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O–Q Entries
Simon Oakland
Arch Oboler
Charles Ogle
Willis O'Brien
George Pal
Gregory Peck
Cassandra Peterson
Walter Pidgeon
Jack P. Pierce
Vincent Price
Anthony Quinn
 
OGLE, CHARLES
(1865–1940). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Frankenstein (J. Searle Dawley 1910) (and did makeup); A Christmas Carol (Dawley, Charles Kent, and Ashley Miller, all uncredited, 1910); The Great Physician (Richard Ridgeley 1913); The Phantom Signal (George Lessey 1913);  The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille 1923).
 
If he had been born in another era, it is easy to imagine the imposing, unattractive figure of Charles Ogle becoming a mainstay of the American horror film; he probably could have played all the classic roles given to Lon CHANEY, Jr. and done a better job of them. But Ogle was born in 1865, and he began acting during the infancy of American filmmaking, when the products were almost universally brief, hastily-made melodramas and comedies aimed squarely at family audiences. So it was that Ogle's film credits mostly consist of lost and forgotten ephemera.

However, in 1910, Thomas Edison's film company decided to experiment with a horror film—a loose adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818)—and company player Ogle was a natural choice to portray the monster; also, following the pattern of the day, he did his own makeup. The result, as observed in this recently rediscovered film, was a striking performance. Created by a strange process of gradually adding flesh to a skeleton, not by sewing parts of dead bodies together, Ogle's monster has none of the stiffness of Boris KARLOFF and his innumerable successors; long-haired and agile, he seems more like a mutated ape, an impression augmented by the curious way in which he holds his arms. In the course of ten minutes, within the confines of two simple sets, Ogle contrives to be both menacing and, in the scene when he sees his own dreadful visage in a mirror, sympathetic, which is what any successful Frankenstein monster must accomplish. It might have been the beginning of an interesting series of silent horror films.

Unfortunately, Frankenstein inspired indignant protests and outright bans, leading the Edison Company to return to an exclusive focus on family-friendly fare. One result was an early version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, with Ogle as Bob Cratchit—dutifully scribbling away in the background at the standard Victorian desk, and gesturing with pleasure at the immense bird that the reformed Scrooge brings for Christmas dinner, but otherwise given little to do. Reference books inform us that Ogle went on to play Death in a drama entitled The Great Physician, and that he played some role in a film about a scheme to derail trains by frightening conductors with an eerie skeleton, The Phantom Signal, but these are undoubtedly only two of the many lost Ogle films. His last major performance, and the only chance contemporary audiences will have of getting a really good look at him, came in the modern segment of Cecil B. DeMille's epic The Ten Commandments.

Soon thereafter, as he passed the age of sixty and silents were replaced by talking picture, Ogle retired from the screen to live the rest of his life in complete obscurity. One wonders what he thought of the way that Karloff had reinterpreted his role, or if he even remembered the few days he had devoted to his own pioneering film. But long after he had died, as horror films grew more popular and more respected, people became very eager to see Ogle's performance as the Frankenstein monster, though it was believed to be lost, and they were delighted when a single reel of the film was accidentally discovered—leading to the paradox of an actor who today, almost seventy years after his death, is more famous than he ever was during his own lifetime.

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