July 18, 2008

The Bride Foreseen

The spirit of Winter, bearing snowflakes, soars over a frozen landscape with art deco ice dog escorts in this February 1931 illustration by William P. Welsh, for Woman’s Home Companion magazine. The Illinois-based artist was an established painter, muralist and commercial illustrator. Just a coincidence, but nevertheless intriguing, the Snow Queen’s frosty hairdo anticipates the Bride of Frankenstein’s famous beehive.

There would be an even more striking precursor, a direct link to the Bride’s hair blowout, seen briefly in Edgar Ulmer’s stylish and sadistic horror film of 1934, The Black Cat.

In an eerily poetic scene, Boris Karloff, the sinister, streamlined devil worshipper, leads his ailurophobic rival, Bela Lugosi, down into the depths of his moderne fortress-mansion to witness a necrophilic secret...

Boris is transfixed (notice the reflection) in his obsessive love of Bela's dead wife suspended in a glass case. The woman floats, feet off the ground and pointed like a ballerina, her bowed head dramatically crowned by a spectacular upward splash of hair.

Universal’s makeup man, Jack Pierce, would reproduce this same effect a year later, combing Elsa Lanchester’s hair over a lightweight wire cage and adding platinum waves at the temples, to create Frankenstein's famous Bride.

The story goes that The Bride’s profile was suggested by a bust of Nefertiti. That may be, but The Black Cat’s levitating corpse is a clear antecedent and another possible source of inspiration.


Anonymous said...

Welsh's winter woman looks a bit like Marge Simpson as well (was Matt Groening inspired by the Bride as well?)

Pierre Fournier said...

In fact, yes, Groening does credit The Bride as inspiration for Marge's hair.

CRwM said...

I've always wondered if Man Ray's 1929 photo, commonly called "Long Hairs," was an inspiration for the Bride. It features a woman whose head is hanging off the edge of a bed and her hair hangs below her. Sometimes the photo was presented upside down to give the impression that her hair was standing up. I've never seen anything making an explicit connection, so I've always been curious. Ever hear anything about a possible influence there?

Karswell said...

Having watched Black Cat many many times I've never made that interesting connection with Bride. Nice post Pierre, something to think about today.