Steven graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre arts. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals. Publications include: Carroll County News, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo and Moroch.
February marks the ninth anniversary, and the beginning of year 10 for Women in Horror Month (WiHM). The purpose of #WiHM is to salute the fantastic contributions of women in all realms of horror whose work still finds itself marginalized. Such an example of belittlement happened all too recently when Blumhouse's CEO, founder and producer Jason Blum made the following statement last October: "There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror."
It is hard to believe such an attitude still exists in 2019, but unfortunately a bias toward female artisans of scary movies still haunts modern times. Surely, enough is enough. #WiHM is well-known for its tireless efforts spotlighting women in horror, and this 28-day celebration will focus on film and television. As such, each day this month will celebrate a different woman whose contributions have left an irrevocable mark on the horror genre.
And she is their queen...
Decades before the term "Scream Queen" was ever uttered, actress Evelyn Felisa Ankers made a name for herself in motion pictures as she received the title "Queen of the Screamers" for her sexy, blood-curdling screech. Ankers was also regarded as the "Queen of the Bs" for her wonderful work in numerous horror/B-Movies including The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Captive Wild Woman (1943), Son of Dracula (1943) and The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944).
Ankers had already been acting five years when she finally came to prominence in genre films with her appearance as Gwen Conliffe in The Wolf Man (1941) starring Lon Chaney, Jr. Unfortunately, as powerful as their on-screen chemistry was, Ankers didn't particularly enjoy working with Lon Chaney, even though she did refer to him as being a sweet man when he wasn't drinking. Their working relationship did not translate well into social occasions as Ankers said of a dinner party with many Hollywood heavyweights in attendance including her husband Richard Denning.
"Right after he [Lon Chaney Jr.] and I had finished Son of Dracula, I think, the studio invited the major magazines to a dinner party on the lot to meet all the horror stars," Ankers said. "Everybody was there - Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and George Zucco. Lon, seated near my husband and me, proceeded to direct a number of rude, uncalled-for remarks toward Dick."
"Being a gentleman, Dick ignored them. Until . . . 'How come,' I recall Lon saying to Dick, 'you're in the Navy and still in Los Angeles?'"
"Dick said, 'It's a lot better than not being in the service at all during wartime' - which was Lon's situation. A while later, Lon said, 'I've got a little ice cream on my sleeve,' and wiped it on Dick's dress blues. That did it. Dick took his ice cream - which was pistachio green, in keeping with the horror motif - and pushed it in Lon's face. With all that green dripping from his face, he looked as if he were back in make-up for one of his monster characters."
In 1941, Ankers starred with the comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hold That Ghost. According to Denning, it was another case of fantastic on-screen chemistry, but nothing beyond that. "Did Evie enjoy working with Abbott and Costello? No, they kept goosing her all the time. And that didn't go over too well. She was this almost 'stuffy' English girl, in one of her early films. Of course, they were difficult to work with. And then Evie met an equal to them in Lon Chaney Jr."
Perhaps lesser known, Ankers starred with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in a pair of Sherlock Holmes motion pictures: Voice of Terror (1942) and The Pearl of Death (1944). Both movies were a case of professional chemistry translating to real life in a positive manner. "Oh, yeah," Denning said. "She enjoyed them. They had a great sense of humor, especially Nigel Bruce, and he could identify with Evie's English background. They had a lot of fun."
After a 14-year movie career, Ankers walked away from Hollywood following her 1950 film The Texan Meets Calamity Jane, in which she received top billing. At the age of 32, Ankers decided to devote her life to family - her husband Denning and daughter Diana. However, Ankers did come out of retirement once to star with her husband in 1960's No Greater Love.
Ankers passed away at the age of 67 in 1985. In a day and age that celebrates Scream Queens, it's important to recognize the first of their lot. Some will obviously argue Fay Wray has a claim to the moniker after her tumultuous relationship with a certain cinematic ape, but Ankers is without question the "Queen of the Screamers."