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Colin Clive

The Masters: Colin Clive
January 20, 1900
June 25, 1937
Horror Movies as Actor



Refined, deliberate, with a talent for melodrama, Colin Clive made a brief but memorable mark on the horror genre, creating the sound era's very first Dr. Frankenstein, but personal problems took him from the spotlight before his time. Clive was born in France on January 20, 1900. His father was a British colonel. As an adult, he took to the stage, eventually replacing Laurence Olivier when James Whale's production of "Journey's End" moved to the Savoy Theater in London. When Whale uprooted to Hollywood to make the film version, Clive followed.

Soon after, Clive appeared in Whale's most famous film, the 1931 version of Frankenstein, in which he played the somewhat mad, frequently histrionic Dr. Henry Frankenstein, who brought to life a monster played by Boris Karloff. For perhaps the only time in film history, the actor playing the creator was actually taller than the one playing creation -- Clive had about an inch on Karloff, although the difference was not apparent, as the costume for the monster included height-enhancing boots.

Over the next four years, Clive played mainly in dramas, including Christopher Strong (with then-newcomer Katherine Hepburn) and the 1934 adaptation of Jane Eyre. In 1935, he reprised the role of Dr. Frankenstein in Whale's Bride of Frankenstein. He suffered from a broken leg during most of filming -- the result of a bad fall from a horse -- and most of his scenes were shot sitting or laying down. He followed Bride with Karl Freund's Mad Love, a chilling reinterpretation of "The Hands of Orlac."

Tragically, those were his last contributions to the horror genre. He made a few more comedies and romances, all in supporting roles. On June 25, 1937, he died of tuberculosis, aggravated by his longtime alcoholism. He was 37.