June 16, 2016

Repost
The Villa Diodati



"A menagerie, with eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon: and all these, except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were masters of it."

— Percy Bysshe Shelley

In 1816, Lord Byron rented the manor known as the Villa Diodati, near Cologny, on Lake Geneva. The house already had solid literary credentials. Its original owner, Giovanni Diodati, had translated the Bible into Italian and French, and the poet John Milton (whom Mary would quote in Frankenstein) is said to have vacationed there in 1639.

Byron was joined that fateful summer by his personal physician, John Polidori, and his guests: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (soon to be Shelley), and Claire Claremont. It was here that ghosts stories were read aloud, and at the nearby guesthouse where she resided that Mary conceived of Frankenstein and first wrote these words that, slightly edited, would open chapter five of the book: “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld my man completed…

The villa still stands. It is the square building, right of center, in the GoogleEarth image below.




http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/Places/diodati.html

http://www.rc.umd.edu/reference/misc/shelleysites/tours/tour1816.html

Repost
Mary Shelley, a Tell-Tale Moon, and the creation of Frankenstein



An article in the November 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope reveals the precise moment, down to date and hour, when Mary Shelley conceived of Frankenstein.

In her introduction to the 1831 edition of the novel, Mary described a dream in which she saw “the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together”, and how “the hideous phantasm of a man” came alive “on the working of some powerful engine”. Brought awake by the startling vision, Mary wrote, “I see them still; the very room, the dark parquet, the closed shutters, with the moonlight struggling through, and the sense I had that the glassy lake and white high Alps were beyond.

Now, the moment of revelation has been pinpointed.

Dr. Don Olson, an astrophysicist at Texas State University-San Marcos, practices the unconventional science of “forensic astronomy”. Working with fellow scientists and students, matching the tantalizing clues found in text, archives and maps with the irrefutable logic of star charts, tide schedules and field expeditions, Dr. Olson has solved historical puzzles, revealing new information, new layers of meaning and a new appreciation for famous moments in history and art.

Among other discoveries, Olson and his team have re-dated Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 55 BC; explained how a rare low tide doomed the Marines at Tarawa Beach in 1943, and how a rising moon led to the tragic sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945. In significant contributions to art history, Olson has pinpointed the exact locations and the precise moments captured in paintings by such artists as William Blake, Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch, notably identifying the tortured sky in Munch’s The Scream as the planet-spanning effect of the Krakatoa eruption. Olson can even tell the exact instant when Ansel Adams clicked the shutter on his most famous photograph.

In literature, Olson has studied Chaucer, Whitman and identified Hamlet’s star as a supernova. Now, turning to Mary Shelley, Olsen and his collaborators have settled the issue of when, exactly, Frankenstein was conceived.

The clue lay in Mary’s description of moonlight “struggling” through closed shutters. Based on lunar cycles and confirming results on a field trip to Villa Diodati at Cologny, Switzerland, Olson was able to determine which of two recorded dates for Mary’s inspiration was the correct one. On June 22, 1816, a waning moon rode too low to illuminate Mary’s room, but the other documented date, June 16, proved just right as a gibbous moon rose high and bright enough to be noticed by the awakened Mary. Working out the angles, Olson is also able to attest that the moon shone into Mary’s bedroom at 2 AM.

As morning came, Mary writes, “I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that day with the words, ‘It was on a dreary night of November,’ making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.”

Thus confirmed, Mary Shelley began Frankenstein on June 16, 1816. The moon tells us so.

Sky & Telescope magazine, and a digital preview of the November 2011 issue.

Don Olson’s website at Texas State University.


April 8, 2016

The Fiancée de Frankenstein




French actress Audrey Tautou, perhaps best know as the shy and gently eccentric heroine of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s AMÉLIE (2001) posed for the May 2006 issue of Elle magazine as a goth Bride of Frankenstein in a red satin cocktail dress.

The same month, a New York Times article entitled “Sans Makeup, S’il Vous Plaît” discussed the French “Le No Makeup Look”, directly referencing the Elle issue as the cover featured Tautou, “the anti-star”, sporting what they called the “Le Bare Face Look” in direct contrast with her powdered face and dark-eyed, frizzy-haired appearance within, suggesting, perhaps, that overdone makeup is only suitable for Frankenstein’s Fiancée.

 If you ask me, both versions of Ms Tatou look great.


April 6, 2016

The Return of Frankensteinia


The hiatus is over, and it’s back to blogging! 

It has been a busy start to the year as a freelance writer — no complaints! — and setting up a new computer. Upside is, I’ve spent all my free time away from the blog researching Frankenstein and things related, and countless hours have yielded endless riches. I am very excited about the new material I have dug up and I will now begin sharing with you.

The logo you see here celebrates the 85th Anniversary of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN and will accompany upcoming posts devoted to the film. Yes, believe me, there’s still LOTS to discover and enjoy about this enduring classic. 

We’ll also be celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the novel, which actually spans a period of three years. Mary Shelley conceived of and began writing Frankenstein in the summer of 1816, and the finished book was published in 1818. 

So let’s get busy. 

December 24, 2015

Red Frankenstein by Darryl Cunningham



The movies’ flattop and bolts Frankenstein Monster rocks his Che Guevara t-shirt and pulp culture icons of the twentieth century are monster-mashed into this wonderful sketch by cartoonist Darryl Cunningham — previously profiled here as the author of Uncle Bob and the Frankenstein Monster.

Darryl posted this recently, with a shout-out to Frankensteinia, on his Facebook page. I just had to share it on the blog. 


Best of the Holidays, everyone, and here’s to a great New Year!


November 21, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
The Bride is Released!

Back in 2011, here on this blog, we determined that Universal’s original FRANKENSTEIN (1931) had actually been released on November 20, a day earlier than most sources claim. Dial up Google, check the IMDB, they still say November 21, but we have proven otherwise. Now, supported by the ads posted here, we can demonstrate that BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) actually started playing three days earlier than the “official” release date generally quoted in books and online.

The actual “release” date is, by definition, the day when a film begins playing on a regular schedule. There may be prior screenings, as “Premieres” or “Preview Showings”, but these do not count towards the actual release date. The classic, Hollywood-style Premiere is a stand-alone promotional event with fanfare, klieg lights and attending movie stars. The “Preview Showing” describes when a new film is sneaked into a movie house for the purpose of gauging the moviegoers’ reactions. For instance, the original FRANKENSTEIN (1931) was shown in a Santa Barbara theatre about three weeks prior to its actual release. This particular screening, by the way, created the stubborn myth that Boris Karloff was not invited to the film’s premiere. Nice story, but false. Point is, there was no official premiere for FRANKENSTEIN.

If you Google “Bride Frankenstein Release”, your first hit, in large characters, claims “April 22, 1935”. Go to the IMDB, and the USA release date is stated, again, as April 22. A possible explanation is that the date was quoted by Universal as the planned release date, even though films rarely if ever launched on Mondays.

Did some digging and, to settle the issue, here are two contemporary ads from the pages of the Chicago Tribune. At top, dated April 18, 1935, an ad for the RKO Palace announces, “Tomorrow.. The World Premiere!” And what a show it was, with The Bride supported by a “Huge Stage Review”. The next day ad, also shown here, from Good Friday, April 19, proclaims, “The World Premiere… Today — 10:45 A.M.” featuring “Twice the Terrific Thrills of Frankenstein”.

And there you have it. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was actually released on April 19, 1935. Not April 22.

It must be noted that Stephen Jacobs, in his superb biography Boris Karloff, More Than a Monster, points to San Francisco as the premiere city, also on April 19. Who knows, maybe Chicago’s RKO Palace scored the “World’s Premiere” claim by virtue of its early first show, 10:45 AM, while it was still 7:45 on the West Coast!

And so we wrap up our BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN 80th Anniversary series. No worries, as we return to our regular posting, I’ve lots of BRIDE material on hand and ongoing research to be posted in the weeks and months to come.

I hope you enjoyed our visit with the Bride of Frankenstein! 

November 11, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
No Greater Thrill!
















































We are used to seeing the iconic Frankenstein Monster on TV— with inevitable flattop, bolts and green face — flogging everything from soft drinks and beer to pain meds and cellphone services. Here’s an ad from way back in 1935 — the earliest I’ve seen — of The Monster as pitchman… for refrigerators!

No Greater Thrill…” the ad goes, “Than the Bride of Frankenstein… and our 1935 Kelvinator!” 

Printed large, across three columns in New Orleans newspapers, the ad is a curious example of cross-promotion stunts often suggested to exhibitors by Universal. For the original FRANKENSTEIN of 1931, theatre owners were urged to trade ads with a local bookstore stockpiling the new Photoplay edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. Here, for BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the New Orleans’ Orpheum plunked a “thrilling” new Kelvinator fridge in its lobby in exchange for the movie’s poster being displayed at the legendary Godchaux’s Department Store on Canal Street. The offbeat idea was credited to the Orpheum’s manager Victor Meyer and adman Gar Moore.

The Orpheum also fielded The Monster live and in person, working the crowds, and the ambulance-out-front routine complete with nurses on duty. A bandage-wrapped dummy Bride strapped to a gurney was trundled around town, and local newspapers participated in a search for a New Orleans’ own “bride” for The Monster.

November 6, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
The Monster Goes Dancing

The Monster crashes the annual May dance sponsored by the Fire Department, one of several “personal appearances” promoting BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, coming to the Astor Theatre in Reading, Pennsylvania.

According to the Motion Picture Herald of June 29, 1935, the “makeup stunt” was cooked up by house manager Dwight Van Meter using the Astor’s doorman as stand-in for The Monster. The transformation — said to have cost all of $2.15 — proved popular. High school seniors arranged a mock wedding — The Monster Demands a Mate! — and the very odd couple was seen driving around town in a bannered car and popping up at local nightclubs. One stop was at the swanky Riverside Club on Friday, May 17, same day the film opened. 


The Monster gag had kicked off a week earlier when the Astor ran the film’s trailer. The live Monster appeared in a green spotlight, chained to a large chair — as Karloff was in the film’s dungeon scene — rising out of the stage floor on the organ’s elevator loft, to weird sound effects. As the trailer played out, the snarling Monster broke his chains and escaped into the wings.  
  
Dubbed “unique bally”, The Monster’s manifestations in and around Reading helped drum up some excellent business at the Astor. By Sunday, the theatre was boasting 18,904 in attendance over two days and the film would be held over for a second week. 

Sources: Motion Picture Herald via the Media History Digital Library, and The Reading Eagle.