On April 17th, we lost a charming and beautiful star, Yvonne Monlaur. Of her filmography, I am most familiar with her role in Hammer’s The Brides of Dracula from 1960. The film starred Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing, Martita Hunt as Baroness Meinster, David Peel as her son, and Michael Ripper in a supporting role as the Coachman. The film follows Monlaur's Marianne Danielle as she travels to begin teaching at an all-girls school. Along the way, she is invited to the home of Baroness Meinster to stop and rest for the night. While there, she meets the Baroness’s son, Baron Meinster, whom she helps escape. Unbeknownst to Danielle, he's a vampire. There is a very interesting romance between Danielle and the baron that is not common in vampire films of this era. It was interesting to see the romance in a horror movie of that time; it was quite a departure from the Universal and Hammer films I had seen at that point in my life, and I enjoyed the change! With so many movies doing it now, I enjoy this less in the newer films. Yvonne Monlaur’s Marianne Danielle is a kind, daring, seemingly intelligent woman but she is very, very naive. As a child, I was very drawn to her due to her naivety and her good heart. With this character alone, she became one of my favorite actresses of all time.
Though the title of the film was The Brides of Dracula, Dracula did not appear in the film. The vampire Van Helsing battles is Baron Meinster. The redheaded David Peel was nothing like Hammer's Dracula, Christopher Lee. Peel was a shorter man who reportedly wore lifts in this film to appear as tall as Cushing. Though he was rather handsome, he wasn’t very menacing; a far cry from Lee’s 'Tall, Dark and Gruesome.' I do have to mention the fight between Van Helsing and Meinster, as the vampire did something not even Dracula had been able to do - he temporarily beat Van Helsing, biting him and leaving him to turn! Not a bad feat for the vampire.
The only other film I saw of Monlaur’s was The Terror of the Tongs, and this film I did not see all the way through. The film starred Christopher Lee as Chung King, and Monlaur played a character named Lee who was a mixed race Chinese servant. Though this film suffers from a bad case of whitewashing, it is always a joy to see Lee and Monlaur together.
Years later, I met her at the Monster Bash, and she was a kind and charming as I wished she would be. I tried never to miss her Q&A’s while there, as I found her fascinating to listen to. When the world was notified of her death at the end of April, I cried...and I cry again as I write this. Even in her 70s, she never failed to draw my attention. She was still beautiful, which I told her in an embarrassing rush when I first met her. Though she no longer spoke perfect English, she was willing to talk about her experiences with starry-eyed girls who had no idea what to say.
She will be greatly missed by all who met her and knew her.