Werewolf Fact of the Day

Werewolf Book 2e
ISBN: 9781578593675

What major movie studio has the largest library of classic horror films and helped introduce the werewolf movie?

  • It started a golden age of horror theater in the 30s and 40s.
  • It employed the master of makeup for nearly three decades, Jack Pierce.
  • It has become one of Los Angeles's greatest tourist attractions.
  • It also created acclaimed pictures such as Field of Dreams and E.T.

Universal Pictures

For horror movie buffs, Universal Pictures is the magical, monstrous kingdom from which their favorite werewolves, vampires, monsters, mad doctors, and other assorted creepy creatures crawled out of crypts and vaults and into their neighborhood theaters. During the 1930s and 1940s, if it was a spooky movie, it was most likely to have come from Universal. All of the classic horror films--Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Wolf Man (1941), and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)--were the products of cinematic masters of fantasy at Universal Pictures, who employed such genius directors as James Whale, Roy William Neill, Tod Browning, George Waggoner, and Karl Freund; accomplished screenwriters, such as Curt Siodmak and Willis Cooper; and the master of makeup for nearly three decades, Jack Pierce.

The Universal Pictures' Horror Movie Hall of Fame includes such regulars as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Claude Rains, Lon Chaney Jr., Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Edward van Sloan, John Carradine, Dwight Frye, Evelyn Ankers, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lionel Atwill, Glenn Strange, Richard Carlson, and Richard Denning.

The seed that grew into Universal Pictures was planted by Carl Laemmle in 1909 when he founded his Independent Motion Picture Company of America (IMP). In 1912, Laemmle filmed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring King Baggot and Jane Gail. In that same year, he joined with half a dozen other small independent film companies to form Universal Pictures. In 1915, in order to consolidate their cinematic operations, Universal City was constructed in Los Angeles.

A rather cautious studio, Universal concentrated on low-budget films during the silent era of motion pictures, but the studio also produced some of the greatest hits of Erich von Stroheim, Valentino, and Lon Chaney. With the advent of the talkies, Universal became a significant player in the A-movie arena with the classic film version of Erich Maria Remarque's highly acclaimed novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), starring Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, Slim Summerville, Ben Alexander, and Beryl Mercer.

Unfortunately, Universal's skills on the corporate management level did not match their successes at the box office, and they were forced to sell off its theaters during the early years of the Depression. At the same time, however, in the financial chaos of the Depression, Universal began creating its classic horror films, providing escapist fears that allowed the mass audience to forget for a time the unpaid bills and lack of work. The studio also produced a number of successful low-budget comedies with W. C. Fields and with the Sherlock Holmes mystery series, starring the quintessential Holmes, Basil Rathbone.

By 1936, Laemmle was forced out of the company that he had founded, and the new management achieved sudden success by producing cheerful and positive family fare starring such musical stars as Deanna Durbin. During World War II, the comedy team of Abbott and Costello became the box office champions, and their films, together with the steady issuing of reliable horror movies, combined to produce boom years for the studio.

In 1946, Universal merged with International Pictures and became known as Universal-International, but by the early 1950s, the studio had entered its bleakest period. The audiences were no longer lining up to see Abbott and Costello or the classic movie monsters. In 1952, Decca Records bought the studio and changed its name to Universal Studios. The Music Corporation of America (MCA) bought Decca in 1959 and began the climb that would once again make Universal a major motion picture and television production company. In addition to producing a number of megahits (Airport [1970], The Sting [1973], American Graffiti [1973], Jaws [1975], Field of Dreams [1989], E.T., the Extraterrestrial [1982], Back to the Future [1985], and Jurassic Park [1993]), Universal Studios has become one of Los Angeles's greatest tourist attractions.

From The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, Second Edition by Brad Steiger, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R) Steiger's homage to the beast within provides meaty facts for the lycanthropic in all of us.

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