Did you know…
Universal’s 1932 production of The Mummy was heavily inspired by actual events? Previous to The Mummy, Universal’s successful horror features were based on literary characters – Frankenstein and Dracula. But when actual tales of terror emerged following the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber in 1922, Universal capitalized on the public’s fascination with the “Mummy’s Curse” that supposedly guarded the grave.
The curse was said to doom anyone who dared defile a mummy’s tomb; and British tabloids of the 1920s exploited many tragic stories of people affiliated with British archaeologist Howard Carter and his discovery. According to these newspapers, by 1929 eleven people connected with the excavation of King Tut’s tomb died early and of unnatural causes. This included Howard Carter’s wealthy patron, Lord Carnarvon; Carter’s personal secretary, Richard Bethell; and Bethell’s father, Lord Westbury. The press followed the deaths carefully, attributing each new one to the “Mummy’s Curse,” and by 1935 there were 21 victims credited to King Tut.
After the success of Frankenstein and Dracula, Carl Laemmle Jr. sought a major horror vehicle, and also wanted another big part for his Frankenstein star, Boris Karloff. The notoriety of the King Tut discovery and coincidental tragedies was a logical choice for Laemmle, and he hired John L. Balderston to write a screenplay loosely based on the actual stories. The result was one of the great horror classics of all time.
The Mummy has inspired a legacy of sequels and re-interpretations at Universal – from The Mummy’s Hand in 1940 to the “Revenge of the Mummy Ride” located at Universal Studios Hollywood.