The Golden Age of Hollywood

At Tim's suggestion I borrowed David Skal's Hollywood Gothic from my University's library. In his book, Skal provides a fascinating look at the transformation of the Dracula story from the inception of its literary roots in the early 19th century to Bram Stoker's classic novel to the story's several stage versions and finally to Universal's film starring Bela Lugosi. I learned a great deal concerning the Dracula backstory. Skal even includes information on the artistically superior Spanish language version of Dracula and on legal battles that ensued over the rights to Lugosi's Dracula image after his death. What I really enjoyed about the book is the wealth of illustrations and photos, many I had never seen before, including one of Max Schreck sans Count Orlak make-up.

For me, however, the book was marred by Skal's inclusion of two long-standing silent era myths: first Lon Chaney used wires to achieve the pop-eyed look for his vampire in "London After Midnight." (I recently finished Michael's Blake's Chaney bio in which he states this is false.) and secondly, that Clara Bow "had been liked romantically... to the entire football team of the University of Southern California."

Still, if you can get a hold of a copy of "Hollywood Gothic," I highly recommend it for any classic film lover.

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I've read this book several times, and still get it out from time to time and read this or that chapter. The information I gleaned from this book was astounding, considering I had been a fan of the film since around 1970--I had often wondered about the armadillos in Transylvania, for instance, and here discovered that Tod Browning seemed to have an obsession with them, and even wanted to use them in LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. Lots of info on the supporting cast, too--I knew virtually nothing about any of them. Incidentally, if any fans would like to hear a refutation of the idea that the Spanish-language version is 'superior' to the English language version, please refer to Steve Haberman's newer commentary track on Universal's "75th Anniversary" edition on DRACULA which came out a few years ago.

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