February 27, 2021

Amazing Animal People #2: Captive Wild Woman

Amazing Animal People trading card #2: Paula Dupree, Captive Wild Woman, 1943

Mad endocrinologist Dr. Sigmund Walters (John Carradine) has been experimenting with transmuting animals into higher orders of species with glandular transplants. When he decides that he needs to experiment on larger animals, he arranges to have Cheela, a gentle gorilla, stolen from a local circus.

Walters is convinced that in order to transform Cheela into a human with true human emotions, a brain transplant is also needed. He sacrifices his insubordinate female lab assistant (Fay Helm) for the purpose, and voila!, sultry Paula Dupree (Acquanetta) is born.

The mad doctor brazenly introduces his new creation to the circus' animal trainer, Fred Mason (Milburn Stone), who originally captured Paula in her gorilla form. Paula immediately falls for Fred, even saving his life when a circus lion gets out of control. But when Paula finds out Fred has a beautiful fiancée (Evelyn Ankers), jealousy causes her to revert to her animal nature.

Funanimal Fact: Although Acquanetta (born Mildred Davenport in 1921) had been in a couple of other movies previously, Universal still decided to “introduce” her as Paula Dupree, “A New Sensation in Savagery,” in its marketing campaign. Captive Wild Woman was the first of a series of three films featuring the character -- two mediocre follow-ups, Jungle Woman (1944) and The Jungle Captive (1945) ran the franchise into the ground.

Acquanetta didn’t have a single line of dialog in Captive Wild Woman. Nonetheless, she found the experience exhilarating and exhausting:

“There was no preparation on my part, but I sat sometimes for two and a half hours being made up by a makeup artist. I think I had more emotional feeling, being made up for that, than anything I ever did, because it was exhausting. Edward Dmytryk [the director] and I had great rapport -- we dated briefly. I thought he was tremendous. Eddie gave me more freedom, I think, than other directors. I’ve always felt that I was never ‘me’ in movies -- do you know there was never a film where I was allowed to smile?” [Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas and John Brunas, Universal Horrors, The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946, 2nd Ed., McFarland, 2007, p. 343]


John Carradine and Acquanetta in Captive Wild Woman, 1943
"That'll be two bits for the haircut and the shave, Miss Dupree."

Animal Crack-up (click on the text to see the punchline):

Why don't gorillas play poker?

Don't miss these other Amazing Animal People

Don't miss the first installment of the Amazing Animal People:
Lota from the Island of Lost Souls (1932)
and the full review of Captive Wild Woman right here on this site!

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