The Vampire Bat

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Fay Wray’s On the Other Hand

Published February 27, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

fay wray on the other handShe may have tamed the beast onscreen. But, as evidenced by her excellent 1989 memoir On the Other Hand, revered scream queen Fay Wray had much more trouble reigning in the flesh and blood men in her real life.

What may also be a (slight) surprise to some is how Wray (1907-2004), a produced playwright in her lifetime, writes so beautiful and economically here. As expected, it is delight to learn about her adventures shooting not only King Kong, but The Vampire Bat, Mysteries of the Wax Museum, The Most Dangerous Game and Doctor X, all of which the author claims were filmed in the same year! Just as fun are her recollections of working with such famed performers (and occasional Oscar winners) as Janet Gaynor, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, with whom she shared a sweet yet unfulfilled crush, and Natalie Wood. But more than anything, it is Wray’s divine resilience and quiet strength that shines the most here.

Domineered by a commanding mother, Wray found her early expressions of artistry (and fledging romance with a talented photographer) curtailed in Hollywood. Eventually finding her way into pictures, she ultimately married John Monk Saunders, a brilliant yet truly troubled screenwriter. Enduring Saunders’ infidelities and violent mood swings with an often silent grace, Wray perfectly presents the emotional circumstances of a modern woman constrained by her times and society’s expectations. Emerging as an important portrait of women in that era, Wray eventually breaks free from Saunders, after their divorce and his eventual suicide, and enters into an affair with famed playwright Clifford Odets, which broadens her artistic horizons. Later, she settles into a loving marriage with Robert Riskin, another writer best known for his collaborations with Frank Capra.Fay-Wray

Having retired, Wray returns to work (in such films as 1957’s Crime of Passion and television programs as Perry Mason and Alfred Hitchcock Presents) after Riskin’s sudden illness and eventual death. But it is the storytelling lessons she learned from being a muse and collaborator with such erudite men that may stand as her final statement of artistry.

From her beginning descriptions of her return visit to her native Canada, Wray fills On the Other Hand with such simple yet poetic language that it is hard not to fall in love with her and, ultimately, realize that this book may be one of her greatest cultural achievements – that ever present, very hairy beast notwithstanding.

(Used, reasonably priced copies of On The Other Hand are available from such outlets as Amazon and EBay.)

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

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Fern Emmett: The Grand, Uncredited Dame of Old School Horror!

Published February 19, 2013 by biggayhorrorfan

fern emmett
Hanging out on the sidelines while everybody else is seemingly having the major fun – this is a situation that Big Gay Horror Fan knows well.

dead men walkOf course, awesome individuals like veteran character actress Fern Emmett (1896-1946) are able to rise, grandly, above such situations. With over 200 films to her credit, Emmett often made a strong impression in small (and frequently uncredited roles) in the golden age of horror.

Dying far too young from cancer, Emmett provided hysterical back-up to Monty Wooley during the final year of her life in 1946’s big budget exploration of Cole Porter in Night and Day. In an office setting, Wooley references her secretary character every time he sings the word Madame in the song “Ms. Otis Regrets”. Emmett’s arched eye acknowledgements of his gesture secure this sequence’s place as the fictionalized film’s highlight.012

But, while she often decorated big budget projects with calculated humor, one of Emmett’s largest roles was in the PRC’s poverty row production of Dead Men Walk in 1943. Featuring horror regulars George Zucco and Dwight Frye, Emmett played Kate, a woman well aware of the undead experimentation occurring in her village. Of course, locals doubt her observations, chalking them up to grief stricken cries for help – until it is too late!

Thirteen years before this film, Emmett appeared in Majestic Pictures’ similar outing The Vampire Bat (1933), starring the elegant Lionel Atwill and the ever humbled Frye. Best known as one of the films that secured lead actress Fay Wray’s title as the original scream queen, Emmett has a couple scenes as Gertrude, the concerned companion of the film’s first female victim, an elderly woman of status.

Smaller roles in the Universal classics came towards the end of her life. In 1942’s fun and atmospheric The Mummy’s Tomb, Emmett plays dressmaker to the beautiful Elyse Knox’s Isobel, the film’s endangered heroine.

011In 1943, Emmett achieved grand victimhood by taking one for genre goddess, Evelyn Ankers, whom was portraying Beth in Captive Wild Woman. As Aquanetta, in savage ape form, storms Beth’s room with murder on her mind, Emmett’s neighbor emerges from her room. Soon Emmett’s concerned citizen is meeting her squealing fate at the hairy hands of Aquanetta’s re-focused fury.

But, whether appearing just to enact a frenzied death throes or to offer up some quick comic goodness, Emmett always made a memorable presence – proving, that while her name may not rank up with there with the Garbo’s and Dietrich’s of her era, it certainly should.013

Be sure to check back often as Big Gay Horror Fan frequently examines the glorious wonders of women in horror.

Meanwhile, Big Gay Horror Fan is always welcoming friends of the towering femmes of terror at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BigGayHorrorFan, as well!

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