"Karloff was the last to be cast in the original Frankenstein, the monster's look conceptualized by Whale and then detailed by make-up's mad genius, Jack Pierce. Whale told the NY Times, "Karloff's face has always fascinated me, and I made drawings of his head, added sharp bony ridges where I imagined the skull might have been joined. His physique was weaker than I could wish, but that queer penetrating personality of his I felt was more important than his shape, which could easily be altered." There had been Frankenstein plays, and on stage, for some reason, the monster's skin had often been blue. This might have influenced Pierce's choice to color the Monster's skin with a blue-green greasepaint that would photograph "a corpse-like grey." They envisioned the top of the skull like a cigar box, "We had to surmise that brain after brain had been tried in that poor skull, inserted and taken out again. That is why we built up the forehead to convey the impression of demoniacal surgery. Then we found the eyes were too bright, seemed too understanding, where dumb bewilderment was so essential. So, I waxed my eyes to make them heavy, half-seeing," said Karloff. The result: "This, like the face of Garbo, is one of the icons of our time." (Alberto Manguel).
"Karloff reported for work at 4:00 am, fortified by continual rounds of tea and cigarettes (and was endlessly photographed in his make-up, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes.) The make-up took four hours to apply each morning, and he was padded up and out to 7 feet 6 inches with at least 50 pounds of suit and heavy weighted shoes. The long hours and grueling working conditions led directly to his becoming one of the founding members of the Screen Actors' Guild. The actor's suffering was real, and created an aura gentle pathos. Children were afraid of him, but wrote him fan letters none the less. As one of his biographers pointed out, what was the monster but a child whose parent no longer loves them?
(below, Elsa Lanchester on the set, wrapped up in her work but still getting her 4 pm tea time with the rest of the cast.)