5,0 su 5 stelleONE OF THE BEST BOOKS ON CLASSIC HORROR
DaTim Jansonil 12 agosto 2005 - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
When you think of the great names of classic horror films you naturally think of Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney Jr., Lorre, Whale; but in Women in Horror Films, 1930's, film historian Gregory W. Mank gives the women their due. What would a horror film be without a beautiful heroine to terrorize, or to become the monster herself? Mank spotlights the actresses who would co-star in some of the greatest horror films in history: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein, Freaks, King Kong, and many more. Mank personally interviewed many of these women before their passing to get their thoughts and unique insight on these famous films. The women are presented in chronological order of the release date of the film they are most well known for.
First up is Helen Chandler, the beautiful Mina and object of Bela Lugosi's desire in Dracula. Chandler would unfortunately be badly burned in a fire in the 1950's and become a recluse. She would pass away in the mid-1960s in obscurity. Her cremated ashes would go unclaimed from a chapel storage vault in Los Angeles.
Mae Clarke provided 1930's audiences with one of the most terrifying scenes in history, playing Elizabeth, the fiancée to Dr. Frankenstein. As she is getting ready for her wedding, the monster attacks her in her room. It's still a powerful scene over seventy years later.
One of the most interesting interviews and chapters features Marilyn Harris. Harris played the little girl who is inadvertently drowned by the Frankenstein Monster. She relates how Karloff tried to lead a bit of a revolt to get James Whale to change the scene and not kill the girl. This scene would be cut from the film for decades after. Whale would take revenge on the rebellious Karloff by making him do several retakes of the scene where he has to carry Colin Clive up the windmill stairs, thus injury Karloff's back. Harris goes on to relate her own life story of growing up as an adopted child of mother who cruelly abused her and only wanted her to be a movie star due to her own failed attempts at stardom.
Gloria Stewart talks about the making of "The Old Dark House" which would create its own sub-genre of horror films in the 30's and 40's. Boasting a cast of Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Melvyn Douglas and Charles Laughton, Stewart talks about working with the great James Whale and the famous scene where she is accosted by the mute, beast-like butler Morgan (Karloff).
Fay Wray has to be considered the very first scream queen. While most of these women starred in only one or two horror films, Wray starred in four between 1932 & 1933 with "Doctor X", "Mystery of the Wax Museum", "The Vampire Bat" and, of course, "King Kong". I would be disillusioned to find out that Wray's lovely, golden blonde hair in King Kong was a wig and that her trademark scream may have actually been voiced by another actress.
Zita Johann provides interesting insight into the 1932 classic, "The Mummy" including her battles with director Karl Freund who had her enter a cage of lions unprotected in the Christian reincarnation scene, while he was safe in a cage. As with every woman interviewed, she speaks quite highly of Karloff as a polite gentleman.
Lucille Lund had even worse problems with a director on the set of one of my favorite horror films "The Black Cat". After she spurned the advances of director Edgar G. Ulmer, he proceeded to make her life a living hell. In a scene where she is to portray her dead mother inside a glass coffin, she is left hanging for over an hour while the rest of the crew goes to lunch, somewhat fitting when one considers the cruel, nihilistic tone of this film.
One of my favorite actresses to read about was Carroll Borland who created one of the most indelible characters of the 1930's as Luna in "Mark of the Vampire". Her long flowing hair, pale white face and dark eyes would be the inspiration for women such as Vampira and Elvira. Borland, obsessed with Lugosi as a young girl, met the star at the age of 15. Just out of high school she tried out for the role of Luna and only got it when she paid director Tod Browning $150.00!
In addition to these actresses Mank also has chapters on Elsa Lanchester, Valerie Hobson (Bride of Frankenstein), Gloria Holden (Dracula's Daughter), Sideny Fox (Murders in the Rue Morgue) and many more. The enthusiasm that Mank has for his subjects is evident as many of these interviews were conducted years before the publication of this book when Mank was still more fan than professional writer and film historian. Photographs from these classic films are included as well as number of photos taken at the time the interviews were conducted.
It's a marvelous book that pays tribute to many of the women who did their parts to make these films live on for decades. One of the best books on classic horror that I have ever read! Another example of why McFarland Publishing is one of the most dynamic publishers around today.
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