Colin Clive was born Colin Glenn Clive-Greig on January 20, 1900 in St. Malo, France. Colin's father was a British Army Colonel, Colin Philip Greig, and his mother, Caroline Margaret Lugard Clive. Colonel Greig was on assignment in France when his son was born. It was thought that young Clive may find a career in the Army being an ancestor was Baron Robert Clive, founder of the British Indian Empire. Colin attended Stonyhurst College and subsequently Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. A fall from a horse injured his knee and disqualified him from military service. This is one of the contributing factors to his becoming a stage actor.
A very sensitive young Colin Clive turned to theater. Clive worked on his new career through the 1920's. One of his roles was that of Steve Baker, the white husband of racially mixed Julie LaVerne, in the first London production of 'Show Boat'. This production also featured Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Paul Robeson.
Clive had married Evelyn Taylor in 1922, and was married to her until her death in 1929. In June 1929 he would marry his second wife, Actress Jeanne De Casalis, which he would be married to until his death. Although De Casalis worked in films and on stage, her greatest success was as a comedienne on radio sitcoms in England, playing the dithering 'Mrs. Feather'.
In 1928, he was chosen by director James Whale to replace none other than Laurence Olivier in the difficult part of Stanhope, the tragic hero of R. C. Sherriff play 'Journey's End'. James Whale who was an up-and-coming Director, had also been working his way up in London stage and film work as a budding scene designer and Director. Among his stage and entertainment acquaintances in London was Elsa Lanchester (the future 'Bride of Frankenstein'). When Olivier moved on to other stage work, the play moved to the Savoy Theater in London with Colin Clive in the lead. Colin struggled with the part until Playwrite R.C. Sherriff suggest Colin take a shot of whiskey before going onstage to calm his nerves, and it worked. Despite having been knocked down by a bus on The Strand on Opening Day, Colin showed up at the Savoy Theater unharmed and an amazing performance.
Due to the success of 'Journey's End', Whale got his break to direct and be scene designer for a play on Broadway which opened on March of 1929, Clive was not in the play but nevertheless came to New York to await developments. The play ended in mid 1930, and Whale was contracted by Paramount as a dialog director. In 1930 Whale would then be called to direct the first British/American co-produced sound film, a film version of 'Journey's End'. Whale would get Clive to play the tormented alcoholic Captain Stanhope, a character that somewhat mirrored his personal life, the same role he played in the stage play. Clive's stage performance came out in his screen performance and Clive was on his way. Clive was also an in-demand leading man for a number of major film actresses of the era, including Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Corinne Griffith and Jean Arthur.
Clive would get is first play on Broadway 'Overture' in late 1930 the play would end in January 1931. Then it was back to London to to star in (1931) 'The Stronger Sex' alongside Elsa Lanchester. During the time Clive was in England, James Whale was contracted by Universal to direct a follow up to there huge hit (1931) Dracula, Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' was optioned as the next 'horror' movie for Universal and James Whale's would be it's Director. What would happen next would become film history, Whale's would call upon Colin Clive to play Dr. Henry Frankenstein, the tortured doctor that would be driven to near insanity to create life from the undead. Before Frankenstein was released, Clive was back in England. On December 6, 1931, the day 'Frankenstein' went into wide distribution, Clive was out riding and fell off of his horse and broke his hip.
Over the next few years he would play Leading and Supporting roles in a few films. Clive would also returned to Broadway for two plays in 1933 and 1934 seasons. Clive was under new contract with Warner and in 1934 was to play John Pointer in 'The Firebird' but he suffered an alcoholic breakdown and was replaced by Lionel Atwill. James Whale and writer RC Sherriff would join with Clive again in (1934) 'One More River'. He did go on to star in the (1934) 'Jane Eyre' as Edward Rochester opposite of Virginia Bruce. Clive would play a British Officer, Capt. Johnstone, in a film biography about his ancestor 'Robert Clive' (played by Ronald Coleman) in the (1935) film 'Clive of India'. Clive also made (1935) 'The Right to Live' with Josephine Hutchinson and George Brent. It was then back to Universal to for the Classic (1935) 'Bride of Frankenstein'. In Bride, Dr Frankenstein was more subdued, setting and laying in many scenes (this was probably do to his early knee injury and hip injuries). He would make four more films in 1935 'The Girl From 10th Avenue' with Bette Davis, 'Mad Love' with Peter Lorre and Frances Drake in which Clive played the haunted Stephen Orlac, a man possessed with the grafted hands of a murderer. Next came 'The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo' with Ronald Colman and Joan Bennett, and 'The Widow from Monte Carlo' with Warren William and Dolores del Rio.
Clive would returned to Broadway one more time for a play in the 1935-36 season.
Clive would return to Hollywood to make two more films in 1937 'History Is Made at Night' with Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur, also in 1937 'The Woman I Love' with Paul Muni, Miriam Hopkins, Louis Hayward. These would be the final two films of Colin Clive.
Colin Clive suffered from Tuberculosis, he also suffered from severe chronic alcoholism. As he had relied on whiskey to overcome stage fright, he came to use alcohol to combat his inner demons. In 1937, Clive contracted pneumonia. He suffered a rapid and alarming loss of weight due to the complications of alcoholism. Clive had no children
Sadly Clive's life was cut short at the age of only 37. He died on June 25, 1937 of pneumonia (probably as a result of a long history of alcoholism). Clive's wife, Jeanne de Casalis, nor his friend James Whale attended his funeral, although Jeanne did send a spray of roses. Peter Lorre and Alan Mowbray were both pallbearers at Clive's funeral. There were over 300 mourners for the funeral. Colin Clive's Monument is located at Chapel of the Pines Crematory. Clive's ashes were in the basement of the Funeral Parlor for 40 years, unclaimed. They were finally scattered at sea in 1978.
Clive's wife Jeanne wrote her memoir's before she died in 1966 'Things I Don't Remember.' In the memoir's it she makes no mention of Colin Clive. Clive enjoyed working in Hollywood. He would play opposite some great actors and actresses. His fellow actors remembered him as a kind and clever man, but also taciturn and melancholy. Mae Clark (who played Elizabeth in 'Frankenstein') recalled "He was the handsomest man I ever saw" and she added "and also the saddest."
Colin Clive had a very tragic and short life. His career was barely eight years from is triumph on the London Stage to his early death. Although Colin Clive made only three horror films, (1931) 'Frankenstein', (1935) 'Bride of Frankenstein' and (1935) 'Mad Love', he is regarded as an essential stars of the Horror genre. His portrayal of mad Dr. Frankenstein became the mold for many of the great screen mad scientist's in films for many years. As Dr. Frankenstein had created life from dead bodies, Colin Clive created an everlasting memories for one of the most famous lines in cinamatic history ---