Erle C. Kenton
Erle Cauthorn Kenton was born August 1, 1896 in Norborne, Missouri. In 1900 he had moved with his parents to Mexico, Missouri, but by 1910 was living with his Grandmother, Sarah Cauthorn in Los Angeles, California and attending school there. He first entered the film industry as a comedian, working on the Keystone Cops series of films. He later turned to directing and made short comedies for every major studio in Hollywood before becoming a feature film director.
He started out as a Keystone Cop under the direction of Mack Sennett in 1914, working his way up the Sennett Studio ladder as a gagman and assistant director. After successfully handling several 2-reelers, Kenton was given a crack at directing a feature film, the 1920 Sennett production Down on the Farm. He continued working in a comic vein at other studios throughout the silent era; typical titles in the Kenton manifest included The Sap (1926), Bare Knees (1927) and Golf Widows (1928).
Easily making the transition into talkies, Kenton was able to adapt his working methods to the demands of the microphone, as proven by such early sound efforts as Mexicali Rose (1929), X Marks the Spot (1931) and Guilty as Hell (1932). Kenton directed features in nearly every genre of film during his Hollywood career; crime dramas, The Public Menace (1935), Counterfeit (1936); Westerns, End of the Trail (1936) in which he gave himself a cameo as Teddy Roosevelt; adventure films, North to the Klondike (1942); war films, Devil's Squadron (1936), Naval Academy (1941), What We Are Fighting For (1943); and comedies, including two of Abbott & Costello's funniest films, Pardon My Sarong (1942) and Who Done It? (1942).
Kenton directed the superb Island of Lost Souls (1932) (which was based on The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells) and several other less impressive horror films. His other horror films include The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). The latter two films are interesting curiosities in which Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster defy the laws of chance and all turn up in the same area. House of Dracula was the better of the two with plenty of Gothic atmosphere and some impressive moments that helped one ignore the absurd plot.
In the 1950s he turned to directing series TV episodes, including The Public Defender (1954) and The Texan (1958). Erle C. Kenton died on January 28, 1980 in Glendale, California.
--JOHN BROSNAN, from
The Horror People.
A selection of Erle C. Kenton films.
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A selection of Erle C. Kenton in books.
A History of Horror
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