Always formidable looking to an opponent, former heavyweight champion Primo Carnera, 6 feet, 1 inch and 280 pounds, will scare the cold cream and curlers off the average housewife with his portrayal of Frankenstein.
Thus read the caption to this United Press Telephoto sent out to newspapers on February 2nd, 1957, promoting the February 5 broadcast of the NBC Matinee Theatre adaptation of Frankenstein. The presentation, the network insisted, “will not follow the movie as done by Boris Karloff but does follow the novel”.
The stunning image of Primo Carnera in full makeup was accompanied by a comparison photo of the smiling actor and suggested for use in tandem with a short news item by UP’s Aline Mosby. As an interesting side note, Mosby was the Los Angeles-based United Press reporter who famously revealed that Marilyn Monroe had posed for a nude calendar. She would become the first American female correspondent in Moscow where, in 1959, writing about American defectors, she interviewed one Lee Harvey Oswald. After the JFK assassination, Mosby’s recollections became part of the Warren Report. In Moscow, Mosby also interviewed the notorious Doctor Demikhov, the “real life Frankenstein” whose grafting experiments led to the creation of a two-headed dog. Mosby’s would go on to serve in Paris, London, Vienna and New York. In 1979, she opened the UPI’s first bureau in Beijing, China.
Primo Carnera’s acting career would remain a sideline to his athletic endeavors. A mere ten days after the Frankenstein broadcast, Carnera was in Sydney, Australia, where he drew a record crowd of 20,000 at the White City tennis stadium for a bout against Emile Czaja, nicknamed King Kong. The Vancouver Sun reported, “The match was declared no contest when both wrestlers fell out of the ring and Carnera began punching King Kong.”
Carnera’s crazily stitched Frankenstein Monster stares dead-eyed back at us across 55 years, long gone but no longer forgotten, thanks to film archeologist George Chastain.