Evelyn Ankers

"Queen of the Screamers"

The original "Scream Queen", Evelyn Ankers was born in Valparaiso, Chile, on August 17, 1918. The daughter of British parents, she was raised in England, and later attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. At 18, Evelyn struck out on her own in search of a career. As with all struggling actresses, she haunted casting offices leading to roles in six British Made Films, including the Villiers Diamond, her first leading role. She came to Hollywood in 1940 after Britain had been attacked by the Nazis. Her first success on American soil came on the Broadway stage in "Ladies In Retirement."

A brief contractual obligation to MGM, yielded not a single film role. Contracted by Universal in 1941. Evelyn Ankers would become one of the studio's most prolific players of the period. She would appear in 27 features for the studio, eleven of those Horror Movies.

To this day her name is synonymous the studio's thrillers of the golden age and affectionately referred to as the "Queen of the Screamers", because of her blood- curdling vocal outbursts in "B" suspense thrillers of the 1940s. Despite her British upbringing, for her premiere assignment, Evelyn was cast as the all-American heroine in Abbott and Costello's comedy classic "Hold That Ghost." As popular as this film was, her first entry in the horror genre would perhaps contain the role that would define the rest of her career. "The Wolf Man" featured Chaney in the title role, Ankers was awarded the female lead giving a truly endearing performance as the woman in love with the tragic hero. In 1942, Ankers joined Chaney again for the fourth installment in the continuing saga of Universal's greatest monster. "The Ghost of Frankenstein" reunited several of the players from "The Wolf Man." Also that year, Ankers joined Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in "Sherlock Holmes and The Voice of Terror."

Evelyn and Lon Chaney Jr

With Basil Rathbone

Getting her palm red by Maleva



Evelyn in Ghost of Frankenstein

On September 6th 1942, she married actor Richard Denning. Ankers was engaged to actor Glenn Ford, but Ankers broke the engagement when she met Richard Denning while Ford was on location. It was to be a long and successful union. With her new husband serving in the armed forces, Ankers continued her film work unimpeded for a little longer. By 1943, the blonde beauty was firmly established as Universal's number one horror film heroine. She was menaced by the "shockingly savage" Acquanetta in "Captive Wild Woman," an unusual yet entertaining film that ultimately spawned two sequels. In "Son of Dracula," she was cast in a supporting role as the sister of a morbid Louise Allbritton, who marries the undead Count to gain immortality. Ankers then held the female lead in yet another shocker, "The Mad Ghoul," which co-starred George Zucco and David Bruce. The following year she was featured in "The Invisible Man's Revenge," the last of the Invisible Man series made by the studio. Ankers also joined Acquanetta once again for the sequel to their previous year's entry, this time entitled "Jungle Woman," and made her first Inner Sanctum film, "Weird Woman," with Chaney and her dear friend Anne Gwynne. She also teamed once more with Rathbone and Bruce for one of the best of Universal's Sherlock Holmes films. "The Pearl of Death," based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Six Napoleons. Her final Universal credit was the Inner Sanctum mystery "The Frozen Ghost" released in June 1945.

 

Ankers was pregnant with her first child during the production, and chose to leave the studio for the life of a wife and mother following the completion of filming.
Infrequent screen appearances followed, with some being more notable than others. She and husband Richard Denning were cast in the 20th Century-Fox feature "Black Beauty" in 1946. The following year she joined Gerald Mohr in "The Lone Wolf in London." In 1949, she appeared in the first Tarzan film to feature Lex Barker in the title role. "Tarzan's Magic Fountain" also starred Brenda Joyce, and was an above average entry in the long running series. After her film career petered out, Evelyn appeared on several TV shows, most notably co-starring with Buster Keaton and Joe E. Brown in "The Silent Partner," a 1955 episode of Screen Director's Playhouse.
Ankers and Denning eventually moved to the island of Maui in the 1960's, where he continued his career portraying the governor in the highly successful television series "Hawaii Five-O." Evelyn retired in the mid-1960s. Shortly after her husband's retirement in 1980, Ankers contracted cancer. One of the greatest of Universal's stars, Evelyn Ankers passed away on August 28, 1985 at the age of 67.