IN THE SHADOWS: TORIN THATCHER

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torin-thatcher

Torin Thatcher as the evil magician Sokurah in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958).

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at the career of character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.

Today IN THE SHADOWS it’s Torin Thatcher, a character actor known mostly for his villainous roles.  I remember him most for his outstanding portrayal of the evil magician Sokurah in the classic fantasy film THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) which also features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best stop-motion special effects.

And when you watch a movie featuring Ray Harryhausen’s special effects, it’s usually those effects that you remember, not the actors in the film.  This is true with THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, with the exception of Torin Thatcher.  His work in 7TH VOYAGE is so strong you remember the magician Sokurah just as vividly as you do Harryhausen’s fantastic creatures.

Before he become an actor, Torin Thatcher was a school teacher.  How cool would that have been?  To have Sokurah the Magician as your teacher.  But seriously, I can only imagine how powerfully effective he must have been standing in a classroom teaching students.

Here now is a partial list of Torin Thatcher’s 150 film and TV credits:

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1927) – Solanio – Torin Thatcher’s first movie credit as Solanio in this silent short adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.

NORAH O’NEALE (1934) – Dr. Hackey – Thatcher’s first screen credit in a feature-length movie.  Early drama starring Lester Matthews, known to horror fans for his work in WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) and the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi classic THE RAVEN (1935).

SABOTEUR (1942) – uncredited appearance in this classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) – Bentley Drummle – small role in the classic David Lean version of the Charles Dickens tale starring John Mills, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson who played Elizabeth in the Boris Karloff classic THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and future Hammer Films stars from THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) Martita Hunt and Freda Jackson.

THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) – Policeman – Plays a policeman in this classic mystery from director Carol Reed (Oliver Reed’s uncle) with a script by Graham Greene.

THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1952) – Humble Bellows – Swashbuckling pirate adventure starring Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Siodmak, the director of SON OF DRACULA (1943).  Also memorable for featuring a young Christopher Lee in a supporting role.

THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952) – Johnson – classic drama starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, and Leo G. Carroll.

THE DESERT RATS (1953) – Col. Barney White – Robert Wise-directed war movie starring Richard Burton and James Mason.

THE ROBE (1953) – Sen. Gallio – Biblical tale  of Roman tribune with a conscience starring Richard Burton and Michael Rennie.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) – Mr. Myers – Billy Wilder-directed Agatha Christie tale starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester.  Also features veteran character actor Una O’Connor, also from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) – Sokurah the Magician – My favorite all-time Torin Thatcher role.  This classic fantasy adventures features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best special effects ever.  Who can ever forget his giant Cyclops?  In addition, it also features a rousing Bernard Herrmann score, one of my favorites.  The third outstanding element of this movie is Torin Thatcher’s performance as Sokurah.  It’s a rare occurrence indeed in a Ray Harryhausen movie for anything to be as memorable as his creature effects, but Torin Thatcher achieves this feat.  He’s just as memorable in this film as Harryhausen’s effects.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1957-59) – Constable Johnson – “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” (1957)/ Felix Edward Manbridge – “Relative Value” – appearances in two episodes of the classic Alfred Hitchcock TV series.

THRILLER (1961) – Jeremy Teal – “Well of Doom” – appearance in the classic horror anthology TV show hosted by Boris Karloff.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962) – Pendragon – Once again playing the villain in a fantasy adventure.  Thatcher is reunited with 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD director Nathan Juran and lead actor Kerwin Matthews who played Sinbad in 7TH VOYAGE and plays Jack here, but missing this time around is Ray Harryhausen and his fantastic creatures, resulting in inferior special effects.

GET SMART (1966) – Dr. Braam – “All In the Mind” (1966) – appearance in the classic Mel Brooks TV series starring Don Adams as Secret Agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99.

LOST IN SPACE (1966) – The Space Trader- “The Space Trader” (1966)- plays a villain in this Season 1 episode of the Irwin Allen science fiction adventure TV show.  Trades with the Robinson family, takes advantage of Dr. Smith’s greed and makes him his slave, only to be eventually outsmarted by the Robinson Robot.  Way to go, bubble headed booby!

STAR TREK (1967) – Marplon- “The Return of the Archons” (1967) – appearance in this Season 1 episode of the classic TV series chronicling the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy aboard the starship Enterprise.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968) – Sir John Turnbull – TV movie version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale, produced by Dan Curtis, the man behind DARK SHADOWS and THE NIGHT STALKER (1971).  Starring Jack Palance as a very sinister Mr. Hyde.

LAND OF THE GIANTS (1970) – Dr. Berger – “Nightmare” (1970) – appearance in this Irwin Allen fantasy TV show.

NIGHT GALLERY ( 1971) – Captain of the Lusitania – “Lone Survivor” (1971) – appearance in the horror anthology series by Rod Serling.

BRENDA STARR ( 1976) – Lassiter- Torin Thatcher’s last screen credit is in this TV movie adventure involving extortion, voodoo, and the supernatural.  Starring Jill St. John.

Thatcher passed away on March 4, 1981 at the age of 76 from cancer.

Torin Thatcher – January 15, 1905 – March 4, 1981.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS.  Join me next time when we look at the career of another classic character actor.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE SHADOWS: MARIA OUSPENSKAYA

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Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva in THE WOLF MAN (1941).

Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva in THE WOLF MAN (1941).

In The Shadows:  MARIA OUSPENSKAYA

 

By Michael Arruda

Welcome to another edition of IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.  Today we look at the career of Maria Ouspenskaya, the actress most famous among horror fans for her portrayal of the gypsy woman Maleva in the Lon Chaney werewolf films THE WOLF MAN (1941) and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).

As Maleva, Ouspenskaya endeared herself to horror fans as the sympathetic gypsy woman who befriends Lon Chaney Jr.’s cursed Larry Talbot.  In THE WOLF MAN, it was Maleva’s werewolf son (played by Bela Lugosi!) who bit Larry Talbot and turned him into a werewolf.  Later, it’s Maleva who helps Talbot understand his new condition.

In the sequel FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, it’s Maleva again who comes to Larry’s aid, this time leading him to Castle Frankenstein in search of Dr. Frankenstein, hoping that he can help cure Larry. Unfortunately for them, Dr. Frankenstein is dead, and they find the Monster (Bela Lugosi) instead.

Ouspenskaya shines as Maleva in both these movies, and she’s one of the highlights of both films.

Ouspenskaya taught acting in the 1920s, and she opened her own acting school, the Maria Ouspenskaya School of Dramatic Arts in 1929.  Some of her students included John Garfield, Stella Adler, and Lee Strasberg.  Strasberg honed his famous Method Acting techniques under Ouspenskaya’s guidance, and Adler went on to teach among others Marlon Brando.

Ouspenskaya enjoyed a successful movie career, mostly in non-genre films.  It was a brief one, as she didn’t start acting in movies until late in her career, and it was cut short due to an untimely tragic death.

Here’s a look at some of these movies:

DODSWORTH (1936) – Baroness Von Obersdorf-  Ouspenskaya’s film career gets off to a rousing start as she’s nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her movie debut at age 60 in this Academy Award winning film by director William Wyler which won an Oscar for Best Art Direction.

LOVE AFFAIR (1939) – Grandmother – nominated for an Oscar again for Best Supporting Actress.  This film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture but won none.

DR. EHRLICH’S MAGIC BULLET (1940) – Franziska Speyer – Bio pic written by John Huston about Dr. Paul Ehrlich (Edward G. Robinson) who developed the first synthetic antimicrobial drug, which he called a “magic bullet.”

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940) – Madame Olga Kirowa- Oscar-nominated World War I romance starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor.

THE MORTAL STORM (1940) – Mrs. Breitner – World War II drama (contemporary for its time) about a family in Germany divided by the Nazis’ rise to power.  Stars James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and Robert Young.

DANCE, GIRL, DANCE (1940) – Madame Lydia Basilova – Musical about ballerinas in a dance troupe starring Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball.  Also stars Ralph Bellamy who would co-star again with Ouspenskaya in THE WOLF MAN.

THE WOLF MAN (1941) – Maleva – one of the greatest horror movies ever made, with a superior cast that includes Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers, Patric Knowles, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, and Maria Ouspenskaya in the role which would make her famous among horror fans.

KINGS ROW (1942) – Madame von Eln – Mystery romance starring Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, and Ronald Reagan.  Also features Ouspenskaya’s WOLF MAN co-star Claude Rains.

MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET (1942) – Mme. Cecile Roget – Mystery based on an Edgar Allan Poe tale stars Ouspenskaya’s WOLF MAN co-star Patric Knowles as Poe detective Paul Dupin trying to solve the mystery behind the death of an actress.  Also stars KING KONG’s Frank Reicher.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) – Maleva – reprises her role as Maleva the Gypsy Woman, in this sequel to THE WOLF MAN which brings the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) together with the Frankenstein Monster (Bela Lugosi).  WOLF MAN actor Patric Knowles plays Dr. Mannering, a different role from the one he played in THE WOLF MAN.

TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS (1945) – Amazon Queen – Ouspenskaya is Queen of the Amazon in this Tarzan adventure starring Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan.

A KISS IN THE DARK (1949) – Mme. Karina – Ouspenskaya’s final role in this comedy starring David Niven.

Maria Ouspenskaya died tragically in December 1949 when she fell asleep while smoking in bed.  She suffered severe burns and died shortly thereafter.

Maria Ouspenskaya –   July 29, 1876 – December 3, 1949.  Age – 73.

For those of us who love horror movies, Maria Ouspenskaya will always be remembered for her endearing portrayal of Maleva, the strong-willed gypsy woman who was always there for Larry Talbot in THE WOLF MAN and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN.  She delivers a masterful performance in both movies.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS, and I’ll see you again next time when we look at another character actor from the horror movies.

Thanks for reading everybody!

—Michael