On this day, September 28, and on the 29th, in 1931, director James Whale and his crew, with actors Boris Karloff, Michael Mark, and 7-year old Marilyn Harris, shot the controversial drowning scene at Malibou Lake (not ‘Malibu'), about 30 miles west of Universal studios.
Karloff was uneasy with the scene, but Whale insisted it was necessary. A few weeks later, preview audiences were appalled and the scene was removed. Ironically, the resulting jarring cut, just as The Monster reaches for the little girl, suggests a fate worse than drowning for poor Maria. The scene, thought lost, was found in the late 70s and restored to the film.
The location, a man-made lake, had filled up in 1926 after sitting dry for 3 years. Frankenstein was only the second motion picture to visit there, but the location was soon to become a movie favorite. Films shot there include Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) and Monsieur Verdoux (1947), the Noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), and the cult science-fiction I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958).
In the 30’s, The Malibu Club charged $1000 a day “for the use of the lake and adjoining property” and extra for lodging and food. A local newspaper reported that Hollywood money had gotten “the lake and its members out of serious debt. In eight short years the lake reduced its debt from $235,000 to a mere $20,000.”
UPDATE: The Maliboulake.net site reports that Frankenstein’s cinematographer, Arthur Edeson, built himself a home on South Lakeshore overlooking the dam at Malibou Lake in 1926. He may very well be the one who suggested the location for The Monster's only outdoor scene in an otherwise stage-bound film.