10 Facts about The Bride of Frankenstein

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) screens on Sunday, October 27, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., as part of the current season of Movies that Matter.

Former Kansas City Star film critic Robert W. Butler (now a member of the Library’s Public Affairs Department) provides introductory and closing remarks.

Here are 10 little-known facts about the film, widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time.

  • The Frankenstein legend is one of the most popular movie subjects. To date more than 100 feature films have been released with “Frankenstein” in the title.
  • The Bride of Frankenstein surprises many first-time viewers who are shocked to discover that it treats Boris Karloff’s “creature” with sympathy. This time around the monster learns to talk (Karloff resisted the idea, but later embraced it), and in many scenes is depicted as a Christ-like figure suffering at the hands of cruel mankind.
  • Director James Whale (he made both Frankenstein in 1931 and the sequel four years later) was openly gay at a time when most creative individuals in Hollywood hid that fact. Many have speculated that The Bride of Frankenstein’s curious blend of horror and outlandish humor was the result of Whale indulging his camp sensibilities.
  • Elsa Lanchester, who plays both author Mary Shelley (in the opening prologue) and the female “monster,” was the wife of actor Charles Laughton. She based her portrayal of the newly-animated Bride on the movements of birds.
  • The Bride’s towering hairdo was inspired by an ancient bust of the Egyptian princess Nefertiti wearing a similarly-shaped headdress.
  • Director Whale so wanted actor O.P. Heggie to play the blind hermit who takes in the Monster that he delayed shooting those scenes until the end of production, when Heggie would be finished with another film. Heggie never saw The Bride of Frankenstein...he died only a few months later.
  • Colin Clive, the English actor who portrayed Victor Frankenstein in both Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, died only two years later of tuberculosis and chronic alcoholism. For 40 years his ashes sat unclaimed in the basement of a Los Angeles funeral parlor; in 1978 they were scattered at sea.
  • Valerie Hobson, who portrayed Baroness Frankenstein (taking over the role originated by Mae Clarke), later played the adult Estella in David Lean’s 1946 Great Expectations. In 1954 she married future British Prime Minister John Profumo, whose career ended in scandal in 1963 after he lied to the House of Commons about his affair with call girl Christine Keeler.
  • Boris Karloff on the Monster: “He was the best friend I ever had.”
  • Though he is the actor most associated with Frankenstein’s monster, Boris Karloff played the character in only three movies. Among the dozens of other actors who have assayed the role are Lon Chaney, Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Christopher Lee, Freddie Jones, David Prowse, Bo Svenson, Michael Sarrazin, Clancy Brown, Chris Sarandon, Randy Quaid, Robert De Niro, Aaron Eckhart, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Other films in the series “Movies That Matter: The Sequel”

Sundays at 1:30 p.m. in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.:

Admission to these films is free.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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