Cunningham

The movies’ flattop and bolts Frankenstein Monster rocks his Che Guevara t-shirt and pulp culture icons of the twentieth century are monster-mashed into this wonderful sketch by cartoonist Darryl Cunningham — previously profiled here as the author of Uncle Bob and the Frankenstein Monster.

Darryl posted this recently, with a shout-out to Frankensteinia, on his Facebook page. I just had to share it on the blog. 

Best of the Holidays, everyone, and here’s to a great New Year!

November 21, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
The Bride is Released!

Back in 2011, here on this blog, we determined that Universal’s original FRANKENSTEIN (1931) had actually been released on November 20, a day earlier than most sources claim. Dial up Google, check the IMDB, they still say November 21, but we have proven otherwise. Now, supported by the ads posted here, we can demonstrate that BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) actually started playing three days earlier than the “official” release date generally quoted in books and online.

The actual “release” date is, by definition, the day when a film begins playing on a regular schedule. There may be prior screenings, as “Premieres” or “Preview Showings”, but these do not count towards the actual release date. The classic, Hollywood-style Premiere is a stand-alone promotional event with fanfare, klieg lights and attending movie stars. The “Preview Showing” describes when a new film is sneaked into a movie house for the purpose of gauging the moviegoers’ reactions. For instance, the original FRANKENSTEIN (1931) was shown in a Santa Barbara theatre about three weeks prior to its actual release. This particular screening, by the way, created the stubborn myth that Boris Karloff was not invited to the film’s premiere. Nice story, but false. Point is, there was no official premiere for FRANKENSTEIN.

If you Google “Bride Frankenstein Release”, your first hit, in large characters, claims “April 22, 1935”. Go to the IMDB, and the USA release date is stated, again, as April 22. A possible explanation is that the date was quoted by Universal as the planned release date, even though films rarely if ever launched on Mondays.

Did some digging and, to settle the issue, here are two contemporary ads from the pages of the Chicago Tribune. At top, dated April 18, 1935, an ad for the RKO Palace announces, “Tomorrow.. The World Premiere!” And what a show it was, with The Bride supported by a “Huge Stage Review”. The next day ad, also shown here, from Good Friday, April 19, proclaims, “The World Premiere… Today — 10:45 A.M.” featuring “Twice the Terrific Thrills of Frankenstein”.

And there you have it. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was actually released on April 19, 1935. Not April 22.

It must be noted that Stephen Jacobs, in his superb biography Boris Karloff, More Than a Monster, points to San Francisco as the premiere city, also on April 19. Who knows, maybe Chicago’s RKO Palace scored the “World’s Premiere” claim by virtue of its early first show, 10:45 AM, while it was still 7:45 on the West Coast!

And so we wrap up our BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN 80th Anniversary series. No worries, as we return to our regular posting, I’ve lots of BRIDE material on hand and ongoing research to be posted in the weeks and months to come.

I hope you enjoyed our visit with the Bride of Frankenstein! 

November 11, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
No Greater Thrill!

We are used to seeing the iconic Frankenstein Monster on TV— with inevitable flattop, bolts and green face — flogging everything from soft drinks and beer to pain meds and cellphone services. Here’s an ad from way back in 1935 — the earliest I’ve seen — of The Monster as pitchman… for refrigerators!

No Greater Thrill…” the ad goes, “Than the Bride of Frankenstein… and our 1935 Kelvinator!” 

Printed large, across three columns in New Orleans newspapers, the ad is a curious example of cross-promotion stunts often suggested to exhibitors by Universal. For the original FRANKENSTEIN of 1931, theatre owners were urged to trade ads with a local bookstore stockpiling the new Photoplay edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. Here, for BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the New Orleans’ Orpheum plunked a “thrilling” new Kelvinator fridge in its lobby in exchange for the movie’s poster being displayed at the legendary Godchaux’s Department Store on Canal Street. The offbeat idea was credited to the Orpheum’s manager Victor Meyer and adman Gar Moore.

The Orpheum also fielded The Monster live and in person, working the crowds, and the ambulance-out-front routine complete with nurses on duty. A bandage-wrapped dummy Bride strapped to a gurney was trundled around town, and local newspapers participated in a search for a New Orleans’ own “bride” for The Monster.

November 6, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
The Monster Goes Dancing

The Monster crashes the annual May dance sponsored by the Fire Department, one of several “personal appearances” promoting BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, coming to the Astor Theatre in Reading, Pennsylvania.

According to the Motion Picture Herald of June 29, 1935, the “makeup stunt” was cooked up by house manager Dwight Van Meter using the Astor’s doorman as stand-in for The Monster. The transformation — said to have cost all of $2.15 — proved popular. High school seniors arranged a mock wedding — The Monster Demands a Mate! — and the very odd couple was seen driving around town in a bannered car and popping up at local nightclubs. One stop was at the swanky Riverside Club on Friday, May 17, same day the film opened. 

The Monster gag had kicked off a week earlier when the Astor ran the film’s trailer. The live Monster appeared in a green spotlight, chained to a large chair — as Karloff was in the film’s dungeon scene — rising out of the stage floor on the organ’s elevator loft, to weird sound effects. As the trailer played out, the snarling Monster broke his chains and escaped into the wings.  
Dubbed “unique bally”, The Monster’s manifestations in and around Reading helped drum up some excellent business at the Astor. By Sunday, the theatre was boasting 18,904 in attendance over two days and the film would be held over for a second week. 

Sources: Motion Picture Herald via the Media History Digital Library, and The Reading Eagle.

November 3, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
Jazz Age Monster

Here’s a splendid streamlined cartoon likeness of Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster from the pages of Universal Weekly, the studio’s trade magazine, May 4, 1935. The art deco-style illustration — signed ‘Marshal’ ? — decorated a page boasting the film’s great box office returns and enthusiastic reviews in Variety and Motion Picture Daily.

Among the articles grouped under the heading “BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN: A TREMENDOUS SMASH” were reports from the Tower Theatre in Kansas City of a Sunday’s sellout business with crowds lining up despite a downpour, and the film drawing “unusually heavy child attendance” despite ads warning “not suitable for children”. The Tower’s manager, Barney Joffee, said he did not refuse admission to families on the principle that “parents cannot be prevented from bringing their children”.

Also featured is a column’s worth of praise for eighteen-year-old female lead, Valerie Hobson, essentially billed as a scream queen, before the term existed. Hobson, we are told, “screamed her way to success” and “plays the part of the beauty-in-peril with ear-splitting realism”. True, Hobson had to deal in quick succession with the Frankenstein Monster and WEREWOLF OF LONDON, leading Universal’s promotional department to declare that … no actress has ever seemed more certain for stardom than this lovely lady of the vociferous tonsils”.