Cast & Crew
Edward Van Sloan
In Whitby, England, Professor Von Helsing is arrested for the murder of Count Dracula after he drives a wooden stake through his heart, and Renfield, Dracula's assistant, is found dead nearby. Sir Basil Humphrey of Scotland Yard refuses to believe that Dracula was a vampire and, that as one of the living dead, has already been dead for five hundred years. Von Helsing is convinced he has finally put Dracula to rest, but while his corpse is being guarded, a mysterious woman hypnotizes the guard and removes the body. The woman, Countess Marya Zaleska, Dracula's daughter, lights a funeral pyre in a rite to exorcise his spirit, hoping that this rite will also free her from the curse of the vampire. Marya and her companion, Sandor, who is in love with her, return to London, where, much to her dismay, she finds the same bloodthirsty urges calling her at night. At the same time Von Helsing seeks the assistance of his friend, psychiatrist Jeffrey Garth, for his defense. At Lady Esme Hammond's party, Jeffrey and his fiancée and secretary, Janet Blake, meet Marya. Jeffrey discusses Von Helsing's case and states that Von Helsing is merely deluded and can be cured. Marya sees Jeffrey for some personal counseling, hoping her vampirism is also a delusion that can be cured. Jeffrey advises her that the next time she feels the influence of the dead using her for their own will, she should face it, and fight it. Jeffrey is called away, and that night Marya attempts to follow his advice. She has Sandor bring in a young woman, Lili, to pose for one of her paintings, but is unable to resist the need for Lili's blood and attacks her. After she is found in the alley, Lili is rushed to the hospital and, diagnosed as an amnesia case, is placed under Jeffrey's care. He recognizes the symptoms of a post-hypnotic trance and notices puncture wounds, which are like those discovered on a man the night before. He becomes suspicious of Marya upon recalling their strange discussion. Jeffrey warns Marya not to leave London. While he brings Lili out of her trance, Jeffrey discovers where she was assaulted, after which she dies. Meanwhile, Sandor has kidnapped Janet under orders from Marya so Jeffrey will come to her. Jeffrey finds Marya at her studio, where she tells him she will do anything to be rid of Dracula's curse and hints that she has Janet. Marya disappears, and when Von Helsing later tells Jeffrey she has probably returned to Transylvania, Jeffrey charters a plane and goes to the castle alone. There, Marya promises to save Janet's life if he will allow her to make him a vampire and join her for eternity. In a jealous rage, Sandor attempts to kill Jeffrey with a wooden bow and arrow, but accidentally pierces Marya's heart, killing her forever. Just as this happens, Sir Humphrey, Von Helsing and the police arrive and kill Sandor. Marya's death releases Janet from unconsciousness, and she and Jeffrey are reunited.
Edward Van Sloan
E. E. Clive
Joseph R. Tozer
William Von Brincken
E. M. Asher
John L. Balderston
Albert S. D'agostino
John P. Fulton
R. C. Sherriff
In a bid to beat Universal at its own game, Metro had tried its hand at horror in 1932. Both Charles Brabin's The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), starring Boris Karloff, and Tod Browning's circus revenge tale Freaks (1932) drew critical condemnation and a degree of public backlash for their unfettered sadism and presumed gratuitous violence. Consequently, it is doubtful MGM would have given the green light to the Dracula's Daughter envisioned by Balderston, as the potential for litigation stemming from producing a sequel to a film owned by a rival studio would have been a strong deterrent. Ultimately, Selznick brought the property to Universal, where studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. assigned Invisible Man (1933) scribe R. C. Sherriff to draft a screenplay. It was Laemmle's idea to tap Frankenstein director James Whale to helm the Dracula sequel. Already signed on for Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Whale had little interest in the property - the next film on his plate, as far as he was concerned, was Show Boat (1936) - but played along as promotional materials were prepared heralding James Whale's Dracula's Daughter.
Sabotaging Sherriff's script with the inclusion of baldly homoerotic material of his own invention, Whale succeeded in drawing the fire of the Breen Office, who refused to sign off on the draft. Production of Dracula's Daughter halted as writers Garrett Fort and Finley Peter Dunne were hired for rewrites and Whale slipped quietly out of the room. His replacement was A. Edward Sutherland, who had handled Paramount's Murders in the Zoo (1933). As the script was polished (Fort would share final credit with Selznick, billed as "Oliver Jeffries"), Universal took the precaution of retaining Dracula star Bela Lugosi for the sake of continuity. Radio singer Jane Wyatt and actor Cesar Romero were hired to play the film's romantic leads but were replaced by the start of shooting in February 1936, with Marguerite Churchill and Otto Kruger assuming their roles. The delayed start frustrated the patience of Sutherland, who abandoned the project and was replaced by Lambert Hillyer, a western director who had taken a stab at genre filmmaking with The Invisible Ray (1936), an above-average Lugosi-Karloff team-up. Cast in the title role was Gloria Holden, a 29 year-old actress with ballet training. Though he posed with Holden for pre-production publicity photos, Bela Lugosi was out of the picture.
It remains a delicious Hollywood irony that Bela Lugosi made more money from not being in Dracula's Daughter than he had for starring in the original. Though he had cleared only $2,000 for his services in 1931, Lugosi collected twice that for his time and patience while Dracula's Daughter idled in the wings. Due to the delays and the change in personnel, the film's budget had inflated to $278,000 (nearly $20,000 of which went in the pocket of the departed Sutherland). James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein cost more but revealed its expense in an innovative bravura showpiece while Dracula's Daughter looked for all the world like an average studio film, shot on the backlot. Despite this disadvantage, the film was innovative in its own right. Having nothing to do with the Stoker story (in which Dracula also does not appear), Dracula's Daughter was the first Hollywood film to depict a wholly sympathetic vampire, thirty years ahead of Anne Rice and seventy of Stephanie Meyer. Gloria Holden's imperious Marya Zaleska also became a cult touchstone among lesbians. In the film's most widely discussed scene, Zaleska glamours a half-dressed Nan Grey in her garret - thirsty for blood but leaving room for other interpretations.
Though Dracula's Daughter had been developed initially at MGM as an attempt to cash in on Universal's profitable horror parade, the finished film wound up capping Universal's first wave of fright films. The protests of critics, censors, and civic and church groups against the escalating violence of these films (in The Black Cat (1934), Bela Lugosi skinned Boris Karloff alive while Karloff crushed Lugosi in an industrial press during the climax of The Raven, 1935) coincided with a regime change at Universal. With Carl Laemmle, Jr. out of power and the shots being called by a set of corporate executives, all further horror projects post-Dracula's Daughter were canceled. Three fallow years passed before the studio returned to form with Son of Frankenstein (1939), whose success launched a second wave of chillers, mostly featuring the studio's repertory of Draculas, Frankensteins, Mummies and new kid in town The Wolf Man (1941). Favoring monster-on-monster fisticuffs over metaphysics or philosophy, the second wave of Universal horror lowered the intellectual bar, with the result that Dracula's Daughter is so different an animal from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) that it seems born of an entirely different genre.
Dracula's Daughter did prove influential to the subgenre in the second half of the century. The "vampire seeks cure" logline would be featured in a number of later films, among them House of Dracula (1945), House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Near Dark (1987) - though these features focused on blood cures rather than the flexing of individual will over the fiat of heredity. It would take several decades for female vampire protagonists to become a going concern, and only after the relaxation of censorship allowed nudity to become part of the equation, as in the British The Vampire Lovers (1970), the American The Velvet Vampire (1971), the Belgian Les lèvres rouges (Daughters of Darkness, 1971), and the Spanish La novia ensangrentada (The Blood Spattered Bride, 1972). Though Marya Zaleska's affectional preference goes unstated in Dracula's Daughter, the film is considered the grand-mère of lesbian vampire pictures, whose number includes (in addition to those titles already stated) Jean Rollin's Les frissons des vampires (Shiver of the Vampires, 1971), Jesus Franco's Vampyros Lesbos (1971), José Ramon Larraz's Vampyres (1975), and Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983). Also concerned with the daughter of Count Dracula, Michael Almereyda's Nadja (1994) may be the only other female vampire movie to keep its protagonist clothed throughout.
Eighty years after the fact, Dracula's Daughter retains an unexpected freshness in part to its forfeiture of the standard vampire tropes - Marya Zaleska even holds a cross at one point (during a poignant funeral scene in which she consigns her father's remains to fire). By downplaying the character's supernatural proclivities, the screenplay foregrounds her humanity. The film's key scene is not the Countess' attack on the artist's model but an earlier setpiece in which, believing herself free of her family curse, she sits at the piano to embrace life and renewed hope. Tinkling out Chopin's "Nocturne No. 5" and waxing rhapsodic about the joys of spending an evening not thirsting for blood, Zaleska is brought back on-message by her servant Sandor (Irving Pichel), a human to whom she has promised immortality. In a sly reversal of the Dracula-Renfield relationship, Zaleska has become Sandor's slave as he uses nothing more than wordplay and psychology to drive her back into the shadows... making the pair one of cinema's great codependent couples, alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb in Sid and Nancy (1986).
Producers: E. M. Asher, Harry Zehner
Director: Lambert Hillyer
Screenplay: Garrett Fort
Story: David O. Selznick (as Oliver Jeffries), Charles Belden, John L. Balderston, R. C. Sherriff, Kurt Neumann, Finley Peter Dunne, Bram Stoker
Cinematography: George Robinson
Editing: Milton Carruth
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino
Makeup: Otto Lederer
Special Makeup: Jack P. Pierce
Visual Effects: John P. Fulton
Cast: Gloria Holden (Countess Marya Zaleska/Dracula's Daughter), Otto Kruger (Jeffrey Garth), Marguerite Churchill (Janet), Edward van Sloan (Von Helsing), Gilbert Emery (Sir Basil Humphrey), Irving Pichel (Sandor), Halliwell Hobbes (Hawkins), Billy Bevan (Albert), E. E. Clive (Sgt. Wilkes), Hedda Hopper (Lady Esme Hammond), Claud Allister (Sir Aubrey), Nan Grey (Lili), Edgar Norton (Hobbs), Fred Walton (Dr. Beemish).
by Richard Harland Smith
Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946 by Michael Brunas, John Brunas, and Tom Weaver. (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1990)
James Whale's Dracula's Daughter by Philip J. Riley (BearManor Media, 2009)
Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film by Andrea Weiss (Penguin Books, 1992)
Sandor, look at me. What do you see in my eyes?- Countess Marya Zaleska
Sherry, Marya?- Lady Esme Hammond
Thank you, I never drink ...wine.- Countess Marya Zaleska
You know, this is the first woman's flat I've been in that didn't have at least 20 mirrors in it.- Dr. Garth
Bram Stoker's story, Dracula's Guest, was originally a chapter in his novel, Dracula, but was published as a novel in 1937, after this movie was released. This movie was also loosely based on the 1872 British novel, Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
According to some contemporary sources, this film was based on the story Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker. However this story, originally a chapter of Stoker's novel Dracula, was not published until 1937, twenty-five years after the author's death. According to modern sources, the film Dracula's Daughter was also loosely based on the 1872 British novel Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, frequently called the first work of British fiction to deal with lesbian relationships. Oliver Jeffries, a name included in the onscreen credits after Stoker's with the words "Suggested by Oliver Jeffries," was a pseudonym for David O. Selznick, an executive producer at M-G-M from 1933 to 1936. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, Selznick considered purchasing the story for use by M-G-M, however, Universal purchased the rights in July 1934. Information contained in the Universal properties book notes that the rights were obtained by Universal on October 5, 1934. The news items record that rights to the story were to revert to M-G-M if Universal did not begin production by October 1935, however, Universal was granted an extension to February 1936. Hollywood Reporter notes that Universal began production in February 1936 with the script only partially completed in order to meet their final deadline. The Screen Achievements Bulletin notes that Garrett Fort's screenplay was developed from a story by John L. Balderston, based on Stoker's story, and a production chart in Hollywood Reporter credits the original story to Balderston and R. C. Sherriff. The Universal properties book indicates that Balderston's treatment, submitted to Universal in January 1934 (and possibly originally submitted to M-G-M), was the first, followed by a short treatment by Kurt Newman, that apparently was rejected. Subsequent to Sheriff's first screenplay submission in July 1935, he wrote three revisions through October 1935. Fort wrote two versions, one in January and one in February 1936. The final Fort screenplay, with revisions by Charles Belden in March 1936, was apparently the one used for the film, and he is the other writer credited onscreen, aside from Stoker.
Bela Lugosi was initially slated to appear in the film, as noted by Daily Variety news items. Edward Van Sloan, who appeared as Professor Von Helsing, portrayed the same character in Universal's Dracula. A pre-production news item credits Charles Carroll with sound. According to correspondence in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, a story was submitted unofficially to the Hays Office, which advised Carl Laemmle, Jr. that it was unacceptable under the guidelines of the Production Code. Further revisions by Sherriff were still found to contain an unacceptable "combination of sex and horror." In a letter to Joseph I. Breen, director of the Studio Relations Office of the AMPP, associate producer E. M. Asher announced that the first script had been discarded. During a February 1936 conference with Universal executive Harry Zehner, Asher and Fort, Hays officials requested that the scene in which the character Lili poses for a painting by Marya be handled in a manner to suggest that she was not modelling nude. In addition, they asked that "the whole sequence...will be treated in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of a perverse sexual desire on the part of Marya or of an attempted sexual attack by her upon Lili." In April 1936, the completed film was viewed and deemed acceptable by the Hays Office, although it was later rejected by some countries for its horror elements.
Released in United States 1936
Released in United States 1998
Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.
Released in United States 1936
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.)