Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
- Karloff was married six times (talk about the Bride of Frankenstein!)
- He is a great nephew of Anna Leonowens, whose life inspired the drama Anna and the King of Siam (1946) and the musical The King and I (1956)
- He was an inspiration for the original illustrations of the Incredible Hulk
- While filming Son of Frankenstein, the actor's daughter, Sara Karloff, was born on his 51st birthday
- Despite his menacing screen persona, Karloff, a relatively mild mannered man, would often dress as Santa Claus for children's hospitals and parties for disabled tykes
- He was a charter member of the Screen Actor's Guild
- Due to his appearance in the stage version of Arsenic and Old Lace, he was unable to appear in the 1944 film version with Cary Grant and the part of Jonathon Brewster went to Raymond Massey
- He was the narrator for the animated Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). When the tale was put to vinyl, Karloff won a Grammy in the Spoken Word category
Boris Karloff died in 1969 at the age of 81. His popularity with movie goers has only increased with passing time. His rich life and career centered around the ghouls that he created on film and that legacy continues as we enjoy his large body of work, both at this festive time as well as all year long.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Bob Hope had already been under contract to Paramount for a couple of years but hadn't found his niche. The studio wanted to take advantage of his huge popularity on radio. With the character of Wally Campbell, the bumbling, charming, comic coward, he hit the jackpot. It would be his signature film persona for the rest of his career, culminating in the "Road" pictures he made with fellow Paramount players, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Gorgeous Paulette Goddard had just finished filming the extremely popular The Women at MGM, after losing the role of Scarlett O'Hara to Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind and was under personal contract to producer David O. Selznick. Embroiled in his Civil War epic, Selznick sold Paulette's contract to Paramount when the studio offered the comely actress a seven year option. The Cat and the Canary was Goddard's first film under her new contract and was the turning point in her career. Paulette was married to comic icon Charlie Chaplin at the time Canary was made. Chaplin had been the childhood idol of her co-star Hope and during the same time the film was being shot, Bob saw Paulette and Chaplin at the Santa Anita racetrack. He went over to speak to Goddard and she introduced the two men. The awestruck Hope told his idol how he had enjoyed Modern Times (Chaplin's last silent film, released a few years prior), as well as working with Paulette. Chaplin in turn complimented the young comedian saying, "I've been watching the rushes of The Cat and the Canary every night. I want you to know that you are one of the best timers of comedy I have ever seen." He was right. Hope's gags and one liners set him apart. In a scene between Wally Campbell and Cicily, another potential heir, Cicily asks: "Don't big, empty houses scare you?" to which Hope's Wally answers, "Not me, I used to be in vaudeville."
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Paramount in 1931 was home to stars such as Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich and Claudette Colbert. European elegance and sophistication displayed by directors like Ernst Lubitsch became the studio's trademark. So it was unlikely that one of their top productions that year would be an installment of the scary supernatural genre. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, premiering on December 31, 1931 but generally released after the New Year, was based on Robert Louis Stevenson's story of a Victorian physician who discovers a formula which releases the dark, uninhibited side of his human nature. The sinister side, known as Hyde, is attracted to a sluttish dancehall singer while the refined and genteel Dr. Jekyll (pronounced in this version as Jee'kyll) is engaged to a mild mannered young society lady.
Arguably the best of the three famous film versions of the tale (a 1920 silent with John Barrymore and an opulent 1941 version from MGM starring Spencer Tracy), it stars Fredric March as Jekyll/Hyde, a role which garnered the actor his first Academy Award (for which he tied with Wallace Beery in The Champ). By way of early but impressive special effects and the artistry of make-up whiz Perc Westmore, the handsome March was transformed into the hideous Mr. Hyde, the carnal, brutal, decadent essence of the human dark side. This image, along with that of Lon Chaney's Phantom, Karloff's Frankenstein's monster and Lugosi's Dracula, shape the iconic image of Hollywood monsters from the early film era.