Originally called the Villa Belle Rive, Byron named it the Villa Diodati after the family that owned it. The family was distantly related to Italian translator Giovanni Diodati, uncle of Charles Diodati, the close friend of poet John Milton. Despite the presence of a plaque at the Villa heralding a supposed visit of Milton in 1638, in fact the villa was not built until 1710, long after Milton’s death.
In the summer of 1816 Lord Byron settled at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with his personal physician, John William Polidori. There Byron befriended the poet Percy Blysshe Shelley, and Shelley’s future wife Mary Godwin. He was also joined by Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, with whom he’d had an affair in London.
Kept indoors at the Villa Diodati by the “incessant rain” of “that wet, ungenial summer” over three days in June, the group turned to reading fantastical stories, including Fantasmagoriana (Tales of the Dead). On the 16th of June, 1816, Lord Byron read Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, and challenged that each guest write a ghost story, which culminated in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, John Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, the progenitor of the romantic vampire genre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.
1816 was known as the Year Without Summer because Mount Tambora had erupted in the Dutch East Indies the previous year, casting enough ash in to the atmosphere to block out the sun and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe. This pall of darkness inspired Byron to write his poem, saying he “wrote it… at Geneva, when there was a celebrated dark day, on which the fowls went to roost at noon, and the candles were lighted as at midnight”. Literary critics were initially content to classify it as a “last man” poem, telling the apocalyptic story of the last man on earth. Themes in Polidori’s tale would continue to influence Bram Stoker’s Dracula and eventually the whole vampire genre. Shelley’s Frankenstein is peerless.
The villa is featured in the film Gothic, the 1986 film directed by Ken Russell, which is a fictionalized tale based on the Shelleys’ visit with Lord Byron in Villa Diodati, the same event has also been portrayed in the films Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Haunted Summer (1988), among others. The villa also featured in Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Haunted, where the frame plot takes place in a modern version of the Villa Diodati, and Tim Power’s novel The Stress of Her Regard has several scenes set there featuring Byron, Polidori and the Shelley’s.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s home is called “Belrive”
Birthday wishes are in order for Universal Pictures, which as widely noted is celebrating its centennial all year long. Founded by Carl Laemmle, Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. The studio sent out 100 facts about its history, which makes for a good read…. I’ve cut the list down to my favourite 50:
1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.
2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.
3. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”
4. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.
5. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.
6. American Graffiti’s budget was exactly $777,777.77, and it was delivered on time – and on budget.
7. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird during the shooting of one sequence.
8. The Munster’s House on Colonial Street was originally built for the 1946 production, So Goes My Love.
9. The title of the movie Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote: “You’ve got to do the right thing.”
10. According to reports, during some of the Russian roulette scenes in the movie The Deer Hunter, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension per Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.
11. In the first scene of the movie Double Indemnity, when Walter first kisses Phyllis, there is a wedding ring on Walter’s hand. Fred MacMurray was married and the ring was not noticed until post-production.
12. When Bela Lugosi, star of the monster classic, Dracula, died in 1956, he was buried wearing a black silk cape similar to the one he wore in the film.
13. At 29,500 sq. ft., Universal Studios’ Stage 12 is the 7th largest soundstage in the world. It was originally built for the 1929 musical Broadway.
14. Carl Laemmle Jr. offered James Whale a list of more than 30 film adaptations he could direct and out of them all, Whale picked Frankenstein. It was his transition from war movies to monster pics.
15. Vans, the company behind the checkerboard shoes worn by Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) in the cult movie classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, became a national brand after the film’s release in 1982.
16. Actor Charlton Heston “parted” the Red Sea attraction on the Universal Studios Tour at the attraction’s grand opening in 1973.
17. The Universal sound technician, Jack Foley, developed the method of creating and recording many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. Today this method is named after him.
18. The legendary thriller and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock did not win any Academy Awards while working with Universal.
19. In the infamous shower scene in Psycho, the sound of the knife-stabbing actress Janet Leigh was made by plunging a knife into a melon.
20. The legendary studio head Irving Thalberg got his start in show business as Carl Laemmle’s personal secretary in 1917.
21. In 1995, Waterworld generated worldwide attention for being the most expensive film made to date. Unable to live up to expectations at the box office, the film eventually turned a profit due to strong home video sales and inspired one of the most popular theme park attractions of all time.
22. About 25% of the film Jaws was shot from water level so audiences could better relate to treading water.
23. In the film The Invisible Man, the director dressed Claude Rains in black velvet and filmed him against a black velvet background to create the effect that he wasn’t there.
24. Some of the props used in the 2005 version of King Kong were original props from the 1933 version. These props came from Peter Jackson’s personal collection and include the Skull Island spears and brightly painted shield, and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene.
25. In Jurassic Park, a guitar string was used to make the water ripple on the dash of the Ford Explorer by attaching it to the underside of the dash beneath the glass.
26. Universal entered the 3-D market with the film, It Came from Outer Space (1953)
27. Universal won its first Best Picture Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.
28. Steven Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws, “Bruce.”
29. In the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, when Louise is on the phone asking for the operator, the music playing on the radio is the theme song to Written on the Wind, which was made at Universal the year prior.
30. It took two-and-a-half hours a day to apply Lon Chaney’s makeup in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
31. The first American film to show a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.
32. In the film, Scarface, an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel is Tony’s “little friend.”
33. Alfred Hitchcock did not choose to conclude the film, The Birds, with the usual “THE END” title because he wanted to leave the audience with the feeling of unending terror and uncertainty.
34. The locusts in the 1999 film, The Mummy, were mostly computer-generated, however, some live grasshoppers were used. Hours before filming they were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish.
35. The average shot length in the film Vertigo is 6.7 seconds.
36. The permanent set in Stage 28 was created to be a replica of the landmark The Paris Opera House, for the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.
37. When you hear the sound of the crowd cheering, “Spartacus! Spartacus!” in the movie Spartacus, it was actually a pre-taped recording from a 1959 football game at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium.
38. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.
39. The diner in the movie The Sting is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future.
40. The title of the film Streets of Fire starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane, was drawn from a Bruce Springsteen song, from his album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The song, unfortunately, does not appear in the film.
41. 1920’s Shipwrecked Among Cannibals was the first film to gross $1,000,000 for Universal.
42. Prominent Universal Director Edward Laemmle was the nephew of Universal Founder Carl Laemmle. He directed over 60 films (including shorts) for Universal.
43. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is only the second time Bela Lugosi would play “Dracula” in a feature film. (He played other vampires in the interim, but not Dracula.)
44. In 1973’s High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood, one of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.
45. In 1992’s Scent of Woman, Al Pacino repeatedly shouts “Hoo-ah.” “Hoo-ah” comes from the military acronym “HUA” which stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”
46. The Blues Brothers “Bluesmobile” is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.
47. 1971’s Play Misty for Me was set in Carmel, CA, where Clint Eastwood later lived and became mayor in 1986.
48. “The Bride” in “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only one of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters to have never killed anyone.
49. Throughout its hundred year legacy, Universal brought to audiences the first films of talents such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, Ben Stiller, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Amy Heckerling, Spike Jonze, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow.
50. More than 100 million people from around the world have taken the Universal Studios “studio tour.” While the tour officially began in 1964, Universal has been welcoming the public to our studio since 1915 and the silent era.
Dwight Iliff Frye (February 22, 1899 – November 7, 1943) was an American stage and screen actor, noted for his appearances in the classic horror films ‘Dracula’ (1931), ‘Frankenstein’ (1931), ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933), and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935).
Frye was born in Salina, Kansas. Nicknamed “The Man with the Thousand-Watt Stare” and “The Man of a Thousand Deaths”, he specialized in the portrayal of mentally unbalanced characters, including his signature role, the madman Renfield in Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. Later that same year he also played the hunchbacked assistant in the film Frankenstein. (This character, named Fritz, is often mistakenly referred to as Ygor, a character originated by Bela Lugosi in the later film Son of Frankenstein.)
Frye also portrayed Wilmer Cook (the “gunsel”) in the original movie version of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon in 1931, the role later played by Elisha Cook, Jr. in the remake a decade later.
He also had memorable roles in The Invisible Man (1933) as a reporter, The Crime of Dr. Crespi (1935), and in the classic Bride of Frankenstein (1935), in which he played Karl. The part of Karl was originally much longer and many extra scenes of Frye were shot as a sub plot but were edited out of the final version to shorten the running time as well as to appease the censor boards. The most memorable of these “cut scenes” was that of Karl killing the Burgomaster portrayed by E. E. Clive. No known prints of these scenes survive today, but photographs of the scene were used to illustrate the scene’s synopsis and are included in the recent Universal Studios DVD release of the film.
During the early 1940s, Frye alternated between film roles and appearing on stage in a variety of productions ranging from comedies to musicals, as well as appearing in a stage version of Dracula. In 1924 he played the Son in a translation of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. There was a Dwight Frye Fan Club at one time, but it is currently dormant. He also made a contribution to the war effort by working nights as a tool designer for Lockheed Aircraft.
Frye’s strong resemblance to former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker helped land him what would have been a substantial role in the biopic Wilson (1944), based on the life of U. S. President Woodrow Wilson, but he died of a heart attack while riding on a bus in Hollywood a few days before filming was to have begun. Frye was interred in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
Colin Clive (20 January 1900, Saint-Malo, Ille-et-Vilaine, France – 25 June 1937) was an English stage and screen actor best remembered for his portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein in James Whale’s two Universal Frankenstein films ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’.
Clive was born in France, to an English colonel, and he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where an injured knee disqualified him from military service and contributed to his becoming a stage actor. Clive first worked with James Whale in the Savoy Theatre production of Journey’s End and subsequently joined the British community in Hollywood in the 1930s, repeating his stage role in the 1930 film version of ‘Journey’s End’, which was also directed by Whale.
Although Colin Clive made only three horror films, Whale’s two Frankenstein movies and Mad Love (1935), he is widely regarded as one of the essential stars of the genre by many film buffs. His portrayal of mad Dr. Frankenstein has proved inspiration and a launching pad for scores of other mad scientist performances in films over the years. In the film, the character is renamed Henry Frankenstein (a later film shows his tombstone bearing the name “Heinrich”) and he played opposite British actor Boris Karloff as the Creature. Clive reprised his role in the superior 1935 sequel, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, which reunited Clive, Whale and Karloff, as well as first giving Frankenstein the official title of Baron.
Clive was also an in-demand leading man for a number of major film actresses of the era, including Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Jean Arthur. He also starred as Edward Rochester in a 1934 adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ opposite Virginia Bruce. He was related to Clive of India and appeared in a featured role in a film biography of his relative in 1935.
From June 1929 until his death, Clive was married to actress Jeanne de Casalis. Although she worked in films and on stage, her greatest success was as a comedienne on radio sitcoms in England. De Casalis did not accompany her husband to Hollywood. There has been speculation that de Casalis was a lesbian and Clive either gay or bisexual, and their marriage was one of convenience. David Lewis, the longtime companion of Clive’s frequent director James Whale, flatly states that Clive was not gay.
Colin Clive suffered from severe chronic alcoholism and died from complications of tuberculosis in 1937 at age 37. Clive’s alcoholism was very much apparent to his co-stars, as he was often seen napping on set and sometimes was so intoxicated that he had to be held upright for over-the-shoulder shots. Not only did his ailment contribute to his ultimate demise, it also mentally took its toll. But Clive was also tormented by the medical threat of amputating his long-damaged leg. It was a final demon to taunt this brilliant, sad, young actor before his death.
Forrest J. Ackerman recalls visiting Clive’s body in the funeral parlour. “As I recall, he had a dressing gown on and he was calmly lying there. And he looked very much like that scene in Bride“. Over 300 mourners turned out for the lonely soul that died alone. One of the pallbearers was former co-star Peter Lorre.
His cenotaph is located at Chapel of Pines Crematory, but his ashes were scattered at sea in 1978 after they spent over 40 years unclaimed in the basement of the funeral parlor where his body was brought after his death.
Karloff is best remembered for his roles in classic horror films and his portrayal of Frankensteins monster; his popularity following Frankenstein was such that for a brief time he was billed simply as “Karloff” or “Karloff the Uncanny.” His best-known non-horror role is as the Grinch, as well as the narrator, in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966).
In 1909, Pratt travelled to Canada and began appearing in stage shows throughout the country; and some time later changed his professional name to “Boris Karloff”. Karloff always claimed he chose the first name “Boris” because it sounded foreign and exotic, and that “Karloff” was a family name. However, his daughter Sara Karloff publicly denied any knowledge of Slavic forebears, “Karloff” or otherwise.
Once Karloff arrived in Hollywood, he made dozens of silent films, but work was sporadic, and he often had to take up manual labor such as digging ditches and driving a cement truck to earn a living. A number of his early major roles were in movie serials, such as ‘The Masked Rider’ (1919), in Chapter 2 of which he can be glimpsed onscreen for the first time, ‘The Hope Diamond Mystery’ (1920) and ‘King of the Wild’ (1930). In these early roles he was often cast as an exotic Arabian or Indian villain. A key film which brought Karloff recognition was ‘Five Star Final’, a harshly critical film about tabloid journalism which was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture of 1931-32.
But it was in James Whale’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1931), in his role as Frankenstein’s monster which made him a star. The bulky costume with four inch platform boots made it an arduous role but the costume and torturously administered make-up produced the classic image. Boris was lucky to get the part, not least as it had supposedly been offered to Bela Lugosi, who declined it. A year later, Karloff played another iconic character, Imhotep in ‘The Mummy’. Also quickly followed by ‘The Old Dark House’ with Charles Laughton and the star role in ‘The Mask of Fu Manchu’. These films all very much confirmed his newfound stardom.
Karloff played Frankenstein’s monster in two other films, the superior sequel, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935) and ‘Son of Frankenstein’ (1939), with the latter also featuring Lugosi. Karloff would revisit the Frankenstein mythos in film several times afterward. The first would be as the villainous Dr. Niemann in ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944), where Karloff would be contrasted with Glenn Strange’s portrayal of The Monster.
Karloff returned to the role of the “mad scientist” in 1958’s ‘Frankenstein 1970’, as Baron Victor von Frankenstein II, the grandson of the original inventor. The finale reveals that the crippled Baron has given his own face (i.e. Karloff’s) to The Monster. The actor appeared at a celebrity baseball game as The Monster in 1940, hitting a gag home run and making catcher Buster Keaton fall into an acrobatic dead faint as The Monster stomped into home plate.
While the long, creative partnership between Karloff and Lugosi never led to a close mutual friendship, it produced some of the actors’ most revered and enduring productions, beginning with ‘The Black Cat’. Follow-ups included ‘Gift of the Gab’ (1934), ‘The Raven’ (1935), ‘The Invisible Ray’ (1936), ‘Black Friday (1940), ‘You’ll Find Out’ (also 1940), and ‘The Body Snatcher’ (1945). During this period, he also starred with Basil Rathbone in ‘Tower of London’ (1939).
An enthusiastic performer, he returned to the Broadway stage in the original production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ in 1941, in which he played a homicidal gangster enraged to be frequently mistaken for Karloff. He also appeared as Captain Hook in the play ‘Peter Pan’. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in ‘The Lark’, by the French playwright Jean Anouilh about Joan of Arc.
In later years, Karloff hosted and acted in a number of television series, most notably ‘Thriller’, ‘Out of this World’, and ‘The Veil’, the last of which was never broadcast and only came to light in the 1990s. In the 1960s, Karloff appeared in several films for American International Pictures, including ‘The Comedy of Terrors’, ‘The Raven’ and ‘The Terror’, the latter two directed by B-movie legend Roger Corman, and ‘Die, Monster, Die’.
Karloff ended his career by appearing in four low-budget Mexican horror films: ‘The Snake People’, ‘The Incredible Invasion’, ‘The Fear Chamber’ and ‘House of Evil’. This was a package deal with Mexican producer Luis Vergara. Karloff’s scenes were directed by Jack Hill and shot back to back in Los Angeles in the spring of 1968. The films were then completed in Mexico. All four were released posthumously, with the last, The Incredible Invasion, not released until 1971, two years after Karloff’s death.
Boris Karloff lived out his final years at his cottage, ‘Roundabout,’ in the Hampshire village of Bramshott. After a long battle with arthritis and emphysema, he contracted pneumonia, succumbing to it on 2 February 1969. He was cremated, following a requested low-key service, at Guildford Crematorium, Godalming, Surrey, where he is commemorated by a plaque in the Garden of Remembrance. A memorial service was held at St Paul’s, Covent Garden (The Actors’ Church), London, where there is also a plaque.