Watching 1939: The Son of Frankenstein (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  The Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Release date: 

Cast:  Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Josephine Hutchinson, Donnie Dunagan, Emma Dunn, Edgar Norton

Studio:  Universal

Director:  Rowland V. Lee

Twenty-five years after Dr. Frankenstein and the monster’s death, his son Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Rathbone) and his family (Hutchinson, Dunagan) travel to the Frankenstein estate from the United States when it is left to them after his father’s death. The whole town resents Baron Frankenstein returning because of the terror his family brought on the village. When realizing the Monster (Karloff) is still alive, he follows in his father’s footsteps to bring him back to life with the help of Ygor (Lugosi).

1939 Notes:
• Boris Karloff’s last role playing Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster.
• Josephine Hutchinson’s only film released in 1939.
• Lionel Atwill was in nine films released in 1939.
• Bela Lugosi was in five films released in 1939.
• Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone were both in six films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• Peter Lorre was originally approached to play the role of Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, which he turned down, according to 1938 articles in The Hollywood Reporter.
• Director Rowland V. Lee tested shooting the film in color, which was abandoned.
• The third Frankenstein film released by Universal. The first two were Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
• Donnie Dunagan’s second film.
• The monster makeup was created by Jack P. Pierce, and it took approximately four hours to prepare Boris Karloff for the scenes.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
The year 1939 was important for a few actors in this film. For Boris Karloff, it was the last time he would have to dress in the heavy monster costume after performing the role three times.

For Basil Rathbone, the year would end up profitable as he would end up playing his most well-known role: Sherlock Holmes.

But before becoming the famed detective, Rathbone had to play Dr. Frankenstein’s misguided son in “Frankenstein’s Son.”

Moving his family across the world and excited to shed the college professor life, Rathbone’s character views Dr. Frankenstein as a genius, rather than a madman. While the monster is supposed to be scary, Rathbone’s character is one of the main villans of this film, with Bela Lugosi’s Ygor leading the madness.

“Son of Frankenstein isn’t the most important film of the year, but it’s a fun example of the Universal horror films. I would also say it’s the last high-quality Frankenstein film before Frankenstein is teamed up in the cross-reference films, with the Wolfman and his other horror friends.

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Review: Horror stars keep us in “Suspense”

Complete with creepy organ music straight from a radio serial, “Suspense” was a live television program that aired from 1949 to 1954. The show followed a radio program of the same name, which is obvious from the narration and music.

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Do you remember the forgotten man: Veterans Day edition


Joan Blondell in "Gold Diggers of 1933" singing "Remember My Forgotten Man"


Since Veteran’s Day celebrates men and women who served in the armed forces and helped fight for our country, I wanted to mention celebrity veterans who fought.  Veteran’s Day was originally known as Armistice Day when the armistice was signed between the allies and the central powers at the end of the Great War in 1918. What better way to celebrate recognizing WW1 soldiers, specifically those that were actors.
Movie fans always hear about stars who fought in World War II, like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable.  I started wondering what stars fought in The Great War (or World War I.)  I looked around on Google and  found very little. Thanks to my prior knowledge and some huge silent film fans on the IMDB message boards,  I came up with a list of actors who fought in World War I.
So today let’s remember all veteran’s, but especially those that brought us this day in the eleventh month, the eleventh day and the eleventh hour. And don’t forget the forgotten man.

Fighting with the Allied Powers

Richard Arlen, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan

Richard Arlen– Served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, but never saw combat.
Humphry Bogart– Served in the U.S. Navy on the Leviathan.  He had an injury on his face and mouth which left him with his lisp, according to the website “Star War.”
Walter Brennan– Injured by gas attack during WWI which permanently affected his vocal chords.


Clive Brooks, Maurice Chevalier, Merian C. Cooper


Clive Brook-Served in the British Army
Maurice Chevalier– Enlisted in the French army and was wounded, captured and taken prisoner by the Germans in 1914. He spent two years in Alten prison camp.
Merian C. Cooper– Fighter pilot for the United States


Ronald Colman, Walt Disney, Cedric Hardwicke


Ronald Colman– Fought in the British Army. Was wounded/gassed in Messines.
Walt Disney-Was only 16 during World War I, but lied so he could serve in the Red Cross.
Cedric Hardwick-Stage actor till career interrupted by the war. Served the British Army.


Buster Keaton, Charles Laughton, Herbert Marshall


Buster Keaton– Was a Corporal in the U.S. 40 Division in France
Charles Laughton– Joined the Army as a private in 1917. Served with the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Regiment, and later with 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment in the Western Front. Casualty of mustard gas.
Herbert Marshall-Lost part of his right leg in the war and wore a wooden leg for the rest of his life. May notice a limp in some of his movies.

Ken Maynard, Victor McLaglen, Adolphe Menjou

Ken Maynard– Fought in the U.S. Army
Victor McLaglen– When the war broke out, McLaglen joined the Irish Fusiliers and fought in the Middle East and serving as Provost Marshal (head of Military Police) for the city of Baghdad.
Adolphe Menjou– Captain of the Ambulance Corp in France


George O'Brien, Pat O'Brien, Jack Pickford


George O’Brien– Served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Fleet where he was also the Heavy Weight Boxing Champ.
Pat O’Brien– Enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1918
Jack Pickford– (brother of Mary Pickford)  U.S. Navy Reserve in 1918. Almost court-martialed for a scandal when he accepted bribes from draftees who wanted light shore duty.  His mother had a secret meeting Wilson’s personal secretary, Joseph Tumulty. Tumulty requested Jack to be discharged  to make movies in support of the Army Air Corps.


Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, John Monk Saunders


Claude Rains-Served in the Scottish Regiment in England.
Basil Rathbone– Second Lieutenant for the Liverpool Scottish. Received the Military Cross in 1918 for bravery.
John Monk Saunders– (Hollywood Writer) Served in the Air Service.


William Desmond Taylor, Ernst Thesiger, Warren William


William Desmond Taylor– Fought in the Canadian Air Force
Ernst Thesiger– Fought in the British Army
Warren William– Fought in France with the U.S. Army

Fight with the Central Powers

Fritz Lang, Bela Lugosi, Sig Rumand

Fritz Lang-Soldier in the Austrian Army and fought in Romania and Russia.
Bela Lugosi– Was an infantry lieutenant in the Hungarian Army
Sig Ruman-Served in the Imperial German Forces

*Tune into tonight’s “Radio Waves Over Hollywood” live stream on WINR at 6 p.m. ET.  Tonight’s show is about war movies!

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