Saturday, October 30, 2010

The War of the Worlds 1938

The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated "news bulletins," which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a 'sustaining show' (it ran without commercial breaks), thus adding to the program's quality of realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated. In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage. The program's news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast, but the episode secured Orson Welles' fame.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Deathday: Mystery Writer James M. Cain

James Mallahan Cain (July 1, 1892 – October 27, 1977) was an American author and journalist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labelling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the roman noir. Several of his crime novels inspired highly successful movies.

Early life

Cain was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland. The son of a prominent educator and an opera singer, he had inherited his love for music from his mother, but his high hopes of starting a career as a singer himself were thwarted when she told him that his voice was not good enough. After graduating from Washington College where his father, James W. Cain served as president, in 1910, Cain began working as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun.

Cain was drafted into the United States Army and spent the final year of World War I in France writing for an Army magazine.


Back in the States, he continued working as a journalist writing editorials for the New York World and articles for American Mercury. He briefly served as the managing editor of The New Yorker, but later turned to screenplays and finally to fiction.

Although Cain spent many years in Hollywood working on screenplays, his name only appears on the credits of three films: Algiers, Stand Up and Fight, and Gypsy Wildcat.

Cain's first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was published in 1934. Two years later the serialized Double Indemnity was published.

Cain made use of his love of music and of the opera in particular in at least three of his novels: Serenade (about an American opera singer who loses his voice and who, after spending part of his life south of the border, re-enters the States illegally with a Mexican prostitute in tow); Mildred Pierce (in which, as part of the subplot, the only daughter of a successful businesswoman trains as an opera singer); and Career in C Major, a short semi-comic novel about the unhappy husband of an aspiring opera singer who unexpectedly discovers that he has a better voice than she does (Cain's fourth wife, Florence Macbeth, was a retired opera singer).

American Authors' Authority

In July 1946, Cain wrote an article for Screen Writer magazine in which he proposed the creation of an American Authors' Authority to hold writers' copyrights and represent the writers in contract negotiations and court disputes. This idea was dubbed the "Cain plan" in the media. The plan was denounced as Communist by some writers, who formed the American Writers Association to oppose it. Although Cain worked vigorously to promoted the Authority, it did not gain widespread support and the idea died.

Personal life

Cain was married to Mary Clough in 1919. The marriage ended in divorce and he promptly married Elina Sjösted Tyszecka. Although Cain never had any children of his own, he was close to Elina's two children from a prior marriage. In 1944 Cain married film actress Aileen Pringle, but the marriage was a tempestuous union and dissolved in a bitter divorce two years later. Cain married for the fourth time to Florence Macbeth, an opera singer. Their marriage lasted until her death in 1966.

Cain continued writing up to his death at the age of 85. However, the many novels he published from the late 1940s onward never rivaled his earlier successes.


"I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices, and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort."

(from the Preface to Double Indemnity)


(with the dates of the first book publication)

Our Government (1930)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
Serenade (1937)
Mildred Pierce (1941)
Love's Lovely Counterfeit (1942)
Career in C Major and Other Stories (1943)
Double Indemnity (1943) (first published in Liberty Magazine, 1936)
The Embezzler (1944) (first published as Money and the Woman, Liberty Magazine, 1938)
Past All Dishonor (1946)
The Butterfly (1947)
The Moth (1948)
Sinful Woman (1948)
Jealous Woman (1950)
The Root of His Evil (1951) (also published as Shameless)
Galatea (1953)
Mignon (1962)
The Magician's Wife (1965)
Rainbow's End (1975)
The Institute (1976)
The Baby in the Icebox (1981); short stories
Cloud Nine (1984)
The Enchanted Isle (1985)


The following films were adapted from Cain's novels and stories.

She Made Her Bed, USA, 1934, directed by Ralph Murphy (story "The Baby in the Icebox")
Le Dernier tournant, France, 1939, directed by Pierre Chenal (novel The Postman Always Rings Twice)
Ossessione, Italy, 1943, directed by Luchino Visconti (novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, uncredited)
Double Indemnity, USA, 1944, directed by Billy Wilder
Mildred Pierce, USA, 1945, directed by Michael Curtiz
The Postman Always Rings Twice, USA, 1946, directed by Tay Garnett
Slightly Scarlet, USA, 1956, directed by Allan Dwan (novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit)
Serenade, USA, 1956, directed by Anthony Mann
The Postman Always Rings Twice, USA, 1981, directed by Bob Rafelson
Butterfly, USA, 1982, directed by Matt Cimber
Girl in the Cadillac, USA, 1995, directed by Lucas Platt (novel The Enchanted Isle)


1.^ West, James L. W. (1990). American Authors and the Literary Marketplace Since 1900. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1330-0.
2.^ Fine, Richard (1992). James M. Cain and the American Authors' Authority. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-74024-7.
3.^ Hoopes
Hoopes, Roy (1982). Cain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0030493315.

The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and Selected Stories (Everyman's Library Classics)Double IndemnityThe Postman Always Rings TwiceMildred PierceThree by Cain: Serenade, Love's Lovely Counterfeit, The ButterflyCrime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s: The Postman Always Rings Twice / They Shoot Horses, Don't They? / Thieves Like Us / The Big Clock / Nightmare ... a Dead Man (Library of America) (Vol 1)Packed and Loaded: Conservations with James M. CainJames M Cain: 4 Complete NovelsSinful WomanThe Baby in the Icebox: And Other Short FictionCain: The Biography of James M. CainTwo Novels By James M. Cain, The Embezzler & Double IndemnityJames M. Cain and the American Authors' Authority (American Studies Series)GalateaEMBEZZLER, THE

Monday, October 25, 2010

Deathday: Poe Actor Vincent Price

Vincent Leonard Price II (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) was an American actor, well known for his distinctive voice and serio-comic attitude in a series of horror films made in the latter part of his career.

In the 1960s, Price had a number of low-budget successes with Roger Corman and American International Pictures (AIP) including the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963) The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). He also starred in The Last Man on Earth (1964), a film based on the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. In 1968 Price portrayed witchhunter Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General, which is also known as The Conqueror Worm.

Personal life

Price was married three times and fathered a son, named Vincent Barrett Price, with his first wife, former actress Edith Barrett. Price and his second wife Mary Grant Price donated hundreds of works of art and a large amount of money to East Los Angeles College in the early 1960s in order to endow the Vincent and Mary Price Gallery there. Their daughter, Mary Victoria Price, was born in 1962.

Price's last marriage was to the Australian actress Coral Browne, who appeared with him (as one of his victims) in Theatre of Blood (1973). He converted to Catholicism to marry her, and she became a U.S. citizen for him.


Price was a lifelong smoker. He had long suffered from emphysema and Parkinson's disease, which had forced his role in Edward Scissorhands to be much smaller than intended.

His illness also contributed to his retirement from Mystery, as his condition was becoming noticeable on-screen. He died of lung cancer on October 25, 1993. He was cremated and his ashes scattered off Point Dume in Malibu, California.

The Fall of the House of Usher /The Pit and the PendulumThe Haunted Palace / The Tower of LondonThe Tomb of Ligeia / An Evening of Edgar Allan PoeThe Pit and the PendulumVincent Price: A Daughter's BiographyThe Oblong Box / Scream and Scream AgainThe Comedy of Terrors/The RavenThe Masque of the Red Death / The Premature BurialThe Fall of the House of UsherWitchfinder General100 Years of HorrorThe House of the Seven Gables ( Exclusive)