Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy
Published by McFarland, 2018. 329 pages
By Gregory William Mank
The reading goal that I have set for myself is to get through at least one book per month, and for the last couple of years, I’ve happily gone a little past that goal. But thanks to the wonderfully talented Mr. Mank, my average for this year just went up. It usually takes me 3-4 weeks to get through a book, mainly because I have to steal away time to read. But once I started this latest volume, on the actor Laird Cregar, I went through the first half of it in the first two days, finishing it off within a week. I just couldn’t put it down.
I have been a fan of Cregar’s since the very first time I watched The Lodger (1944). I was just amazed at not only how effective and well made the picture was, but also the amazing talent of Cregar. I immediately started to seek out other of his films, especially Hangover Square (1945), again being mesmerized by his performance. I started to read up on this seemingly unknown (to me at least) actor and his life in various books and online, only be to be depressed on how this brilliant performer was treated in his life, by others as well as how he treated himself. A couple of years ago, while talking to Mank at a Monster Bash conference, he mentioned Cregar was going to be the subject of an upcoming book, which I knew I would get the minute it came out. Which I did.
With as many titles that I add to my library each and every year, if I don’t force myself some rules, I’ll never get through some of these. Back in 2015, I’ve set myself a goal to get through at least one book per month. That year I almost made it, getting through eleven. Then last year, I devoured fourteen titles! Then this year I did even one better and made it to fifteen titles. Trust me, I wish I had the time to double that number since when you have over a thousand titles in your library, and are constantly adding new ones, it is a never ending quest. But one I that I just love. Just like my Best Of movie lists, these are not titles that came out this last year, but ones that I finally got around to. Out of those fifteen, here are the top five that I would recommend the most:
Women in Horror Films, 1930’s
By Gregory William Mank
Published by McFarland & Co, 415 pages.
Along with Tom Weaver, Greg Mank is one of the leading writers who I think is doing amazing work keeping the memory and stories of some of our favorite actors and actresses alive, through their hard work and research. We can learn so much about our favorite horror stars because of them. And this book is a prime example of that.
Each chapter of the book is dedicated to one of the stars from the ’30’s, including names like Elsa Lanchester, Gloria Stuart, Frances Drake, and many more. In fact, there are 21 different actresses cover in this book. With each name, we are given a lot of information about the them, their early life and career. There are a lot of interesting stories within these pages, most of them told directly to the author himself from the many interviews that he conducted over the years. So kudos to him for keeping these memories alive and remembered.
Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration By Gregory William Mank Published by McFarland, 2009. 701 pages
If you don’t want to read our whole review, then to put it as simply as we can get: Buy this book.
Originally published in 1990, under the title Karloff and Lugosi: The Story of a Haunting Collaboration, it was almost ten years later when Mank released a massively updated and revised version in 2009. So much time had passed since its first publication, where he had interviewed so many more people, giving him even more information and stories about Lugosi and Karloff, that he felt the need to update this book. And I’m so glad he did, since it was one of the most enjoyable, enlightening, and entertaining books that I’ve read in a long time. Really an essential volume for any monster kid.
I have to give Mank credit for not just updating this book because of new interviews and information, but to correct a few things, namely stories about Hope Lugosi, the last true “Bride of Dracula”, who in the past was not treated well by the media and journalists, including himself. But after interviewing her and getting to know her, he wanted to make sure that her side of the story was out there. So for that, I give him a lot of credit for wanting to make sure it was heard.
So yeah… so this whole “Print is Dead” propaganda….
McFarland has some great new books coming out this year that I can’t wait to add to my library, let alone dive into them. Yes, McFarland’s titles tend to be on the expensive side, especially for their softcover editions. But their hardcover editions, especially from the likes of Gregory Mank or Tom Weaver, are probably worth the investment. Granted these are books to read, but at these prices, they are an investment, and usually go up in value. I know it doesn’t make it any easier to drop $75 to $100 for one book, so you have to pick your battles. With some special edition Blu-rays hitting the $40 and $50 range for just one movie, it doesn’t seem that much more really. But then again, I’m a sucker for these kind of books and know I’ll be adding most of the ones listed below to my own library at some point. So let’s take a look at some of these great titles they have in store for us this year:
One of the great things I loved about Monster Bash is the presence of not only books but authors as well. Last year, I got over dozen books signed by a few different authors that were there. And it didn’t cost a penny! It would have been a lot more books but author Tom Weaver wasn’t able to make it to the show. But this year he was, and I was prepared for his return to the Bash, bringing well over a dozen of his books alone for him to sign. Weaver is a deity when it comes to horror history, spending his time seeking out and interviewing stars of the movies we love, both bigger names and not-so-bigger names, and getting their stories and memories down in print for us monster fans to read and learn even more about them.
Hollywood’s Maddest Doctors: A Biography of Lionel Atwill, Colin Clive, and Geoge Zucco
By Gregory William Mank
Midnight Marquee Press, 1998. 320 pages.