Friday, November 29, 2019

Book details comedy shorts of Thelma Todd with ZaSu Pitts, Patsy Kelly

Review by Doug Gibson

With old comedy shorts, most are unknown to the average viewed (but not the genre fan). With the Hal Roach comedy shorts, Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang have become iconic. There were others, of course, as popular nearly 90 years ago.

Film authority James L. Neibaur recently penned "The Hal Roach Comedy Shorts of Thelma Todd, ZaSu Pitts and Patsy Kelly," McFarland, buy here. The past decade or so, I've occasionally seen Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly shorts from the early and mid '30s as extras on TCM. I've enjoyed them. Recently, a DVD of Todd's shorts with Pitt was released. There is also a collection of the Todd and Kelly shorts.

Todd made 17 shorts with Pitts, and 21 with Kelly. Thelma Todd was a beautiful blonde and was the "It" girl in the shorts. Pitts was more fluttery and hesitant, Kelly more brassy and impetuous. All were extremely talented comic actors and the shorts were popular. Neibaur uses a successful formula that he has done in other books. He provides early bios of the principles, a detailed account of each film history, along with summaries, tidbits from production and the stars' lives, reviews, and what the stars were doing between comedy shorts. All were pretty in other films, Roach often giving his actors time to work at other studios as Hal Roach studio did take hiatuses.

One of the best Todd/Pitts shorts is 1931's "On the Loose." It's not because it has a cameo of Laurel & Hardy, although it's a funny scene. I like it because it exemplifies the strength of the Todd/Pitts/Kelly series. They are working women in the midst of The Great Depression, roommates trying to balance economic survival and looking for a good man. Neibaur notes that the films serve as a time capsule, a glimpse into the times. In "On the Loose," Coney Island is featured (the stars are tired of their dates constantly taking them there). I love the scenes of the park in 1931. You can watch "On the Loose" below:

My favorite Todd/Kelly short is "Babes in the Goods," from 1934. Again, the pair are working girls struggling to hold onto a job during tough economic times. They are tasked with setting up a department store window with hilarious results. Kelly really shines in this role.

I spent hours poring through Neibaur's book, thoroughly enjoying the recaps of the shows. I don't have the DVDs so I Googled shorts and was able to find a lot to watch at YouTube and DailyMotion. The history of the stars is interesting. Pitts left amicably to pursue more features work. Todd died tragically in late 1935, in a car of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although theories abound, we'll probably never know if it was a suicide, accident, or murder. Kelly, Neibaur notes, lived as an open lesbian in 1930s Hollywood. She suffered sand inhalation in a car wreck in the 1930s and was told she only had 10 years to live. That was wrong; she lived several decades longer.

After Todd's death, there were three films left on contract. Pert Kelton starred with Kelly in one and the final two matched Kelly with Russian-born Lyda Roberti. Roach was pleased enough with Kelly and Roberti to star the pair in a film. However, health problems forced Roberti to retire from acting after that feature and she died in 1938.

Neibaur has written a gem of a film history book here and it merits a successful release. It can also be purchased, including via Kindle, at Amazon here.

As I have noted, I think these shorts blended realism with humor. Women probably could identify with these stories of struggling individuals living through tough times and trying to find love and economic success. I hope Turner Classic Movies will provide viewers several hours of the Thelma Todd, ZaSu Pitts and :Patsy Kelly shorts. (Below is a photo of Pitts (left)  and Todd in the film, "On the Loose."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

An interview with Carrie Lynn, author of Finding Fitzgerald

  Recently, we reviewed the memoir, "Finding Fitzgerald," by author Carrie Lynn. As a fellow fan of the late writer, John D. Fitzgerald, she recounts a decades-long love of the writer's work and her efforts to uncover the mysteries behind his writings. While his best-known books, such as Papa Married a Mormon, and The Great Brain series, are based on people, places and events in Fitzgerald's life, they are fiction, with locations and individuals' lives adapted to fit the historical fiction. 

     Here is an excerpt from my review: "Finding Fitzgerald" is a memoir. Lynn blends her dogged, determined search to uncover the secrets behind John D. Fitzgerald's mysteries, with her family life of the past two generations. The book opens with Lynn visiting Price, Utah. That's where the Fitzgerald family actually lived. Frankly, for this Fitzgerald fan, it's a thrill to witness Lynn talking to people who knew the Fitzgeralds of the novels, to have her be at locations that we see in a photo in one of the novels, and see buildings and streets in Price that she can visualize as settings in the novels.

     Here's an interview with Ms. Lynn. I appreciate her taking the time to answer these questions as she is busy with a book tour.

     Plan9Crunch: Tell us what you discovered about Price, Utah, and how it can serve as a model for Adenville and Silver Reef, both prime locations in Fitzgerald's books?

Lynn: Ages ago, some historian somewhere, determined that Adenville was based on the Utah towns of Silver Reef and Leeds. The deductive reasoning that brought them to that conclusion makes sense. John morphed the placement of Adenville, from the very beginning. He still had family living in Price when he wrote his first book, Papa Married a Mormon. Therefore, he set his stories in Southern Utah – Dixie. He connected it to cities in that area like Enoch. Historically the closest thing to Adenville-Silverlode would be Leeds – Silver Reef. Maybe someday when we get to ask John himself, he will confirm the idea. However, he only gave 2, maybe 3 interviews about his work. No one asked that question.

Originally when I ran across the Leeds-Silver Reef, I agreed. Yet the more I read, the more I learned that Price has a gorgeous lawless history. Complete with saloons, gunslingers, outlaws, thieves, and the like. In its infancy Price was Adenville/Silverlode rolled into one. It straddled the train tracks. Then a fire decimated the town. And in an instant, the lawlessness ceased. You can’t even imagine it now in modern day Price. The city rebuilt itself and has maintained a kind of Mayberry-eque quality. My key understanding came from a hand drawn map. From that map, I could better imagine the gunfights, the town layout, and the stories that John remembered when he wrote his books.

Plan9Crunch: The story of the Great Brain's character, Tom Fitzgerald, is very bittersweet. He had a life with a lot of tragedy and setbacks, yet you encountered recollections that paint a very positive picture of him. Do you see the real Tom depicted in the books?    

Lynn: I do. Partly based on a handwritten letter by a neighbor, named Elgin Grames, and his devout commitment to Tom Fitzgerald being “known as “The Great Brain””.  I think John admired his brother immensely. He had 2 older brothers in real life. He could have used either of them, if the model were entire fictious. But I think he saw in Tom something, that he knew life may not see in Tom, that was his heart. I believe he wanted the world to remember the same guy, that Elgin Grames remembered.

One of the key things I learned to keep in mind during my research was to stop letting my book images crowd my discoveries. We as readers will never get to read the original “Great Brain” book. It was the fourth and final book in John’s initial series. Because it was never published, as he initially intended, we likely get a more slanted view of T.D. because John eventually had to write 7/8 books on the “Great Brain” character. I conjecture that many of the stories in The Great Brain series were likely spread across his siblings and friends. I have no absolute proof on that. But if I ever found that out, I wouldn’t be surprised.

      Plan9Crunch: As an equally devoted fan, tell us what it is like to actually speak with an correspond with people who knew the individuals characterized in the books?

     Lynn: It wasn’t always as fun as one would imagine. I never spoke with any of Tom or John’s siblings. His younger brother Gerald was alive but barely communicative. He would be closest conversation I would have. All of my interactions with Gerald happened through his son, who was very gracious and as helpful as he could be.

     The others I connected with were helpful, but in a tougher way. The first painful correspondence I received, didn’t even make it in the book because it’s about a lesser known family member, but the sting of the letter really set me back. I had put the characters in the books on such a pedestal, that having them taken down, sometimes felt like a wrecking ball. Yet, after I let things settle, I could find nuggets of joy in the raw pieces. Over time it made me love both versions of a character even more.

Plan9Crunch: Finding Fitzgerald is a memoir of your family as well. Do you think your children will share the same lifetime love for the series and novels that you do? 

Lynn: Likely not. They do still talk about them. Largely because of the project. They have a favorite book, Great Brain at the Academy. Each of them has their own favorite authors and book series. I love that. We have richer conversations because of it. Ironically, I have a slew of other favorite books and authors, too. Fitzgerald just needed to be found.

Plan9Crunch: Why do you think Fitzgerald created historical fiction, rather than placing the books in Price and keeping characters as they were? Was he writing more about an era than just a family?  

Lynn: Possibly. It is also possible that he was respecting all the living relatives in his family that still lived in the area. He had siblings and cousins in the nearby area. He also wove his tale more broadly with those extended family members initially. We don’t see it as much it The Great Brain. Lastly, who knows what he initially submitted for publication. He took the story off of family history, as he and his siblings recalled it. Maybe the initial story was too complex? Or may too unmarketable? We have no galley proofs to look at.

Plan9Crunch: What advice do you have to future Fitzgerald sleuths? What issue unresolved could be still be answered? 

Lynn: My best answer is “go with your gut.” This Fitzgerald discovery story seems to have an assignment for each seeker individually. None of have ever met. We have never lived by each other. Or hold any other connection than the love of the books John wrote. We each brought something new, it added to the next seekers information. Specific ideas would be finding the pulp fiction stories he wrote. There are more than 300. Finding his pen name. there is also a world of Utah pioneering that the Neilsens did, especially Aunt Sena’s husband that may unearth new insights. Whoever takes it from here, will be led. That is all I know. It really is a Field of Dreams experience.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Memoir searches for answers of writer John D. Fitzgerald, Great Brain ...

Review by Doug Gibson

There are many fans of the late writer, John D. Fitzgerald. I agree with the description of him as "Utah's Mark Twain." 60-plus years ago he wrote a trilogy of novels about the Fitzgerald family, where a transplanted Pennsylvanian emigrated to Utah to find his wayward brother and also found love with a young Mormon woman. "Papa Married a Mormon" and raised a family.

In his later years, Fitzgerald penned several more novels, geared to younger readers, that focused more on the Fitzgerald children, particularly "The Great Brain," Thomas Dennis Fitzgerald, or T.D., who solved dilemmas that perplexed his contemporaries, even the adults. The successful series, spawned a film, "The Great Brain," that unfortunately had little distribution but can now be viewed at YouTube. The series, all with titles that began with "The Great Brain ..." was so popular that after Fitzgerald's death, the discovery of another "Great Brain" manuscript was also published.

I repeat there are many fans of John D. Fitzgerald, but there are others, myself included, who can be regarded as "'super fans." He is among our favorite writers. We don't just read his novels, we re-read them to tatters, introduce them to others, most satisfyingly to our children, and yes, we think about the Fitzgerald family a lot. We harbor warm sentiments towards Papa, Mamma, T.D., the Great Brain, the narrator, J.D. (John D. Fitzgerald), S.D., older brother Sean Dennis Fitzgerald, Uncle Will, Aunt Cathie, and others.

The books are written as if they are recollections of childhood and family. The principal towns, located in Southern Utah, are Adenville, a predominantly Mormon community, and mining town Silverlode. There are even photographs of the major family characters in the novel, "'Papa Married a Mormon."

I promise I am getting to a review of the wonderful book shown above, but this preface is necessary. If you are a super fan of John D. Fitzgerald, you will encounter a dilemma if you do any cursory research of his popular novels. There is no Adenville. No Silverlode ever existed. The major characters can be located, albeit some with different names. However, these characters don't, for the most part, match how they are depicted in the novels.

Quite frankly, this shouldn't be a surprise. The books are clearly marked as novels, or fiction. You go to the library, "Papa Married a Mormon" is in the fiction section. The "Great Brain" books are in children's fiction. But if you are attached to these novels, it's easy to succumb to the belief they are real.

The author of "Finding Fitzgerald," E.L. Marker (WiDo Publishing, 2019) Carrie Lynn (buy it here), was introduced to the novels at roughly the same age I was. "The Great Brain" was first read to her on a family camping trip in 1976. Our teacher read "The Great Brain At the Academy" to my fifth-grade class a year earlier . Lynn was mesmerized. I was mesmerized. I had to read every "Great Brain" book. And then I had to search the wonderful, now sadly gone "Acres of Books" in Long Beach, Calif., and buy the three novels Fitzgerald had published in the 1950s.

"Finding Fitzgerald" is a memoir. Lynn blends her dogged, determined search to uncover the secrets behind John D. Fitzgerald's mysteries, with her family life of the past two generations. The book opens with Lynn visiting Price, Utah. That's where the Fitzgerald family actually lived. Frankly, for this Fitzgerald fan, it's a thrill to witness Lynn talking to people who knew the Fitzgeralds of the novels, to have her be at locations that we see in a photo in one of the novels, and see buildings and streets in Price that she can visualize as settings in the novels.

One of the most satisfying questions that Lynn answers in "Finding Fitzgerald" is her realization, through a study of Price and its diverse communities, that this town/city offered John D. Fitzgerald the settings of both "Adenville" and "Silverlode." Price had its sections that resembled a small Mormon community and it had its settings where there were saloons, etc. In fact, one interesting fact learned is that Papa Fitzgerald, Tom senior, was not a newspaper editor but nevertheless had a fascinating life. For a long time he traveled through life, pursuing adventures, including ore mining, before settling down in Price and marrying and raising a family.

These location and personality disconnections are important for super fans, because, as Lynn poignantly notes in her memoir, they can tear at the heart. I recall in the late 1970s dragging my family through back roads in Southern Utah trying to locate the ruins of "Adenville," supposedly destroyed by a flood, and the ghost town of "'Silverlode." I thought I found "Silverlode" in Silver Reef, but couldn't find any sign of "'Adenville," but hopefully thought a big white home might have been "Uncle Will"'s place that must have survived the flood. 😀 This just provides an example of how powerful a connection to Fitzgerald's writing can be for some readers.

I need to pay tribute to the author's patient research and determination. She pored over long ago newspaper editions, public relations materials for novels and film, corresponded with Fitzgerald family members and friends, other researchers, started a blog, talked with academics, shared her findings with loved ones, sought and followed their advice, and went on pilgrimages to the areas where the books' characters lived. She not only eased our concerns about the literary license, she provides strong examples, through family lore and her research of Price and other areas, of the origins and inspirations of many of the events and individuals who populate the novels.

And the memoir will tug at your heart when Lynn writes about the real-life "Great Brain," Tom Fitzgerald. The inspiration for brother John's most famous character had a life filled with much tragedy. He was alone most of his latter-half life, and encountered a lot of adversity. But we also learn that he was a survivor, a man who was respected by many, shared his knowledge of subjects with others, and "read a lot of books." I get the feeling from what I learned in the memoir that John loved and respected Tom, and wanted others to feel that respect.

Lynn's memoir flows well between her family and her research. Her embarrassment at falsely claiming to be a writer doing research leads to the happy result of actually completing a book. Her mixture of emotions from discovering and deciphering Fitzgerald mysteries is exemplified in her procrastination to read "Papa Married a Mormon" to her reluctance to pursue answers from a prominent, finally located source, because she doesn't want to bother him. She eventually "bothers" the source for more answers. That's fortunate, because the journalist that is me was decrying her for shying away from that source. It's also heartwarming to read of Lynn being on a panel as a Fitzgerald expert.

There's one more Fitzgerald mystery solved in "Finding Fitzgerald" near the very end: the likely identity of the man who inspires Bishop Aden, the Mormon bishop of "Adenville." I'll say no more on that, leave it to the reader to learn, but will add that in my opinion the Price resident who characterizes "'Mama, Tena Fitzgerald," is likely the most similar in real life to her character in the novels.

Do yourself a favor reader, enjoy "Finding Fitzgerald." The author did a yeoman's job in unearthing so many facts and underscoring how wonderful John D. Fitzgerald's historical novels are. And make sure you pick up a few "Great Brain" books and "Papa Married a Mormon." They are available still, in shops and via Amazon. In fact, "Finding Fitzgerald can also be purchased at Amazon here.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Frank Dello Stritto talks about Carl Denham's Giant Monsters

Happy end of Halloween Plan9Crunch readers. We have a November treat for you. I interviewed film scholar Frank Dello Stritto on his recently published book, "Carl Denham's Giant Monsters," Cult Movies Press, 2019. It's another of Frank's historical fiction novels in which he guides us through the 20th century, blending with dozens of films, to provide the until-now untold complete life history of Carl Denham, the man who brought King Kong to New York City. Our review is here. It's in the same spirit as Frank's "A Werewolf Remembers," also at Cult Movies Press) in which much more was revealed about Lawrence Talbot and those who passed through his times.
I really enjoyed speaking with Frank, and I appreciate him giving us the time. At the end, he reveals via our blog what his next literary topic will be. Cult Movies Press website is here. Other books by Frank from Cult Movies Press include a collection of essays, "A Quaint and Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore," his memoir, "I Saw What I Saw When I Saw It ...," and "Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain," which he co-authored with Andi Brooks, who runs the valuable Bela Lugosi blog.
-- Doug Gibson

You obviously have great affection for the 1933 film, King Kong. How did that film impact your decision to write the book?
Dello Stritto: I first saw King Kong on television in March 1956. I was just short of my sixth birthday. My family (parents and my brother) and I sat around our little television (in 1956, all televisions were small), and watched it on Million Dollar Movie. A magical night that I still remember. Since then King Kong has ranked among my favorite movies.
In my fiction built around old horror and monster movies, I look for a central character who has appeared in more than one film. I can construct a saga around them, which becomes the focus of the book. For my first fiction book (A Werewolf Remembers), I chose Lawrence Talbot (i.e., The Wolf Man), who appears in five Universal movies.
Carl Denham only appeared in two movies (King Kong and Son of Kong), but those gave me plenty to work with.
Incidentally, I think of my two novels as historical fiction—completely consistent with the world in the movies and the real world we live in. Not easy to reconcile the two worlds, but I am able to pull that off well enough.

How did you go about selecting films, their characters, and news events that Carl Denham would play a role in the book?
Dello Stritto: The one-word answer is “Apes.” Of course, King Kong and Son of Kong had to be the core of the story since they are the only two films in which Carl Denham appears. Before and after Kong, I wanted him to meet every famous ape or ape man in the movies. So, I had to work into Denham’s adventures Tarzan (Denham meets Jane, but only sees Tarzan from a distance), Mighty Joe Young (1949, whose protagonist, Max O’Hara is a caricature of Denham), and Africa Screams, which could have been titled “Abbott & Costello Meet King Kong.” Konga (1961) also figures in the story, but Denham only hears about that when one of its characters visits him.
Denham, in the time frame of my book, is a grumpy old man, and having him tell of his adventure Abbott & Costello brings in a little comic relief. I hope that works.
I also wanted to have Denham involved in the Kong-inspired movies—quests to unknown places that uncover monsters. So, I managed to work him into The Lost World (1925, which inspired Kong), Unknown Island (1948), and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). I have always been a big fan of Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957), and I put Denham on that expedition.
I must point out, that except for Denham’s presence on these expeditions—and he is always somewhat in the background—the narrative of the book is completely consistent with the plots of the movies.
With all that, I had some gaps to fill in the narrative. So, Denham crosses paths with a procession of monster makers, from Dr. Moreau (from 1932’s Island of Lost Souls) to John Hammond (from Jurassic Park, 1993). One of the secret pleasures in my approach to my novels is that whenever I need characters, I don’t have to invent them. I pluck them from movies. For example, Denham is on a few different ships in my book, and I use sea captains in films.
As for the historical events, I was stuck with World War II, which could not be ignored. I don’t spend too many pages on that. Having Denham on Teddy Roosevelt’s 1914 expedition to the Amazon was a good entry to South America (which Denham visits later for his Lost World and Black Lagoon adventures). Of course, in America, dealing with apes and ape men sooner or later brings in the Scopes Monkey Trials. So, I sent Denham to Dayton, Tennessee for July 1925.

You are very familiar with the setting of the book, where Denham relates his life adventures. Is it as remote as it seems in the book? Would a man running away from the consequences of his past still find an escape hatch there?
Dello Stritto: The setting of the book is Indonesia in the early 1970s, when Carl Denham would have been about 80 years old. My wife and I lived in Jakarta for three years, 2007 to 2010. I do not know exactly how it was in the 1970s, but Indonesia is a great place to escape from the rest of the world. We saw plenty of westerners—Europeans and Americans—who had done just that. As far as I know, they were not escaping the law, like Denham (after Kong’s rampage through New York, Denham was buried in lawsuits and indictments, and that was the springboard for Son of Kong), but westerners who for whatever reason were far happier there than in their home countries.
Because we lived in Jakarta, I could put a lot of detail in the book about day-to-day life there. To get away from bustling Jakarta, we would go to a small island resort when we could. The bungalows there are pretty modest, and getting there was not easy. Depending on the traffic on a particular day, we had to take two or three water taxis to different islands, with waits in between, to reach it. Well, on the north end of the small island was a really fine, large house. I never found out who lived there. I thought it might be the type of place Denham would settle in after he escaped Skull Island (at the end of Son of Kong) with his pockets full of diamonds. So that’s where I put him in my book.

The parts of South American explorations, the plateau with lost creatures, make fascinating reading. Besides the 1925 and 1960 movies, there’s even a bad David Hewitt film from the 1960s, The Mighty Gorga, that explores it. Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about it, so many films have been made about the topic. What is it about a plateau full of prehistoric creatures preserved today that captures imaginations of readers or viewers?
Dello Stritto: Think back on some of the stories that first fascinated you as a child. I would bet that a lot of them take you to mythical lands—Oz, Wonderland, Toyland, Krypton. Those places where “the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true” have a lasting allure. Their dark sides are places like Skull Island or the Lost Plateau—or Transylvania—where monsters rule. Add to that the lore of a hidden, foreboding past, and a quest of some kind, and the story is irresistible.
I mentioned how much my first viewing of King Kong meant to me. Of course, I remember from that night all the iconic scenes of Kong battling monsters, and rampaging through the village and then Manhattan. But one less-fantastic scene sticks with me. I still remember the chill that it sent through me. Early in the film is a foggy night as the S. S. Venture first nears Skull Island. Denham and company can’t see a thing. They only know that the water is becoming shallower. Then they hear waves breaking on a shore, and know that they must be near land. Suddenly, Driscoll (the first mate) says “Those aren’t breakers. They’re drums!”
Wow—it hit me that somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, was an unknown world. That’s when I first got hooked on the movie.

As a retired journalist, I particularly enjoy the portion about the Scopes Trial and the sections where persistent reporters stalk sources to get the stories they need, ethics be damned. Did you research journalism in the 1920s and 1930s, or did you rely a lot on film portrayals that included great actors such as Lee Tracy?
Dello Stritto: Well, I am flattered that you wonder if I did research on journalism. No—other than my high school newspaper, I have no experience in journalism. For my book, I didn’t need it. Plenty of newspapermen from old movies to import into my story. The two reporters who become Denham’s sidekicks at the Scopes Trial are characters played by Lee Tracy (in Dr.X, 1932), and Ted Healey (in Mad Love, 1935). All their antics in uncovering stories are adopted in my book, and even some of their dialogue. One of the delights of 1930s movies is the many portrayals of overbearing, ruthless reporters. And I didn’t forget the women reporters. Glenda Farrell played an aggressive reporter in Mystery of the Wax Museum, and then did a series of movies as brassy, sassy Torchy Blane, “the bloodhound with a nose for news.” After Kong’s night on the town, Denham is stormed by the press, and Glenda Farrell characters lead the charge.

What inspired you to create a bonding friendship between Denham and Steve Martin?
Dello Stritto: Who are the most famous giant monsters in the movies? King Kong and Godzilla. Steve Martin is as close as Godzilla comes to having a Denham. Plus, I really admire Raymond Burr’s portrayal. I think it is largely overlooked, and sometimes even criticized—because, supposedly, the Americanized Godzilla, King of the Monsters! corrupts the Japanese original, Gojira. That’s a discussion for another time (though I wrote an article on that for Monster Bash magazine).
So, I always intended to have Godzilla come into Denham’s story, but sending Denham to Tokyo to see the monster didn’t work. I am speaking here of the original Godzilla in the 1954 (Japan) and 1956 (Americanized) movies. I do not have much regard for the later ones.
And I needed an ending for my book. I won’t spoil it here, but Steve Martin figures in that, and I was glad to be able to use him. Like I said, I really admire Raymond Burr’s performance.  

My favorite parts of this and A Werewolf Remembers are moving the plot through so many movies. My son and I tagged some of the films involved and watched them. It’s great to see a minor film such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla be included. Does your personal affection for actors, such as Lugosi, and say, Lou Costello, impact the films you choose?
Dello Stritto: Well, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is certainly a minor film, but Dr. Zabor (Lugosi) really fit what I needed well. But my personal affectation for Lugosi certainly came into play, and I probably would have brought him into it anyway. Not hard to do, since a few of Lugosi’s mad doctors dabble in changing apes to man and vice versa. George Zucco’s and John’s Carradine’s mad doctors do, too. They are in the story as well. Not so for Boris Karloff, but he did have an adventure on a remote Pacific Island (Voodoo Island), so I used him as well.
Lugosi and Lou Costello (for whom I also have great affection) had to be in A Werewolf Remembers since their characters not only meet Lawrence Talbot, but are key to his story.  And Costello did meet a giant gorilla in Africa Screams, so he had to be in Carl Denham’s Giant Monsters.

Are you thinking of another book along these lines?
Dello Stritto: Yes, and I will “spill” it here. The book is tentatively titled The Passion of the Mummy, and that mummy is Kharis. He meets the criteria—he appears in four movies, and has a saga. I have mentioned it to a few people, and most assume that I am telling of his life in ancient Egypt. Not so. Ancient Egypt figures in the story, but it all takes place in the 20th Century. As you know, in some sense I am in my earlier novels. In A Werewolf Remembers, I find the lost diaries of Lawrence Talbot. In Carl Denham’s Giant Monsters, I stumble on an aged Denham on an Indonesia island. I will be in the mummy book, too, but in a different way. I hope my approach works well. I am targeting a premiere at the June 2021 Monster Bash.
Lugosi is already in the story. Will Lou Costello get in via Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy? Too soon to tell.