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Face-off

Come on now, ladies--who’s copying whom?

Elvira (a.k.a. actress Cassandra Petersen), whose “Elvira Mistress of the Dark” movie has just been released, is being sued by Vampira (a.k.a. Maila Nurmi), ‘50s TV horror hostess. The claim: that Elvira pirated Vampira’s ghoulish characterization.

But what about the original classic vampire girl--Carroll Borland, who went a-haunting with Bela Lugosi in “Mark of the Vampire,” MGM, 1935?

As Borland recalled for us, makeup artist William Tuttle thought that her makeup should be an adaptation of Lugosi’s: “So I was given this pasty white face--which looked pretty strange when I walked around the lot--with dark, heightened eyes and dark red lips.”

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As for her hair: The studio wanted it cut, curled and bobbed. But Borland wanted to keep her waist-length tresses. Finally, Tuttle said, “Just leave it down like that.” Voila!

So effective was the result that Borland--who’d earlier starred opposite Lugosi in “Dracula” on the stage--found she’d been “typed” as a horror actress. “After ‘Mark of the Vampire,’ the studios thought I was fit only for haunting houses. And they didn’t think I could read lines.” (Her character, Luna, had only a single line of dialogue, which came at the film’s end.)

As it turned out, Borland wound up doing plenty of reading . . . in school. After receiving her doctorate in education, she became a college professor (specializing in early childhood development) at Pasadena’s Pacific Oaks College.

Now retired, she still gets fan mail, especially on “Mark,” which was helmed by cult-film director Tod Browning.

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“I didn’t think, back when I was 20, that that image (of the vampire girl) would live on,” Borland said with a laugh.

As for the Vampira-Elvira dispute: “I get a kick out of the fact that those two are fighting over my face!”


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