Victims and Villains: Psychological Themes, Male Stars and Horror Films in the 1940s

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr are seen as the key horror stars of the 1940s, along with lesser figures such as Lionel Atwill and George Zucco, the period was one in which the horror film was not limited to the low-budget productions of Universal, Columbia and others but, on the contrary, one in which many horror films were “dressed in full Class ‘A’ paraphernalia, including million dollar budgets and big name casts” (Stanley, 1944: X3). Consequently, a number of romantic male leads became closely associated with the genre — stars such as Ray Milland, Joseph Cotton, Cary Grant and George Sanders. If these stars are hardly remembered in this way today, this is largely because many of their key horror films are no longer associated with the genre, although they were understood as horror films at the time of their original release. For example, the figure of the gangster and the spy were no strangers to the horror film during the 1940s, and many films that would commonly be understood as thrillers today were clearly seen as horror films at the time (Jancovich, 2009b).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPopular Media Cultures
Subtitle of host publicationFans, Audiences and Paratexts
EditorsLincoln Geraghty
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-35037-4
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-46834-8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • York Time
  • Serial Killer
  • Male Lead
  • Psychological Theme
  • Horror Film

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