September 21, 2010

The Australian Frankenstein

It’s Bride of Frankenstein Ballyhoo halfway ‘round the world as The Monster and his Mate put in a personal appearance at the Regent Theater in Sydney, Australia, on July 22, 1935.

The Monster is suggested by an unidentified actor in the requisite dark suit, with a tight skullcap revealing a high forehead and face streaked with greasepaint to grim effect. An approximate Monster, if you will, but at least they got the boots right. The Monster’s mate is a lovely gowned bride, sans special makeup. Her stiff hand replicates a pose by Valerie Hobson on the film's poster.

Another photo shows another Sydney theater, the Plaza’s box-office, wrapped in a large painted Frankenstein head. The Bride appears on the marquee and a paper skeleton hangs in the doorway.

These photos, by Sam Hood and his assistant, Jack Lazern, are part of a wonderful set archived on the State Library of New South Wales website. The Monster and Bride performers are seen posing outside the theater and in a store, the Bride apparently shopping for a new hat. Other photos show the long queue that stretched “up George Street and around into Wilmott Street”. Note patrons wearing heavy coats, July being the dead of winter in Australia.

Inaugurated in 1928, the palatial Regent Theater was a Sydney landmark for over 60 years. Boasting an elegant façade, a swooping marquee and a high lobby with a crystal waterfall chandelier, the 2200-seat auditorium hosted films, concerts and gala premieres. It was adapted for Cinerama in 1953. The ignominious end came in 1990. A victim of its prime location, the theater was purposely shuttered, abandoned and — despite being submitted as a heritage site — razed by developers to massive public outcry. The bitter loss was compounded when the property market promptly crashed and the downtown site lay undeveloped for 16 years, an eyesore until 2006.

The State Library of New South Wales archive also carries photographs of a large banner promotion — "Coming Soon" — for Son of Frankenstein, outside the Amusu Theater (identified in a caption as the Balmain), dated June 1939. The other film advertised is She Married an Artist, a 1937 romantic comedy starring John Boles, the stalwart Victor Moritz of Frankenstein (1931), and Frances Drake, of Mad Love (1935) and The Invisible Ray (1936).

For more great pictures of the Australian Frankenstein, click through to the State Library of New South Wales Search Page and enter “Frankenstein” in the search field.

The State Library of New South Wales site is a wonderful resource, and a major time sink! Clicking around, I found a snapshot of theater advertising Dracula in 1929, and the Three Stooges on a late career tour. Go explore!
Theatre information found on the absolutely indispensable Cinema Treasures website.


Martin Powell said...

As usual, wonderful stuff. Great pictures!

Mr. Cavin said...

Cool. I think it's really neat how they seem to have constructed the giant word "Frankenstein" by nailing together correctly-sized boards. But I know little about historical ballyhoo. This isn't just an optical illusion, is it? I hope not, because it's brilliant, the wooden age version of LED display technology.

Thanks for another kickass post, M. Fournier.

Christopher said...

I lived in NSW from 1965-67,a couple of the downtown theaters would revive the Universals and other classics,decorating the theatres with what appeared to be alot of the old art and lobbys

Semetra Rhodes said...

Wow! I enjoy all of your stuff. This is just wonderful. Wado (thanks).

Sheena said...

fantastic pictures! What a detailed blog this is.