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Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Dwight Frye
Dwight Frye may have given the most horrifying performance in the Universal monster era. "Renfield" of Dracula-- the real estate agent turned vampire groupie and madman-- was absolutely bone-chilling. Even beside Bela Lugosi's iconic ghoul, the lingering presence of his abysmal son, trapped in limbo between insanity and death, demands attention, and in many ways improves the power of Count Dracula's evil menace. Renfield's creepy, drawn out laugh (how did he come up with that?!), his wide, vacant, yet penetrating eyes, and that look he gives staring up the ladder from the boat's gallows, were all dynamic choices that left an unshakable impression on the viewer and contributed to the film's classic status.

Dwight is known for his versatile abilities of metamorphosis in the horror genre. A truly gifted actor who left Kansas to hone his skills on the Broadway stage, he was respected by critics, audiences, and the directors he worked with for his commitment and creativity as well as his utter shamelessness in throwing himself into a role. Capable of performing both drama and comedy, he would sadly find less of an outlet for his many gifts when he made the move to Hollywood, where his amazing performance in Dracula soon kept him type-cast as the creeper or maniac in the films that followed. His role as "Fritz" the hunchback in Frankenstein is equally memorable for his taunting and monstrous behavior toward the Monster. Bride of Frankenstein followed, as did The Shadow, Invisible Enemy, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and Son of Frankenstein, the latter film from which his scenes were left on the cutting room floor. 

To vent his frustrations, Dwight often returned to the stage where he could find more diversity in roles. He landed a game changing gig in "Wilson," but unfortunately he passed away before shooting began. His secret heart condition would claim his life at the age of 44. As one of Hollywood's unsung heroes and yet most influential character actors, his  short career in cinema remains a bittersweet gift to the legions of horror fans who come to know and love him through his macabre translations of psychological disfigurement and outright hysteria.

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