Exploring Frances Drake

How appropriate, is it not, that the Halloween season contains the natal day of actress Frances Drake (Frances Morgan Dean, 1912-2000). For I associate her above all as the Grand Guignol star damsel in distress in MGM’s over-the-top horror classic Mad Love (1935) with Peter Lorre, and secondarily as the female lead in The Invisible Ray (1936) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi! And then a bevy of moody mysteries.

Drake’s movie career was brief: two dozen films over fewer than ten years, and she only starred in some of them. A New York socialite, she had been at school in London when the stock market crashed in 1929, ruining her family’s fortune. Forced to shift for herself, she began to dance and act on stage. Her first film was the British The Jewel (1933). With Bolero (1934), she launched her Hollywood career. Les Miserables (1935) is probably the best known film she appeared in. Her final starring part was in The Lone Wolf in Paris (1938). After The Affairs of Martha (1942), in which she played a supporting role, she retired to concentrate on her marriage to Cecil Howard, who was the second son of Henry Howard, the 19th Earl of Suffolk.