A Century of Glamour Ghouls: 1930s
The Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
Dracula’s Daughter (1936) gives you that weird feeling, apparently. Use of the term horror to describe these weird films had finally caught on by 1936, just in time for Universal to have producer turnover and stop making them. So Dracula’s Daughter would be Universal’s last (for a few years anyway) and a fitting intermezzo for the genre in America.
Directly connected to the Universal horror films of its own decade, Dracula’s Daughter also operates as a spiritual predecessor of Val Lewton’s horror films in the 1940s. Dracula’s Daughter is atmospheric and wistful, driven more by character psychology and internal conflict than Universal’s previous monster movies.
Dracula’s Daughter picks up directly after Dracula (1931). Police officers have arrived to cart Von Helsing away for murder (the sudden name change has never been explained). Quick to the scene is the Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), who uses her vampiric wiles to retrieve her father’s body. Zaleska intends to destroy her father once and for all in an effort free herself from vampirism. This doesn’t quite do the trick and Zaleska is left hopeless and depressed until she meets a psychologist, Dr. Garth, who believes he can cure any obsessive behavioral trait. When this also doesn’t work as quickly or easily as she expects, Zaleska plans her revenge.
From the very start Zaleska is a character at odds with herself. She’s not alive and not dead. She’s an ancient monster who carouses in polite high society. She’s an (awfully British) Eastern European immigrant trying to operate within English culture. Her thinly veiled queerness adds another layer to these conflicts of identity and informs the film’s narrative closely. The primary tension of the film comes from her interlacing identity crises and the self-loathing that follows. The film is driven by the suspense of when or if she will snap under the weight of it all.
If the last film I covered was written about too much, Dracula’s Daughter hasn’t been written about enough. The primary focus of most writing is on the film’s lesbian subtext, but honestly more bi people need to write about it. I’ll give it a whack at a later date.
The Countess Marya Zaleska isn’t just a vampire, she’s a Dracula and her costuming shows it. She’s primarily costumed in gowns (what would a daytime wardrobe even mean for a vampire?); regal with an artistic bent and painfully fashionable throughout the film.
I decided for the daytime look to put together a more casual version of one of her gowns, but sticking to a 1930s silhouette.
For the hair, I wound a few dark colored ribbons together to wear as a headband because my hair is on the shorter side. If you have longer hair, this simple milk-maid braid tutorial by Rachel Maksy would be perfect.
For the full costume I honestly donned a dark bedsheet as a cape. If you have a long black cape at your disposal, you’re more goth than I. Congratulations. I also took a large glass bead from the dollar store, glued some tin foil to the backside of it and then glued the whole thing to a plain ring to create something like the ring Zaleska uses in her hypnotism.
First I had to tackle brows. While I already have the ends of my eyebrows shaved off, the heads are thicker than Holden’s. Very thin brows were en vogue in the 1930s. So, to demonstrate two methods for you, I used a glue stick for one eyebrow and just a cream concealer for the other. In the photo below, the glue has dried and I laid down my base, using a foundation with a semi-matte finish.
Contour time. Gloria Holden has very strong features that I wanted to emphasize, but this is still a daytime look, so I used a light hand and a warm gray powder. (1.) This is where I put the lines of my contour to make the shape of my nose more sloping at the upper bridge and a little sharper at the tip. I also brought my cheekbone contour quite far forward and rounded it out. (2.) To illustrate the shapes I’m going for a bit better, I mapped out the highlight and contour with a little dodge & burn. (3.) And here it is blended. It’s subtle, but with contour it’s better to go subtle and add than to try and neutralize too much shadow. (Sorry for the lighting change, I was doing this in the middle of a storm.)
Using a taupe gray shadow, (1.) I focused in on the crease and blended both upward and outward. With what was left on the brush for each eye, I ran the shadow all along my lower lashline. Because the eyebrow and eyeshadow shape compliment each other in this look, (2.) I drew out the long, rounded eyebrow shape next with a little flip up at the ends. For daytime eyeliner, (3.) I started with a kitten flick (a small upward angled triangle) then drew it out across my upper lashline using a dark brown shadow. (If your skin is considerably deeper than mine, black is better.) (4.) I then applied a few coats of black mascara, touched up the brows and eyeshadow to make sure they were still deep enough and added some highlight to the browbone.
Last, but not least, are lips. Holden’s upper lip is fuller and extends further at the corners than her bottom lip, so (1.) I used concealer to make my lower lip smaller. I blended the concealer down to make my chin look more prominent as well. (2.) I then drew out the shape of the lips with liner. I rounded out the shape of my upper lip and sharpened the cupid’s bow. (3.) I chose a medium-dark pink to fill in the lips, but you could use any color for this look since the eyes are so neutral. Be sure not to smoosh your lips together to spread the color with this look, you’ll ruin the line you created.
For the full costume look, I went back over my brows with black eyeshadow. For the eyes, I deepened the eyeshadow a bit with a deep purple (not historically accurate but hey). I extended and thickened the liner across my entire lashline in black and added a trimmed set of lashes. (This was the most useful false lash tutorial for me.) I deepened the contour a bit as well and changed the lip color to red.
And that’s the look! I think The Countess is a great costume choice and I hope this help guides your look this Halloween. The 1940s are just around the corner!