The Arty Semite

Movie Monsters’ Jewish Parentage

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy Universal Studios

They don’t look related. But iconic movie monsters like the Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s creature share parentage. Carl Laemmle, a Hungarian-Jewish immigrant, founded what became Universal Studios in 1912; under the aegis of his son, Carl Jr., the studio went on to introduce the most memorable monsters in moviedom. Another Jewish refugee, Curt Siodmak, wrote screenplays for Universal creature features including “The Wolf Man,” “I Walked With a Zombie,” and “The Beast With Five Fingers.” To celebrate the studio’s centennial, horror-culture bible Rue Morgue dedicated a special issue to Universal Studios and its founders. The Arty Semite caught up with Dave Alexander, Rue Morgue’s Toronto-based editor-in-chief, about the Laemmles’s legacy, the Jewish DNA of Universal’s monsters, and why so many Jews seem to make their bloody mark on the horror genre.

Michael Kaminer: Do you think the Laemlles’s identity as Jewish refugees played a part in their creation of so many iconic monsters? Did the monsters represent something bigger?

Dave Alexander: That’s a bit of a tough question, because it’s not always known for sure how much the producers had a hand in shaping the screenwriters’ story. What we do know is that Carl Laemmle wasn’t interested in the horror genre, but Carl Laemmle Jr. loved it and was the driving force behind the Universal monster cycle.

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