Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
Anatomy of an Ad Campaign: James Whale's Frankenstein
Long before I knew the difference between Will Hays and Gabby Hayes, there were certain moments where the heavy hand of a censor at work could clearly be felt. Such was the case of numerous childhood viewings of A Corny Concerto, a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes send-up of Disney's Fantasia, on Chicago's WGN-TV.
Just before Bugs Bunny is about to expire from a bullet to the chest, hunter Porky Pig, in the role usually reserved for Elmer Fudd, and his unnamed hound attempt to pry our hero's paws from its chest. One second before the reveal, a giant, hairy splice would rip across the frame followed by a slow fade-in on the next scene.
It wan't until my early 20s, and a local 35mm revival house screening of an evening of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, that the mystery of the splice was finally put to rest. Instead of a gaping chest wound, we are treated to the following shot of the cwoss-dwessing wabbit's perfectly formed 'C' cups cradled in a turquoise blue Maidenform bra.
WGN also brought me my first chance(s) to see the edited version of James Whale's Frankenstein, but in this case, I can't kill the messenger for what was snipped. The cut in question involves a scene in which little Maria sits tossing the tops of flowers into a pond. The Monster appears and initially makes nice with the child, too young to judge him on his hideous physical appearance. After running out of flowers to float, the Monster turns to her and, just when you think someone is about to be keelhauled, there is a jarring fade to black.
For years, legend had it that a version exists in which Doc Frankenstein's creation gives the tyke a permanent bath. In this instance, one can't blame the WGN crew, nor does the Hays Office deserve the brunt of any abuse for the abrupt halt. Legend has it 'twas Boris, not the beastly censors, to blame for the edit. Karloff would have preferred gently placing Maria's body in the water instead of Whale's take where he was directed to chuck the moppet into the drink.
You kids have it easy today. What took me decades to see is now just a mouse-click away.
Frankenstein was Universal's big Christmas picture for 1931. The following 9 ads appeared in various newspapers across the U.S. and Canada. I tried to "restore" them to the best of my ability.
The Owosso Argus-Press - December 7, 1931.
San Jose News - December 8, 1931.
San Jose News - December 10, 1931.
Lawrence Journal-World - December 21, 1931.
Lawrence Journal-World - December 22, 1931.
Lawrence Journal-World - December 23, 1931.
Lawrence Journal-World - December 24, 1931.
Lawrence Journal-World - December 25, 1931.
Spokane Daily Chronicle - January 8, 1932.
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