Boris Karloff protested against the decision to make The Monster speak, but was overruled. Since he was required to speak in this film, Karloff was not able to remove his partial bridgework as he had done to help give the Monster his sunken cheek appearance in the first Frankenstein (1931). That's why The Monster appears fuller of face in the sequel.
Marilyn Harris, who played Maria, the girl The Monster accidentally kills in the original Frankenstein (1931), appears uncredited as another young girl. She is the leader of the group of young schoolgirls who encounter the Monster as he runs away from the blind man's burning house. Director James Whale deliberately gave her a one-word line ("Look!"), so she would be paid more by the studio as an actor with a speaking role, instead of as an extra.
The tiny mermaid in Dr. Pretorius' bottle was Josephine McKim, a member of the 1924 and 1928 U.S. Women's Olympic Swim Teams and one of the four members of that team to win the 1928 gold medal in the 400-Meter Freestyle Relay. McKim was also Maureen O'Sullivan's body double in the infamous nude swimming scene of the previous year's Tarzan and His Mate (1934).
When filming the scene where the monster emerges from the burnt windmill, Boris Karloff slipped and fell into the water-filled well. Upon being helped out, it was discovered that he had dislocated a hip in the fall. The hip was strapped into place and Karloff soldiered on. He continued to receive massage and heat treatments for the hip for the rest of the shooting of the film.
Director James Whale originally did not want to do a sequel to Frankenstein (1931). For a time, Universal considered producing a sequel without Whale's involvement. One possible story included an educated monster continuing Henry's research, while another chronicled Henry's creation of a death ray on the eve of a world war. However, after 4 years of badgering by Universal, Whale agreed to do the film.
Jack P. Pierce altered the make-up of Frankenstein's monster from this film's predecessor to reflect that he had survived the mill fire at the end of Frankenstein (1931) with some flesh burns and with much of his hair singed off.
Censors caused Pretorious' derogatory line about "fairy tales" to be changed to "Bible stories," but once they saw the sneering contempt which Ernest Thesiger loaded into his delivery of these two words, they wished they had left the original script unchanged.
Elsa Lanchester was not the only person to have a dual role in this film. In addition to her role as Minnie, Una O'Connor also appeared in the prologue, as Shelley's maid who is holding the leash as the dogs go off screen.
Elsa Lanchester was only 5'4" but for the role was placed on stilts that made her 7' tall. The bandages were placed so tightly on her that she was unable to move and had to be carried about the studio and fed through a straw.
Special effects experts John P. Fulton and David S. Horsley spent two days shooting Dr. Pretorius' miniature beings. The actors were placed in full-sized bell jars set against black velvet. These shots were meticulously lined up to match them with shots of Ernest Thesiger, Colin Clive and the interior set.
Several scenes were cut after censor's objections. References to the scandalous sexual arrangements of Mary, Shelley, and Byron were eliminated, particularly the line of dialogue: "We are all three infidels, scoffers at all marriage ties, believing only in living freely and fully." Breen's office also objected to shots they considered too revealing of Elsa Lanchester's cleavage in the prologue.
Production of this sequel to the original Frankenstein (1931) was publicized as early as 1933 by both Universal Studio press releases and the trade paper "Daily Variety", but director James Whale did not begin work on it until late 1934. With a budget under $300,000, it was originally entitled "The Return of Frankenstein".
One of James Whale's criteria for taking up the director's reins on the film was that he would have complete artistic freedom. This was easily achieved, as Universal's studio head Carl Laemmle Jr. was vacationing in Europe at the time.
Elsa Lanchester had to spend days trussed up tightly in bandages. She needed to be fed by her dresser since even her fingers were wrapped. According to one story, one of her stand-ins had a screaming attack of claustrophobia.
Cinematographer John Mescall presented a problem with his drinking, so serious the studio had to provide a car to get him safely to and from the set. Nevertheless, he was very good at his job, even when drunk, and James Whale liked that he worked fast and rarely wasted time fussing with incidental camera and lighting hardware.
Elizabeth's line at the beginning of the film, "I was told to beware my wedding night." is a direct mirrored reference to the original novel, in which the Monster warns Dr. Frankenstein to beware his wedding night.
During the "bottle" sequence in Dr. Pretorius' apartment, the Doctor, while showing Henry Frankenstein the miniature "devil" character, makes a wry comment that he sees a "certain resemblance" between him and his tiny creation. In fact, the miniature devil in the bottle was played by Peter Shaw, who was actually actor Ernest Thesiger's stand-in/film double in the picture.
As a result of audience reactions from the film's preview screenings during the first week of April 1935, the film was extensively re-edited. Many scenes were deleted and trimmed, and at least one, the scene where the Monster stumbles into the Gypsy Camp, was added in. As a result of the editing, the original uncut film was approx. 15 minutes longer than its official release length of 75 minutes.
Though virtually all of Billy Barty's scenes (as the little baby in the bottle) were deleted, he can still be briefly glimpsed in a wide shot of all the bottles on Dr. Pretorius's table (as well as in still photographs).
Boris Karloff was paid $2,500 per week, for a total of $12,500, a large sum in the mid-30s but perhaps not enough to compensate the 48-year-old for playing the role in the elaborate make-up and heavy costume, exacerbating his already severe arthritis.
The dual role of Mrs. Shelley and the Monster's Mate was originally offered to Brigitte Helm but she had recently married and refused to leave Germany. Louise Brooks was another actress considered by James Whale for the role.
The scene in which the monster encounters the Gypsy camp was filmed shortly before the scheduled release date as a substitute for a scene that had been edited out after sneak previews because of censorship concerns. Since the scene was filmed long after the completion of principal filming - and after the film's musical score had been completed - the Gypsy camp scene is the only segment of the movie that has no musical score.
Purists often consider it inaccurate (going by the Mary Shelley source novel) to refer to the Monster by the name "Frankenstein" rather than "Frankenstein's Monster," however in the prologue, the character representing Lord Byron actually does attach the name Frankenstein to the monster. He says: "Can you believe that bland and lovely brow conceived of Frankenstein, a monster created from cadavers out of rifled graves? Isn't it astonishing?" Since Mrs. Shelley does not contradict him, we can infer that in this set of films, the Monster IS named Frankenstein, in one of many divergences from the book.
The novella by Michael Egremont, published at the time of the film's 1935 release, included several scenes not in the film, expanding on characters and situations -and reveals the surname of "Little Maria" as Kramer.
Three of the film's stars had or would have close family connections to senior British diplomats or politicians: (1) Boris Karloff's elder brother Sir John Thomas Pratt was an expert on Britain's relations with China and Japan and held diplomatic posts in both countries, Ernest Thesiger's first cousin Sir Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford held numerous senior diplomatic positions, most notably serving as the Viceroy of India from 1916 to 1921 and (3) Valerie Hobson was later married to the controversial Conservative Secretary of State for War John Profumo from 1954 until her death in 1998.
According to Ted J. Kent, the back pages of James Whale's script were filled with sketches of ideas for the art director or costumer. "In this area, I would say, at least in the pictures I worked on, he had complete control from beginning to end," Kent said. "I don't believe he could have worked any other way."
According to editor Ted J. Kent, the Bride's look was James Whale's conception, but Elsa Lanchester said Jack P. Pierce behaved as though he really had created these characters, like a god who made human beings. She said whenever she went in to be made up, he would meet her in full doctor's lab coat and with a cold, superior attitude.
Film Daily-New York City, Tuesday, May 7, 1935: Differences between the Roxy and the Rialto theaters as to which house to to get "The Bride of Frankenstein" were settled yesterday when the management involved agreed upon a compromise under which the Arthur Mayer (the Rialto) operation will play another Universal Pictute, Werewolf of London (1935), while the Roxy gets "The Bride of Frankenstein." The settlement cancels an injunction which Mayer asked in the Federal Court, New York. Under the booking deal participated in by both theaters, the Rialto is play action pictures while the Roxy gets films described as family pictures. Mayer contended that "The Bride of Frankenstein" came within his classification and started proceedings against Howard S. Cullman, operator of the Roxy, and the Big U exchange.
Jack P. Pierce did the make-up for both Boris Karloff as the Monster and Elsa Lanchester as the Bride. Since Karloff's make-up took four hours and Lanchester's took between three and four hours, this left only limited time when the two were able to work together, so the two rarely appear in the same shot.
The blind hermit is a character taken directly from the Mary Shelley Frankenstein novel. Dr. Pretorious, a new creation, closely resembles the Monster's personality in the book, where he becomes a cold-blooded murderer. The film decided to have the Monster remain an "innocent" character who only kills in self-defense or by accident (until the final scenes), and so created the evil Pretorius to fill the villainous role from the book.
When the castle is self-destructing, the Doctor can be seen against the far wall. Yet he is next seen outside in the arms of his beloved, watching the explosions. There were two endings originally: the first had Doctor Frankenstein dying within the castle and this was filmed. But the producers judged this a bit harsh and wanted a happy ending, so they shot the extra footage (too expensive to re-film the explosions).