Tuesday, August 30, 2022

John L. Balderston: Writing Classic Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction Screenplays

"I NEVER DRINK, WINE!", "ITS ALIVE!", classic lines from classic Universal Studio's Horror, but who wrote them? 

Mention either 1931's, "Dracula", or "Frankenstein", and the names of Bela Lugosi, and Boris Karloff will definitely come up. Should those in the discussion be really good, the names of Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Colin Clive, David Manners and possibly Helen Chandler and Mae Clarke will also come up, BUT who put the words in their mouth's? 


John Lloyd Balderston was born on October 22, 1889 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and by 1912, while still a Journalism Student at Columbia University, was also working "The Philadelphia Record".

On July 28, 1914, the First World War began, and Balderston was hired as a war correspondent for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. Two-years later, John L. Balderston became the director of President Wilson's, "United States Committee on Public Information" in the United Kingdom. In short, he was overseeing morale building propaganda for the American Home Front until the war ended on November 11, 1918. The following year, John Lloyd Balderston wrote a three-act play set during "The Battle of the Marne", entitled, "The Genius of the Marne", which is considered a classic and is still published today. 

John L. Balderston continued his writing and became the editor of "The Outlook" magazine. This was a British conservative publication that contained book and entertainment reviews, but also looked at the politics of the period from the conservative point of view. At one time the magazine's full title was "The Outlook: In Politics, Life, Letters, and the Arts". 

This position lasted from 1920 into 1923, which brings me back to 1922, and the Egyptian "Valley of the Kings".

Back in 1912, while John L. Balderston was still in college, archeologist Howard Carter, below, was in the "Valley of the Kings" looking for one specific tomb, that of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. 

However, the First World War began before the tomb could be located and the search was suspended. It would be resumed in 1922, and on November 4th, Carter's water boy accidently stumbled on a stone partly buried in the sand. That stone turned out to be part of the staircase to Tutankhamun's tomb. Next, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, known to history as Lord Carnarvon, and his daughter the Lady Evelyn Leonora Almina Beauchamp Herbert, arrived at the site.

Below, his Lordship and his daughter:

Among the newspaper foreign correspondents, on site, covering what transpired was John Lloyd Balderston.

On November 26, 1922 the final seal on the tomb was cut open and according to Howard Carter in his 1923, "The Tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen, Volume I: Search, Discovery and Clearance of the Antechamber" :

With trembling hands, I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner. Darkness and blank space, as far as an iron testing-rod could reach, showed that whatever lay beyond was empty, and not filled like the passage we had just cleared. Candle tests were applied as a precaution against possible foul gases, and then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in, Lord Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn and Callender standing anxiously beside me to hear the verdict. At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowlfrom the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold.

From 1923 to 1931, John L. Balderston worked for Joseph Pulitzer's "New York World" as the head of the newspapers London Bureau. He only stopped working for the newspaper, when the London Bureau was closed down, because of the closing of the paper itself.

During his time on the "New York World", Balderston returned to being a playwright. In 1926 the editor of the British publication the "London Mercury", Sir John Collins Squire and John Lloyd Balderston wrote two plays. The first was the "Clown of Stratford", about British playwright Sir Francis Bacon and his competition, William Shakespeare. The second was, "Berkeley Square", a time traveling fantasy love story about a man who goes back in time to meet his American revolutionary war ancestors. 

"Berkeley Square", became an excellent motion picture in 1933, starring Leslie Howard and Heather Angel, from a screenplay written by John Lloyd Balderston.

Above, Leslie Howard's "Peter Standish" in 1933, and below, in 1784.

Leslie Howard had originated the role of "Peter Standish" on the London stage, when the play premiered in 1929 and ran for 229 performances. 

In 1927, John Lloyd Balderston had become involved with another play, "DRACULA"!

Irish playwright Hamilton Deane, below, wrote a 1924, adaptation of Irish author Bram Stoker's, 1897, novel "Dracula", and turned it into a successful stage play in the United Kingdom. American publisher and stage producer Horace Liveright had acquired the rights to Deane's play.

The problem with bringing Deane's play to the United States was the colloquial language used and the references to United Kingdom sites within it. 

Liveright wanted John Lloyd Balderston to rewrite the play for American audiences. 

Balderston's revised version of Deane's play premiered on Broadway in October 1927, and would run for 261 performances. Playing the title character was Hungarian actor, Blaskó Béla Ferenc Dezső, using his stage name of Bela Lugosi.

Next, Horace Liveright wanted John Lloyd Balderston to turn English playwright Peggy Webling's, 1927, version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's, 1818, novel "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" into an American version for Broadway, but once written, Balderston's work never made it to any stage.

Producer Hamilton Deane had originally requested that Peggy Webling write the play for his company. The first version appeared on stage in December 1927, in Preston, Lancashire. It was Webling who renamed "The Monster", "Frankenstein", to overshadow its creator and she made several other revisions to Shelley's work over the next three years. The play finally came to London, in February 1930, but only played for 72 performances. Deane, at one time, had both plays, "Dracula" and "Frankenstein", touring together on alternating nights.



In early 1930, at Universal Pictures, the son of the founder and owner, Carl Laemmle, liked Horror stories. "Junior", as he was known at the studio, finally, but reluctantly, convinced his father to acquire the Deane-Balderston stage play "Dracula" and the rights to the Stoker novel. The project was planned by Carl Laemmle, Jr., for silent film star, Lon Chaney, and cost Universal $40,000, equal as of this writing to $709,643. 

It was decided that the Deane-Balderston play, as written, could not be successfully used as a motion picture screenplay. Universal brought in another playwright, Garrett Fort, below, who in 1929, had adapted for Paramount Picturesplaywright John Meehan's, "The Lady Lies", to become the Walter Huston, Claudette Colbert, and Charles "Charlie" Ruggles motion picture.

Sadly, Lon Chaney passed away on August 26, 1930, and after a search for a replacement, when initial shooting started on December 13, 1930, the role was Bela Lugosi's.

Either prior to the start of filming, or doing the shoot. There were additional contributing writers including the film's director, Tod Browning, and contract writers Louis Bromfield, Dudley Murphy, Frederick Stephani, and Louis Stevens.

However, when Max Cohen's opening title card was shown to the movie audience on February 9, 1931. The writing credits only went to three people, Bram Stoker, Hamilton Deane, and John L. Balderston.

Above, Bela Lugosi as "Dracula" and Helen Chandler as "Mina Seward".

On March 11, 1931, in Havana, Cuba, with the premiere of Universal's Spanish-language version of the Deane and Balderston play, the credits were very different. Neither playwright was given credit, which went solely to Bram Stoker for the novel.

Above, Carlos Villarias as "Dracula" and Lupita Tovar as "Eva Seward".


Back in 1930, Universal Pictures had only $2.2 million dollars in total Box Office Revenues to keep the studio running and things looked dark for the future. 

Carl Laemmle was shocked, no better word described his surprise, when his son's project, 1931's, "Dracula", within 48-hours of its opening at New York's "Roxy Theater", had sold 50,000 tickets. Overall, the motion picture made the studio a profit of $700,000 not including the Spanish-language version.

With a greenlight from "Dad", "Junior" purchased the rights to John Lloyd Balderston's unproduced play "Frankenstein". It was noted, at the same time, that Balderston had adapted Peggy Webling's original play.

The studio called in Garrett Fort to adapt Balderston's play with assistance by Francis Edward Faragoh. Who had just written Edward G. Robinson's crime drama, "Little Caesar".

Also, uncredited, were Universal contract writers John Russell and Robert Floret.

Above is one of the first "Heralds" for the announcement of the motion picture's release to theater owners and news organizations. It is also interesting for revealing Boris Karloff's name and make-up, but for this article please note that it reads:

Adapted by John L. Balderston from the play by Peggy Webling

Below, is one of the original theatrical posters containing the same tag line.


In the opening credit sequence, John L. Balerston's credit reads:
Based upon the composition by JOHN L. BALDERSTON

In 1932, two events occurred for John L. Balderston. The first was writing another play entitled "Red Planet", with playwright John Hoare, more on that later. 

The second was being hired to write the screenplay for a Horror story from Universal Pictures.

THE MUMMY released on December 22, 1932

Look on the above poster for the motion picture and you will not find John Lloyd Balderston's name. Yet, 1932's "The Mummy" wouldn't be "The Mummy" without him.

It took two writers to create the story that the screenplay was to have been based upon.

Nina Wilcox Putnam was an American authoress and has the credit for designing the first "1040 Income Tax Form" for the IRS. As primarily a playwright and novelist, Putnam only co-wrote 15-stories for screenplays between 1915 and 1953. The one before this picture was for the 1932 "B" Western "The Fourth Horseman" starring Tom Mix.

It was the77-years-old Putnam that stopped Hammer Films from remaking this motion picture in 1959, because she owned the story copyright and hated all the blood in 1957's, "The Curse of Frankenstein" and 1958's, "Dracula", aka: "The Horror of Dracula".

Richard Schayer was primarily a "Scenario Director", editing out unnecessary words and sentences from a screenplay, as he did for 1931's "Frankenstein". As a story writer, Schayer had just created the story for the sports drama, 1932's, "The All-American", starring Richard Arlen. Between 1916 and 1965, Richard Schayer worked on 113 motion pictures in different capacities.

Carl Laemmle, Jr. commissioned story editor Schayer to find a popular horror novel, as "Junior" had used for 1931's "Dracula" and "Frankenstein", but based upon an Egyptian curse

Captain the Honorable Richard Bethell, the personal secretary of archeologist Howard Carter, and the fifth and last person directly tied to the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun had died on November 15, 1929. The story of the Mummy's curse was still very popular three-years later and in Carl Laemmle, Jr's mind.

However, Richard Schayer could not locate anything fitting "Junior's" request!

Nina Wilcox Putnam now was hired to help Schayer create a story to base a screenplay upon. Wilcox had heard of Alessandro di Cagliostro, actually the Italian magician and occultist, Guiseppe Balsamo, who claimed to be both a psychic and alchemist. 

What was presented to Carl Laemmle, Jr. was not his Egyptian mummy's curse, but a nine-page story treatment entitled "Cagliostro", about a 3,000-years-old magician still living in San Francisco, California, by injecting himself with nitrates. This new story seemed to be a reworking of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1890, short story, "The Ring of Thoth", but both writers claimed no knowledge of Conan Doyle's work.

It was at this point that "Junior" hired John Lloyd Balderston to write a screenplay. Balderston had been made aware of Laemmle, Jr.'s previous desire for a story set in Egypt. 

After reading the Putnam and Schayer nine-page story treatment, Balderston moved the setting from San Francisco to the Egyptian "Valley of the Kings" in 1922, an obvious clue to the discovery and opening of Tutankhamun's tomb. 

However, in the screenplay the tomb in question is now that of the "Princess Ankh-esen-amun"by an expedition led not by Howard Carter, but "Sir Joseph Whemple", played by Arthur Byron. The expedition includes his friend and associate "Dr. Muller", played by Edward Van Sloan, and "Whemple's" assistant, "Ralph Norton", played by Bramwell Fletcher.

The main character was changed by John L. Balderston from "Count Cagliostro" to a strange ancient looking Egyptian man named "Ardeth Bey", actually the ancient high priest, "Im-ho-tep", both played by Boris Karloff.

Instead of finding the princess, the "Whemple" expedition finds the tomb of "Im-ho-tep", who was buried alive, with the sacred "Scroll of Thoth", which references back, in a way, to the original Conan Doyle story.

"Norton's" curiosity gets the best of him and, alone with "The Mummy", he opens the box containing the "Scroll of Thoth" and starts reading it. The mummy comes alive, takes the scroll, and leaves a deranged  "Norton" babbling about the mummy taking the scroll and just walking away with it. 

Below, ten-years-later in 1932, "Frank Whemple", played by David Manners, meets the mysterious ancient looking Egyptian, "Ardeth Bey".  Who is strangely, able to point out the exact spot to dig for the tomb of the "Princess Ankh-esen-amun".

John Lloyd Balderston's screenplay sees the character of "Ardeth Bey", as closer to the Deane-Balderston-Fort, "Count Dracula", then the Putnam-Schayer "Count Cagliostro". This noticeable change starts with the entrance of "Helen Grosvenor", played by, then, Austria-Hungarian actress, Zita Johann. Balderston also makes his "Frank Whemple", from "Helen's" entrance forward, more like Manner's, "Jonathan Harker" in "Dracula". There are also several scenes that seem to come directly from the other with just character and location changes.

One of John Lloyd Balderston's must famous quotations comes from the meeting between "Helen Grosvenor" and archeologist "Frank Whemple".

"Ardeth Bey" using a form of hypnotic suggestion, draws "Helen" to his home. There they sit before a pool and John L. Balderston now brings in ancient Egypt and the fact that "Ardeth Bey" is actually the High Priest "Im-ho-tep" and "Helen Grosvenor" is the latest reincarnation of the "Princess Ankh-esen-amun".

Unfortunately, Universal Pictures cut scenes related to this sequence from John Lloyd Balderston's screenplay and shot by the cinematographer on 1931's, "Dracula", and now the director of 1932's, "The Mummy", Karl Freund.

In short, "Helen Grosvenor" is only the 1932 reincarnation of "Ankh-esen-amun", others between her death in Egypt and 1932 were edited out to shorten the films running time. Look on the credits and you might wonder why Henry Victor is listed as a "Saxon Warrior", when there isn't any Saxons. Another listed actor is Arnold Gray as "A Knight". Below is a still from one of these "deleted scenes", with Zita Johann in a blonde wig.

Below are other stills related to the original Balderston sequence with Zita Johann.

What is left is "Im-ho-tep" showing "Helen" her Egyptian life and her dearth. His crime of stealing the "Scroll of Thoth", and being mummified, alive, for his attempt to bring his dead love back to him.

John Lloyd Balderston's screenplay ends with the one thing "Im-ho-tep" didn't count upon. That the Princess wants to stay as "Helen", prays to the goddess Isis, who destroys the "Scholl of Thoth", and likewise "Im-ho-Tep" himself.

The title card for the crediting of the story, places John Lloyd Balderston into third position, and makes the Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer story treatment more prominent then the screenplay Balderston created by himself.

The previously mentioned 1933 "Berkeley Square" was released and next, John L, Baderston was one of three-writers on director Henry Hathaway's 1935, "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer", starring Gary Cooper, and Franchot Tone. That screenplay earned Balderston his first "Academy of Arts and Sciences" nomination as a screenplay writer.

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD released on February 4, 1935

Carl Laemmle, Jr. and his father became somewhat obsessed with British novelist Charles Dickens unfinished novel, due to Dickens dying on June 9, 1870, and planned to make a movie that solves the mystery.

Adapting the novel into a workable story went to two writers. The first, was Leopald Atlas, this was his third movie, and it would be nine-years before he worked on a another motion picture. The other adapter was Bradley King, and she had been doing this type of work since 1920 and continued working into 1947.

Turning their story treatment into a screenplay went primarily to John L. Balderston with assistance by Gladys Buchanan Unger,. Unger was an American playwright who lived primarily in England and wrote plays for Broadway and London's West End. 

The website, "Goodreads" described the novel as follows:
Edwin Drood is contracted to marry orphan Rosa Bud when he comes of age, but when they find that duty has gradually replaced affection, they agree to break off the engagement. Shortly afterwards, in the middle of a storm on Christmas Eve, Edwin disappears, leaving nothing behind but some personal belongings and the suspicion that his jealous uncle John Jasper, madly in love with Rosa, is the killer. And beyond this presumed crime there are further intrigues: the dark opium dens of the sleepy cathedral town of Cloisterham, and the sinister double life of Choirmaster Jasper, whose drug-fuelled fantasy life belies his respectable appearance. 

The screenplay solves the mystery by having "Neville Landless", played by Douglas Montgomery, finally locate "Edwin Drood's", played by David Manners, tomb and confront "Jasper", played by Claude Rains, in his church. They start to fight, "Jasper" escapes to the belfry, jumping his death, he schouts out the names of "Edwin" and "Rosa", played by Heather Angel. The film ends with "Neville" and "Rosa" being married.

Above left to right, David Manners Claude Rains, and Douglas Montgomery.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN premiered on April 19, 1935 in San Francisco, California

The idea of a sequel to the 1931 "Frankenstein" was discussed during the preview showings of the picture and a change was immediately made to the ending. Originally "Henry Frankenstein", played by Colin Clive died, but a reshoot now had him still alive for the sequel. For those of my readers unfamiliar with the actor, my article, "Colin Clive: Henry not Victor Frankenstein and Alcoholism!", will be found at:


Above "Henry Frankenstein" recovering from the 1931, "Frankenstein" with Valerie Hobson, now portraying his wife "Elizabeth". Hobson was "Helena Landless" in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood", and "Lisa Glendon" in 1935's, "The Werewolf of London". My article on the actress and her husband, "Valerie Hobson: From Frankenstein's Bride To Bringing Down the British Government", will be politically read at:


Contract writer Robert Florey wrote a 1932 sequel treatment entitled, "The New Adventures of Frankenstein--The Monster Lives", but it was immediately rejected. Next, staff writer Tom Reed wrote a treatment, "The Return of Frankenstein", the title remained until the film went into production, and Reed's full, 1933, screenplay was passed by the "Hays Censorship Office". 

However, Universal and director James Whale finally settled on an agreement for his return as the film's director, but he felt, to put it mildly, that Reed's screenplay stunk! Most people think of Whale as the director of classic Universal Pictures Horror movies, but there was another side to him. I explore that side in my article, "JAMES WHALE: Jean Harlow to Louis Hayward", at:


Next, into 1934, both Lawrence G. Blochman, a mystery novelist, and Philip MacDonald, writer of director John Ford's 1934, "The Lost Patrol", director Alfred Hitchcock's 1940, "Rebecca", and producer Val Lewton's 1945 version of Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher," submitted unacceptable screenplays.

Director James Whale turned to John L. Balderston and the playwright first solved the problem of how do you have a direct sequel to a motion picture released four-years-earlier in 1931? His answer, create a prologue with "Mary Shelley", portrayed by Elsa Lanchester, continuing the narrative that ended the 1931 production. 

It was John Lloyd Balderston that tossed out all the other ideas and turned one small incident in the novel, the creation of a mate for the monsters, into the main theme of his screenplay. In the novel "Victor Frankenstein" destroys his new creation before bringing it to life. In Balderston's screenplay the opposite takes place by "Henry Frankenstein".

Above, the other role for Elsa Lanchester and the perfect opposite for "Mary Shelley", the title character of "The Bride of Frankenstein", with Boris Karloff in the new make-up by Jack Pierce.

Still not completely satisfied with the screenplay, Whale hired both playwright William Hurlbut and uncredited librarian and true crime writer, Edmund Pearson, best known for his work covering the trial of murderess Lizzy Borden, to make some changes for him.

1935's "The Bride of Frankenstein" was and is still an unqualified success as a Horror Science Fiction motion picture.

Next, John L. Balderston went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for two classic Horror films. For the first production, he's listed as an uncredited contributing writer and the picture was a sound remake of a lost 1927 silent Horror movie starring Lon Chaney, entitled, "London After Midnight".

MARK OF THE VAMPIRE released on April 26, 1935

Director and producer Tod Browning decided to remake "London After Midnight" and needed a screenplay that worked for sound motion pictures. He was hoping that none of the leading actors had ever seen the original film and had hired Guy Endore. Endore was the author of the still classic 1933 novel, "The Werewolf of Paris". Considered in literature, for werewolves, as Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is to vampires.

Endore's novel would be turned into Hammer Films 1961, "Curse of the Werewolf". Guy Endore is a very interesting person and my article, "Guy Endore: Black Listing and Communism In the Motion Picture Industry", will be found at:


Tod Browning would keep the final pages of the screenplay hidden from the actors until he was ready to film them. To the actors they were filming a straight Vampire movie. but the twist in those final pages said otherwise.

John L. Balderston was brought in during production to make changes, but I could not find out what they specifically were. However, it was the second motion picture that was the reason for hiring the writer.

MAD LOVE released July 12 1935

In 1920, French Horror Science Fiction writer Maurice Renard published his latest novel, "Les Mains d'Orlac (The Hands of Orlace)". The story is about a famous pianist, "Stephen Orlac", whose hands are damaged beyond repair and a doctor replaces them, but with the hands of a murderer. 

"Mad Love" was the second filmed version of the novel and was also released by MGM under the title of "The Hands Orlac". The director was Karl Freund and the star in his first American motion picture was Peter Lorre.

The novel was translated from the French by Florence Crewe-Jones and given to Guy Endore to turn into a story treatment and an early draft. Producer John W. Considine, Jr. initially assigned P.J. Wolfson to the screenplay, but this was shortly changed to John Lloyd Balderston.

After conferring with Considine and Freund, Balderston started his complete rewrite of the screenplay, creating his dialogue with Peter Lorre in mind. John L. Balderston told the German actor to think of the role of "Doctor Gogol" in the same way he portrayed Fritz Lang's, 1931, "M". My article, "PETER LORRE: Overlooked, or Forgotten Performances", may be read at:


Filming began on May 6, 1935, and John L. Balderston's rewrite would not be completed until three-weeks after that date. After the reactions of preview audiences, several scenes from the screenplay were removed shortening the motion picture.

Scenes removed included a pre-credit warning scene like the one used in 1931's, "Frankenstein", the surgery to remove the hands of the knife thrower "Rollo", played by Edward Brophy, and all the scenes with actress Isabel Jewell portraying "Marianne". 

Above, Colin Clive as "Stephen Orlac", and Francis Drake as "Yvonne Orlac", the obsession of "Dr. Gogol's" "Mad Love".

Below, Lorre claiming to be the man "Orlac's" hands came from, as part of his plan to drive the pianist insane.

Below, the housekeeper discovers the perfect lifelike mannequin of "Mrs. Orlac", played by Francis Drake, that "Gogol" keeps until he can have the real woman.


In the end, "The Hands of Orlac" use their knife throwing skills to kill "Doctor Gogol", and as the police arrive, "Stephen" and "Yvonne" embrace.

John L. Balderston finished 1935 by contributing to the fantasy screenplay for director Henry Hathaway's "Peter Ibbetson", starring Gary Cooper and Ann Harding. The story is about two youngsters in love with each other that are separated. As adults, they find themselves together by entering each other's dreams.

Next, came a Universal Pictures Horror movie by way of David O. Selznick and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

DRACULA'S DAUGHTER released in May 1936

When Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" was published in 1897, one chapter was deleted either by the author, or the publisher. In 1914, that missing chapter was published as "Dracula's Guest". In 1933, David O. Selznick negotiated a contract with Bram Stoker's widow, Florence Stoker, to turn that chapter into a motion picture. Selznick immediately ran into problems with the studio's lawyers out of their fear that the Laemmle's would sue over the use of the character "Dracula", which they still held the rights too. 

Meanwhile, David O. Selznick hired John L. Balderston to write a story treatment based upon "Dracula's Guest". Which in Selznick's contract with Florence Stoker, had an approved alternate title of "Dracula's Daughter". 

Even though this picture would be shot at MGM and not Universal, Balderston decided to tie up the loose ends in the 1931 movie. His basic treatment has "Van Helsing", now called, "Von Helsing", returning to Transylvania and Castle Dracula to destroy the three vampire wives. He succeeds, but overlooks a fourth coffin containing the title character. Calling herself "Countess Szekelsky", "Dracula's Daughter" follows "Von Helsing" back to London, England. There she attacks a young woman and takes her back to Transylvania. "Von Helsing" with the woman's fiancée, tracks the "Countess" back to Castle Dracula, saves the young woman from becoming "Szelelsky's" bride and destroys the last "Dracula".

John Lloyd Balderston's treatment made it very clear that "Dracula's Daughter" was a lesbian. Who enjoyed torturing male victims and they in turn, under her control, enjoyed being tortured. There was a scene of the "Countess's" chambers with the whips and straps she might be using on her male victims, although they would not be shown in use.

Many Horror film historians theorize that Balderston expanded "Dracula's Guest" by using Irish novelist Joseph Sheridan le Fanu's, classic 1872, Gothic Vampire tale, "Carmilla", about a lesbian vampire.

Both "Dracula's Daughter" and filmed versions of "Carmilla" are part of my article, "Not the Same Old Vampire Movies, or Get Your Dentures Away from My Juglar Vein". at:

David O. Selznick, depending upon the source you read, either sold John Lloyd Balderston's treatment to the Laemmle's in October 1934, or September 1935. Which ever date you choose, those Horror film historians agree that Selznick knew Universal Pictures wanted to make a sequel to 1931's, "Dracula", and he held the means for a tidy profit on his investment.

At Universal Pictures, Carl Laemmle, Jr. assigned the other playwright who had worked on the 1931 feature, Garrett Fort, to rewrite Balderston's treatment into a screenplay that would pass the "Hays Censorship Office".

Above, Gloria Holden as the now "Countess Marya Zaleska", who wants to be free of vampirism.

Garrett Fort's opening takes its idea from John L. Balderston, but changes it to having "Von Helsing", still played by Edward Van Sloan, the only hold over from the original motion picture, standing over "Dracula's" coffin from the ending of 1931's "Dracula", but being arrested for murdering him by two local constables.

Bela Lugosi was paid $4,000 to play the dead "Count Dracula" and be in publicity pictures with Gloria Holden, but in the end, Universal still used a dummy.

John L. Balderston adapted two novels into two 1936 motion pictures, the first was "The Amazing Adventure". The Cary Grant romantic drama was originally titled "The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss", also the title of the E. Phillips Oppenheim novel the screenplay was based upon. The second novel he adapted for the screen was the classic adventure from author James Fenimore Cooper, "The Last of the Mohicans", starring Randolph Scott, Binnie Barnes, and Henry Wilcoxon.

Next came another Boris Karloff entry, but from the United Kingdom and Gainsborough Pictures.

THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND aka: THE MAN WHO LIVED AGAIN premiered in London, England on September 11, 1936

This is an interesting and overlooked Boris Karloff performance with a fine British supporting cast. 

The screenplay came from John L. Balderston and two other writers, but I could not locate who originated the story. As each are billed, on the film, for the:

While TCM and other sites, changed the billing for each of the three writers to:
Story and Adapted by

However, even reading reviews from the film's original release, there is not a novel, novella, or short story mentioned for adaption.

Perhaps the best title for the motion picture was a secondary title in the United States, "The Brainsnatcher".

I would note that L. Du Garde Peach was one of the writers on the seldom seen, 1935, United Kingdom Science Fiction film, "Transatlantic Tunnel", starring American actor Richard Dix. 

While Sidney Gilliat didn't write either Horror, or Science Fiction before this screenplay, but specialized in mystery thrillers. In 1938. Gilliat worked on Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes", and in 1939, Hitch's "Jamaica Inn".

"Dr. Laurience", portrayed by Boris Karloff, is researching for the origins of the mind and soul. With the help of "Dr. Clare Wyatt", portrayed by Anna Lee, producer's Val Lewton's 1946 "Bedlam" with Karloff, he develops a device that can switch minds from one living body to another. 

"Laurience" wants to switch his mind with "Dick Haselwood", portrayed by John Loder, who is in love with "Dr. Wyatt", as he is. The switch on screen, required Boris Karloff to take on the mannerisms of actor John Loder and Loder, Karloff's.

The switch is made trapping "Haslewood" in "Laurience's" body, but an unforeseen side effect takes place after the switch. "Dick Haslewood" starts to smoke, something he never did, but "Laurience" is a chain smoker. Will this reveal the truth to "Dr. Wyatt"? 

The story may sound familiar, but remember you are watching a British film with a solid screenplay and acting under the guidance of director Robert Stevenson, 1937's "King Solomon's Mines", starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke, John Loder, and Anna Lee. Among his other work, Stevenson would direct Orson Welles and Jane Fontaine in 1943's "Jane Eyre", and Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in Walt Disney's 1964, "Mary Poppins".

In 1937, John L. Balderston wrote the screenplay for the classic production of British novelist Anthony Hope's "The Prisoner of Zenda", that starred Ronald Coleman and Madeleine Carroll. Balderston did not work in motion pictures during 1938, but was one of five or seven uncredited writers that worked on the Sidney Howard credited screenplay for 1939's "Gone with the Wind". In 1940 he came up with the story treatment for "Little Old New York". The fictional biography of Robert Fulton, played by Fred MacMurray, the inventor of the steamboat.

THE MUMMY'S HAND released on September 20, 1940

On January 13, 1939, the third entry in Universal's "Frankenstein" series, "Son of Frankenstein", was released. One year later, on January 12, 1940, the second entry to Universal's "Invisible Man" series, "The Invisible Man Returns", was released. Both motion pictures were financial successes for the studio and it was decided that a new "Mummy" film should be made.

The budget for "Son of Frankenstein" was $420,000, "The Invisible Man Returns" had a budget of $243,750, and even 1932's "The Mummy" had a $196,000 budget, but for their new "Mummy" the budget was only $84,000. Which meant cost cutting was in order.

While all three writers of the original 1932 picture were available, John L. Balderson, Nina Wilcox Putnam, and Richard Schayer apparently were not consulted for this screenplay. Although their names appear on the official cast and crew listings as "uncredited for the 1932 screenplay". Why is the question, and the answer is all the lifts from their original screenplay, footage from the original "The Mummy", and payment for that copyright use I mentioned earlier.

The new story was by Griffin Jay, a "B" adventure and Cliff-Hanger writer for both Columbia Pictures and Universal, who was also the primary screenplay writer. Assisting him was Maxwell Shane, a "B" comedy and musical writer, but he also wrote the unusual 1939 "S.O.S. Tidal Wave". Which is described as a crime drama science fiction starring Ralph Byrd.

As "Im-ho-tep" was destroyed in 1932, Jay came up with a new high priest, "Kharis", played by "B" cowboy actor Tom Tyler.

Above Tyler as "High Priest Kharis", below Karloff as "High Priest Im-ho-tep". The costuming was the same to edit in scenes from the 1932 original to save money.

The 1932 scene of Karloff taking "The Scroll of Thoth" from the statue, now cuts to a 1940 close-up of Tyler opening the same box, but for this film instead of the scroll there's the tana leaves.

The name of the princess was changed from "Princess Ankh-esen-amun" to the "Princess Ananka".

Earlier in the picture was the lifted burial ceremony for the "Princess Ananka". Note closely in the following still, the high priest, upper left, is actually Boris Karloff and not Tom Tyler.

Below, Tom Tyler's "Kharis, the Mummy":

My article, "Tom Tyler: the 'B' Cowboy Star Who Became a Mummy, Captain Marvel and a Classic John Wayne Bad Guy", will be found at:


Two other British screenplays followed "The Mummy's Hand", and then John L. Balderston wrote four screenplays for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the fourth would earn him his second "Academy Award" nomination.

GASLIGHT released May 4, 1944

The motion picture was directed by George Cukor, another of the uncredited directors on both MGM's 1939 "Wizard of Oz", and "Gone with the Wind". He had just directed Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in 1942's, "Keeper of the Flame", and would follow this feature with 1944's "Winged Victory", with the majority of the original Broadway cast and the co-operation of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

The screenplay "Gaslight" was based upon the 1938 psychological thriller from English playwright Patrick Hamilton. The play had already been turned into a 1940 British motion picture that was released in the United States entitled "Angel Street". That screenplay stays very close to Hamilton's writing, but George Cukor's contains slight changes.

The initial screenplay writer was John L. Balderston, he was joined by John Van Druten, who wrote 1937's, "Night Must Fall", with Robert Montgomery as a psychopathic murderer. The third writer was Walter Reisch, the Austrian-Hungarian writer wrote several films for Greta Garbo and in 1959, Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth".

The plot is very simple, Charles Boyer's "Gregory Anton" wants to drive his wife "Paula", played by Ingrid Bergman, insane. They live in "Paula's" murdered Aunt's townhouse, but "Gregory" has a secret, he's the aunt's murderer. This is a must see motion picture!

Two pieces of trivia:

This was the first motion picture from Angela Lansbury, who was 18-years-of age at the time

The second piece of trivia comes from "Gregory's" manipulation of his wife, and the title of either the play or the motion picture. Linguists, used manipulative "Gregory" to coin the term "Gaslighting"!

Above, Ingrid Bergman, Angela Lansbury, and Charles Boyer.

On June 13, 1948, a production of Balderston's "Berkeley Square" was produced for British television. At this time in his career, John Lloyd Balderston turned to writing two novels, "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "A Goddess to a God".

On July 21, 1948, on the American anthology series, "Kraft Theatre", a different production of "Berkeley Square" was shown on television. 

On May 20, 1949, another production of "Berkeley Square" was shown on the American television anthology series "Studio One". 

Yet, on February 13, 1951, another television anthology series "The Prudential Family Playhouse", produced "Berkeley Square".

While in the United Kingdom, in October 1951, the Tyrone Power and Ann Blyth, "The House in the Square" opened at the cinemas. The feature would come to the United States on December 7, 1951, as "I'll Never Forget You". Under either title, this was a feature length version of John Lloyd Balderston's "Berkeley Square".

RED PLANET MARS released on May 15, 1952

John Lloyd Balderston
now turned his 1932 play, "Red Planet", into a 1950's Cold War piece of Science Fiction. The co-screenplay writer was Anthony Veiller, who had written the dialogue for several morale building documentaries made during the Second World War. However, among his previous screenplays were two classics in 1946, "The Stranger" starring Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, and Orson Welles, and Ernest Hemmingway's "The Killers", introducing Burt Lancaster and c-starring Ava Gardner.

This was the first motion picture as a director, for production designer Harry Horner. He had left Austria-Hungry with the raise of Adolph Hitler as part of Max Reinhardt's theater troupe in 1936.

I could not locate a description of the original play, I know it opened on December 17, 1932, at the Cort Theatre on Broadway, but for some reason the production, set in London, England, only ran for seven performances.
American scientists, "Chris Cronyn", played by Peter Graves, and his wife, "Linda Cronyn", played by Andrea King, have built a hydrogen powered radio transmitter and are picking up messages from the planet Mars. The construction was based upon the work of a Nazi scientist named "Franz Calder", played by Herbert Berghof.

Above is Walter Sande as "Admiral Bill Carey", Andrea King, and Peter Graves.

The messages claim Mars is a Utopia without any fear of the nuclear war America and the rest of the Earth's country's are scared of in 1952. Other messages will lead to political and economic chaos. The film touches upon religious beliefs as it appears the messages may not actually come from Mars, but from God.

Above left, a popular face on 1950's television's "The Millionaire",  Marvin  Miller, in this movie portraying "Arjenian", an agent of the Soviet Union. My article, "Marvin Miller: The Actor Who Voiced 'Robby the Robot', Japanese Science Fiction and More", is at:


Above far left, is Morris Ankrum as "Secretary of Defense Sparks". My article, "Morris Ankrum the Face 1950's Science Fiction/Horror Movies", will be found at:


A May 15, 1952, review of the motion picture in the Hollywood trade paper "Variety", stated:

Despite its title, Red Planet Mars takes place on terra firma, sans space ships, cosmic rays or space cadets. It is a fantastic concoction delving into the realms of science, politics, religion, world affairs and Communism [...] Despite the hokum dished out, the actors concerned turn in creditable performances.

In a February 21, 2011 review, Bruce Eder wrote on the website Allmovie:

Red Planet Mars is an eerily fascinating artifact of the era of the Red Scare, and also the first postwar science fiction boom, combining those elements into an eerie story that is all the more surreal because it is played with such earnestness

Also in 1952, John Lloyd Balderston became the lecturer in drama at the "University of Southern California.

In 1954, John L. Balderston suffered a fatal heart attack, but his plays, screenplays, and novels are available for reading as I write these words.

Jan Sterling: Lingerie - Fate - and a Motion Picture Career

Why Jan Sterling  wasn't considered an "A-List" actress is a riddle many film critics and historians still ask? This is a look...