chapter  2
29 Pages

Jungle Fever — A Horror Romance: 1930s

In 35 short years (1895-1930), in America, fi lm went from being the expensive, experimental hobby of inventors to a full-blown commercial industry — “Hollywood.” By the mid-1930s, fi lm production was hailed as a leading industry in the US, with $2 billion in fi nancial worth. The average weekly attendance at theaters rose steadily from 40 million in 1922 to 48 million in 1925 and 110 million in 1930. 2 The 1930s was also when the term “horror fi lm” fi nally entered into the lexicon. 3

Nearly every mainstream fi lm company began producing horror fi lms; however, Universal Studios can be credited with innovating this “Golden Age” of horror fi lms with their now-classic string of monster movies — Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Invisible Man (1933). 4 Universal’s monsters were joined by other popular Universal horror fi lms such as Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), as well as a string of sequels such as Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Dracula’s Daughter (1936). Thanks, in part, to the efforts of Universal, the 1930s remain one of the most celebrated periods in fi lm history. Unfortunately, Blacks were largely absent from Universal’s monster movies, with the rare exception of the Black actor Noble Johnson, who had small parts as the servant “Janos the Black One” in Murders in the Rue Morgue and as the servant “the Nubian” in The Mummy . One writer with the Black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier believed Universal had little respect for Black audiences during this time. 5 Indeed, Blacks

were experiencing fi lmic slights, but they were not only coming from Universal.