Thursday, June 24, 2010

Carl Laemmle, Jr.

Carl Laemmle Jr.'s father was the founder of Universal Pictures in 1912 and they are the oldest continuous production company in America.  Universal is now owned by NBC.  Carl Sr. produced hundreds of films, most in the early silent era, so they were very short.

Carl Jr. had a short but distinguished career as a producer and writer.  He lived from 1908 to 1979, but only worked in movies from 1926 to 1936.  It was Carl Laemmle, Jr. who is sometimes credited with talking Universal Pictures into making horror films, and they have certainly done a great job.  But if you look at Carl Sr.'s list, it was he who produced the 1923 silent version of Hunchback of Notre Dame, and in 1925, Phantom of the Opera both with Lon Chaney.  Perhaps they were not interested in continuing horror flicks and Carl Jr. helped them along.  I'm glad he did.

1931 brought us Dracula and Frankenstein, Lugosi and Karloff.  That would be all I need for a great Halloween!  The next year included Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Mummy, and Destry Rides Again!  (You already know I like all things Destry.)

1933 The Invisible Man
1934 The Black Cat with Karloff and Lugosi
1935 The Bride of Frankenstein

In 1936 he ended his career as producer with the musical, Show Boat.  Not exactly a horror film (unless you hate musicals), but neither were most of his 143 efforts.  It is the eight, classic horror films for which Carl Laemmle, Jr. will be remembered. 

I know, I didn't mention any bit part players today.  How about Dwight Frye who played Fritz in Frankenstein?  Among his 60 film credits, he was in Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein and he had an extra part in The Son of Frankenstein (1939).  He was also in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman in 1943.  It is a shame he died before Young Frankenstein was made!

If you like horror films, these should all be in your permanent collection.  They spawned an entire genre that continues to today.  Look for collections that include extra features.

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