Like Dracula, the movie version of Frankenstein was based on a stage play (Peggy Webling’s Frankenstein: An Adventure in the Macabre) rather than on the original novel. Webling’s play was commissioned in 1928 by impresario Hamilton Deane, who had been very successful with his UK production of Dracula in the mid-1920s, and it proved to be a similar hit.
After the huge success of Dracula, released on Valentine’s Day 1931, Universal snapped up the screen rights to Frankenstein and the property entered the, even then, labyrinthine studio development process. Dracula screenwriter Garrett Ford hopped on board and drafted a screenplay based on two assumptions. First, that Frenchman Robert Florey would direct, and that Bela Lugosi would star in the leading role — as the mad scientist, Henry, not as his monstrous creation.