Elsa Lanchester stands next to gods and monsters
28 October 2011
She was director James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935), of course, and she would have been 109 today if she were still alive. Elsa Lanchester, born on this day in 1902 and died in 1986. That hair and that wide-eyed horror at her condition is so memorable, as much to me as the original Frankenstein (1931)’s distress. She was created solely to be The Monster’s partner, his friend and bride; yet when she looks on him and realizes her fate, she cannot stop screaming.
I can’t ever think of these films without thinking of the film Gods and Monsters (1998), a vivid fictional account of James Whale’s later years as an aging gay man in Hollywood during the horrors of the 1950s, a man whose memories become confused with his films. One of the best gay films ever, and all the better for Ian McKellan’s magnificent performance. Yet I’ve always wondered what kind of a tale might be told not by the god or the monster, but the Bride whose creation — like Eve’s — so much presumed women’s compliance with male plans and fantasies.