You may wonder what a Disney movie has to do with a classic Universal Monsters film. Well, “Beauty and the Beast” does share some similarities with a certain Universal Monster installment.
“If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?” -Narrator, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Before it became a box office hit in 1991, Beauty and the Beast was a story written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. The story begins when a young prince is cursed to be a beast by a fairy disguised as an old woman. He then meets Belle and falls in love with her but is afraid he will hurt her. This does sound like The Wolfman, doesn’t it?
Lawrence Talbot is your average middle-aged man who visits his father, a wealthy baron, in England and meets the lovely Gwen Conliffe. He takes her and Jenny to a carnival where they meet Bela the fortune teller. It turns out Bela is a werewolf and attacks Jenny. Larry comes to the rescue and kills Bela. Unfortunately, Jenny does not survive and Larry is bitten. He is now cursed to become the Wolf Man during each full moon. He begins to fear his other half when he realizes he’s fallen for Gwen. He pleads with her to stay away from him so he cannot hurt her.
Speaking of Gwen, she and Belle share some qualities, too.
Belle is a beautiful young woman living in a French village with her inventor father and loves books. She is constantly pursued by Gaston who she has no problem turning down time and time again. As she spends time with the Beast and discovers the rose, she begins to feel for him and even falls in love with him. Like Belle, Gwen is a beautiful, yet humble, woman who works in her father’s antique shop. She is engaged to her fiance Frank Andrews but feels bad for Larry over what has happened to him. She always offers to help even if Larry tells her no. While she couldn’t save Larry the way Belle saved the Beast, Gwen certainly gave him a fighting chance.
When you get down to it, both The Wolfman and Beauty and the Beast teach us that love conquers all. We have two men who are ghastly in appearance and know what they are capable of in their darkest moments yet the power of love saved them from themselves. Larry loved Gwen so much that he never wanted to be around her because he did not want to hurt her. When he saw the mark on her hand, he begged her to go away because he knew what would happen if she didn’t. When Beast catches Belle looking at the rose and yells at her, he demands that she leaves. When she does, he slumps down and puts his face in his hands, knowing full well what he done. When his clock servant Cogsworth asks of Belle, he says, “I let her go.” Cogsworth is shocked and asks why. The Beast replies, “Because I love her.” Belle does return to him as he tries to stop Gaston from killing him. Their love saved the Beast and everyone in the kingdom.
While there are many differences between the two stories, it is evident they are much more similar than you would think. The Wolf Man and the Beast are both hairy, have fangs and claws and roar. They are both victims of a curse administered by someone in a form different from what they really were, triggered by a natural occurrence such as a rose and the moon. Belle and Gwen were both strong women who overcame fear and learned compassion. The biggest similarity between the two is both illustrate the duality of man and how good can triumph even in the darkest of days. The story of man vs. beast is a tale as old as time.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)