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Dwight Frye


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I've never cared much for him, as he is usually so hammy. Witness "Dracula" and even his small bit as a reporter in "The Invisible Man." And especially "Frankenstein"...but then it hit me that he was really the first one to be an assistant to a mad scientist, if I am not mistaken. He set the path for those that followed.

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I've never really considered him "hammy"...just a style of acting from a different era. He's excellent in Dracula ...he had portrayed Renfield in the stage production Lugosi originally starred in, so it's likely his style was more of a stage-style performance. He's also good in Frankenstein as Fritz, and is a delight as Karl in Bride of Frankenstein. His two best scenes in Dracula are when he becomes sorrowful with the line "God will not damn a poor lunatic's soul", and towards the end when he's frantically pleading with Dracula to spare his life. I think it's that maniacal grin and now-classic laugh that probably makes people label his performance as "hammy". That laugh is such a classic, Arte Johnson duplicated it in Love At First Bite , and Peter MacNichol did a variation of it in Dracula: Dead and Loving It .

 

His bit roles in various other Universal horror classics are regretful, almost...after such an impact in Dracula and the first two Frankenfilms, he got shoved onto the back burner, as it were.

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Has anybody out there heard the Alice Cooper Song The Ballad Of Dwight Frye? It .semi ballad that's sometime played on AOR Radio, (though it's a little long and strange to be heard that often.) You'll hear Eighteen a lot more often.

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I always thought he was wonderful in anything he did. If you remember he played Wilmer "the gunsel" in the original "Maltese Falcon" in 1931, 10 years before Elisha Cook,jr did.. The one scene that always broke me up was his "Fritz" the hunch back in "Frankenstein". He starts walking up the winding stairs in the castle with a lamp and a small cane and he stops puts the cane down and pulls up his sock. That is such a beautiful piece of business.Sadly, he died at age 44 of a heart attack.....

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Dwight Frye contributed two important Horror/Sci Fi archetypes to film: Renfield (raving lunatic) and Fritz (hunchbacked assistant to mad scientist). I know Bela Lugosi preferred Bernard Jukes' stage performance of Renfield in the Broadway production of "Dracula" -- and was disappointed when Jukes failed to get the role after campaigning vigorously for it -- but it's hard to know if this was based on their relative performance styles, or Lugosi's fear of being upstaged.

 

I, for one, think Frye did an admirable job in keeping Renfield a sympathetic -- and occasionally just plain pathetic -- madman; at times aware of how drastically his life had changed, otherwise lost in the rapturous fog of serving his master.

 

Whatever we think of his dramatic technique now, remember that Tod Browining had seen Dwight on stage in a role where he went from cocky, puffed up & shallow to a humiliated, grovelling wretch before offering him the part of Renfield; I like to think he knew -- and got -- the performance he wanted from him.

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I love Dwight Frye! He never really got his "big break" that shot him off to stardom, but he was so ahead of his time! The first time I watched Dracula, I thought it was really funny, but when he came in as Renfield, it was almost kind of scary! I think he had so much talent, but the roles he were good at were not popular in his time.

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For me, this is one of those, "Oh! THAT guy!" situations. I didn't know his name. Thank you for that. And now, for another question...

 

If "Fritz" was the name of Dr. Frankenstein's lab assistant, HOW did the name "IGORE" come to be long assotiated with it?

 

Sepiatone

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I think I can answer this one.

 

 

"Ygor" is the character played by Bela Lugosi the the 1939 production "Son of Frankenstein." Of course, the name is pronounced EEE-gore. This name, for whatever reason, became the standard useage instead of Fritz for subsequent film outings. Today, the name "Igor" is probably most closely linked with Mel Brooks' 1974 parody "Young Frankenstein." Using the name, of course, allowed for the punning joke on "Eye-gore" with the sidekick role being played by the melon-eyed Marty Feldman. However, since "Young Frankenstein" more closely evokes the visual style of "Son of Frankenstein" rather than either of James Whale's two films, the use of the name "Igor" was an appropriate homage to the satirical target.

 

 

In "Bride of Frankenstein," BTW, Dwight Frye and Ted Billings play the roles of Colin Clive's sidekicks. The script names them "Karl" and "Ludwig" repsectively. Go figure.

 

 

Hope this helps.

 

 

Dan.

 

 

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