The film was based on Peggy Webling's 1927 stage adaptation, with a screenplay by Robert Florey, Richard Schayer, and Garrett Fort. Two well-known actors -- Bela Lugosi and John Carradine -- turned down the role of the Creature, unhappy that it had no lines. Whale brought in a relative unknown, Boris Karloff, whose career was newly launched with the success of the picture.
The film's budget was $262,000, of which $10,000 was spent on special effects -- an exorbitant amount at the time. Karloff made famous the makeup of Jack Pierce. Kenneth Strickfaden's fantastic electrical equipment is also among the most memorable features of the film.
Universal in fact filmed two endings, and in the end chose to release the one with the happy conclusion. The movie was hastily filmed: production began on 24 August 1931, and the movie opened on 4 November of that year. Frankenstein was an immediate sensation; drawing over one million dollars in its first run -- more than twice the take of Dracula (1930) -- it became one of Universal's most successful productions ever. Universal therefore featured Karloff as the Creature in two more Universal films, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Son of Frankenstein (1939).