HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE: NOT JUST BAD, BUT HORROR-ABLE ACTORS

November 8 is an especially appropriate day to unveil this post. Why? Because it’s the birthday of both VLAD DRACUL and BRAM STOKER, author of DRACULA, the famous horror novel “inspired” by the lore of Vlad Dracul — badder known as Vlad the Impaler (for badder details, click links below — the second of which is not for the squeamish):

https://www.onthisday.com/people/vlad-the-impaler

Vlad The Impaler Was Much Worse Than Dracula Ever Was

This sets the stage for the first of our “horror-able” actors: BELA LUGOSI, one of movie history’s most iconic character actors, who played Count Dracula in the classic DRACULA film released in February 1931. Here is the trailer:

As if unleashing one monster on the public in 1931 wasn’t enough, November brought….

Frankenstein’s monster was of course played by the equally “horror-able” and iconic character actor, November-born Boris Karloff:

Next we have The Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr. (son of the legendary silent film star who played Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, and other leading roles in early classics)….

For our closer, the Price is right….Vincent Price, that is. Although most of Price’s horror-able roles came after Hollywood’s Golden Age, he wasn’t entirely invisible during it (or was he?):

That’s The End for now, but never fear. We, too, shall return….

25 GUESSES

[He] was the opposite of what appeared on the screen. He was very urbane, very well read, very well educated, soft-spoken, a real English gentleman. –Robert Wise, Academy Award-winning movie director

Do you think you have a good idea who the gentleman is who is the subject of that quote? Although you may find it hard to believe, it ain’t yurs truly. The fact is that mistermuse (despite qualifying in every other respect, including gentleman) does not happen to be English. Also, although a handsome devil, mistermuse is not a movie star. But that was a very logical (if mistaken) assumption on your part, so I will give you 24 more guesses.

Here’s a hint. Since 20 November, when last we met (“NOVEMBER 20 POEMS ARE CHILD’S PLAY”), someone’s birthday has come and gone who not only meets the above criteria, but whose film persona might have made an interesting subject for one of those English nursery rhymes, such as “Who Killed Cock Robin?” or “Jack the Ripper and Jill.”

Time’s up. The gentleman in question is none other than that horror-able actor famous for his roles in such pictures as FRANKENSTEIN (1931), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935),  and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939): Boris Karloff (born London, Nov. 23, 1887). Karloff also starred in another of my favorite films of that genre, THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), which was directed by the above-quoted Robert Wise.

What made those films a cut above the average horror movie? Among other things, atmosphere — black and white and gray atmosphere — not necessarily the stuff that screams are made of, but with setting, mood, memorable characters, imagination of story….all the things that, if lacking, no amount of gore and technology can bring to life.

Here are some interesting facts about Karloff you may not have known:
His real name was William Henry Pratt.
He was the youngest of nine children.
As a young boy, he stuttered and had a lisp.
He married five times and had one child, Sara (born as SON OF FRANKENSTEIN was being filmed). You’ll find a message from her on the official Boris Karloff web site:
http://www.karloff.com/

Let us end with an interview of the man himself:

TODAY IS “PLAY GOD DAY”

We should not play God before we have learned to be men, and as we learn to be men we will not want to play God. –Paul Ramsey, Christian ethicist

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According to holidayinsights.com., January 9 is PLAY GOD DAY. While not an official holiday (i.e., it’s not sanctioned by God, the President or Congress), it nonetheless should be one, as man has been playing God since emerging from the cave, if not before.

If you’re an atheist, you may well ask how man can play what doesn’t exist. Friends, if you think about it, it’s done all the time. In olden days B.F. (Before Film), a man could only play the Almighty in his own time, but since then, God-playing has not been confined to tyrants, despots, politicians and overlords. The invention of motion pictures has been a godsend to a man playing God even after the man is gone. God is not dead — like Frankenstein’s monster, it’s his own creation….and IT’S ALIVE! To wit:

Here is a list of films (including the actor/God)  in which man has played God. I do not proclaim it a complete list, nor have I seen but a few of the of the films on the list. What do you want for nothing? Remember, this is PLAY GOD DAY, so take it or leave it. I doubt God Itself ever made a better offer.

THE GREEN PASTURES (1936), Rex Ingram
THE BIBLE (1966), John Huston
SKIDOO (1968), Groucho Marx
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975), Graham Chapman
OH, GOD! (1977), George Burns (plus two sequels: Oh, God! Book II, and Oh, God! You Devil)
TIME BANDITS (1981), Ralph Richardson
TWO OF A KIND (1983), Gene Hackman
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985), Ferdy Mayne
RELIGION, INC. (1989), George Plimpton
ALMOST AN ANGEL (1990), Charlton Heston
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1997), Val Kilmer
THE ACID HOUSE (1998), Maurice Roeves
DOGMA (1999), Alanis Morrissette (the first actress to play God?)
BRUCE ALMIGHTY (2003), Morgan Freeman
SUPER (2010), Rob Zombie

PHOBIA, SCHMOBIA

Did you know that (according to Reference.com) there are at least 530 documented phobias, Including Phobophobia, the fear of phobias? Among the most interesting, to say the least, is fear of midgets (Achondroplasiphobia). Another of my favorites is Anatidaephobia, the fear that somewhere in the world, a duck is watching you. Aflac! Then there is the fear of long words (Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia). Easy for who to say. You can click http://phobialist.com for a comprehensive list.

As curious as the above documented examples are, Yours Truly has come across some phobias that, while undocumented, are even more curious. By adhering to the most exacting investigative standards (personal observation), I have determined without fear of contradictaphobia that the following are every bit as real as phobias documented by so-called scientific methods:

Santaclaustrophobia — the fear of Christmas closing in, surrounded by the God-awful, unholy sound of wall-to-wall Christmas songs from which there is no escape.

Ideologophobia — the fear of pluralism, pragmatism and, above all, the color gray.

Expostophobia — the fear of disappearing posts.

Mistermuseephobia — the fear of Expostophobia.

Frankelsteinaphobia — the fear of Dr. Don creating a monster who demands to be directed by Young Mel Brooks….seriously.

Michaelphobia – the fear of archangels.

Ricardophobia — the fear of the return of Prohibition, concurrent with the closing of the Mexican border to gringos dying of thirst.

Endophobia — the fear of what all good things must come to.