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!