September 3, 2010

Frankenstein in the Park

Colin Clive and Mae Clarke take five at a rare location outing for Frankenstein, shot between August 21 and October 3, 1931. Note the microphone hanging overhead.

Film historian Jack Theakson identifies the mike as a cylindrical Western Electric model, either the 47-A or the 53-A. The sturdy device swiveled at top and bottom, allowing the operator to aim the mike as needed. Introduced in 1928, the model proved enormously popular for broadcast and film applications and remained in use until the mid-thirties when condenser mikes were phased out in favor of the newer ribbon-type microphones.

The location here is the original Busch Gardens, the direct ancestor of today’s amusement park empire. Once the winter home of brewing magnate Adolphus Busch, the 32-acre spread was opened to the public in 1913 and became a prime tourist attraction, even getting its own Pacific Electric Railway stop. The park offered miles of scenic pathways, botanical wonders, fountains, manmade waterfalls, rare birds and a collection of vividly colored sculptures of fairy tale characters. Events included dog shows, boat rides, alfresco entertainment, and your admission ticket sometimes entitled you to free beer.

The park’s studio proximity translated into its frequent use for outdoor scenes, notably in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Gone With The Wind (1939). The Frankenstein crew stopped over on a beautiful summer day to shoot the brief, bucolic scene where the ever-patient Elisabeth tends to her convalescing fiancĂ©, Borzois lounging at their feet. By the way, Borzois were also featured in the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein (1935), seen pulling maid Una O’Connor around in the opening scene at Villa Diodati.

Interestingly, another famous horror film, Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had begun shooting on the same day as Frankenstein, August 21. The connection carried through to Busch Gardens, where Fredric March’s Jekyll would sit on a bench and, upon observing a cat attacking a nightingale, spontaneously transform into the monster Hyde.

The original Busch Gardens closed in 1937 and the city began cutting up the park for housing. A few artifacts such as terracing effects, treetrunk-shaped cement troughs, and bits of stone walls and fencing remain, scattered among the private homes in the area.

A technical description of the Western Electric 47-A Amplifier.

Remembering Busch Gardens, from Pasadena Living Magazine.

Pasadena Gardens, an illustrated history of the original Busch Gardens.

With thanks to Sally Stark for the wonderful photograph, and Jack Theakson for the technical information.


Emmy said...

Wow! That's very cool :) I love all the amazing behind-the-scenes information you provide :D

Lela Richmond said...

Another brilliant post on the behind-the-scenes goings-on of this film. Thanks for this.

zencat said...

Excellent info. Thanks.