LEADING LADIES: Hazel Court
By Michael Arruda
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in horror movies, especially from years gone by.
Today we look at the career of Hazel Court, the beautiful actress who graced many of the horror period pieces of the 1950s and 1960s. She played Elizabeth opposite Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), and her performance as Elizabeth in this movie just might be my favorite Elizabeth performance in a Frankenstein movie, with perhaps the possible exception of Madeline Kahn’s over-the-top performance in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).
Hazel Court enjoyed a long career, appearing in movies and TV shows beginning in 1944 and continuing all the way up to 1981. She has 71 screen credits. While I know her most from her horror movie appearances, she also appeared in a bunch of TV shows in the 1960s, appearing on such shows as TWILIGHT ZONE (1964), THE WILD WILD WEST (1966), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1967), MANNIX (1967), and MCMILLAN & WIFE (1972).
I will forever remember her for her appearance as Elizabeth in the Hammer classic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. What I enjoy about her most in this movie is the class she brings to the role. Peter Cushing is an absolute devil as Victor Frankenstein, and Court’s Elizabeth is so beautiful, charming, and genuine, it makes what Victor does to her all the more painful, as he lies to her continually and cheats on her as well.
Her character seemed so genuinely interested in Victor’s work, I often wonder what her reaction would have been had Victor made good on his promise to tell her the truth about his work and show her his creation. Would she have been horrified? Or would she have been supportive? Judging from her character in this movie, I’d guess it would be the latter, that she, unlike Victor’s former tutor-turned-assistant Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) would not have been offended but would have offered her help to her husband to make his dream of creating life come true. But alas, this doesn’t happen, as Elizabeth is nearly murdered by the Creature (Christopher Lee), and thanks to Paul’s betrayal, Victor is sent to the guillotine.
My favorite Hazel Court scene as Elizabeth in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is when she boldly decides to search Victor’s laboratory on her own, to learn for herself just what it is that has caused such a rift between Victor and Paul. She picks up a candle—the same one that Victor would use moments later to engulf his Creature in flames— and searches the area, and when she comes to the acid vat where Victor had been disposing his body parts, she brings her hand to her nose just as the Creature looks down upon her from the rooftop skylight. She looks up and cries out, “Who’s that?” But the Creature is no longer there.
Here is a partial look at Hazel Court’s career, concentrating mostly on her horror film appearances:
CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE (1944) – Hazel Court’s first screen appearance, an uncredited bit in this comedy musical.
GHOST SHIP (1952) – ghosts on the high seas!
DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) – Hazel Court’s not the Devil Girl, but she is terribly sexy in this campy science fiction tale about a woman alien from Mars dressed in leather who’s come to Earth to dominate men. Court plays a fashion model named Ellen Prestwick, and she definitely looks the part. She’s never looked sexier!
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – plays Elizabeth to Peter Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein in Hammer Films’ first horror hit. That’s Court’s real life daughter Sally Walsh playing the character of Elizabeth as a child. My favorite Hazel Court performance.
THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959) – Janine Du Bois- reunited with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN director Terence Fisher, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and star Christopher Lee in this thriller from Hammer Films.
BONANZA (1960) – Lady Beatrice Dunsford – guest spot on the popular TV western in the episode named “The Last Trophy.”
DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN (1961) – Nurse Linda Parker- low budget horror movie written by director Nathan Juran, who directed such classics as 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) and THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), both films featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1958-1961) – appeared in four different episodes of this popular television show.
THRILLER (1961) – Leonie Vicek- appeared in the episode “The Terror in Teakwood” in this horror show hosted by Boris Karloff.
PREMATURE BURIAL (1962) – Emily Gault – stars opposite Ray Milland in this handsome horror movie directed by Roger Corman based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.
THE RAVEN (1963) – Lenore Craven – gets to star with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Jack Nicholson in this horror comedy by Roger Corman, loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem.
TWILIGHT ZONE (1964) – Charlotte Scott – stars in the episode called “The Fear” in this iconic science fiction series.
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) – Juliana – in danger from Vincent Price’s evil Prince Prospero in this horror movie by Roger Corman based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.
THE WILD WILD WEST (1965) – Elizabeth Carter – appears in the episode “The Night of the Returning Dead” directed by Richard Donner, in this western TV series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1967) – Catherine Hagar – appeared in the episode “Charity” of this spy television series starring Peter Graves.
MCMILLAN & WIFE (1972) – Frances Mayerling – appeared in the episode “The Face of Murder” in this mystery TV series starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James.
Hazel Court passed away from a heart attack on April 15, 2008 at the age of 82.
Hazel Court. February 10, 1926 – April 15, 2008.
Thanks for reading!