Friday, October 19, 2012

COLIN CLIVE: THE ORIGINAL DR. FRANKENSTEIN

In the 1931 film Frankenstein, Boris Karloff stole the movie as The Monster. Even though his name in the movie was just "The Monster", he was forever known as "Frankenstein".  The scientist who actually created the monster was Dr. Henry Frankenstein. Audiences got the scare factor from Karloff's monster, but Colin Clive - who played the insane scientist got the best lines in the movie, and he was as important to the film as Karloff.

Colin Clive was born in Saint-Malo, France in 1900, to an English colonel, and he attended Stonyhurst College and subsequently Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where an injured knee disqualified him from military service and contributed to his becoming a stage actor. On stage, one of his roles was Steve Baker, the white husband of racially mixed Julie LaVerne, in the first London production of Show Boat. This production also featured Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Paul Robeson.

Clive first worked with James Whale in the Savoy Theatre production of Journey's End and subsequently joined the British community in Hollywood in the 1930s, repeating his stage role in the 1930 film version of Journey's End, which was directed by Whale.

Although Colin Clive made only three horror films, Whale's two Frankenstein films and Mad Love (1935), he is widely regarded as one of the essential stars of the genre by many film buffs. His portrayal of mad Dr. Frankenstein has proved inspiration and a launching pad for scores of other mad scientist performances in films over the years. When he screams "It's Alive!" as his creation comes to life, it is one of the cinema's best remembered lines.

Clive's first screen role, in Journey's End, was incidentally directed by James Whale. Clive played the alcoholic and tormented Captain Stanhope, a character that (much like Clive's other roles) tragically mirrored his personal life.

Clive was also an in-demand leading man for a number of major film actresses of the era, including Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Corinne Griffith and Jean Arthur. He also starred as Edward Rochester in a 1934 adaptation of Jane Eyre opposite Virginia Bruce. He was related to Clive of India and appeared in a featured role in a film biography of his relative in 1935.


From June 1929 until his death, Clive was married to actress Jeanne de Casalis. Although she worked in films and on stage, her greatest success was as a comedienne on radio sitcoms in England, playing the dithering "Mrs. Feather". De Casalis did not accompany her husband to Hollywood. They never had any children.

Colin Clive suffered from severe chronic alcoholism and died from complications of tuberculosis in 1937 at age 37. Clive's alcoholism was very much apparent to his co-stars, as he was often seen napping on set and sometimes was so intoxicated that he had to be held upright for over-the-shoulder shots. Filming of Frankenstein had to be halted a few times to let Clive sober up enough to do his scenes.

Over 300 mourners turned out for the lonely soul that died alone. One of the pallbearers was Peter Lorre. His cenotaph is located at Chapel of the Pines Crematory, but his ashes were scattered at sea in 1978 after they spent over 40 years unclaimed in the basement of the funeral parlour where his body was brought after his death. His life was tragically short, but in the few movies Colin Clive made he left a lasting impression. His crazed scientist in one of the horror genre's most beloved films will live on for generations and generations to come. In a sense Colin Clive achieved what his mad scientist character dreamed of creating - everlasting life...


6 comments:

  1. I did not know the story of Colin Clive's life and very sad and early demise. Thank you for posting this.

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  2. My brother Carlo and I love the Frankenstein films, the story of Colin Clive is sad and also the stories of others that worked with him. Mac

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  3. Aww, why was his body unclaimed for so long?

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  4. Really why his body was never claim when he a wife though they were separated. its so sad to know his ashes were scarred in the ocean. Anyone knows why

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    1. I would like to know more about this too. Why weren't the ashes claimed and why were they scattered when they were(1978) and by whom? Maybe someone can answer these questions.

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  5. I believe that the answer lay with Jeanne de Casalis, Colin's ashes could not have been claimed by anyone but his wife. Sadly, the marriage had failed by late 1933: the two were entirely mismatched: Jeanne was willful and domineering, while Colin was much quieter, and less ambitious. There might also have been Religious complications. He DID find pleasant companionship in Hollywood, though, with an Earl Carroll Showgirl named Iris Lancaster. There are actual pictures of the two, dining at the Brown Derby. I don't know if they shared the same residence, but they were an "item" from 1934, until his death...and Iris made all his Funeral arrangements. While his name and dates were placed on a Cenotaph, no one but "family" could claim his remains. Apparently, a Father, two Uncles, two Younger Sisters and a Widow...didn't give a flying FLIP...

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