The Black Cat

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Gladys Cooper!

Published November 26, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

Gladys-Cooper mainShe provided all sorts of official mayhem as the regal Myrna Hartley in Universal’s fun 1941 horror effort The Black Cat, but the divine Gladys Cooper (1881-1971) truly created cinema’s evilest woman in a flick whose origins were dramatic not suspense filled. As Bette Davis’s manipulative, controlling mother, Mrs. Henry Dale, in the magnificent 1942 sob fest Now, Voyager, Cooper created a character whose black will was palpable. Determined to keep her meek daughter Charlotte subservient to her, Cooper invests Dale with an iron fisted bull headedness that makes audiences truly feel for her soft spoken offspring. Eventually, when Charlotte finally discovers the will to defy her mother, Cooper lets some admiration and playfulness seep into her characterization. But her commitment to Dale’s assessment that a late in life child must be a mother’s companion truly makes this one of the truest, scariest individuals ever brought to the screen.Gladys 1

Cooper, who was considered one of the most stunning women in England during her youth, brought a more modest haughtiness and a seeming nod to her fashion plate years with her presence, the previous year, in The Black Cat. Being cuckolded by Basil Rathbone’s sly and slimy Montague, of course, naturally sets her Myrna on a bad course and Cooper drips with casual venom as she causes (often deadly) problems for her co-stars, (the sweet) Anne Gwynne and (the impervious) Gale Sondergaard.

Gladys BC 3In her later years, Cooper graced such (often macabre) anthology shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. In fact, her trio of The Twilight Zone episodes are among some of the highest regarded of the series. The most famous of these, perhaps, is 1962’s Nothing in the Dark, in which a young and beautiful Robert Redford welcomed Cooper’s Wanda Dunn to the hereafter as a very appealing version of death. She, rightfully, enacts Dunn’s controlling fear and suspiciousness there. Thankfully, both The Outer Limits and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. utilized Cooper’s more mysterious charms to play mediums of varying degrees of authenticity in fun episodes of those series, as well.

Gladys 4But perhaps nothing establishes Cooper’s importance better than an appearance by her former co-star Davis on a 1971 episode of The Dick Cavett Show. Reminiscing about Cooper, who had just died, Davis marvels about what a beautiful person, inside and out, she was. A sincere appreciation from one diva to another? Has a higher honor ever been established?

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

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Anne Gwynne: Classic Horror’s Most Charming Presence!

Published January 24, 2013 by biggayhorrorfan

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“You dare to tamper with my attendants, to send this slinking cat Sonja to worm her way into my confidence?!?” – Princess Aura to Ming re: Anne Gwynne’s evil Lady Sonja, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

Oh, how Big Gay Horror Fan recalls the many moods of the limbless whores who raised him. One minute they were as benevolent as Jennifer Jones in saint mode, jockeying for an Oscar. The next, they were riding their trembling offspring with passionate insults, draped in their best dominatrix nun garb. Such duality in two 4’10’’ bodies!

annegwynneflash_gordon_fullThat must be why I admire legendary Universal starlet Anne Gwynne (1918-2003) with such passion. Always contagiously beguiling, Gwynne played cowgirls, savage jungle maidens, greedy heirs and evil space conspirators throughout her career. Her charming friendliness often shines above her attempts at deep characterization – though her Lady Sonja in 1940’s Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a clipped and believably evil delight – but she is always a joy to watch.

Gracing the screen in un-credited roles in 1939, her first major genre participation occurred in 1940 with the above mentioned Flash Gordon and the Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi vehicle Black Friday. She is sweet as Karloff’s daughter in Friday, but much more memorable horror turns came with 1941’s Black Cat, Weird Woman and House of Frankenstein (both 1944). Frankenstein found her playing the resourceful ingénue, but she was more morally ambiguous in Cat, playing a greedy relative with an expensive agenda. Taking memorability a step further, as Lon Chaney Jr.’s sensitive bride in Woman, she is a confused young islander raised in the practice of voodoo. Once settled into mainland society, she tries to give up the ways that are natural to her (a circumstance that many Big Gay Horror Fans have flirted with over the years)but the vengeful plotting of her husband’s colleague (played with vicious purpose by Gwynne’s friend and fellow genre vixen Evelyn Ankers)sends her retreating back to her former practices. anne gwynne black cat

Of course, as with many performers, the full-bodied roles died away for Gwynne within a matter of years. As Tess Trueheart in 1947’s Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, she is given little to do. Still stunningly beautiful, she does command attention in an enjoyable bit with former co-star Karloff.

Gwynne, whose final genre appearance was in 1958’s Teenage Monster, is also notable for a providing an interesting genealogy of cult entertainment. Her daughter Gwynne Gilford acted in such films as 1972’s Beware! The Blob and 1980’s Fade to Black while grandson Chris Pine is best known as James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films.

gwynne-gruesomeMore information can be gathered on Gwynne at www.annegwynne.com.

Meanwhile, Big Gay Horror Fan is always welcoming lovers of the Universal Horror Ladies at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BigGayHorrorFan!

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