Universal during the golden age of film making was known for using many of the same actors and actresses. UMU has endeavored to present the authoritative (we hope) list on all the actors that played throughout the Universal Monsters films of the 30’s to 40’s.
What makes the Universal Monsters films from the classic era so special is of how they belong to a different time in film making. They belong to a time where there was a real artistry and an originality to the visions and concepts that were being presented. And the stars? There are no other stars like the ones that worked in Hollywood back then. Setting the bar high for modern day talents like Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, we had men and women like Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, and Lon Chaney, Jr. to name a few. For those that love the classic, golden age of Hollywood and for those that enjoy the Universal Monsters, there’s a very thick line of recurring connectivity between the films well before Universal launched their second phase of movies which saw monsters cross paths with other monsters. We had a revolving door of horror!
The revolving door of horror at Universal saw actors like Boris Karloff and David Manners re-appear in movies over a period of time and while there are countless actors who performed in Universal pictures, we’re just going to focus on a select few that worked within the main line of Universal Monsters films.
The film that started it all had Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Dwight Frye, and Edward Van Sloan. Lugosi was the infamous Count Dracula, Manners played John Harker, Frye was Renfield, and Van Sloan was Van Helsing.
Dracula opened February 12, 1931 and nine months later on November 21, Frankenstein was released.
The second Universal Monsters film starred Boris Karloff as The Monster. It would also see Dwight Frye return, along with Edward Van Sloan, and mark the first time actors Lionel Belmore and Michael Mark would appear in a Universal Monsters films.
Frankenstein opened November 21, 1931 and almost one full year later The Mummy would come to the big screen on December 22nd.
The Mummy was brought to life by Boris Karloff, the “uncanny” actor that brought Frankenstein’s Monster a level of sympathy to match his menace. Karloff would be joined by Dracula alum, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan.
The Mummy opened December 22, 1932 and, once again, almost a full year later on November 13th, The Invisible Man released.
The Invisible Man (1933)
Claude Rains starred as The Invisible Man and would act opposite Una O’ Connor and E.E. Clive; both talents like Lionel Belmore and Michael Mark would appear in future Universal Monsters films. The Invisible Man also starred Dwight Frye, along with John Carradine in an uncredited role.
The Invisible Man opened November 13, 1933 and it would be the last Universal Monsters film released during what could now be seen as their phase one of sorts.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
James Whale’s massively successful follow up to his 1931 classic featured Boris Karloff, Dwight Frye, Una O’ Connor, E.E. Clive, Marilyn Harris, and yet again, John Carradine in an uncredited role.
Bride of Frankenstein opened April 22, 1935.
Werewolf of London (1935)
Werewolf of London was the Universal picture that pre-dated The Wolf Man by six years. This film starred Valerie Hobson, who played Henry’s fiancee in Bride of Frankenstein. Actors Lawrence Grant and J.M. Kerrigan would also appear.
Werewolf of London opened on May 13, 1935 and the following May would see the release of…
Dracula’s Daughter had Edward Van Sloan reprise his 1931 role of Van Helsing, along with seeing E.E. Clive cast in a completely different part. This would be the last Universal Monsters film for Edward Van Sloan.
Dracula’s Daughter would not see a follow up until three years later when Universal would revisit Frankenstein in…
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The third picture in the successful Frankenstein film series starred Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together, as they would also act alongside Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, and Michael Mark.
Son of Frankenstein opened on January 13, 1939. This would be the last Universal Monsters movie during the 30’s.
The 1940’s would see Universal give audiences their first true monster worthy of joining the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein when they released The Wolf Man in 1941. But until they did that, we would see another group of sequels/reboots and the beginning of the inter-connectivity between monsters.
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
The Invisible Man Returns starred Cecil Kellaway and Forrester Harvey. While they were not the main leads, both actors would later appear in future installments of Universal’s monster movies.
The Invisible Man Returns opened January 12, 1940. That same year saw the release of The Mummy’s Hand, which also starred Cecil Kellaway as “The Great Solvani.”
The Wolf Man (1941)
The Wolf Man was undoubtedly the major release of the 40’s and would star Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi, and Claude Rains in his final Universal Monsters film.
The Wolf Man opened December 12, 1941 and would see many of the same actors return the following year in…
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
In the 1942 picture, Lon Chaney, Jr. would play Frankenstein’s Monster, and star opposite Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, Michael Mark, Evelyn Ankers, Cedric Hardwicke, and Bela Lugosi.
The Ghost of Frankenstein opened March 13, 1942 and would see Cedric Hardwicke re-appear in Invisible Agent, four months later in the July 31st release.
Lon Chaney, Jr. would portray Kharis in the October 23rd film.
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943)
The first major film to connect monster movies Frankenstein and The Wolf Man together, we’d see Lon Chaney, Jr., Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dwight Frye in his final Universal Monsters film.
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man opened March 5, 1943.
Son of Dracula (1943)
Son of Dracula, opening November 5th, would see Lon Chaney, Jr. and Evelyn Ankers act opposite one another yet again.
The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)
On June 9, 1944, Universal would release The Invisible Man’s Revenge which starred John Carradine and Evelyn Ankers in her final Universal Monsters film.
John Carradine would also appear in The Mummy’s Ghost, which released the following month and starred Lon Chaney, Jr. as Kharis, once again.
House of Frankenstein (1944)
This film was the third Universal Monsters release in 1944. Opening on December 1st, the film starred Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., and John Carradine.
The fourth and final film for Universal’s Monsters in 1944 was The Mummy’s Curse. Opening December 22nd, Lon Chaney, Jr. would play, you guessed it, Kharis!
Nearing the end of the proper installments in the Universal Monsters line of films, Universal Pictures would continually release horror pictures such as Rondo Hatton’s House of Horrors and The Brute Man, but there would only be only five more Universal Monsters films. This does not count the classic Abbott and Costello Meet… series.
House of Dracula (1945)
House of Dracula would release on December 7, 1945 and star Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine.
Most of the actors would reprise their famous monsters in the Abbott and Costello Meet… films, along with Universal releasing original pictures like She-Wolf of London and their three Creature from the Black Lagoon films.
It really is amazing to think of all the talented people that worked on Universal Monsters movies and brought to life some of our most iconic characters in ways that are still being emulated today. Yet there will never be anyone else like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Evelyn Ankers. They are classic, brilliant, and iconic and gave performances that are just as timeless as the monsters themselves.
Looking for something fun to do this summer? Have fun and enjoy one or two of the classic Universal Monsters movies and maybe even keep an eye out for Universal’s revolving door of terror!
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)