It is time to visit the 1930s.
I see that Turner Classic Movies has two Jean Harlow pictures on tonight–Dinner at Eight and Bombshell. Although I love Jean Harlow and find her extremely sexy–she’s one of those women I cannot believe was not bestowed with true immortality, not simply the cinematic kind–my favorite actress from the 1930s is someone much less well-remembered: Frances Drake (1912-2000, although some sources say 1908).
She made pictures at various studios like Paramount, MGM, and Universal. I’ve been smitten with her performances in 1935’s Mad Love (where she drives insane surgeon Peter Lorre into an erotic frenzy of revenge) and 1936’s The Invisible Ray (where she is a steadfast wife to obsessed scientist Boris Karloff until he practically pushes her into the arms of another man).
It’s so nice to run into her after getting out of my time machine. It’s 1937 and she’s still single; she hasn’t married the Hon. Cecil Howard yet, a titled Englishman to whom she will remain wed until his death in 1985. (Ironically, “Cecil Howard” is also the pseudonym of a famous director of porn films in the 1980s.)
In an early scene in The Invisible Ray, she walks in a filmy gown across the ramparts of Karloff’s Carpathian castle, and the slender beauty of her body is fleetingly but indelibly silouhetted against a flash of lighting in the night sky. I first saw this movie when I was about ten years old–five times in one week on New York’s Million Dollar movie, when my family and I were visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn. I grew up in Chicago, where they didn’t show movies like this five times a week for impressionable minds to soak up.
Well, Frances is used to kooky scenarios from the two great horror films she’s made, and so we have a nice evening out on the town. Later…
I ask her to put on that costume from her film Bolero, which I’ve never seen except in stills. It’s amazing how she reminds me of the drawings of fetish artist John Willie in this sexy get-up…
With legs like this, it’s easy to see how she started her career as a nightclub dancer in London. Although she was born in New York City, she was educated in Canada and England. She made her early film appearances under her real name, Frances Dean. (Recently, I read in an old film magazine named Screen Facts that “Frances Dean” ironically was the stage name another leggy lass, Betty Grable, used early in her career when she made low-budget cheapies!)
Ah, what a pleasure to hear her voice up close, and caress her slender, five-foot two-and-a-half inch form. I bury myself in her hair, and inhale her perfume…but alas, the hours fly by and I must return to my own time! I could never support her in the fashion to which she deserves to become accustomed. I’ll leave that to her future hubby, the honorable Cecil…they will marry in 1939.
Besides, what’s the point of being a Horny Time Traveler unless I roam? There are females of many eras to meet, and I cannot be tied down. Farewell, sweet Frances…but believe me, it’s especially tough to leave you.