The books I’ve written over the years have had long lives, I’m happy to say, but some of them have been out-of-print for a while. Now they’re back as e-books and print-on-demand volumes thanks to Amazon Kindle. The earliest title is Selected Short Subjects, originally published in 1971 as The Great Movie Shorts. Then there’s The Real Stars, a collection of profiles and interviews with character actors…a revised version of The Great Movie Comedians: From Charlie Chaplin to Woody Allen…and Don Miller’s incomparable “B” Movies, which I originally edited for the Curtis Books film series.
Selected Short Subjects was the first—and I believe remains the only—broad-based survey of shorts from the talkie era, with individual chapters on Our Gang, Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges, Robert Benchley, Pete Smith Specialties, John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade, Edgar Kennedy, Leon Errol, Crime Does Not Pay, Harry Langdon, The Boy Friends,Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts, Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly, Andy Clyde, W.C. Fields, Screen Snapshots, and Joe McDoakes…with shorter summaries of The Voice of Hollywood, Mickey McGuire, Hollywood on Parade, The Taxi Boys, The Masquers Club, The Blondes and the Redheads, Clark and McCullough,Easy Aces, The Glove Slingers, Hugh Herbert, El Brendel, Vera Vague, The Newlyweds, and Gil Lamb. There are also summaries of all the studios that produced shorts during this period. I’ve beefed up the filmographies with longer cast lists than I had access to in 1972….and I’ve added a new introduction that tells how I came to write the book in the first place. The original preface was penned by MGM’s short subject impresario Pete Smith. I was fortunate enough to interview him and many other people who made the films I discuss. This book is especially close to me, as it was a true labor of love.
The Great Movie Comedians was an outgrowth of an eight-month series I programmed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York celebrating American comedy during our nation’s Bicentennial. Most of the book is unchanged since its 1978 publication, but I have rewritten the chapters on Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen and added postscripts to the essay on Bob Hope and Red Skelton, who passed away after the book came out. As before, each chapter includes rare photos and a complete filmography. The subjects: Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, Raymond Griffith, Marie Dressler, Will Rogers, Laurel and Hardy, Joe E. Brown, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Mae West, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, and Woody Allen. For this book I was lucky enough to interview a number of writers and directors who had fascinating insights about the comedy stars I chose to profile.
The Real Stars is a collection of pieces from my magazine Film Fan Monthly, spotlighting the supporting players who made movies of the 1930s and ‘40s so enjoyable: Edgar Kennedy, Billy Gilbert, Patsy Kelly, Gale Sondergaard, Grady Sutton, Bess Flowers, Edgar Buchanan, Blanche Yurka, Sara Allgood, Joyce Compton, Hans Conried, Gladys George, Dorothy Granger, Rex Ingram, Rosalind Ivan, Una Merkel, Mabel Paige, and Hope Summers. I love these people and if you do, too, I think you’ll have fun reading about them, and in many cases sharing their first-hand recollections.
Finally, I was proud to publish Don Miller’s incredible book “B” Movies, which has been unavailable for far too long. (I wrote a foreword for its reissue in the 1980s, but even that went out of print.) Don had a photographic memory of every movie he’d ever seen, going back decades, and he understood the larger picture of how the major studios and Poverty Row factories approached these films that were meant to be the “bottom half” of a double-bill. No one else has ever equaled Don’s achievement.
Each of these books is now available as a low-priced e-book, which means the texts are completely searchable. They are also available as paperback books, sized 6″ by 9″, although these editions don’t have indexes. For more information, click HERE.
I can’t tell you what satisfaction it gives me—as it would any author—to see my babies given a new lease on life.