Sunday, April 11, 2010

And So Where Was All This Art when the Books Needed It...?

No telling where, that’s where… When George Turner and I pooled our respective archival resources in 1975 to begin building the first Forgotten Horrors book, we found ourselves in possession of plenty of pertinent movie stills and advertising images — materials we hadn’t considered since we’d first stashed ’em away, years before.

Even so, we also turned up subject matter for which no illustrations existed in either collection. We found a photo dealer in Oklahoma (long since defunct) who could provide much pertinent material at a reasonable rate that nonetheless gobbled up our $250 advance from England’s Tantivy Press. This source had a huge collection of movie-still negatives: Our 5- by 7-inch prints were darkroom-fresh. Elsewhere, the 16mm inventory of Cable Films of Kansas City, Mo., yielded not only many rare prints for the viewing but also a wealth of frame enlargements. (Cable Films’ Herb Miller provided a particular rarity in a screening copy of Dwain Esper’s 1934 Maniac.)

Other illustrations came to hand as if by chance: A complete set of lobby cards from Sherman Krellberg’s The Lost City (1935) turned up, for example, at a movie-buff convention in midsummer 1977 at Dallas — a chump-change transaction, and all the better for it. This was our last major art acquisition for the book before we shipped the manuscript to the publisher in October of 1977. A few stragglers fell into place at random.

And of course Tantivy Press and A.S. Barnes & Co. dawdled about at bringing Forgotten Horrors into print. The Tantivy edition surfaced in England before the Barnes edition appeared in America. George Turner and I learned of its arrival not from the publisher — which was struggling with internal conflicts, we learned eventually — but from a hometown librarian who called our newspaper office in Amarillo, Texas, to inquire whether we were the authors of this new book that had just come in: “It’s got your bylines on it, anyhow,” said Librarian Olive Melin. Whereupon George and I telephoned Barnes & Co. to inquire, in turn, whether we might have something due besides a blank stare.

But I digress. So what else is new? Anyhow, the starting point here was a discussion of the wealth of Forgotten Horrors art that has turned up in very recent years. Here are a few such pieces from the earlier years of the survey, each keyed to the title of its pertinent chapter in Forgotten Horrors: The Definitive Edition (Midnight Marquee Press; 1999). The present selections serve to expand upon coverage of Mascot Pictures’ King of the Wild (1931).

More will follow. In due course, of course.

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