Combustible Celluloid

Book Review: It's Alive

It's Alive!
By Julian David Stone
Greenleaf Book Group Press
May 17, 2022
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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At first glance, I thought It's Alive! by Julian David Stone was a non-fiction book about the making of Frankenstein. It's actually a novel, perhaps not the most masterly in terms of prose, but marvelously entertaining and evocative. Through what I can only assume is a blend of thorough research and imagination, Stone creates vivid characters out of Carl "Junior" Laemmle, Jr., Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and others. And, somehow, even though we know for certain that Frankenstein (1931) was eventually made, the author manages to create a decent amount of suspense around the fact that it might not be made. Junior is stuck in the shadow of his powerful father, who built Universal Studios from the ground up, but is stuck making what Junior sees as "old-fashioned" pictures. Lugosi, currently a huge star after the success of Dracula, is wanted for the role of the monster, but the actor prefers a part with juicy dialogue. A down-on-his-luck Karloff dearly wants the role, and if he doesn't get it, he'll likely have to give up on his dream of being an actor. The casting shifts back and forth, as do directors Robert Florey and James Whale, while Junior deals with is girlfriend Sidney Fox, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and his hoped-for, but elusive promotion to Vice President. Stone is clearly a huge fan of the period and this movie, and his passion shows.

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