So, this is RM, back from his Sabbatical and here to talk about Glenn Strange. Now, I hear some of you asking "Who the Hell is Glenn Strange" and I don't blame you but if you are one of those people, YOU are the reason I am writing this article.
Yes you. Don't play coy. Don't go look him up on Wikipedia (at least not yet) and pretend you know who he is. You aren't fooling anyone. Because it has come to my attention that Glenn Strange is not as well known as he should be and that's a shame.
So who is he? Frankenstein (or more accurately, The Monster), that's who. "But RM, " I hear you saying, "Surely everyone knows that the One True Frankenstein's Monster is Boris Karloff." And you are not entirely wrong. Karloff originated the role and he was great and he deserves all the accolades he has ever gotten. But, he was not the only Frankenstein. After Karloff quit the role, it was picked up by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr...and then by Glenn Strange who played the role in three films, as many as Karloff. And while one of those three was the comedic "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein" he put his mark on the role as much as the others and in my humble, yet never wrong, opinion he deserves the same recognition as the others who walked in Frankensteins big clunky shoes.
At 6'5" and 220 lbs, Strange was almost born for the role. But prior to becoming The Monster, he was mostly a cowboy actor. He tended to play outlaws and the occasional sherrif. He inherited the role by accident. He was recruited by Jack Pierce, the famous make-up artist who had created Karloff's look as the Monster and had stayed on for subsequent films, who wanted to try some tests makeup for the upcoming "House of Frankenstein". Pierce liked how Strange looked as the Monster and this led to Strange landing the actual role.
After "House of Frankenstein", he went on to play The Monster again in "House of Dracula" and once more in "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein". He would also appear as the Monster in promotional material throughout the fifties. In short, in the 40's and 50's he WAS the monster every bit as much as Karloff. In fact, in a sad twist of fate, when Karloff died, The New York Times posted a pic of Strange in the monster's makeup while captioning it as Karloff.
The stint was a mixed blessing for Strange. He was a cowboy actor before (and during) his run as Frankenstein's monster, he went back to being one after without skipping a beat. He managed to avoid the typecasting that would plague the bigger names at Universal like Karloff and Lugosi, but he never quite got the recognition they did either. His last role was as Sam the bartender on "Gunsmoke" and most viewers in 1973 were unaware that was Frankenstein's Monster serving Marshall Dillon and his crew their booze.
I think it's a shame that a man who spent so much time as one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time should get so little recognition for it. In a way, he was a key part of one of the earliest "Cinematic Universes" in movie history, as he got his start in Universal's monster mash-ups that brought all their famous creatures together. So let's just give a little shout out to the Strangest Frankenstein of them all.