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Frankenstein A Real Unloved Child

Published December 14, 2007        by Nicole

On October 3, 1931, Universal Studios finished shooting Frankenstein. Some notes about the motion picture that is continually one of the top 100 video rentals:

  • After the surprising hit of Dracula earlier that year, Universal wanted another film that would feature the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi - minus his loopy accent. They bought a theatrical adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel. (The chief difference is a relatively mute monster; the book's creature is a gas-bag who has monologues running for pages.)
    • The actor, who saw himself as a romantic lead, hated the makeup and the role. He said, "I was a star in my country... Anybody can moan and grunt."
    • In the studio cafeteria, director James Whale noticed a fellow Briton: Boris Karloff. (Born William Pratt, Karloff was a black sheep from an unloving family of diplomats. His parents died when he was a child; he was raised by siblings. He took his acting name from a maternal relative.)
  • Karloff's acting, a black-and-white film that was tinted green, and a shocking story (for the time) created a hit film.
  • After test screenings, Universal cut one sadistic scene in which the monster, thinking a friendly little girl will float, throws her into a lake. (Ironically, little Marilyn Harris enjoyed being chucked into the water by Karloff. In real life, her adoptive mother - who picked her out of an orphanage for her looks, motivated her acting with beatings and other sadism, writes critic Forrest Ackerman.)
  • Karloff said later he got much sympathetic fan mail, especially from children, who said they understood the monster's feelings.
  • Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley started her novel after hearing a discussion about life between her husband-to-be, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron. Mary's mother died 11 days after giving birth (Mary was courted on her mother's gravestone) and she was raised by a cruel father who barely tolerated her. Critics have noted the parallel between her childhood and the monster's life. (Sources: Behind the Scenes, The Dead That "Walk, Universal Filmscripts, news services.)

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