October 6, 2008

The Covers of Frankenstein : 1931 Photoplay Edition

Boris Karloff’s green head floats over the swooshing title and a luminous, redheaded victim on the movie poster-like dust jacket for the 1931 American edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. The art deco illustration is by Nathan Machtey.

Publishers Grosset & Dunlap struck a cross-promotion deal with Universal Pictures, releasing the book as a “Photoplay Edition” illustrated with a handful of stills from the James Whale film. Booksellers were urged to promote film showings at the local Bijou and theaters would reciprocate with lobby displays of the book.

Today, because of its direct connection to the movie, Grosset & Dunlap’s 1931 Frankenstein — though not scarce — is a highly desirable collector’s title. If the book comes complete with the very rare original dust jacket (as opposed to a facsimile jacket), it’s value rises dramatically.

Besides Frankenstein, the company’s horror movie tie-ins included London After Midnight (1927), Dracula (1931), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and a novelization of King Kong (1933).

The Rue Morgue cover art features a composition similar to Frankenstein’s, complete with recumbent redhead.

The Selling of Frankenstein


Cory Gross said...

Very cool!

One of the prize souveniers of my 1925 Lost World collection is the photoplay edition of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel (sans dustjacket, unfortunately). What makes that one particularly interesting is that it's actually seen in the film's trailer, when they open the book up to show how the movie replicates scenes right from it.

Pierre Fournier said...

Cory, "Very cool" is a good description of your site, Voyages Extraordinaires, which I've added to my blogroll.

Cory Gross said...

Thank you very much!

SStegall said...

This same composition--a woman lying on a bed with her head hanging over the age, with a monster looming over her--recurs in so many horror films. I think they all go back to the same source: John Henry Fuseli's famous painting, The Nightmare (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/56/John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare.JPG/741px-John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare.JPG). Mary Shelley was well aware of this painting, as her mother had been friends with Fuseli and at one time wanted to become his mistress. Mary duplicated the scene when she wrote Elizabeth's death in Frankenstein: "She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair." (Ch. XXIII) It's a powerful image; no wonder so many have used it. I only wonder if they know its origin.