Many a fan of the undead may well agree with Anne Rice that we live “in the golden age of vampire fiction.” But don’t we all forever wish more classic vampire films had been made? And as long as we’re wishing, how about some thinking about which stars of yesteryear might have been perfectly cast as a variety of roles?
Conrad Veidt for example was offered the part of Dracula for instance, at least according to the book Hollywood Gothic about the making of that movie. These days he’s either remembered as a variety of Nazis in films like Casablanca or as the somnambulist Caesar in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But one can see why he might be offered the role! Elegant, intense, with piercing eyes and a sinister manner–is it so hard to imagine him in the role? Not for me! Of course, he turned it down. But what if he had not? Veidt was a genuine movie star at the time, not like the unknown Bela Lugosi. His name might have attracted a more A list director and a higher budget. Conversely, what if German cinema had made their own version of Stoker’s novel during this period? With someone like Fritz Lang directing, for instance. The possibilities certainly seem intriguing.
In the silent era, a bigger star than Louise Brooks would be hard to imagine. Her allure at the time far outshone that of Garbo in later years. Her film persona and glamor made her the Angelina Jolie, the Scarlet Johanson and the Lady Gaga of her day! She embodied all things mysterious and irresistible in womankind. Which naturally enough would make her an ideal choice for a silent film version of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic Carmilla. In fact no actual adaptation of that story appeared on screen until the 1950s but had one been made in the 1920s Brooks would have been an obvious choice. She left cinema with the advent of sound. She said it was because Hollywood changed. But maybe her special brand of charisma wouldn’t have worked so well without the dream-like silence prior to talkies. It would have been perfect for Carmilla.
If to carry this whole What If? scenario still further… imagine the creation of Dark Shadows as a series of motion pictures instead of a television serial. Not in the 1960s as it really happened, but in the 1930s or 1940s. Who better I ask you to portray the dangerous, soulful vampire Barnabas Collins than Tyrone Power? When I was going to college an acting student friend of mine never heard of him. She loved aristocratic types, beautiful intense men of style. Pointing her to some of his movies, I predicted she’d fall in love with him. Well, she did. She was hardly alone. Power at his prime had a fanbase akin to that of Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson. One can easily imagine several women falling in love with him, while others (sometimes the same ones) also cowering in fear. He did charm and mystery as well as rage very well indeed.
Who would your candidates be? Judy Garland as Bella? A very young Elizabeth Taylor as Abby? What about Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Lestat? Keep in mind, though, Humphrey Bogart is off the table. He did play a vampire, in the film The Return of Dr. X. Really. Look it up.