Colin Clive produced one of the greatest sound bites in the history of film. The first thing people think of when they hear the word Frankenstein is, of course, the striking image of Boris Karloff as the Monster. The next, however, are those two infamous words repeated in absolute hysteria: "It's alive! It's alive!" With Colin's profoundly maniacal and disturbed performance as Dr. Frankenstein, it was hard to tell which creature to be more frightened of: Frankenstein's Monster or the monstrous Frankenstein?
Colin sought refuge on the stage after his injured knee disqualified him from military service. He found an important ally when he worked with director James Whale in "Journey's End." When Whale went to Hollywood to direct the film adaptation of the play for Universal, he brought Colin with him and the intense actor's cinematic career was born. Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein followed, as well as compelling performances in Jane Eyre, The Stronger Sex, Christopher Strong, and Mad Love.
Unfortunately, part of Colin's unhinged and dangerous nature, which made his characterizations so interesting and raw, was due to the Achilles heel in his personal life: alcoholism. The pain instigated by his damaged knee, his estranged marriage to Jeanne De Casalis, and the mysterious demons that plagued him, both fueled his passionate performances and hindered his career. He was often intoxicated on the set and was even fired from certain projects when his drinking interfered with production. His addiction contributed to his hastening death, and he succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 37.
Like the tormented doctor grappling for power and meaning in a life at the mercy of chaos, he was defeated by the monster of his own creation. To fans, he is the brief lightning bolt that brought horror to life-- here and gone so quickly, but leaving a legacy behind him that continues to enthrall, inspire, and terrify.