“You dare to tamper with my attendants, to send this slinking cat Sonja to worm her way into my confidence?!?” – Princess Aura to Ming re: Anne Gwynne’s evil Lady Sonja, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
Oh, how Big Gay Horror Fan recalls the many moods of the limbless whores who raised him. One minute they were as benevolent as Jennifer Jones in saint mode, jockeying for an Oscar. The next, they were riding their trembling offspring with passionate insults, draped in their best dominatrix nun garb. Such duality in two 4’10’’ bodies!
That must be why I admire legendary Universal starlet Anne Gwynne (1918-2003) with such passion. Always contagiously beguiling, Gwynne played cowgirls, savage jungle maidens, greedy heirs and evil space conspirators throughout her career. Her charming friendliness often shines above her attempts at deep characterization – though her Lady Sonja in 1940’s Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a clipped and believably evil delight – but she is always a joy to watch.
Gracing the screen in un-credited roles in 1939, her first major genre participation occurred in 1940 with the above mentioned Flash Gordon and the Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi vehicle Black Friday. She is sweet as Karloff’s daughter in Friday, but much more memorable horror turns came with 1941’s Black Cat, Weird Woman and House of Frankenstein (both 1944). Frankenstein found her playing the resourceful ingénue, but she was more morally ambiguous in Cat, playing a greedy relative with an expensive agenda. Taking memorability a step further, as Lon Chaney Jr.’s sensitive bride in Woman, she is a confused young islander raised in the practice of voodoo. Once settled into mainland society, she tries to give up the ways that are natural to her (a circumstance that many Big Gay Horror Fans have flirted with over the years)but the vengeful plotting of her husband’s colleague (played with vicious purpose by Gwynne’s friend and fellow genre vixen Evelyn Ankers)sends her retreating back to her former practices.
Of course, as with many performers, the full-bodied roles died away for Gwynne within a matter of years. As Tess Trueheart in 1947’s Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, she is given little to do. Still stunningly beautiful, she does command attention in an enjoyable bit with former co-star Karloff.
Gwynne, whose final genre appearance was in 1958’s Teenage Monster, is also notable for a providing an interesting genealogy of cult entertainment. Her daughter Gwynne Gilford acted in such films as 1972’s Beware! The Blob and 1980’s Fade to Black while grandson Chris Pine is best known as James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films.
More information can be gathered on Gwynne at www.annegwynne.com.
Meanwhile, Big Gay Horror Fan is always welcoming lovers of the Universal Horror Ladies at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BigGayHorrorFan!
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE – Big Gay Horror Fan!