Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charles Ogle and Frankenstein

The year was 1910. Edison Studios made the first screen adaptation of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. I would have wanted to be there.

The film was only about 15 minutes long, but that was fairly normal for 1910. I have not seen it, but I understand that a nitrate copy was restored a few years ago, so there is still hope. The special effects were achieved by melting a wax figure of a man, and printing the negative backwards so he emerges from the goo and becomes The Monster.

Augustus Phillips (1874 - 1944) played Dr. Frankenstein. This was his first film, and he went on to make over 140 titles in a dozen years.

The part of The Monster was played by Charles Ogle (1865 - 1940) early in his film career. Most likely he did his own makeup. I hesitate to say IMDb listed it as his eight film, because that simply may not be true. In the early days, studio records were spotty and anyone walking past a set may be called in to action. IMDb lists over 300 films for Ogle, but the number is surely higher than that.
Charles Ogle as The Monster (1910)

In addition to becoming the first Frankenstein Monster on film, Ogle appears in the very first movie serial, What Happened to Mary, made by the Edison Company in 1912. It was a dozen monthly one-reelers starring Mary Fuller (1888 - 1973) who also appeared in Frankenstein. Fuller made over 200 films in a span of only ten years starting in 1917. According to IMDb, Fuller and Ogle made 78 films together, which would not be unusual for contract players working at a silent film studio.

Charles Ogle played Bob Cratchit in the 1910 version of A Christmas Carol. It was not the first film adaptation of that famous Dickens story. Tom Ricketts (1853 - 1939) made the first one in 1908 at the Essanay Studios made famous by Charlie Chaplin.

Ogle was able to work with many early film stars. He was in two films with Mae Murray (1889 - 1965), and in 1920 appeared in Treasure Island with Lon Chaney. He is in five films with Mary Pickford (1892 - 1979), about 14 with Noah Beery (1882 - 1946), and he worked with Fatty Arbuckle, Jack Holt and William Boyd as well.

Ogles final film was The Flaming Forest (1926) and he passed away two years later. While none of his films will ever be as popular as they were back in the silent era, you may be able to catch him on a DVD or at a silent film festival. It is worth the time to research people like Ogle. The films we watch today have greatly benefited from the work of the stars in the early days of Movie Magic.