Monday, October 10, 2005

Frankenstein

I Am Woman,
Hear Me Scare!
That could have been Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's personal motto since she was the little lady who wrote "Frankenstein" on a challenge by Lord Byron.
She was all of 19 when she and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, were among a group visiting the poet at his home in Switzerland when he decided they needed something stronger than "pretty little love stories."
The book is fascinating reading on its own, not only for its literary merits but because you won't recognize it after you've seen the Hollywood version with Boris Karloff.
You can still find it at the local bookstore and download it (and more) at www.enotes.com/Frankenstein/ or www.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/english016/franken/franken.htm.
Even Thomas Edison got in on the act in 1910!
Philip J. Riley recounts Boris Karloff's make-up travails in "Frankenstein: The Original Shooting Script" (MagicImage Filmbooks, New York, 1989) pages 34 - 35:
From the beginning, Karloff's approach to his "dear old Monster" was one of love and compassion. It was an outstanding insight - considering that rarely has an actor suffered so hideously in bringing life to a character.
"It took from four to six hours a day to make me up," said Karloff. "I felt like an Egyptian mummy as Jack [P. Pierce] ladled the layers of makeup on me."
The company call was 9 o'clock in the morning, so Karloff piloted his old Ford onto the lot at 4 AM to begin the makeup.
To fill out the Monster costume I had to wear a double quilted suit beneath it. We shot in mid-summer. After an hour's work I'd be sopping wet. I'd have to change into a spare undersuit often still damp from the previous round. So I felt, most of the time, as if I were wearing a clammy shroud. No doubt it added to the realism!
As the September heat soared, Karloff's makeup proved a torture. The mortician's wax eyelids he believed so necessary would melt and crumble on the sweltering set, falling into his eyes and causing terrible pain. Pierce stood by the actor's side constantly, emergency makeup box in tow, ready to fix a bolt if it loosened or adjust the wig if it slipped or share a joke when humor was a necessity.
Yet Karloff never complained. Mae Clarke recalls:
Observing Boris in makeup, taking director instructions: Towering over the tall Mr. [James] Whale, listening meekly as an obedient child, both so softly spoken I couldn't hear a word - then he'd nod his head and Whale would give him an affectionate push at his enormous, hanging arms and call out, "Ready for camera." Boris was unbelievably patient and, as the world now sees, he gave an incredible performance. He made that Monster understandable and painfully pitiable.
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You might want to visit Sara Karloff's tribute to her father at www.karloff.com. It's the only official website for Karloff and has lots of goodies for you to check out.
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Nobody could fill the Frankensein Monster's makeup like Boris Karloff.
To be honest, of course, Miss Maven wouldn't WANT to . . . except at Halloween and then only the people who need to be scared out of their . . . .
Where is Miss Maven's Halloween candy . . . ?
It was right here-----Aunt Battie, have you been in my candy again?!
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Have you tried
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Miss Maven can be reached at

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