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22 September 2014

Colin Clive

British actor Colin Clive (1900-1937) was the original Dr. Frankenstein. He made film history with his scream "It's Alive! It's Alive!" after his success at animating the Monster in Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931).

Colin Clive
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, no. 482, by Long Acre, London.

James Whale


Colin Clive was born in Saint-Malo, Ille-et-Vilaine, in 1900. He was the son of an English colonel on assignment in France at the time of Colin's birth.

Clive was a direct descendant of Baron Robert Clive, founder of the British Indian Empire. In 1935 he would appear in a featured role in Clive of India, a film biography of his relative.

He attended Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. A knee injury disqualified him from military service and contributed to his becoming a stage actor. One of his stage roles was Steve Baker, the white husband of racially mixed Julie LaVerne, in the first London production of Show Boat. This production also featured Sir Cedric Hardwicke, and Paul Robeson.

He then replaced Laurence Olivier as the lead in the R.C. Sherriff play Journey's End (1928). The success of Journey's End gave director James Whale the break to move to Broadway and to direct what would be the first British-American co-produced sound film, the film version of Journey's End (James Whale, 1930).

Whale got Colin Clive back as the laconic, alcoholic Captain Stanhope and Clive showed a measured intensity to his character, bolstered by his unique cracked baritone voice - seemingly always on the edge of irritation. This led to opportunities and he spent the rest of his career hopscotching between England and America, his most significant films emanating from Hollywood.


Colin Clive and Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong
British postcard in the Filmshots series by British Weekly. Photo: Radio. Publicity still for Christopher Strong (Dorothy Arzner, 1933) with Katharine Hepburn.

Colin Clive and Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong
British postcard in the Filmshots series by British Weekly. Photo: Radio. Publicity still for Christopher Strong (Dorothy Arzner, 1933) with Katharine Hepburn.

Dr. Henry Frankenstein


James Whale was contracted by Universal for a follow up of the huge hit Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931), an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He wanted Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein, and it all came together.

As Hal Erickson states at AllMovie: "Clive has earned a niche in cinematic valhalla for his feverish, driven performance as Dr. Frankenstein". Although Clive would make only three horror films - the others were Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935) and Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935) - he is now widely regarded as one of the essential stars of the genre.

The following few years Clive played both B leading and A supporting roles such as the married title character in Christopher Strong (Dorothy Arzner, 1933) who falls for aviator Katherine Hepburn, the brutal husband of Diana Wynyard in One More River (James Whale, 1934), Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre (Christy Cabanne, 1934), and a British officer in Clive of India (Richard Boleslawski, 1935) in which Ronald Colman played his illustrious ancestor.

Then Clive returned to Universal for Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935) with Valerie Hobson in which his Dr. Henry was somewhat more subdued. This was mostly to do with a broken leg suffered from a horseback riding accident.

He followed Bride with Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935), a chilling reinterpretation of The Hands of Orlac. In the remainder of his films he played disturbed supporting characters.

Privately, Clive suffered from tuberculosis, which was furthered along by severe alcoholism. His last film was The Woman I Love (Anatole Litvak, 1937) starring Miriam Hopkins.

In 1937, he died from complications of tuberculosis in Los Angeles, at age 37. From 1929 until his death, Colin Clive was married to actress Jeanne de Casalis. There has been speculation that de Casalis was a lesbian and Clive either gay or bisexual, and their marriage was one of convenience. However, producer David Lewis, the long-time companion of James Whale, flatly stated that Clive was not gay.

Scene from Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931). Source: pzmyers (YouTube).

Trailer of Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935). Source: IMACACI2 (YouTube).

Source: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), William McPeak (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Colin Clive's leg injuries during BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN came from an accident at his home, when he tore the ligiments in both knees. The horseback accident happened in England in December of 1931. He was at his home in Kent, when he tried to jump a stone wall. He was thrown and fractured his hip.