Carole Lombard

All posts tagged Carole Lombard

Hopelessly Devoted to: Ethel Griffies

Published April 27, 2023 by biggayhorrorfan

At the time of her death at the age of 97 in 1975, Ethel Griffies was deemed the oldest working actress alive. “When I was a girl,” she is stated as saying, “acting was considered a thoroughly disrespectful profession. We were thought of as vagabonds and rogues.” To wit, during her illustrious career, Griffies, perhaps best known to horror fans as the elderly ornithologist Mrs. Bundy in The Birds, definitely played her share of scrubby common folk.

But she was equally skilled at portraying the impervious and the disdainful. One of her archest celluloid adventures was in the pulpy 1933 Carole Lombard starrer White Woman. There as the regally cruel Mrs. Chisholm she causes much misery for Lombard’s put upon lounge performer. With a proud and dismissive energy, Griffies gives Chisholm enough attitude that Lombard’s character soon flees town in the arms of the grotesquely odd Horace Prin, essayed with gleeful mania by Charles Laughton. A harsher sentence for any fictional damsel is hard to imagine.

Nicely, Griffies’ credits also include such genre offerings as the classic Werewolf in London and 1940’s Stranger on the Third Floor with the always indescribable Peter Lorre, proving she maintained a career that is always worthy of rediscovery for interested cinephiles everywhere.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

Va-Va-Villainess: Kay Francis

Published January 4, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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Her specialized take on honorable, suffering women made the distinguished Kay Francis one of the highest paid female stars of the ‘30s. Considered to be “as a responsive as a violin” (by none other than William Powell), Francis used this versatility to expand her career as that decade came to a close.

Kay Francis In Name OnlyCast as Cary Grant’s manipulative wife in 1939’s In Name Only, Francis’ Maida Walker was a woman who could – and did – drive men to suicide. Subtly maneuvering the family of Grant’s unhappy Alec into her corner, Francis’ character almost destroys his future with Carole Lombard’s loving and artistic Julie Eden. A final confrontation with Julie reveals Maida’s true motivations to all, though, and Francis slinks off with shocked elegance at the film’s close out. Subtly underplaying her character’s flint hard anger, Francis shines with sense of brittle control mixed with an acidic softness here, allowing the audience to feel a bit of sympathy for her while also delighting in her downfall. Kay Francis Allotment Wives

Taking the vengefulness of Maida a step further, Francis’ dominating Sheila Seymour is a crime boss extraordinaire in 1945’s Allotment Wives. The head of a ring of women determined to milk soldiers of their savings, Francis is coldly charming once again here. Even when gunning down her opposition in cold blood, Francis shines with a hypnotic allure. As with In Name Only, Francis connects fully with the character’s emotional softness, manifested by this character’s beloved daughter, allowing the audience to feel a twinge of compassion for her actions even when they are homicidal in nature.

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While not as well remembered as Bette Davis, her professional rival at Warner Brothers, Francis still has her devoted fans and a number of books and a website dedicated to her career and life.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

Unsung Heroines of Horror: Cecil Cunningham

Published December 12, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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A product of the Broadway and vaudeville stages, the distinguished Cecil Cunningham was a character actress who, for decades, supported such cinema queens as Hedy LaMarr, Greta Garbo, Mary Astor, Carole Lombard (pictured below) and Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, smart cinema enthusiasts know that she was a presence in her own right, making a strong impression in smaller roles that often weren’t even credited onscreen.

thZJV2T4DG.jpgThankfully for horror fans, Cunningham was given one of her most prestigious undertakings in the fun Warner Brothers’ genre fest The Hidden Hand. Released in 1942, this gem found this regal celluloid queen in fine form as Lorinda Channing, the head of a family of greedy, mentally unbalanced socialites. Pretending to be near her death, Channing invites her nearest and dearest to her estate. Surmising that they all want her cold for her cash, this devious diva enlists the help of her brother, a deranged killer who has just escaped an asylum, to assist her in her plotting against her avaricious kinfolk.

Filled with weird humor and old dark house theatrics, this project also gave Cunningham plenty of room to utilize many of her acting tools. She brings a proud and strange presence to Channing, reveling in a role that would have normally been filled by a Boris Karloff or Laird Cregar type. Her work here is definitely the precursor to contemporary artists like Deanna Dunagan and Lin Shaye, fine actresses, who have embellished and empowered such films as The Visit and Insidious with their distinguished essences.

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Cunningham, who also appeared in 1934’s hard to find Return of The Terror and Ladies They Talk About, an early WIP effort, died at the age of 70 in 1959. Sixty years later, her filmography (and her genre credits, in particular) seems truly ripe for rediscovery.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

Carole Lombard is Supernatural!

Published December 18, 2012 by biggayhorrorfan

carole lombard supernatural
Oh, the things that Big Gay Horror Fan wishes he never knew: Love in a rectory with the bulbous priests of destruction – The wraith of the Dragon Lady as she paraded, shoeless, through the offices of hell – The call of the self hating id as it wakes him early in the morning and hounds his every waking second! All are things that I wish I could forget! But the discovery that Golden Age screen goddess Carole Lombard appeared in a Universal horror film? That’s a fact that I want to treasure forever!

Best known as the snappy comedienne in such treasured flicks as Twentieth Century, My Man Godfrey and Nothing Sacred, 1933’s Supernatural was Lombard’s only attempt at an occult flavored offering. Directed by Victor Halperin, coming off the grand delights provided by 1932’s White Zombie, Supernatural has all the components of being a runaway success – including a powerful feminist stance provided by Vivienne Osborne’s sadistic murderess, Ruth Rogan. Yet, despite it moments of intense enjoyability, this Supernatural is a bit of a structural mess.

Supernatural 1Quite simply, there is too much going on for a solid aura of creepiness to establish itself. 1941’s The Wolf Man had its quaint, gypsy laden countryside with gothic overtones while 1931’s Frankenstein mixed a bit of laboratory madness into that mix. But, Supernatural features a friendly ghost, a mad scientist type, a female serial killer, a murderous charlatan psychic and a possession subplot, and bops from set piece to set piece, ultimately producing a movie that never quite gels.

Still Lombard, whom apparently felt ill-at-ease away from her more comic playing grounds, delights with grisly glee once Roma, her heiress character, is taken over by the recently executed murderess, played in the film’s opening moments, with chilling ease by character actress Osborne.

More enjoyable, though, are the subtle Pre Code touches, including roaches scattering about a cackling landlady’s sink and Lombard’s breast being groped AND one grand, glass enclosed set piece that is introduced in the latter part of the film. carole_lombard-theredlist

Determined to stop Rogan’s ghostly influence after her death, Carl Houston, a concerned doctor played by H.B. Warner, is experimenting on her corpse in a window coated laboratory, located in a penthouse suite in the heart of the city. Halperin brings all the glorious mood that would have made this movie truly memorable to this sequence. As Lombard and the handsome Randolph Scott discover what Houston is up to, Rogan’s influence is truly felt and one wishes that screenwriter Garnett Weston would have found a way to focus more of the story here.

Still, true fans of women in horror are sure to delight in sassy Lombard’s appearance in a dusty horror flick and the movie (available only on VHS) is definitely worth tracking down if only to gander at all of its (too) plentiful elements of spook.

Be sure to check back as Big Gay Horror Fan often uncovers the femmes of fright. Keep a (well arched) eye on!/BigGayHorrorFan, as well.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!