Carl Laemmle. Does that name sound familiar? Well if you have ever been to Universal Studios Hollywood then you've experienced some of the history of Carl Laemmle. He founded Universal Studios which officially opened in March of 1915. The studio began giving organized tours in 1915 and continued until 1928. The tours would continue in 1964 now known today as the tram tour or the Studio Tour.
Carl Laemmle's son Carl Laemmle Jr. was a producer on many of Universal's early films including several of the now classic horror films such as Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein. Other relatives that were in the film business included Carla Laemmle (niece of Carl Laemmle) and nephews William Wyler and Edward Laemmle.
Carl's legacy is alive and well today thanks to his great, great niece Antonia Carlotta. Antonia started a web series on YouTube called Universally Me. You can find a link to this series at the bottom of the interview portion. Universally Me is a wonderful series about the history of Universal Studios, the legacy of her family and the future of the studios.
I reached out to Antonia several months ago with an idea. I wanted to do a photoshoot with her but find a way to tie in her family's history. Then it hit me. What if we did a multi part shoot with her that included shots of her as herself, an interview so we could learn a little more about her and the legacy of her family and the final part would be transforming her into one of her favorite classic horror film icons. Antonia loved the idea and the planning process began. We had it narrowed down to 3 favorite icons. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein. It didn't take long for me to realize that she would be perfect as the Bride of Frankenstein. Bringing that idea to the table, Antonia was on board instantly. In fact in one of our early conversations she told me that this sounded like a dream come true. This put a smile on my face. Hopefully this post, these pictures and this story puts a smile on all of your faces. Let's get to some photos. This first part will be shots of Antonia as herself. You'll have to wait a bit to see her transformation into the Bride.
Bride of Frankenstein
The Bride of Frankenstein starring Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff was released on May 6th, 1935. Over the years it has become one of the Universal horror film classics. Filmed in the Court of Miracles on the Universal backlot and soundstages 12 & 28, the film was nominated for best sound recording at the 1936 Oscars. Everyone knows the famous profile of Elsa as the Bride of Frankenstein. Now, with the help of makeup artist MJ DuBarr (www.mjsmuah.com) and hairstylist Maddy Mabe (creationbymaddy on Instagram), we have transformed Antonia Carlotta into the Bride of Frankenstein. Hope you enjoy and be sure to check out Antonia's web series on YouTube Universally Me at www.youtube.com/antoniacarlotta.
She had a dream to play the bride of Frankenstein. We helped bring that dream to life.
Interview with Antonia Carlotta
What would you say is the first true moment you got into the horror movie genre? Did it start with one specific movie, or perhaps a series of movies?
"I think that I’ve always been into the horror genre. Even going back to when I was little watching Are you Afraid of the Dark on Nickelodeon. I always loved scary movies and scary things. In elementary school I used to host scary movie nights at my house where I’d invite my friends over and we’d watch movies that were way too old for us to be watching. Everybody would be super freaked out but I always loved doing that. I always thought it was fun, that heart racing feeling and the adrenaline rush."
Because you seem like such a fan of the classic Universal monster movies, what do you think about Universal pursuing the Dark Universe series?
"I am both thrilled and excited and over the moon about it and also a little hesitant and nervous and upset about it. I think that the classics are so great. I love them. I think that those should be honored. I understand that the Dark Universe is a way to do that but I think that the way Universal is doing them maybe isn’t the best way when it comes to bringing in a new generation of fans and getting people excited. I’m afraid that the movies are not going to be the quality that they should and the quality that the originals were and that Universal will use that as a way to say see this is why we shouldn’t do anything with the monsters. Nobody wants to see it. When it has more to do with what they’re putting out and less to do with the monsters themselves. So excited but not excited."
Would you say there is a horror movie that is too scary for yourself to watch? Do you have a definitive favorite horror movie?
"I don’t think movies are ever too scary for me to watch, but sometimes they are a little too gory. The movies that go over the edge I’ll still watch them but they don’t always make me the most excited to watch.
I have about 30 definitive favorite horror movies. I love the original Frankenstein, Rosemary’s Baby and my mom’s name is Rosemary so I feel like it hits a little extra home for me there. There are a lot of newer horror movies that I love too. I remember really liking Drag Me to Hell, which I haven’t seen in a few years. Jaws. There are so many great ones really."
What made you want to preserve your uncle's legacy? Was it because he was a family member or because you were such a fan of Universal? Perhaps something else?
"Both. For starters my mom is a genealogist so she is very into family history and understanding where we come from and honoring that as a whole. You always try and think who do I look up to and who do I want to be like and why. Carl Laemmle is really great because he started Universal Studios and all of these movies and that’s really great, but also something that people don’t really know about him is that he also saved hundreds of lives during WWII by sponsoring Jews and bringing them over from Germany here to the United States. He would sign affidavits for them, he’d set them up with jobs at Universal. He had funds setup that even years after he died still helped them to live and work and make sure that they were doing ok. He was such a great guy in the studio and out. You know Disney, you know Metro Goldwyn Meyer, those names are the studios but you know the names and nobody knows Carl Laemmle. No one’s ever heard of him before. That’s why for me it was like, ok let’s do something about that."
Does your family have this same interest and passion of preserving your uncle's legacy? Is this where you would say your love of classics comes from?
"My mom for sure has that same want to preserve his legacy and to honor it. We do it in very different ways. I’ve got my web series. I’m kind of the more outward facing one of the family and she’s so great about collecting old memorabilia and preserving the actual things from our family and our history which a lot of times she lends out to museums and documentaries so people can experience the actual artifacts from history and from our family."
You mentioned in your first Q&A video that Universal tends to go with what's trendy. Do you think that is harmful to the Studio's history and, even, cheapen the brand because they bring in non-traditional properties?
"I think it’s good and it’s bad. You have to be trendy to an extent to keep people coming and to keep them interested. Even in Carl Laemmle’s time he was always trying to figure out what’s new, what’s cool, what do people want to see? I just think that sometimes it comes at a cost when you throw out the old stuff and when you don’t remember either the lessons that we learned from those or just honor what was so great about the history. I think that sometimes it cheapens the new thing a little bit. I think there is a way to do both. You can keep up with what’s new and you can still honor the history."
Expanding on the last question, what can Universal do to preserve their history better? Can there be a mix of both historic and contemporary properties?
"Yes. Even little things like making more rides or things in the park that honor the old movies or honor the monsters. Jurassic Park is not a new movie or the Mummy ride is not new, why not make a Frankenstein rollercoaster or one where Dracula is coming out at you. There’s so many things that you could do in a ride to cause suspense and get people excited. I think that would be a really great way to combine the two. Also in the tram tour they certainly focus a lot on the whole course of Universal’s life but I think that maybe they could focus a little more on some of the history there."
In your video from two years ago "Tram Tour Disappointments", you took criticism with Universal not addressing Carl Laemmle as a part of the Studio's history. What would you do to make sure they do address this issue if they still haven't yet?
"So funny story, I actually got in, not like trouble for making that video but I guess a tour guide saw the video and showed a bunch of the tour guides here because for awhile some of them were kind of upset with me. It’s not like I think the tour guides weren’t doing their job, I just honestly wish that they were more interested in the film history. Again it’s not always about what’s new and exciting, but where did we come from and how can we learn from those things and become better because of those things. Since that video I’ve actually met a bunch of tour guides and have done some speaking engagements specifically here in training future tour guides. There’s this great guy who works in guest relations and he’s a big history buff and has been really trying to integrate that into the training and into the company culture here. I’m excited to say that I do think there has been a big shift toward honoring that a little bit more on the tram and what’s being shared with guests."
Back to classic movies, do you think it's possible for contemporary movie studios to make films that have their own status as being "classic". Or, is the charm that the movies of the 20's and 30's lost in time?
"I think any movie that’s well done or well thought out or well cast, just certain films that just fall into place and become classics. Even Mean Girls is a modern classic. Things fell into place for that film. If you think about Jaws or Rosemary’s Baby, My Man Godfrey, Imitation to Life. Just certain movies all the pieces fall into place and I think that’s what makes them classic. I don’t think it has to be an era or a moment in time. It’s kind of a forever moment."
What would you say is the "next step" in ensuring your uncle's legacy lives on? Is it something you feel is up to you and your family if movie studios do not?
"Yes. If the movie studios aren’t going to do it then I feel like the responsibility is on me a little bit. Especially since he was able to do so much in his life so why can’t I do at least 1/10th of that and honor him. My next step is I’m going to keep working on my web series and coming to Universal and talking to my friends about it and keep trying to promote it as much as I can. I know that’s my mom’s plan as well is to continue to collect things and lend them out to museum’s and speak at events when she can. I just want to get the word out and hopefully eventually the word gets out to enough of the right people where they continue to spread the word and it lasts forever. The same way that we love Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, I think that we can love Carl Laemmle."
Outside of what we’ve discussed today, what are other things in your life that strike passion in your heart?
"I play dodgeball which I love a lot and I would say that strikes a certain amount of passion in my life. I love to travel. I’ve been to about 30 different countries. When I travel to different places I like to learn about the history of those places and visit the monuments and it sort of connects to my mission here with Universal and Carl Laemmle. I love imagining other cultures that are there, that have been there 100, 200 years ago."
What’s your favorite country that you’ve ever visited?
"It’s a toss up between either Nepal or South Africa. I spent a month in Nepal. I trekked the Himalayas, met a million great people, volunteered at a couple of schools there for fun on my free time. I was an aimless wanderer while I was there but I loved it. In South Africa I did a winter study abroad program so I got to study at the University of Capetown campus for a little bit. I went to Johannesburg and went on a safari at Kruger National Park. It was all just to die for."
To date, what would be the most challenging travel experience you’ve had that was total culture shock and yet you still left with a good experience? Not necessarily negative, just something that challenged you in every sense of the word?
"Nepal is definitely one that is coming to mind. When I went to Nepal I started traveling with a friend of mine and we were going to do all of Southeast Asia together. We did Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and then she and I realized we don’t travel well together so we went our separate ways and I literally choose Nepal randomly on a map and said oh there is a cheap flight here so I’ll go. When I got there I was all alone with no plan and knew nothing about the country. I figured it would be similar to one of these countries I already went to. But it was a shock in a lot of ways. There was a lot of poverty and not a lot of infrastructure. There were a lot of dirt roads and crumbling buildings but then also the people there were the nicest in any country I’ve ever been to. Everybody was welcoming and trusting. The buildings there were so bright and colorful. They were pink and turquoise and lime green. It was a country of beautiful, great people and I found my way as I went along. I made friends and met locals and went on a trek."
So then that might be the most gratifying as well as you were able to do that yourself, on your own?
"Yeah because I spent the first 2 or 3 days on my own, probably spending a lot of money calling my mom crying wondering why did I do this. (We all laugh). But then I had to force myself to step out of my comfort zone and say ok well how am I going to meet people here and how am I going to move past this. I’m half way across the world, I might as well do something while I’m here."
How did it feel to actually be in front of the camera for this shoot? How was your comfort level with that?
"It’s exhilarating and exciting but also super nerve-racking. I feel like I have very little self-awareness when it comes to what my face is doing or what my body looks like especially in the camera. I wish that I could really see what you are seeing right at that moment so I’ll know to move this way or that way. But also having this opportunity to dress up as the Bride of Frankenstein and in such a realistic way, it wasn’t a wig, it was real makeup and all these stitches, to be able to do it like that was – I don’t know if I have the words yet. But literally being like living history - Here less than 100 years ago Elsa Lanchester was dressed exactly or pretty much just like that kind of doing the same thing I was, that was a weird cool thing. I’ll be showing the grandkids these pictures one day."
Be sure to check out Antonia Carlotta’s web series called Universally Me on YouTube at YouTube.Com/AntoniaCarlotta or Search Universally Me. Watch, comment and get to know your history because that’s what leads us to our future. You may also find her on Instagram at @antoniacarlotta.
Interview questions credit goes to Robert Husby who is a broadcast journalist major at University of Central Florida. Thank you Robert for your hard work in putting these questions together. You can find him on Twitter at @RobHusby.
Behind the Scenes
Here's some behind the scenes photos from both portions of our shoot.
It was a very special day for Hatbox Photography to be able to be part of this shoot. Antonia is a wonderful person full of great energy, a positive attitude and lots of knowledge on Universal and her family's history. During the interview portion we decided to ask Antonia if she would like to continue this series and have us turn her into other iconic Universal monsters. Her response was, "Absolutely." So we are happy to announce that this Bride of Frankenstein blog is only the first part of many more to come. In the future we will share with you our version of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, the Invisible Man (although we told Antonia she didn't need to be present for that shoot), and a few other iconic characters. Until then, please share this blog with your friends, families and neighbors, leave comments. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see in future blogs. And remember to subscribe to Antonia's YouTube series Universally me, visit MJ's website, check out some of Maddy's hair creations on IG and follow Hatbox Photography on IG at hatbox_photography. Thank you all. Hope you enjoyed this. We sure did.