Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Twelve

I'd call this the "Where Are They Now?" section, except that, given that the serial was made 75 years ago, I think the answer for everyone involved in Undersea Kingdom is "dead."  So let's just call these career capsules.

Lois Wilde (Diana) reportedly won the Miss America pageant in 1923, but lost the title when the judges found out she was a professional model and stage actress.   She also worked as a screenwriter before becoming a movie actress in 1936.  Her career ended abruptly the next year when she broke her neck in a car accident.  Although she eventually recovered, she would only appear on the screen in occasional small, uncredited roles, ending with "Casino Patron" in 1984's Oh, God! You Devil.  She died in 1995.

Monte Blue (Unga Khan) began his film career as a day laborer for director D.W. Griffith at Biograph Studios.  His first role was a bit part in Griffith's classic The Birth of a Nation (1915).  He appeared in dozens of silent films, becoming a leading man.  He continued to work steadily after the advent of sound, although his roles became smaller through the 1930's.  From the mid-'50s, he worked exclusively on television.  He died in 1963.  Also, I can't see his name without wanting to sing, "Ooo-hoo, Monte Blue/Lives his life from inside of a room."

Lee Van Atta (Billy), like many child actors, had only a brief career, from 1936 to 1939.  Billy was his first credited role, but perhaps his highest-profile role was in another serial, Dick Tracy (1937), as Junior.  He died in 2002.

Boothe Howard (Ditmar) also had a fairly brief career, from 1932 until his premature death later the same year as Undersea Kingdom, 1936.

William Farnum (Sharad) had frequent work in films from 1914 until he was seriously injured making a film in 1924.  He was sidelined for four years, and only began to work regularly again in 1930.  His last appearance was in 1952, and he died the next year.

Of course, the best-known alumnus of Undersea Kingdom was Lon Chaney, Jr. (Hakur).  Appearing under his birth name, "Creighton Chaney," for the first few years of his career, he renamed himself after his famous father not long before Undersea Kingdom.  He had mostly bit parts, often uncredited, until 1938, but broke through as Lennie in Of Mice and Men the next year, and become a star in his own right with The Wolf Man in 1941.  His alcoholism sometimes interfered with his work, most notably in his role as Frankenstein's Monster on the anthology series Tales of Tomorrow.  Confusing the live broadcast for a camera rehearsal, he hefted furniture, only to set it back down for the "real" performance.  Although he suffered from throat cancer and heart disease in his later years, he continued to appear in films until 1969, and was cut from the final version of Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask (1972).  He died in 1973.

Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia

2:11 Is this the first time Unga Khan has called our hero just "Crash"?  I think up to now (or rather, last episode, where this line first appeared), he's just called him "Corrigan," or sometimes "Crash Corrigan."

3:28 That belly-flop to the ground just kills me every time.  You wouldn't think Crash would recover from it quite as quickly as he does.

5:46 You know, they take the death of everyone in Atlantis awfully casually, don't they?  Surely there were some people left, even after that last battle.

6:49 I give up as to whether it's "the reflector plate" or "the reflecto-plate."  Here, Crash clearly says it as the former.

7:15 A boom mike shadow makes a guest appearance.

7:39 What, does Unga Khan have a setting for the naval base, or is the Professor just a whiz at tuning the thing his first time out?

9:55 Say, this reminds me... what was the point of the whole earthquake thing, anyway?  I mean, as I recall, when this serial began, Unga Khan had no expectation of being able to leave Atlantis.  Was he just screwing with the Upperworld for kicks?

13:55 Yow!  Judging from the high-angle shots, that pit has got to be at least twenty feet deep from the mouth.  I'll allow Crash jumping into it, because he's our all-powerful hero and everything, but imagine being the Professor, landing flat on your back from that height.

14:46 I think Khan gets his replacement Volplanes from the same place the Starship Voyager got its endless supply of shuttles.

16:42 Hey, Billy's joined the Hitler Youth.

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