Colin Clive: One Of My Favorite Actors
Updated: Aug 16
Colin Clive is one of my favorite actors. He’s mostly known for playing Dr. Henry Frankenstein in the immortal classic Frankenstein (1931). That performance is one of my favorites of all time. I recently went through most of his filmography last month and I discovered some great cinema. He had that unique hypnotic voice that will stand the test of time. He was very versatile with every performance. In all the films I saw, he always gave it his all, and was always my favorite part. He starred in many films from 1930 to 1937.
Colin Clive was a bad alcoholic and unfortunately passed away at the young age of 37 in 1937. It’s tragic but his story is a prime example of how alcohol can truly ruin someone’s life. I’m recently in recovery from alcohol and Clive’s story gets to me. It’s a good reminder to stay off the bottle.
In February of 2020, I was in the mood to watch some Universal Monster Films. I wrote a piece on that experience and posted it on this site so check that out! Anyway, in February of 2020, I was watching some of them and eventually started watching some of Boris Karloff’s films and ranked them on my Letterboxd. At the end of the month, I watched about 20 of his films. I enjoyed doing that because I watched some good films that I never would’ve watched if I didn’t do that marathon. I did the same with Dan O'Herlihy. I watched 21 of his films and discovered some really good cinema. I wrote a piece on that experience as well and posted it on my website so check that out as well!
I recently went through 15 of Colin Clive’s films. There are some good and unfortunately… some not so good. I want to talk about the good films.
Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein is one of my all time favorite performances. In my opinion, he is the star of the film and he’s the best actor in it. He chews up every scene with his iconic maniac performance and his distinct voice. His voice is hypnotic. The way he speaks the iconic dialogue adds so much to this film. Clive brings so much humanity to the mad scientist. His iconic line "IT'S ALIVE!" is one of best lines in cinematic history. Clive’s death is tragic, just like the character of Dr. Henry Frankenstein in this film. I cannot praise his performance or this film enough.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935):
Colin Clive returns and he's a wonderful addition in this film. Unfortunately, he wasn’t doing well with his alcohol addiction and his health so he’s not in this as much. Still, he slides back into his role as Dr. Henry Frankenstein with ease. I love his chemistry with Dr. Pretorius. I like the fact that his character survives in the end. The monster allows him to live even though he created him and disowned him. Clive is brilliant in this film, even though Karloff steals the show.
Mad Love (1935):
The story is wild. I like how strange it is. For 1935, I think it's bold to go in this type of direction. Peter Lorre is fantastic as the weirdo mad scientist type character. He steals every scene he's in. Colin Clive is also fantastic. Whenever Clive and Lorre share a scene together it's pure cinema. Frances Drake does a great job as well. This film is well shot & I like the score. It's half horror half drama. The horror comes from the weird story elements & the 3rd act. Overall, It's a really good film!
Journey’s End (1930):
This James Whale's directorial debut and it's one of the best war films I've seen. James Whale is the director behind Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein. It's based on a play so it's mostly dialogue but that's where it shines. The script is top notch. My favorite aspect is Colin Clive's performance, which is his feature film debut. He seems so natural behind the camera. Because of that role he got to play Dr. Frankenstein and the rest is history. I'd recommend this film.
History Is Made at Night (1937):
This is a good film with an interesting take on a love story. Colin Clive plays the antagonist and he plays such a great villain. He’s awful but he really plays it off beautifully. His plan is so diabolical. I had to buy the Criterion for my collection. The 3rd act really surprised me in all the right ways. I’d definitely recommend this one.
Christopher Strong (1933):
This is another love story but I liked it overall. It’s well shot and the dialogue is top notch. Colin Clive and Katharine Hepburn have perfect chemistry. Whenever they are on screen together, the film is really entertaining. I enjoyed the heartbreaking ending. I’d recommend this one.
The Girl from 10th Avenue (1935):
Bette Davis delivers a powerhouse performance. She stole the show. The story is a bit bland but the characters make it for me. Colin Clive is barely in this but he steals every scene. Not a bad film overall.
Other films I watched from his filmography include:
The Key (1934)
One More River (1934)
The Right to Live (1935)
The Woman I Love (1937)
Looking Forward (1933)
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (1935)
Clive of India (1935)
Jane Eyre (1934)
I wasn’t a fan of those films but Colin Clive stood out in all of them. He really gave it his all in every performance.
Also I want to give a shoutout to the book "One Man Crazy ... !" The Life and Death of Colin Clive; Hollywood's Dr. Frankenstein by Gregory W Mank. It’s a terrific read and I learned so much about Colin Clive.
I can go on about Colin Clive, but I don’t want to make this too long. My intention with this piece was to bring more attention to this wonderful, yet underrated actor. He’s been in some fantastic films and I’m glad I went through most of his filmography. I hope this helps bring more recognition to this underrated actor and some recommendations for more good cinema.
Below is my Letterboxd ranking of Colin Clive's filmography!