Friday, October 15, 2021

The Adventures of Superman (The 1942 Novel)

Amongst the mythos of Superman are a number of trademarks which, to those who never read the comic books, originated from radio. Perry White, Jimmy Olson and Kryptonite was introduced to The Adventures of Superman radio program long before they made their first appearance in the comic book rendition, and the unsung hero was not Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster – it was George Ludlam, Robert Maxwell, Edward Langley and George Lowther. The latter of whom was responsible for scripting such radio programs as Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates and Renfrew of the Mounted, and to whom we are taking a quick moment to revisit.

Born in 1913, Lowther proclaimed to being the first page boy (at the age of 14) hired by NBC Studios in New York City, and his flair for words meant his scripts were sharper than those of his colleagues. Lowther would eventually maintain continuity and portray the man in tights as a heroic American who combatted the enemies who attempted to commit acts of sabotage during World War II. As Edward Langley once remarked, “Lowther basically was Superman Incorporated.”

 

Lowther reportedly wrote the majority of the radio scripts for the first Superman radio program, which was syndicated beginning in February of 1940 and ran a total of 325 episodes. Among the regional sponsors were Hecker’s Oat Cereal and Force Wheat Flakes. Because the series was recorded, transcribed and syndicated, the program aired on various days and time slots. In one area of the country the program was heard three times a week at 7 p.m., while in other areas the program was heard five nights a week at the 5 o’clock hour. (Today, all 325 episodes and the four audition recordings are known to exist in recorded form.) Many of the story arcs were adapted for Radio Mirror magazine for short stories. I was lucky enough to acquire a zerox of most of those stories and you can enjoy reading them here:

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/tg8hsdqkgde1mua/Superman%20radio%20synopsis.pdf?dl=0

 

In 1942, The Adventures of Superman made a return to the airwaves, this time as a network program, five nights a week, over the Mutual Broadcasting System. A total of 1,612 broadcasts aired from 1942 to 1949, with the earliest episodes rehashed and recycled from the syndicated run, and by episode thirteen entirely new stories were created for the program. By this time George Lowther was not only involved with the script writing, but also the directing (and for more than a year, announcing chores as well). Lowther was eventually provided an assistant to handle the script writing, Edward Langley, to ease his position of wearing many hats. 

 

In 1942, Random House published a hardcover (with dust jacket) for Superman, a prose novel with illustrations by Joe Schuster. George Lowther wrote the novel during the downtime between the two radio programs. Lowther recycled the origin of Superman, how he comes to Earth and getting a job working for the Daily Planet, providing considerable detail when Clark Kent first discovered he had abilities beyond mortal men. Among the noticeable trademarks of the origin story (segments of which are also depicted on the radio program) was Eben and Sarah Kent, his adopted parents. Today, through studio and corporate branding, the names of Jonathan and Martha Kent are more familiar to television and movie goers. 

 

To eliminate confusion, and to provide clarity: Eben and Martha Kent were the names used in the 1948 cliffhanger serial produced by Columbia Pictures, while Eben and Sarah were used for the 1952 television rendition. In the comic book’s first extensive retelling of Superman’s origin (Issue #53, July-August 1948), the names were John and Mary Kent. Later stories, after the early 1960s introduction to the DC Multiverse, declared that the early renditions of the Kents were indeed John and Mary Kent (eliminating any reference to Sarah from the radio program and the 1942 novel) and live in the “Earth-Two” universe while Jonathan and Martha live in the “Earth-One” universe. 

 

The 1942 Lowther novel also reveals how Superman will have the power to fly on Earth, “but must walk a snail’s pace on the Earth’s surface” to avoid disclosing his ability of speed. Superman could also breathe under water.

 

The second half of the book contains an original story about a skeleton ship reported along a Maine shipyard. The rumored ghostly specter included a crew from Davy Jones’ locker, haunting men away from their jobs at the nearby Lowell Shipyard, constructing vessels for the war effort. Clark Kent, sent on his first routine job as a reporter for the Daily Planet, was sent up north to investigate. There, he shrewdly combines his efforts with reporter Lois Lane, while investigating solo to avoid revealing his super-human capabilities.

 

The underwater menace was a number of enemy submarine stationed offshore, ready to attack, and the ghost-like figures were merely meant to frighten workers away from the docks to cripple war production. 

 

“The skeleton ship with its crew leering down from the rail was a sight to set the strongest nerves quivering. A brief glimpse of it might be enough to send this girl into hysterics. Also there was Captain Joshua Murdock – a skeleton clothed in the tattered and moldy remains of clothes more than a century old – who prowled the pier at night and who no doubt would make his appearance before dawn…”



 

Elements from this story was dramatized on the radio program in the story arc known as “Last of the Clipper Ships,” syndicated in March and April of 1941. In that story, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen were sailing on the Clara M (not the Nancy M), last of the clipper ships. Mr. Barnaby, a one-legged sailor, and the mysterious “Whistler” make trouble for Captain Hawkins. Other elements from the same novel were used in “The Mystery Ship” (December 1942, MBS), involving “the Old Man of the Seaweed.” Regardless of elements borrowed, the story in the novel is an original and not one heard over the radio program.

 

Gavel price for George Lowther’s Superman varies based on marketplace. The dust jacket is worth more than the book but the demand for the hardcover is strong enough to ensure even the book has strong value. A facsimile edition was published in 1995 by Applewood Books, with a new introduction by Roger Stern, also available in hardcover. (You can tell the difference between the original and the facsimile by the front cover which discloses that the original was published in 1942 and with the new Introduction.) The reprint sells between $10 and $50, depending on who is selling it but never spend more than $20 with postage. As for the original, the red hardcover (without dust jacket) usually sells for about $75. The price goes up considerably based on the condition of the dust jacket.

 

If you are looking for further information about Superman on radio and television, look no further than Michael Hayde’s fantastic book, Flights of Fantasy. Link provided below.

 

https://bearmanor-digital.myshopify.com/collections/radio/products/flights-of-fantasy-the-unauthorized-but-true-story-of-radio-tvs-adventures-of-superman-softcover-edition-by-michael-j-hayde

 

 

 

Friday, October 8, 2021

THE RETURN OF ZORRO: THE DARING ESCAPADES

You can thank Bold Venture Press for this new entry into the Zorro fold... whether you were captivated by the Disney ZORRO series on television or the Johnston McCulley printed prose, the masked avenger with athletic prowess and sharp blade is making a return with a new paperback containing 16 all-new stories. While many would consider this "fan fiction," some of these authors are experienced in their field and provide fantastic adventures. 

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. Some military commanders plundered and won riches at the expense of the peace-loving settlers. Against these agents of injustice the settlers were powerless, until one man arose whose courage stirred the hearts of Californians. He alone gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was Zorro!

These new exciting stories include such adventures wherein the “Curse of Capistrano” joins forces with Sgt. Garcia to halt an insurrectionist, teams with The Scarlet Pimpernel’s descendant, rescues damsels, gypsies and even a hog, and clashes with the Devil himself. Danger, swashbuckling adventure and romance await in Reina de Los Angeles, and Zorro always answers the challenge with a smile and his flashing sword! 

The authors include John L. French, Richard A. Lupoff, Will Murray, Francisco Silva (who contributed two stories), Joseph A. Lovece, William Patrick Maynard, Linda Bindner, Susan Kite, Diana Barkley, Bret Bouriseau, Daryl McCullough, Mari K. Ross, Robert Scott Cranford, Eugene Craig, and Pamela Elbert Poland. Introduction by Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman film franchise. There is also a brief essay about Johnston McCulley, creator of Zorro.

To order your copy, click here:

https://www.boldventurepress.com/zorro-the-daring-escapades/

Friday, October 1, 2021

BORIS KARLOFF Presents Lost Tales from INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES

Looking for something spooky to enjoy this Halloween? Well, I might have just the thing.

The radio program, Inner Sanctum Mystery, famous for the signature opening and closing of a creaking door, offered a weekly dose of banshees who wailed while bats would gibber and thump in their belfries. The intended overtone of the stories was almost always one of supernatural dread. Fans of the horror radio program know that Boris Karloff routinely played a man tormented by demons. He read every line as though he was actually the living, breathing counterpart of the villain in the script. He built up a “hate” atmosphere, regardless of the worry and concern portrayed on the printed page. 

By comparison with the ghouls and mad scientists he played on the silver screen, Karloff loved performing on radio. The kill-by-kill account over a ghost-to-ghost network quickly became popular and Boris Karloff made a total number of ten guest appearances in 1941 (the program's first year). This book (published earlier this week) reprints nine of those radio scripts... chilling stories that are not known to exist in recorded form. 

In one episode, Karloff played the weather-beaten waterfront character who murdered a fellow seaman for revenge in “Fog,” the dread scourge of men who go down to the sea in ships and served as the eloquent title for a tale of violent death and retribution in the mists off San Francisco. Another episode, “The Green-Eyed Bat,” is a terrifying tale of a man buried alive because of a doctor’s error, a man doomed to horrifying entombment. A victim of a catatonic trance, his condition of suspended animation is mistaken for death. As the buried man returns to consciousness and discovers his predicament, a friend races to his rescue. But this provides us with a few pages of suspense: even if he is rescued, will the mental torture undergone in those awful hours have been too much for the victim? In “The Man Who Hated Death,” Karloff plays the sympathetic role of a friendless mortician who had to live on the fringe of society merely because he wanted to put death in its place. Things begin to clear when the richest man in town dies and his body is turned over to the humble undertaker. But when the dead man comes to life while the mortician is preparing the body for burial, he has a macabre choice to make.

With full disclosure, included with the nine radio scripts is an essay that I wrote, documenting the historical and cultural significance of the first year of Inner Sanctum Mystery, and how Boris Karloff's scheduled appearances changed the format of the program... for the better... from old dark house mystery to supernatural chillers. If you can envision the voice of Boris Karloff as you read these radio scripts, you will enjoy the "lost" episodes that do not exist in recorded form. Certainly a must-have for fans of Boris Karloff and classic horror.

You can order your copy here: 

https://www.martingrams.biz/products/boris-karloff-presents-lost-tales-from-the-inner-sanctum


Friday, September 24, 2021

THE EARLIEST RAY BRADBURY LANDS IN PRINT

From the team that brought you The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom celebrates the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth with the publication of a unique volume of his earliest writing as a science fiction fan. Fans of Ray Bradbury will find this book a real treat (tho, not without an expensive price for the hardcover edition). 
Like iconic predecessors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, Bradbury's work has stood the test of time. A virtuoso composer with language, he sang the bodies electric and human. His stories reached beyond the mainstream of science fiction, earning him recognition with the National Medal of Arts and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

But you know all this. 

What you may know less well is that Bradbury began his life in science fiction as a fan, actively immersed in the nascent community of fans in the late 1930s who would shape the genre for the next several decades. Bradbury fell in with Forrest J Ackerman and the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL) in October 1937 at the age of 17. Just four months later, his first published science fiction story appeared in the January 1938 issue of the club’s organ, Imagination!

THE EARLIEST BRADBURY fills some important some gaps in that history. Here, readers will have a unique opportunity to experience some of Bradbury’s earliest steps on his road to mastery. A treasure trove of Bradbury's articles and stories from 1937 - 1941 are reproduced in full facsimile form, as they were originally published in amateur fanzines. These are not the short stories that appeared in anthologies and short story collections over the decades. Most of these artifacts have never been available outside the musty archives of fanatical collectors of early fan history. Letters, brief snippets of story ideas and proposals and other goodies make up this lavish coffee table book.

You can visit the publishers' website and order a copy today. The hardcover edition is limited to a printing of 100. Also, you can flip through the pages of the book virtually to look inside (a really cool feature).





“Ray Bradbury was a time traveler, his fantastic imagination replenished by memories of a childhood immersed in wonder. THE EARLIEST BRADBURY is itself a time machine, transporting us to the fulcrum point of Bradbury’s life when the ardent fan became a published writer. Through an excavation of rare publications, evocative photos and revealing illustrations, the book recreates a genuinely magical period of Bradbury’s life that continued to inform his later career. This is an essential work to understand his artistic development, and that of American fantasy in general.”
                — Michael Saler, Professor of History, University of California, Davis
                Author of As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality

“The Earliest Bradbury represents the first comprehensive effort to bring together the full visual spectrum of Ray Bradbury’s interactions with the many fanzine editors who constituted the First Fandom universe across America in the late 1930s and early 1940s. These archival images from original publications breathe life into the elusive record of the young Ray Bradbury satirizing, imitating, and experimenting with the craft of writing on the eve of beginning his seven-decade professional career.”
                — Jonathan Eller, Chancellor’s Professor and director of 
                The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University

Thursday, September 16, 2021

THE MANY FACES OF NEHEMIAH PERSOFF

Great news! The great character actor Nehemiah Persoff recently finished his memoirs. If the name is not familiar, his face and voice would be. Anyone who has ever watched classic TV shows and movies knows the man... and here we have the opportunity to reach into the mind of the author... revealing (with poignancy and humor) his cultural and ethical clash with Broadway and Hollywood.

 

Born in 1919 in Jerusalem, Nehemiah Persoff immigrated with his family to America in 1929. Following schooling at the Hebrew Technical Institute of New York, he found a job as a subway electrician doing signal maintenance until an interest in the theater altered the direction of his life.

He joined amateur groups and subsequently won a scholarship to the Dramatic Workshop in New York. This led to what would have been his Broadway debut in a production of "Eve of St. Mark", but he was fired before the show opened. He made his official New York debut in a production of "The Emperor's New Clothes" in 1940.


WWII interrupted his young career in 1942, returning to the stage after his hitch in the Army was over, three years later. He sought work in stock plays and became an intern of Stella Adler  and, as a result, a strong exponent of the Actor's Studio. Discovered by Charles Laughton and cast in his production of "Galileo" in 1947, Persoff made his film debut a year later with an uncredited bit in THE NAKED CITY (1948).


Persoff as the cab driver in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954).


SOME LIKE IT HOT (1958)


Short, dark, chunky-framed and with a distinct talent for dialects, Persoff became known primarily for his ethnic villainy, usually playing authoritative Eastern Europeans. In a formidable career that had him portraying everything from cab drivers to Joseph Stalin, standout film roles would include Leo in THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956) with Humphrey Bogart, Gene Conforti in Alfred Hitchcock’s THE WRONG MAN (1956), Albert in THE SEA WALL (1957) and gangster Johnny Torrio in AL CAPONE (1959). 


Nehemiah Persoff on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND


It was that same year he played another gangster, the small role of Little Bonaparte, in SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959), alongside Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. He was a durable performer during television’s “Golden Age” as he made guest appearances on six episodes of GUNSMOKE, MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, THE WILD, WILD WEST, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE UNTOUCHABLES, PLAYHOUSE 90 and THE TWILIGHT ZONE. In recent years he appeared on CHICAGO HOPE, MURDER SHE WROTE and LAW AND ORDER, playing hundreds of intense, volatile and dominating characters.


"Judgment Night" episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. 


In later years, his characters grew a bit softer as Barbara Streisand’s Jewish father in YENTL (1983) and the voice of Papa Mousekewitz in AN AMERICAN TAIL (1986) will attest. Later stage work included well-received productions of "I'm Not Rappaport" and his biographical one-man show "Sholem Aleichem."


After declining health and high blood pressure forced him to slow down, Persoff took up painting in 1985, studying sketching in Los Angeles. Specializing in watercolor, he has created around 100 works of art, many of which have been exhibited up and down the coast of California. He celebrated his 100th birthday in 2019.


To order his book, click here:

https://www.amazon.com/Many-Faces-Nehemiah-Persoff/dp/B099TQL3VJ


  

Friday, September 10, 2021

Silent Vignettes by Tim Lussier

More than two decades ago Anthony Slide wrote a magnificent book titled Nitrate Can't Wait, featuring documentary write-ups about silent movies that have since become lost due to lack of preservation. Slide not only documented what was considered a "lost" silent gem, but helped preserve some of those films we will never see. Flash forward to today and we have Tim Lussier carrying the torch. For almost three decades, Tim posts on a regular basis an essay (or news brief) about films and film stars from the silent era before the major motion pictures switched to synchronized sound. 

Silent movies are Tim's pill of choice... and an addiction. Tim is more than a collector -- he is a collector, educator, and writer with enthusiasm for silent movies. His insightful articles on actress Virginia Lee Corbin (written with the full cooperation of Virginia's surviving sons) led to the publication of the first-ever biography on that quintessential flapper, Bare Knees Flapper: The Life and Films of Virginia Lee Corbin, published by McFarland in 2018. So dedicated was he to the subject, in fact, that he personally paid to restore one of Corbin's feature films, Headlines (1925), held at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and eventually released to the silent film video market. 

So it comes as no surprise that he authored a new book of lively essays about various silent screen actors, from Pickford, Chaplin, Keaton and Garbo -- as well as profiles on Reginald Denny, Francelia Billington, Virginia Brown Faire, Harold Lockwood, Viola Richard, George Fawcett and Anita Garvin. There is also a three-part dissertation on the beautiful Novak sisters, Jane and Eva. In his book, Silent Vignettes, Tim reveals how much water played a role in many of Keaton's stunts, the incomparable Betty Compson, the rise, reign and requiem of the Lubin Manufacturing Company, the mysterious death of Olive Thomas, a chapter on the stuntmen who risked their lives, the war-themed movies and bond drives of Mary Pickford, the silk hat comedian known as Raymond Griffith, and the silent ladies of Chaplin's films.

As you might surmise, these are not just biographies of silent screen actors and actresses. Let us be honest, there are plenty of books that serve that purpose. (I have a few on my bookshelf.) This book documents various aspects of silent screen stars and studios that make this book worth reading. If you love silent movies, this is a must-have for your bookshelf.

To order a copy of the book, click here: https://bearmanor-digital.myshopify.com/products/silent-vignettes-stars-studios-and-stories-from-the-silent-movie-era-paperback?_pos=1&_sid=47ba75a7e&_ss=r

If you want to check out his website, visit www.silentsaregolden.com


Friday, September 3, 2021

DIAL 999: A Television Review

A few months ago I purchased a DVD set for a television program titled DIAL 999. Starring Robert Beatty in the lead role as a modern-day Canadian Mountie who ventures to England to help assist Scotland Yard with cleaning up the crime in the streets, this series ran one full year in the late 1950s. Based on the files of Scotland Yard, the stories were abound with detective work and explosive entertainment. Shrewd maneuvers to thwart the desperate, dangerous quarry are found in every episode. To sum up an accurate description of this series, I consider this the British equivalent of America's Dragnet

Along the way I saw some familiar faces such as William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, but also the screen debut of Barbara Steele. But the real star is Robert Beatty as Detective Inspector Mike Maguire. He was born in Canada (so his Canadian accent is authentic) and he served for a time as a British Police Constable during World War II. If the actor's name is not familiar, his face may be. He played supporting roles in Odd Man Out (1947) with James Mason, Man on a Tightrope (with Frederic March), and in Something of Value (with Rock Hudson and Dana Wynter). 

The DVD set was issued in England and while the print transfers are drop dead gorgeous, the format is in PAL. If you do not have a region-free DVD player, you will not be able to play these. But if you do have a region-free DVD player, do yourself a favor and buy this. A couple friends of mine followed my advice and both, later and separately, called to tell me out of the blue that they appreciated the recommendation because they enjoyed this series very much.













 

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Complete Northwoods Stories of Frederick Nebel

You will never find earnest mythology of Canadian Mountie fiction than the printed prose of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Although it has been said that Canada had no Wild West because the Mounties got there first, the truth is that before their heralded arrival Canada's frontier was as wild as any Wild West dime novel. Native murders and whiskey traders were so common that such vandalism could never be depicted accurately on screen. Such adventure stories of a frozen Northern territory in which Mounties replaced the heroic sheriffs and gunslingers of the American Western, exorcized locales such as the Yukon, offering the local color of dogsleds, fur thieves, trappers, drunk gamblers and foolish gold prospectors.

While Canadian Mountie fiction from the first half of the 20th century is still in demand for a niche crowd, very little has been reprinted in paperback. And this is a darn shame when you consider James B. Hendryx still has not received his due for the large number of Connie Morgan novels published in such magazines as American Boy, or his Corporal Cameron Downey series. Among the notable pulp magazines that provided such adventures was North-West Stories, Complete Northwest and North-West Romances... but sadly most of them have never been reprinted over the years. Fans of the red tunic have had to resort to buying the original pulp magazines, not reprints, lending credence to the statement that "Canadian Mountie fiction is not yet forgotten, but it is crumbling into dust."

As a fan of Canadian Mountie fiction during that romantic era when the Mounties never always got their man, my bookshelf contains hardcover novel reprints and 1930s pulp magazines loaded with Canadian Mountie fiction. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered Altus Press releasing the first of Frederick Nebel's forte, chronologically. It was from this reprint that I was introduced to Corporal Chet Tyson, who would appear in multiple stories for more than six years. There is also a serial novelette, Defiance Valley, which dramatizes the adventure of R.C.M.P. Pat Quinlin. My favorite story in the collection was the 1926 short story, "The Black Fox Skin," which told not a tale of Canadian Mountie law, but of two natives who competed for the hand of a beautiful woman... for the first person to catch the skin the elusive black fox. 

Regrettably, this book was published six years ago in 2015, which makes me suspect there will not be a volume two. I hope I am wrong because future volumes will be a welcome addition to my bookshelves. In the meantime, if anyone is looking for something to read by the fireplace during the cold winter months, click on the link below and make your purchase today.


Friday, August 20, 2021

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 2021 Program Guide

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention returns after a year-long hiatus as a result of the global pandemic. Beginning this month, conventions, film festivals and fan gatherings are making a return and the first of the big ones is the Nostalgia Convention.

Pre-paid admission tickets broke an all-time record, suggesting the attendance is going to be huge. One of the advantages of attending is receiving a free 56-page full-color program guide packed with articles. For those who cannot attend the convention, here is the next best thing... the PDF of this year's program guide.

Among the articles is Space Patrol, The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and a biography of actor Don DeFore.

Enjoy!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gv0597fe82n2rjk/MANC%20Program%202021%20%28For%20Printers%29.pdf?dl=0



Friday, August 13, 2021

The Premiere Issue of The Shadowed Circle

Steve Donoso has created a new non-fiction, quality fanzine with articles, profiles and interviews about the pulp-radio-comic book character known as The Shadow. His first issue arrived in my mailbox and I tore into every article written by fans, collectors and historians. 

The articles vary from collectibles to the film shorts from the 1930s, zombies as portrayed on the radio program to The Shadow novels of Bruce Elliott. James Patterson, who is credited as author for the latest novel to be published, was interviewed exclusively for this periodical.

 

Steve Donoso made his publication known through a crowdfunding source known as Kickstarter and fans of The Shadow quickly jumped in to subscribe to the fanzine, which totals 50 pages and has a gorgeous color cover.

 


For subscription info contact Steve at theshadowedcircle@yahoo.com




 

 

 

 

 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Kat Lively and CLASSIC OLD HOLLYWOOD

With the intense social events in the world these days, it is easy to get hooked into the 24-7 news cycle. Sometimes it seems like we are swimming in a sea of incoherence on all levels that is confusing, disempowering and makes us vulnerable. Contradictions from one network to another is not uncommon these days, adding to the confusion. A decade ago my applied wisdom rebelled against it and never have I regretted that decision. (Let's be honest, it is not news anymore -- it is "news commentary" designed to incite and infuriate. Nothing makes people stay tuned to the news than fear.) Thankfully, there is a generation of us youngsters who prefer to unplug from the exposure of violence. Instead, they turn to podcasts for a pleasant diversion.

There are thousands of podcasts available on the Internet now. Gilbert Gottfried has a magnificent podcast worth listening to. Leonard Maltin has one, too. I also enjoy the Columbus Moving Picture Show podcast. Just doing a standard Google search will provide you with a lengthy list. So I wanted to take a moment and mention one that you should check out. Kat Lively has a podcast titled Calling Old Hollywood focusing on intimate encounters of the actors, actresses, writers and musicians from the Golden Age of Hollywood. As an example, Alan K. Rode is interviewed on one episode about his pursuit of film noir. This is a great podcast and worth listening to when traveling to and from work through your smart phone and car stereo bluetooth. 

Just the other week I was invited to be a guest on Kat's podcast, and I mention this in full disclosure. But this is not why I am recommending her podcast. (I am a guest on two or three podcasts and/or radio programs every month and I do not dare mention them all.) Kat shares a love for classic Hollywood movies and -- more importantly -- focuses on the preservation of that passion. We need more of these. Instead of an interview, Kat has a coffee table discussion and while the subjects are retro, the primary agenda is to focus on the passion that drives our love of old movies.

Whether you are a fan of Humphrey Bogart, John Huston, Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, among others, click the link below and listen to a few episodes. You can thank me later.

https://www.callingoldhollywood.com/




Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Lone Ranger: The Early Years, 1933 - 1937

As a friend of mine once told me, I would be amiss if I did not take advantage of my blog once a year and promote a book I wrote, or co-wrote. While I always felt doing such would be a blatant commercial, I cannot argue over the rationale and today I take pride in mentioning that my latest book is now available for purchase from www.martingrams.biz

For two decades I have been gathering material at various archives and tracking down family relatives of principal participants to amass a large collection of materials related to The Lone Ranger. While I was busy publishing my findings on other subjects, The Lone Ranger remained a back-burner project. Thanks to the downtime from the global pandemic, my co-author and I decided it was time to sit down and finish the book. My co-author spent two decades before me so technically this book was four decades in the works.

The reason we decided to publish a book focusing on the first five years is understood by the die-hard fans of the radio program. The Lone Ranger premiered on the evening of January 31, 1933, but it was not until February 1938 that the program was recorded on a regular basis. Thus the first five years are considered "lost" or virtually unknown. Little has been documented and even less preserved in book form. Not only did Terry Salomonson and myself document the history and origin of those five years but we also document the early adventures that do not exist in recorded form. From their juvenile sidekick Little Davey, the canine sidekick, to the historic broadcast when Tonto was engaged to Chief Thundercloud's daughter... all of the stories are preserved here in both prose and occasional script reprints. Hundreds of historic documents and photographs, never before published, are included. 

On a personal note, Terry and I are relieved that we finally got this project completed and published, knowing we filled in a gap sorely needed to preserve the legacy of The Lone Ranger.






  

Friday, July 23, 2021

RYAN ELLETT AND OLD-TIME RADIO PRESERVATION

If you never heard the name of Ryan Ellett, you may have heard or seen the books he has written. In the field of old-time radio broadcasts, regional radio is often disregarded for mainstream subjects, programs that aired coast-to-coast over major networks such as NBC and CBS. But historians like myself agree that books focusing on regional radio is equally important and a form of preservation that would otherwise fall into obsolescence. His first book was the Encyclopedia of Black Radio in the United States, 1921-1955, profiling about 300 African American organizations and radio programs broadcast during radio's golden age. The book also included a week-by-week episode guide for both pioneering African American radio programs, The Negro Achievement Hour and The Negro Art Group Hour, both of which debuted in 1928. I recently interviewed Ryan about his work and how he came about writing his first book.

"I had been writing and publishing several articles about obscure Black radio performers and writers but knew that in the long run access to this information would be extremely limited since the hobby's newsletters are generally not easily accessible to the public," Ryan told me. "At some point I realized I probably had plenty of material or potential material for a published book and wrote up my proposal for McFarland. With their target market being libraries I knew this information would be much more widely accessible to other researchers and writers years down the road. A follow-up volume idea I had to that book was turned down by them as well as a competing publisher so it never got developed."


Another book he wrote was
The Texas Rangers: Two Decades on Radio, Film, Television and Stage, documenting the career of the Texas Rangers, who premiered over Kansas City's KMBC, home to many country and western artists during radio's golden age. Debuting in 1932, the Texas Rangers entertained American by radio, records, tours, motion-pictures and television before disbanding in the 1950s. With few commercially released singles, the Texas Rangers were soon forgotten after their heyday except by the most devoted fans of the genre.

"Once I had an idea how the book process went - from germ of an idea to finished volume in hand from the publisher - I knew I could go through the experience again. My second book about KMBC's Texas Rangers grew out of researching an entirely different series for an article. After stumbling upon a trove of content about the group and their radio work in an archive I knew it would make a good book at some point," Ryan explained to me. "This project helped me really appreciate the historian's job of attempting to create an engaging story for a reader out of boxes of letters, telegrams, clippings, and such. There's a lot of trying to reconcile seemingly contradicting bits of information and filling in gaps left by actual historical records. As a reader I now pay more attention to what's left out of a book because likely the author could not find that information (assuming it would be relevant) and offers a place for someone else to begin his or her researching efforts."

Ryan recognizes his books fill a very niche area of preservation, but such preservation is essential. "I think my book on Black radio artists is my most important work and I've had some good communications with graduate students who were pursuing lines of research that overlapped content therein. If someone comes along and builds on any of my work and brings wider understanding and appreciation to an area, I'll feel that I had a little part in that. If nothing else, friends and family of individuals we write about are always thrilled to read these works."

Another of Ryan's books, Caroline Ellis: Homemaker of the Airwaves, not only covers an extensive biography on her 20-year career on radio, but the reader also received an overview of women's earliest participation in radio, the rise of homemaker broadcasting, and the pioneer radio women of Kansas City's KMBC. Ryan utilizes private correspondence, historical station records, and never-before-seen photographs and scripts, he documented such programs that you and I may never have heard of: Joanne Taylors Fashion Flashes, The Travels of Mary Ward, Caroline's Golden Store and Happy Home. The book also includes an episode guide of all the extant scripts of her career with broadcast dates, guests and topic summaries.

"I had written a piece on her for SPERDVAC's Radiogram almost ten years ago and presented on her at a conference around the same time," Ryan recounted. "I'd dug up everything I could find about her and figured that project was done. Then, out of the blue, a few years ago I received an email from this lady's great-nephew who lived about half an hour away saying a relative had shown him my article that had been put up online. The family was so excited to read about her radio work. Oh, and by the way, he had a box of her papers and scripts and photographs; would I like to look at them? I couldn't get there fast enough! That contact gave me the material I needed to expand Ellis' story into a full book and correct errors that had been made in the original rounds of research."

Ryan clarified the same sentimentality we historians have. "In my experience the financial rewards are sparse for writing books likes these, rarely covering the expense of research trips to accumulate material for the book, and feedback is also pretty rare. So I really have to be motivated about a topic to go through the years-long process of writing a new book. I have three potential manuscripts now with at least a couple chapters written over the past few years but they are far from finished and who knows if they'll ever be wrapped up. I'm waiting for inspiration to strike to get me to buckle down and go after one of them again."

If you want to visit Ryan's website, click here:  www.RyanEllett.com


Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Return of THE FALCON

To some he is Gay Stanhope Falcon, the freelance adventurer and trouble-shooter from Michael Arlen's 1940 short story. To others he is Gay Lawrence, the English gentleman detective portrayed by George Sanders in those wonderful RKO films of the early 1940s. You may know him as Tom Lawrence, Michael Watling, Malcolm J. Wingate, or Mike Waring. Which one is the real Falcon? For a large number of people who never saw The Falcon movies or listened to The Falcon radio programs, the larger question is "Who is the Falcon?" Author Ian Dickerson knows and he provided us with a 362 page book documenting the history of the fictional detective that has been elusive to even the most dedicated reader of hard-boiled crime fiction. 

The fictional detective, often regarded as (a good) imitation of Leslie Charteris' The Saint, started out as a short story and was quickly licensed to RKO for a series of B-mysteries starring George Sanders, following by Tom Conway (who played The Falcon's Brother). Then came the radio program which aired over more than one network, an Australian rendition on radio, then a one-season TV series with Charles McGraw in the lead.

“Ready with a hand for oppressed men, and an eye for repressed women,” The Falcon character was once referenced in Leslie Charteris’ 1943 novel, The Saint Steps In, as “a bargain-basement imitation.” 

Until now, there was but brief entries in encyclopedias about the radio program and movies, and even less for the television rendition. Little was known about the character, the creator and the history of the program. The majority of the write-ups were focused on the plots and premise of those renditions. Ian Dickerson went to considerable effort to browse archives and archival materials to ensure we now have an extensive tome about the subject. 

Commentary on the character’s birth in print, a complete overview of his time on the silver screen, a broadcast log of his adventures on radio (both in the United States and in Australia), and an accounting of the short-lived television program is contained within the 360 pages. There is also a full reprint of a Falcon story from Radio Mirror magazine. Help show your support and display of thanks to Ian Dickerson for going to the effort by digging through archives to produce these welcome tomes.

https://www.amazon.com/Who-Falcon-Detective-Print-Movies/dp/1617093882


Friday, June 25, 2021

JEFF THOMPSON AND DAN CURTIS

If you were to ask who is the biggest fan of Dan Curtis productions, the answer would be Jeff Thompson. Dan Curtis was an American director, writer, and producer of television and film, known among fans of horror films for his afternoon TV series Dark Shadows and TV films such as Trilogy of Terror. Dark Shadows originally aired from 1966 to 1971 and has aired in syndication for nearly 40 years. Jeff did a ton of research over the decades and wrote a number of books (including second editions) for McFarland Publishing about Dan Curtis productions and it seemed fitting to do a brief interview about his work. 


You have written more than one book about Dan Curtis and his product-ions.  What appeals to you about his television and film work versus the prolific work of others?

 

I began watching Dark Shadows (1966-1971) in 1967 when I was eight years old.  I watched the show until the end and read Dan “Marilyn” Ross’s Dark Shadows Gothic novels and Gold Key’s Dark Shadows comic books along the way.  I began writing for Dark Shadows fanzines such as The World of Dark Shadows in 1975 and continued writing for them into the 1990s.  By then, I also was writing articles for Movie Club, Midnight Marquee, and other magazines.  By the 2000s, I was writing about Dark Shadows for multi-author books such as You’re Next! (2008).  In the 2010s, I wrote the introductions to eight Hermes Press books reprinting the Dark Shadows comic books and newspaper comic strip.


In 2006, I was completing the course work for my Ph.D. in English and popular culture, and I was pondering the topic for my doctoral dissertation.  I was thinking about writing about film noir in general and Chinatown (1974) in particular when Dan Curtis died in March.  A terrific website calledScoop asked me to write Dan Curtis’s obituary for its weekly e-zine.  I wrote the article essentially off the top of my head because I had studied and written about Curtis’s life and works for decades.  Suddenly, I realized that I should write my dissertation about Dan Curtis, whose diverse oeuvre of horror, mystery, Western, war, drama, and more should be documented.


I wrote my dissertation about Curtis’s horror productions in 2006-2007 and earned my Ph.D. in May 2007.  I then contacted McFarland, a publisher in North Carolina, about shaping my dissertation into a book.  In early 2009, McFarland published The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis: Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, and Other Productions, 1966-2006, and my book was nominated for the Rondo Award.


After I wrote The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis, I realized that there was much more to say about Dan Curtis in addition his unforgettable horror productions.  I went on to write House of Dan Curtis: The Television Mysteries of the Dark Shadows Auteur (2009), focusing on Curtis’s crime dramas and Wide World Mystery productions, and the Rondo Award-nominated Nights of Dan Curtis: The Television Epics of the Dark Shadows Auteur (2016), spotlighting Curtis’s Dracula, The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance, and Intruders: They Are Among Us. All three of my books cover all four dozen of Curtis’s productions, but each book takes a more in-depth look at different ones.


In 2019-2020, I produced revised second editions of all three books because researching and writing each of my books had increased and refined my knowledge of Dan Curtis’s productions, including dozens that Curtis had planned but never produced (e.g. Diary of a Gunfighter, The Last of the Crazy People, Wuthering Heights, et al.).  Curtis’s work—paired with Robert Cobert’s music—always appealed to me because it is daring, sometimes shocking, and always heartfelt.  Curtis could tell almost any kind of story and did.

 

 

What first got you hooked on Dark Shadows?

 

In September 1967, I was home sick from school and turning the television channels.  I came upon a scene that two decades later became the first clip on one of MPI Home Video’s Dark Shadows compilation tapes.  A girl and a boy my age were in a spooky cellar containing a coffin.  The coffin lid opened, and the vampire Barnabas Collins emerged.  I was instantly hooked on Dark Shadows and watched, read, drew, wrote, collected, and (at Dark Shadows Festivals) performed from that moment on!  (I wrote and directed humorous skits that other fans and I performed at the Festivals.)  At home, I have a Dark Shadows guest bedroom, a Joan Bennett wall, and a Psycho bathroom!  

 

 

What made you decide to do second editions of your three books?

 

In 2019-2020, I brought out revised second editions of my 2009, 2010, and 2016 books because in the intervening years, I had learned much more about Dan Curtis’s productions and because new Dark Shadows events had occurred (e.g. the Big Finish audio dramas, a new movie, the documentary Master of Dark Shadows, anniversaries, deaths, etc.).  My new editions feature a great deal of never-before-seen photographs of and new information about Dan Curtis, Dark Shadows, and Curtis’s many other productions.  I invite you to read and enjoy my new opera!  “That’s plural for opus; I presume you’ve written more than one,” as Christopher Plummer says to Christopher Reeve in the exquisite 1980 film Somewhere in Time, written by Dan Curtis’s friend and frequent collaborator Richard Matheson (The Night Stalker, Dracula, Trilogy of Terror, et al.).

 

https://www.amazon.com/Television-Horrors-Dan-Curtis-Productions/dp/1476675023/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=television+horror+of+dan+curtis&qid=1610417460&s=books&sr=1-1

 

https://www.amazon.com/House-Dan-Curtis-Second-Television/dp/1628801891/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=house+of+dan+curtis&qid=1610417490&s=books&sr=1-1

 

https://www.amazon.com/Nights-Dan-Curtis-Second-Television/dp/1628801883/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=night+of+dan+curtis&qid=1610417516&s=books&sr=1-1

 

 

All authors have a funny or cool story to share regarding their books.  Superb fan letter?  An autograph from a Dan Curtis cast member that came out of the blue?

 

I always love reading a good review of one of my books, a congratulatory email from an enthusiastic reader, or a nice post card from someone like film-music expert Jon Burlingame (“great work, beautiful presentation, love all the references to music throughout”) or film-music composer Robert Cobert himself (“Congratulations!  What a great job!  Incredible scholarship!  Dan would have loved it!”).  Curtis’s friend and frequent collaborator William F. Nolan (The Norliss Tapes, The Turn of the Screw, Burnt Offerings) wrote, 

 

Another terrific book on Dan, who was shamefully ignored as a 

“TV hack” (so incredibly untrue!).  He was a master, a great pal, a man 

who loved his work, who laughed and ranted and worked to make each 

thing he did as perfect as possible.  What a great director!  

You deserve much credit for your fine books on Dan.  He would 

have been proud.  “Would have”?  Hell, he is proud of you wherever he 

may be!  

 

 

 

Dr. Jeff Thompson

8701 Sawyer Brown Road

Nashville, Tennessee  37221-1415

 

615-662-3064  home

615-495-4751     cell

 

jthompson@tnstate.edu