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Do we owe King Tut our gratitude for the Universal classic THE MUMMY? Maybe we do. The discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt set off a mummy craze that, if it didn’t outright inspire Universal to make the movie, sure didn’t hurt its chances. The studio wanted another Monster movie as a vehicle for Boris Karloff. John Balderston, who also wrote the script (along with Hamilton Deane) for that stage version of DRACULA that morphed into the Universal film of the same name, had been present, working as a reporter, for the opening of Tut’s tomb, and it was he who fashioned the Egyptian mummy angle.

Tutmania didn’t just show itself in cinema. Mummies were also a major influence on the world of fashion in the 1920s, and on the entire trappings of the Art Deco period. King Tut and mummies were also showing up in advertising and in architecture. There was a popular song called “Old King Tut” (ironic since Tutankhamen was so young when he died) and a stage magician calling himself “Carter the Great” (Howard Carter was the archaeologist who discovered Tut’s tomb). The President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, named his dog after the Pharaoh. Even that instantly recognizable “Flapper” hairstyle worn by young women in the 1920s was inspired by depictions of women in ancient Egyptian art. Tut had truly become a Rock star—and he would soon, albeit indirectly, become a movie star, too.

TheCheezman • December 23, 2019

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