Posts Tagged ‘james whale’

Show Boat

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Show Boat (1936)

Tagline – The Grandest Show You’ll Ever Know!

Starring – Irene Dunne (Magnolia Hawks), Allan Jones (Gaylord Ravenal), Charles Winninger (Cap’n Andy Hawks), Paul Robeson (Joe), Helen Morgan (Julie LaVerne), Helen Westley (Parthy Hawks), Queenie Smith (Ellie May Chipley).

Released – May, 1936

Directed By – James Whale

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – Magnolia Hawks is a naive eighteen-year-old on the Cotton Palace, her family’s show boat that travels the Mississippi River. Magnolia is a talented singer and hopes to be a star in the show one day.

She is best friends with the current star Julie LaVerne. Julie is part African-American and is married to Steve Baker. Julie’s mixed race is kept a secret due to the racial feelings of the time. However, her secret comes out, and she and Steve are forced to leave the show boat and town. Their marriage is also considered to be illegal.

Just prior to this, Magnolia has met charming gambler Gaylord Ravenal with whom she has fallen in love. Magnolia and Gaylord replace Julie and Steve as the show boat’s headliners and are a huge hit.

Pete Gavanaugh, who is responsible for giving away Julie’s secret because she refused his advances, now claims that Gaylord is a murderer. While it is true that Gaylord was tried for murder he was acquitted with a verdict of self-defense.

The success of the show continues. Magnolia and Gaylord marry and have a daughter they name Kim. But, everything is not as great as it may seem. Gaylord has managed to gamble away all of the couples money, while Steve has abandoned Julie who has now become an alcoholic.

Only time will tell if anyone can rebuild, or repair the damage that has been done to all their lives.

NOTABLE: In 1996, Show Boat was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

This was the first all-sound version of the hit Broadway musical based on the Edna Ferber novel.

During filming it was necessary to obtain permission from the Hays office to include the famous “miscegenation” scene in the film. The scene had been omitted from the 1929 version of the film.

Director James Whale has stated that this film was his favorite of all the pictures he had directed.

Paul Robeson’s performance of the song “Ol’ Man River” was ranked #24 on the American Film Institutes top 100 songs featured in films.

In 2006, this version of Show Boat was voted, by the American Film Institute, as one of the top 25 film musicals of all time.

Production costs for the film quickly got out of hand. Studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. was forced to borrow money to save both the film and the studio. He reneged on repaying the loan, and Universal Studios was taken over by the New York lending institution. Laemmle would lose his position at the studio his father had started, and would never work in Hollywood again.



Bride of Frankenstein

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The Bride of Frankenstein [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Created in a weird scientist’s laboratory… from the skeletons of two women and the heart of a living girl!

Starring – Boris Karloff (The Monster), Colin Clive (Dr. Henry Frankenstein), Valerie Hobson (Elizabeth), Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorius), Elsa Lanchester (Mary Shelley/The Monster’s Bride).

Released – April, 1935

Directed By – James Whale

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – At the conclusion of 1931’s horror classic Frankenstein the villagers celebrated what appeared to be the death of The Monster and his creator, Dr. Henry Frankenstein.

The Monster survived the burning windmill sheltered from the flames by a pit beneath the windmill. Dr. Henry Frankenstein’s body, thought to be dead, was shipped to his fiancee Elizabeth’s home. After seeing movement in the body, Elizabeth realizes that Henry is still alive.

After Elizabeth nurses Henry back to health, he condemns his creation, but still feels that he is meant to unravel the secret to creating life.

A fearful premonition of death by Elizabeth is followed by the arrival of Henry’s former mentor, Dr. Pretorius, who brings with him an unthinkable plan. Henry learns that The Monster still lives and Dr. Pretorius wants his help in creating a mate for The Monster. Pretorius has some work to complete first and will return for Henry when all is ready.

Henry and Elizabeth are now married when Pretorius returns to get Henry’s assistance in this “grand collaboration.” Henry refuses, and Pretorius has The Monster kidnap Elizabeth in an effort to force Henry to help.

Pretorius guarantees the safe return of Elizabeth after Henry’s participation. Henry has no choice. Returning to his lab, Henry begins working and again finds himself slowly becoming intoxicated with the potential power to create life.

NOTABLE: The Bride of Frankenstein received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound, Recording.

In 1998, The Bride of Frankenstein was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The films popularity has increased over the years, and The Bride of Frankenstein is considered to be a masterpiece for director James Whale.

The motion picture had some difficulty with censorship issues. The Hays office objected to some lines of dialogue that compared the work of Dr. Henry Frankenstein with that of God, as well as the number of murders (21 cut to 10) both committed and implied, and a scene where they felt too much of actress Elsa Lanchester’s breasts were visible. Strangely, they had little problem with numerous scenes portraying crucifixion imagery.

Elsa Lanchester stood 5’4″ in reality and stilts were necessary to bring her to 7 feet for the role. She also had to be wrapped in bandages that were so tight she was carried on and off the set, having to eat through a straw. Her “unusual” hairstyle was held in place by a wired horsehair cage.

Personal Note: Film sequel’s seldom live up the the original story. However, The Bride of Frankenstein is an exception. It is one of the best movie sequel’s ever, and is thought by many to be even better than the original Frankenstein.

A truly classic Universal horror film with a great laboratory creation scene. “She’s Alive! Alive!”


The Invisible Man

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The Invisible Man [Blu-ray]

Tagline – H.G. Well’s Fantastic Sensation!

Starring – Claude Rains (The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley).

Released – November, 1933

Directed By – James Whale

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – A mysterious stranger, with his eyes shielded by dark glasses and his face covered by bandages, checks into an inn located in an English village. He demands that the staff leave him completely alone while never leaving his room.

His strange behavior causes the innkeeper to call the police and order him to leave. After assaulting the innkeeper he laughs maniacally as he removes the bandages showing himself to be invisible.

This is Dr. Jack Griffin, a scientist who, while working on a strange new drug called “Monocane,” has accidentally discovered the ability to make himself invisible. Dr. Griffin reveals his secret to his one-time partner Dr. Arthur Kemp and to his fiancee Flora Cranley.

Dr. Griffin forces Dr. Kemp to return with him to the inn in order to retrieve his notes on the invisibility process and while there kills a policeman. This is just the beginning of a series of killings and robberies that follow and threaten the lives of both Dr. Kemp, who Griffin has threatened to kill, and Flora Cranley.

While Monocane has given Dr. Griffin the power of invisibility, he has overlooked one thing. The use of the drug renders its user insane. Now you see him, and now you don’t. It’s catch me if you can when pursuing an invisible man.

NOTABLE: In 2008, The Invisible Man was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The Invisible Man is considered one of the great Universal horror films of the 1930’s, and was the first American screen appearance for Claude Rains.

The films groundbreaking visual effects were created by John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall, and Frank D. Williams. Their work is often credited with the films success.

Personal Note: This is classic horror/sci-fi at it’s best. Although starting off with the use of invisibility in a comic fashion it turns deadly from then on.