February 3, 2013

Women in horror during the 1920s - part 2

As a preface to this continuing list of the real women of horror in the 1920s, I suppose I ought to tell you that I am fully aware of what was going on in Hollywood horror with Lon Chaney and his female co-stars at the time. Unfortunately, due to the infamous MGM vault fires, most of those movies no longer exist. Lamentable as it may be, I don't really care that much about Hollywood in the 1920s anyway.

For the sake of completeness, I found a picture of Lon Chaney with Ethel Grey Terry looking terrified in "The Penalty" (1920), but decided not to repost it as everyone considers it a "crime drama" rather than a horror movie. Having watched it on YouTube, it's a damned good film, but I would call it a revenge flick with horror elements. Maybe I'll review it for a "Thriller Thursday" eventually.

Similarly, I almost skipped over Martha Mansfield's role alongside John Barrymore in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920). Apparently, it's not to be confused with J. Charles Haydon's identically named 40 minute movie from the same year although, honestly, I'd never watched either of them before last night. I found the Public Domain version of the longer "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on YouTube and have embedded it below, I've also given you a picture of Martha Mansfield looking hot to make up for my faux pas.

Martha Mansfield as Millicent Carew

As they say, "even Homer nods". In my defence, I've never been able to make it through any older version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" without getting bored. The story is too well known even to those who have never read the book by Robert Louis Stephenson, and the 1920 movie version is both confusing in the middle and far from being the best adaptation. On the bright side, Martha Mansfield and several of the "prostitutes" are nice to look at.

Anyway, after that slight digression, it's time to talk about Greta Schröder (or Schroeder - either spelling is acceptable) and mention how she has been totally eclipsed in favour of Max Schreck by everyone who writes about F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu". I can't entirely redress the balance because I don't know very much about either of them except what I've read on the internet, but I've got enough information to say something.

Greta Schröder in Nosferatu (1922)

Greta Schröder as Nina

Depending on which version you watch, Greta Schröder plays either Ellen Hutter or Nina (rather than Mina) Harker. As you may know, changing the names of the characters didn't help F.W. Murnau to escape the wrath of Bram's Stoker's widow who wanted all copies of the film destroyed for plagiarism and copyright infringements. I can't say that I blame her because I'm not the biggest fan of "Nosferatu" either. I'm at a loss to explain why, nowadays, The Asylum doesn't get sued by the makers of the movies which they rip-off or even why there are so many clones of horror movies in the first place, but back in in the 1920s, copyright offences were still prosecutable albeit only in civil lawsuits.

Although Max Schreck only has 9 minutes or so on screen, his hideous Graf Orlok character is obviously the most remembered image from the film. It may surprise you to learn, however, that Greta Schröder has almost the same amount of screen time including 30 seconds playing with a cat. As far as I'm concerned, that makes her far more important. Apart from her wig (please don't let that be her real hair!), she's a lot better looking too.

Nina plays with her pussy cat.

Greta Schröder's other movies include "The Golem" (1920) where she plays the girl with the rose, and another small part in "The Lost Shadow" (1921). Both of these parts were undoubtedly due to being married to director Paul Wegener (although she was previously married to another actor). According to Wikipedia, in "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), she is portrayed as having been a famous actress during the making of "Nosferatu", but in fact she was little known.

Well, now Greta Schröder can also be known for being part of my "real women of horror" month. Here's a still from "The Golem" where Greta looks a lot prettier:

Greta gives a rose to the Golem.

If you've never seen "Nosferatu", I've embedded the full movie for you below. Greta may not do a lot except cuddle Gustav von Wangenheim and point at things, but she's still an iconic horror heroine. She's the reason why Count Orlok gets caught in the sunlight too. Let's not forget that little detail.

Tomorrow: Alexandra Sorina in "The Hands of Orlac" (1924)

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