April 30, 2014
Here’s a find, I think. There are lots of photos of master makeup man Jack Pierce working on or posing with Boris Karloff for his three outings as Frankenstein’s Monster, but no shots of Pierce with Elsa Lanchester in BRIDE makeup had ever surfaced, to my knowledge, until now.
The photograph here was found in the June 1935 issue of New Movie magazine, just one of 12 small photos of movie stars sharing space with cartoons and copy in a busy spread called Hollywood: Day by Day. Reporter “Nemo” rattles off short items of bubbleheaded scuttlebutt about such matters of import as Bing Crosby’s day at the racetrack, Jean Harlow’s cellophane swimsuit, Clark Gable’s big new car, and Lyle Talbot dropping his favorite fedora into Pat O’Brien’s pool. Ann Dvorak poses with her lucky rabbit’s foot and the Bride picture carries a laconic caption: “Elsa Lanchester wears fantastic make-up for ‘Bride of Frankenstein’.”
New Movie, claiming “the largest circulation of any screen magazine in the world”, first mentioned BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN in January of 1935, when Karloff was said to be preparing for The Return of Frankenstein. That issue also carried a profile of Boris, entitled Karloff The Uncanny. In May, the film was now called BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and “guaranteed to give you bad dreams for three weeks”. A short, smart-alecky review signed Barbara Barry — “New Movies Studio Scout” — outlined the film and blew the punch: “And then, after all their work, the incorporated damsel (Elsa Lanchester) takes one look at her prospective bride-groom and proceeds to shriek herself unconscious! All of which makes Karloff so dern mad that he blows up the whole joint!” In the same issue, Ms Barry, who seemed to relish the art of the spoiler, also blurts out the ending to WEREWOLF OF LONDON, though she is careful not to reveal the denouement of MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, but making a big deal about how she’s holding back on a big surprise.
We’ve seen photos of Lanchester in her Bride costume posing with a hand mirror and a makeup pencil, fixing her lipstick, as if the perfect beestung look painted by Jack Pierce needed a touchup. One wonders if Pierce, standing by, was simply cropped out of those shots. Nevertheless, we now have a shot of Jack Pierce with one of his masterpieces, the weirdly glamorous Bride.
And now the hunt is on for a shot of Pierce with Lugosi as The Monster from FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943). There are shots of Pierce working on Lugosi’s Igor — broken neck, snaggle tooth, fright wig and all — for SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) and GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), but no photograph of Pierce with Lugosi’s Frankenstein Monster has surfaced yet.