It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200 Online Teacher Curriculum

Section Four: Frankenstein on Stage and Screen; Other Adaptations

Frankenstein is an oft-referenced and a frequently adapted work, continuing to the present day. The first stage adaptation of the novel, Richard Brinsley Peake’s Presumption! Or, the Fate of Frankenstein, was hugely influential. As it was made while Shelley was still alive, we know what she thought of the interpretation: that the story was not “well-managed” but that the Creature was played “extremely well.” The play was a hit, and many more adaptations ensued, followed by parodies. With the dawn of film came such iconic interpretations as James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein: The Man Who Made a Monster. It featured the now-seminal laboratory creation scene and the signature costume and makeup for Boris Karloff that is today most closely associated with Shelley’s Creature. In 1935, Whale made a sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, wherein actress Elsa Lanchester plays both Mary Shelley and the titular bride. Significantly, both Whale films create sympathy for the Creature, who is portrayed as less violent and more innocent than the Creature of Shelley’s novel.

Explore these concepts and more in our interactive PDF on Section Four.

Boris Karloff and Marilyn Harris, Frankenstein (1931), 1931, Photograph, Core Collection Production Files, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC, © 1931 Universal Pictures Company, Inc.