This terrific book is the product of decades of interviews and correspondence by the author with the families, friends, and colleagues of Lugosi and K...moreThis terrific book is the product of decades of interviews and correspondence by the author with the families, friends, and colleagues of Lugosi and Karloff. While the focus of the book is on the films the two actors made together and the so-called "rivalry" between the two, you get so much more. There is more or less a complete biography of both men with at least a mention of every film by each made after they catapulted to stardom in 1931. Some of the key solo films (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, etc.) and all the co-starred films get detailed coverage. When I say detailed, I mean anecdotes from every cast member the author could interview, budget details, salary details, and how the film was publicized. While this might sound dry, I can guarantee it is anything but. Just try out the stories about how openly gay director James Whale revealed an unexpected interest in the costuming of ladies' undies during the making of Bride of Frankenstein! In addition, in the course of describing the actors' social lives and their publicity activities, we get a wide perspective on Golden Age Hollywood.
It's pretty clear that Karloff never saw Lugosi as a rival or bore him any ill will. Lugosi, on the other hand, barely disguised a seething resentment at the fact that Karloff worked constantly and became a millionaire while he was bankrupt by October 1932 and struggled almost constantly after that working for peanuts in whatever came his way.
The author never comes to a definite cosclusion but others told him several times that one of Lugosi's biggest handicaps was his failure to master English. His thick accent simply wouldn't work for many parts. I wonder if his lack of fluency contributed to his persistent failure to stand up for himself.
Another strike against him, I think, was his age. Lugosi was 49 when Dracula was made (Karloff was 42 the same year). For an actor whose appeal, even in his "monster" role, was matinee idol looks, this was a late date to be starting a movie career. Karloff who was essentially a character actor had no such disadvantage. Finally, I think Karloff was simply a finer and more versatile actor. To be fair, however, Lugosi was a major star on the Hungarian stage and we will never know how he would have fared in his native tongue.
One anecdote provided by Ray Walston (who played Renfield in a stage revival of Dracula) - Lugosi's wife said "Well, you know, he was the John Barrymore of the Budapest stage!" And with that, Lugosi spoke up in alllll seriousness and said, "No, no. I was the Clark Gable of the Budapest stage!" (less)
I am fascinated by the popular culture of America in the first half of the 20th Century and have an interest in Gypsy Rose Lee so the subject matter...more I am fascinated by the popular culture of America in the first half of the 20th Century and have an interest in Gypsy Rose Lee so the subject matter was right up my alley. What I knew about Lee was more or less confined to the book of the broadway musical so I learned a lot. However, the writing style was a constant irritation. For some reason, the author found it necessary to jump decades forward and backward throughout the book so that there is no chronological narrative of Gypsy's life story. To make matters worse, the story of the Minsky family, which founded a burlesque empire in New York City, also jumps around and is interwoven with the Gypsy chapters. By the end of the book, I was wondering if the author had done this to obfuscate, though I'm not sure what. She did seem to promise more juicy murder details than she delivered, however. On balance, I'm glad I read it but I would steer clear of the author's other books. (less)
This was an entertaining overview of the history of film from its origins in the late 19th century throughout the silent era, which lasted until the l...moreThis was an entertaining overview of the history of film from its origins in the late 19th century throughout the silent era, which lasted until the late 1920's in the United States. The book covers the major inventors, directors, and stars of the period, and the author is just opinionated enough to add some spice.
One of the book's main strengths is the photos and poster art illustrations. I may have missed out on some of the impact of these by reading this as an ebook.(less)
The best parts of this book are the numerous cartoons, articles, and cover reprints from Mad magazine over its 50-year history. I read the magazine as...moreThe best parts of this book are the numerous cartoons, articles, and cover reprints from Mad magazine over its 50-year history. I read the magazine as a teenager in the 60's and it brought back some of subversive glee it gave me at the time.
The subject matter content is also pretty good. I thought the most interesting parts were about Mad's pre-magazine origins and the side bars about the various artists.
Would recommend this to anyone who was ever enthralled by Mad, comic books, or satire.(less)