Friday, January 6, 2017

THE EVOLUTION OF A MUMMY


A puff piece in the 19 November 1932 issue of UNIVERSAL WEEKLY extols the studio's one name star, "Karloff", for his accomplishments as an actor, including his mastery in the art of makeup (!).

Hollywood was still reeling (no pun intended) from the passing of Lon Chaney, one of its most popular and top-grossing stars, and it was desperate to fill his rather large shoes. The list of candidates was endless, and every Tom, Dick and Harry that wore greasepaint in a horror film was a potential to bear the moniker -- not the least of two named Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

What they seemed to be collectively overlooking was that the stars that were named as Chaney's successor all sat while a makeup artist behind the scenes applied the goop that would make them famous. No one would argue that Karloff's wordless role as the Frankenstein monster was nothing short of brilliant, but it was the head of Universal's makeup department, a little Greek immigrant by the name of Jack Pierce, that created the look of the monster with his skillful hands.

Syndicated columnist, Robert Grandon, glossed over this fact in his feature on Karloff that was selected by the editors of the Weekly. In it he states, "Since 'Frankenstein' there is no player on the screen who can hold a candle to his popularity as a horror artist or as a makeup artist [sic]. The mantle of Lon Chaney seems to have landed squarely on his shoulders."

More importantly, the one-page promotional piece provided readers with a short bio on Karloff and how he evolved from a construction laborer to one of Universal's biggest stars of the 1930s.


BONUS! Included here is a page from the Tuesday, May 17 1932 issue of the Hollywood trade paper, VARIETY. The article on the far right column discusses a rating of newspaper syndicates that covered Hollywood news by Tinseltown's own press agents. The ratings were based on importance. Coming in first was the Associated Press. The celebrated insider maven, Louella Parsons was seventh. Last on the list was Robert Grandon, representing Publisher's Syndicate.

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