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Stepping out of the shadows

More than 60 years after his death, B-movie actor Rondo Hatton still has fans

More than 60 years after his death, B-movie actor Rondo Hatton still has fans

October 26, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE
(Page 2 of 2)

Weaver said Hatton was a terrible actor, so directors had to be careful how to use him in a horror movie.

Roy William Neill directed Hatton as the Hoxton Creeper in "Sherlock Holmes in Pearl of Death" in 1944. Neill kept Hatton in the shadows so tension built up to when his character was revealed, Weaver said. "He didn't speak once. It was tremendously effective," Weaver said.

"Universal Pictures thought he could be the next horror star and put him in movies with lesser directors, letting him talk. It didn't work," Weaver said.

The way some of those directors shot Hatton with the camera didn't make him appear tall so he didn't look towering the way he had in "Pearl of Death," Weaver said.

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The 1930s was a golden age for horror films with "Dracula," "King Kong" and "Frankenstein," Weaver said. During the 1940s, adults weren't going to see these kind of movies as much with teenagers becoming more of the audience for horror. These later movies would run approximately 60 minutes and feature reused music and sets.

"A monster without makeup most have appealed to (moviemakers). It's cheap. The cheapest you can go is the invisible thing," Weaver said.

In Hatton's later pictures, his bad guy would come off as comical rather than menacing, Weaver said. Weaver found reviews in which critics said kids laughed at Hatton's character.

Hatton died Feb. 2, 1946, but his B-horror movie status lives on in the Rondo Awards.

When the Classic Horror Film Board decided six years ago to start awards in which fans vote via e-mail for categories such as best horror film, best horror book and article of the year, they settled on the Rondos, said Colton, who organized and founded the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.

The award itself is a miniature version of a bust of Hatton that was seen in the 1946 film "House of Horrors." The bust for the awards was sculpted by Kerry Gammill, who used to be a comics artist for Marvel and DC Comics, including Superman.

"(Hatton is) kind of this iconic figure that everybody kind of knows, but doesn't know (his) name," Colton said.

"It's an odd kind of fame that he has. I think one of the things about 20th-century culture is that some of the more obscure players will end up outlasting the stars who so overshadowed them at the time," Colton said.

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