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The Cast Of The Old Dark House (1932)


Det Jim McLeod
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This is one of my favorite horror films and maybe the best cast ever in this type of movie.

Boris Karloff is top billed as Morgan the mute butler who becomes dangerous when drunk. This is actually just a small supporting role though Karloff makes a great impact. It was right after his Monster role in "Frankenstein" and another step in making him into a horror superstar.

Melvyn Douglas is the acerbic Roger Penderel. He would become a popular leading man in the 1930s and later a respected character actor, winning two Oscars ("Hud" and "Being There")

Charles Laughton plays the rich though boorish Sir William Porterhouse. He was considered one of the great actors of all time, winning an Oscar just one year later in "The Private Life Of Henry VIII".

Raymond Massey is Phiilip Waverton a travelling husband bickering with his wife. Massey was a respected stage actor and was Oscar nominated for his signature role as President Lincoln in "Abe Lincoln In Illinois". It's interesting that Massey and Karloff are in the same film, since years later Karloff would appear as Johnathan Brewster in the Broadway hit "Arsenic And Old Lace" and Massey played the same role in the film version. I often wonder if they ever met up and compared notes.

Gloria Stuart plays Margaret Waverton, Phillip's wife. She appeared in some other good films but later retired. She came back and got an Oscar nomination in the box office hit "Titanic" (1997).

The rest of the cast had some had some success in other films but did not achieve top stardom. 

Ernest Thesiger as eccentric atheist Horace Femm, his other notable role was Dr Pretorious in "Bride Of Frankenstein". Lillian Bond plays chorus girl Gladys DuCane, she appeared in some other films but retired from acting. Eva Moore plays the deaf religious fanatic Rebecca Femm and Brember Wills is the maniacal Saul, I don't recall seeing either one of them in any thing else. 

That leaves the mysterious John Dudgeon as 102 year old Roderick Femm...

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27 minutes ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

 

That leaves the mysterious John Dudgeon as 102 year old Roderick Femm...

 

Elspeth Dudgeon (1871–1955)

Long-time British stage actress who entered films in the early 1930s.

Elspeth Dudgeon was born on December 4, 1871 in London, England. She was an actress, known for The Old Dark House (1932), Becky Sharp (1935) and Mystery House (1938). She died on December 11, 1955 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

In her screen debut in James Whale's The Old Dark House (1932), she was not only disguised as an old man, but billed pseudonymously as a male to boot.
 
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I agree that The Old Dark House has a fantastic cast and talented director.  But I can't quite grasp why it's considered a great horror film. 

My wife fondly remembered the 1963 re-make (featuring Robert Morley, Joyce Grenfell, and Tom Poston), so when the 1932 version became available on DVD, we made sure to watch it.  (I still haven't seen the 1963 version.)

We both felt that the story in the 1932 version really let down the great cast.  In sum, not much seems to happen.

What are we missing?  I'd love to get out our DVD again and watch for the features that make so many other folks enjoy The Old Dark House.

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5 minutes ago, BingFan said:

I agree that The Old Dark House has a fantastic cast and talented director.  But I can't quite grasp why it's considered a great horror film.

We both felt that the story in the 1932 version really let down the great cast.  In sum, not much seems to happen*.

What are we missing?  I'd love to get our DVD again and watch for the features that make so many other folks enjoy The Old Dark House.

*Until the last ten minutes, which are pretty action packed by even today's standards.

but THE OLD DARK HOUSE, like olives, is an acquired taste...although I think the label of "black comedy" applies to it more than "horror," the book from which it is adapted is called BENIGHTED, and it may have been a working title for this as in one scene MELVYN DOUGLAS says "my, what a benighted household this is." It would be a decidedly more apt, but decidedly less "sexy" title for this than THE OLD DARK HOUSE- but that title + KARLOFF THE UNCANNY has the film wrongly pegged by some as "horror" when it's a unique, stand-alone film almost without a genre. 

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15 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

*Until the last ten minutes, which are pretty action packed by even today's standards.

but THE OLD DARK HOUSE, like olives, is an acquired taste...although I think the label of "black comedy" applies to it more than "horror," the book from which it is adapted is called BENIGHTED, and it may have been a working title for this as in one scene MELVYN DOUGLAS says "my, what a benighted household this is." It would be a decidedly more apt, but decidedly less "sexy" title for this than THE OLD DARK HOUSE- but that title + KARLOFF THE UNCANNY has the film wrongly pegged by some as "horror" when it's a unique, stand-alone film almost without a genre. 

Thanks, Lorna -- I think you may have identified the snag when my wife and I first watched The Old Dark House.  We went into it expecting a more constantly thrilling or suspenseful story similar to familiar horror movies.  If it's more a black comedy -- although you may be right that it's really sui generis -- we should suspend our expectations, except for knowing from our first viewing that the first hour is just a prelude to the more action-packed conclusion. 

We do enjoy other movies that depart in various ways from their purported genre, like Cat People and The Seventh Victim.  Even The Uninvited, which is definitely a haunted-house story, strays from the usual scary format by having the characters be most concerned about figuring out why the ghost is so troubled, without being very scared at all.

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1 hour ago, Ray Faiola said:

Elspeth Dudgeon is the Gypsy matriarch in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, smoking her pipe and barking "Where's the pepper and salt? We got no pepper and salt!"

I've been quoting that line since I was a little kid. For some reason she scared the wits out of me! But the way she said it is absolutely memorable. I'm guessing she never gave a second thought to the fact people would be talking about her work 80+ years later.

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3 hours ago, BingFan said:

Thanks, Lorna -- I think you may have identified the snag when my wife and I first watched The Old Dark House.  We went into it expecting a more constantly thrilling or suspenseful story similar to familiar horror movies.  If it's more a black comedy -- although you may be right that it's really sui generis -- we should suspend our expectations, except for knowing from our first viewing that the first hour is just a prelude to the more action-packed conclusion. 

We do enjoy other movies that depart in various ways from their purported genre, like Cat People and The Seventh Victim.  Even The Uninvited, which is definitely a haunted-house story, strays from the usual scary format by having the characters be most concerned about figuring out why the ghost is so troubled, without being very scared at all.

I would feel SINCERELY SORRY For any supernatural being cursed to haunt THE HOUSE OF FEMM.

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