Thursday, January 27, 2011

Deathday: Journalist Nellie Bly 1922

Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864[1] – January 27, 1922) was the pen name of American pioneer female journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She remains notable for two feats: a record-breaking trip around the world in emulation of Jules Verne's character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. In addition to her writing, she was also an industrialist and charity worker.

 Early years

Born on May 5, 1864 as Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran's Mills, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, she was nicknamed "Pink" for wearing that color as a child. Her father, a wealthy former associate justice, died when she was six. Her mother remarried three years later, but sued for divorce when Cochran was 14. Cochran testified in court against her allegedly drunken, violent stepfather. As a teenager she changed her surname to Cochrane, apparently adding the "e" for sophistication.[2] She attended boarding school for one term, but dropped out because of a lack of funds. In 1880, Cochran and her family moved to Pittsburgh. A sexist column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch prompted her to write a fiery rebuttal to the editor with the pen name "Lonely Orphan Girl". He was so impressed with her earnestness and spirit he asked her to join the paper. Female newspaper writers at that time customarily used pen names, and for Cochran the editor chose "Nellie Bly", adopted from the title character in the popular song "Nelly Bly" by Stephen Foster.

Nellie Bly focused her early work for the Dispatch on the plight of working women, writing a series of investigative articles on female factory workers. But editorial pressure pushed her to the women's pages to cover fashion, society, and gardening, the usual role for female journalists of the day. Dissatisfied with these duties, she took the initiative and traveled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent. Still only 21, she spent nearly half a year reporting the lives and customs of the Mexican people; her dispatches were later published in book form as Six Months in Mexico. In one report, she protested the imprisonment of a local journalist for criticizing the Mexican government, then a dictatorship under Porfirio Díaz. When Mexican authorities learned of Bly's report, they threatened her with arrest, prompting her to leave the country. Safely home, she denounced Díaz as a tyrannical czar suppressing the Mexican people and controlling the press.

Asylum exposé

Burdened again with theater and arts reporting, Bly left the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1887 for New York City. Penniless after four months, she talked her way into the offices of Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, the New York World, and took an undercover assignment for which she agreed to feign insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island.

After a night of practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror, she checked into a working-class boardinghouse. She refused to go to bed, telling the boarders that she was afraid of them and that they looked crazy. They soon decided that she was crazy, and the next morning summoned the police. Taken to a courtroom, she pretended to have amnesia. The judge concluded she had been drugged.

She was then examined by several doctors, who all declared her to be insane. "Positively demented," said one, "I consider it a hopeless case. She needs to be put where someone will take care of her."[3] The head of the insane pavilion at Bellevue Hospital pronounced her "undoubtedly insane". The case of the "pretty crazy girl" attracted media attention: "Who Is This Insane Girl?" asked the New York Sun. The New York Times wrote of the "mysterious waif" with the "wild, hunted look in her eyes", and her desperate cry: "I can't remember I can't remember."[4]

Committed to the asylum, Bly experienced its conditions firsthand. The food consisted of gruel broth, spoiled beef, bread that was little more than dried dough, and dirty undrinkable water. The dangerous patients were tied together with ropes. The patients were made to sit for much of each day on hard benches with scant protection from the cold. Waste was all around the eating places. Rats crawled all around the hospital. The bathwater was frigid, and buckets of it were poured over their heads. The nurses were obnoxious and abusive, telling the patients to shut up, and beating them if they did not. Speaking with her fellow patients, Bly was convinced that some were as sane as she was. On the effect of her experiences, she wrote:

"What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? Here is a class of women sent to be cured. I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck."[3]

"...My teeth chattered and my limbs were ...numb with cold. Suddenly, I got three buckets of ice-cold in my eyes, nose and mouth."

After ten days, Bly was released from the asylum at The World's behest. Her report, later published in book form as Ten Days in a Mad-House, caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame. While embarrassed physicians and staff fumbled to explain how so many professionals had been fooled, a grand jury launched its own investigation into conditions at the asylum, inviting Bly to assist. The jury's report recommended the changes she had proposed, and its call for increased funds for care of the insane prompted an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections. They also made sure that all of the examinations were more thorough so that only people who were actually insane went to the asylum.

Around the world

Nellie Bly in her traveling clothes, 1890In 1888, Nellie suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days into fact for the first time. A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days' notice,[5] she boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line,[6] and began her 24,899-mile journey.

She brought with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money (200 £ in English bank notes and gold in total as well as some American currency)[7] in a bag tied around her neck.[8]

The New York newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to beat the time of both Phileas Fogg and Bly. Bisland would travel the opposite way around the world.

To sustain interest in the story, the World organized a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” in which readers were asked to estimate Bly’s arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize consisting at first of (only) a free trip to Europe and, later on, spending money for the trip.[8][9]

On her travels around the world, she went through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), Hong Kong, the Straits Settlement of Penang and Singapore, and Japan. The development of efficient submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph allowed Bly to send short progress reports[10], though longer dispatches had to travel by regular post and were thus often delayed by several weeks.[9]

She travelled using steamships and the existing railroad systems[11], which caused occasional setbacks, particularly on the Asian leg of her race.[12] During these stops, she visited an Asian torture garden,[13] a leper colony in China[13][14] and she bought a monkey in Singapore[13][15].

Due to rough weather on her Pacific crossing, she arrived in San Francisco on the White Star liner Oceanic on January 21, two days behind schedule[12][16] However, World owner Pulitzer chartered a private train to bring her home, and she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 p.m.[10].

"Seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds after her Hoboken departure" Bly was back in New York. She had circumnavigated the globe almost[6] unchaperoned. At the time, Bisland was still going around the world. Like Bly, she had missed a connection and had to board a slow, old ship called the "Bothina" in the place of a fast ship called the "Etruria".[5] Bly's journey, at the time, was a world record, though it was bettered a few months later by George Francis Train, who completed the journey in 67 days[17]. By 1913, Andre Jaeger-Schmidt, Henry Frederick and John Henry Mears had improved on the record, the latter completing the journey in less than 36 days.[18]

Later years

In 1895 Nellie Bly married millionaire manufacturer Robert Seaman, who was 40 years her senior. She retired from journalism, and became the president of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co., which made steel containers such as milk cans and boilers. In 1904 she invented and patented [19] the steel barrel that was the model for the 55-gallon oil drum still in widespread use in the United States. Her husband died that year. For a time she was one of the leading female industrialists in the United States, but embezzlement by employees forced her into bankruptcy. Forced back into reporting, she covered such events as the women's suffrage convention in 1913, and stories on Europe's Eastern Front during World War I.[20]

In 1916 Nellie was given a baby boy whose mother requested Nellie look after him and see that he become adopted. The child was illegitimate and difficult to place since he was half-Japanese. He spent the next six years in an orphanage run by the Church For All Nations[clarification needed] in Manhattan.

As Nellie became ill towards the end of her life she requested that her niece, Beatrice Brown, look after the boy and several other babies in whom she had become interested. Her interest in orphanages may have been part of her ongoing efforts to improve the social organizations of the day.

She died of bronchopneumonia at St. Mark's Hospital in New York City in 1922, at age 57, and was interred in a modest grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.


Dramatic representations

Bly was the subject of a 1946 Broadway musical by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen.[21]

In 1981 Linda Purl appeared as Bly in a made for TV movie called The Adventures of Nellie Bly.[22]

A fictionalized account of her around the world trip was used in the comic book "Julie Walker is The Phantom" published by Moonstone Books (Story: Elizabeth Massie, art: Paul Daly, colors: Stephen Downer).[23]

Mentions of her

She provides the hinge of a scene in which Abbey Bartlet declaims Bly's achievements to President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing episode "And Surely It's To Their Credit".[24]

In several recorded versions of the traditional song "Frankie and Johnny", such as the version recorded by Jimmie Rodgers, the lover of the male character "Johnny" is identified as "Nellie Bly."

Named after her

The Nellie Bly Amusement Park in Brooklyn, New York City, is named after her, taking as its theme Around the World in Eighty Days. The park recently reopened under new management, renamed "Adventurers Amusement Park."

From early in the twentieth century until 1961, the Pennsylvania Railroad operated a parlor-car only express train between New York and Atlantic City that bore the name, "Nellie Bly."

Other recognition

In 1998, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[25]

Nellie Bly was one of four journalists honored with a U.S postage stamp in a "Women in Journalism" set in 2002.[26]

Her investigation of the Blackwell's Island insane asylum is dramatized in a 4-D film in the Annenberg Theater at the Newseum in Washington, DC.


Bly, Nellie (1887). Ten Days in a Mad-House.
Kroeger, Brooke (1994). Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist.
Affidavit of Beatrice K. Brown; Surrogates Court, Kings County (1922)


1.^ Kroeger 1994 reports (p. 529) that although a birth year of 1867 was deduced from the age Bly claimed to be at the height of her popularity, her baptismal record confirms 1864.
2.^ Kroeger 1994, p. 25.
3.^ Bly 1887.
4.^ Kroeger 1994, pp. 91–92.
5.^ Ruddick, Nicholas. “Nellie Bly, Jules Verne, and the World on the Threshold of the American Age.” Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 1999, p. 4
6.^ Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly – Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. Times Books Random House, 1994, p. 146
7.^ Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly – Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. Times Books Random House, 1994, p. 141
8.^ Ruddick, Nicholas. “Nellie Bly, Jules Verne, and the World on the Threshold of the American Age.” Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 1999, p. 5
9.^ Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly – Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. Times Books Random House, 1994, p. 150
10.^ Ruddick, Nicholas. “Nellie Bly, Jules Verne, and the World on the Threshold of the American Age.” Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 1999, p. 8
11.^ Ruddick, Nicholas. “Nellie Bly, Jules Verne, and the World on the Threshold of the American Age.” Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 1999, p. 6
12.^ Bear, David. “Around the World With Nellie Bly.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 26, 2006
13.^ Ruddick, Nicholas. “Nellie Bly, Jules Verne, and the World on the Threshold of the American Age.” Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 1999, p. 7
14.^ Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly – Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. Times Books Random House, 1994, p. 160
15.^ Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly – Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. Times Books Random House, 1994, p. 158
16.^ *Daily Alta California, "Phineas Fogg Outdone", January 22, 1890
17.^ para 16
18.^ New York Times, “A Run Around the World”, August 8, 1913
20.^ The remarkable Nellie Bly, inventor of the metal oil drum, Petroleum Age, 12/2006, p.5.
21.^ "After the poorly received Nellie Bly (1946) ... [stage director Edgar J.] MacGregor retired.",
22.^ per The Adventures of Nellie Bly
23.^ Julie Walker is The Phantom
25.^ National Women's Hall of Fame
26.^ USPS Press Release (September 14, 2002), Four Accomplished Journalists Honored on U.S. Postage Stamps,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Deathday: Romantic Poet Gerard De Nerval 1855

Gérard de Nerval (May 22, 1808 – January 26, 1855) was the nom-de-plume of the French poet, essayist and translator Gérard Labrunie, one of the most essentially Romantic French poets.


Two years after his birth in Paris, his mother died in Silesia while accompanying her husband, a military doctor, a member of Napoleon's Grande Armée. He was brought up by his maternal great-uncle, Antoine Boucher, in the countryside of Valois at Mortefontaine. On the return of his father from war during 1814, he was sent back to Paris. He frequently returned to the countryside of Valois during holidays and later returned to it in imagination in his Chansons et légendes du Valois.

His talent for translation was made manifest in his translation of Goethe's Faust (1828), the work which earned him his reputation; Goethe praised it, and Hector Berlioz later used sections for his legend-symphony La damnation de Faust. Other translations from Goethe ensued; in the 1840s, Nerval's translations introduced Heinrich Heine's poems to French readers of the Revue des deux mondes. During the 1820s at college he became lifelong friends with Théophile Gautier and later joined Alexandre Dumas, père in the Petit Cénacle, in what was an exceedingly bohemian set, which was ultimately to become the Club des Hashischins. Nerval's poetry is characterized by Romantic deism. His passion for the 'spirit world' was matched by a decidedly more negative view of the material one: "This life is a hovel and a place of ill-repute. I'm ashamed that God should see me here." Among his admirers was Victor Hugo.

Gérard de Nerval's first nervous breakdown occurred during 1841. In a series of novellas, collected as Les Illuminés, ou les précurseurs du socialisme (1852), on themes suggested by the careers of Rétif de la Bretonne, Cagliostro and others, he described feelings that followed his third insanity. Increasingly poverty-stricken and disoriented, he finally committed suicide during 1855, hanging himself from a window grating. He left only a brief note to his aunt: "Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white."[1] He was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.


The influence of Nerval's insistence on the significance of dreams on the Surrealist movement was emphasised by André Breton. The writers Marcel Proust and René Daumal were also greatly influenced by Nerval's work, as was Artaud.

Umberto Eco analyses Gérard de Nerval's Sylvie (calling it a "masterpiece") to show the use of temporal ambiguity, demystifying the "mists" during his Six Walks in the Fictional Woods.

Allusions by others

T. S. Eliot quoted the second line of Nerval's sonnet "El Desdichado" in his poem The Waste Land. Donald Swann set that poem to music as "Je Suis le Ténébreux" (its first words) and Flanders and Swann performed it in their revue At the Drop of a Hat (1956); it appears on the live recording. Clive James, in his songwriting collaboration with Pete Atkin, wrote two lyrics that refer to the poem, "The Prince of Aquitaine" and "The Shadow and the Widower".[2]

The British progressive rock music band Pure Reason Revolution draw extensively from Nerval for influence in their lyrics, which often revolve around dreams and use a 'stream of consciousness' technique very similar to Nerval's. The title of their song "Trembling Willows" is a reference to one of Nerval's poems, "Delfica", and its lyrics take many of the same images. Similarly, the song "In Aurelia" comes from Nerval's masterpiece of the same name.

The British rock music band Traffic included a song on their album When the Eagle Flies called "Dream Gerrard." The lyrics were written by Vivian Stanshall as a tribute to Nerval. The song contains surreal lyrics like Nerval's work.

Nerval is referenced in Richard Wilbur's new book Anterooms in the poem "A Prelude". The poem is a mockery of the seriousness of Matthew Arnold and his poem "Dover Beach". Wilbur writes of Matthew Arnold, "And was upon the point of saying "Ah," / When he perceived, not far from the great Aiguille, / A lobster led on a leash beside the sea. / It was Nerval, enjoying his vacances!"

Pet lobster

Nerval had a pet lobster named Thibault which he took for walks in the Palais Royal gardens in Paris on the end of a blue silk ribbon.[3] Nerval wrote to his close childhood friend Laura LeBeau, recounting an embarrassing incident that occurred while on holiday in La Rochelle: "...and so, dear Laura, upon my regaining the town square I was accosted by the mayor who demanded that I should make a full and frank apology for stealing from the lobster nets. I will not bore you with the rest of the story, but suffice to say that reparations were made, and little Thibault is now here with me in the city..."[3]

In an article about the life of Nerval by his contemporary, Théophile Gautier, Nerval is quoted as having said "Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? ...or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn't mad."[4]

In the Sam Shepard and Patti Smith play Cowboy Mouth, the character Cavale is obsessed with Nerval, making numerous references to him and claiming that Nerval hanged himself on [her] birthday. It also mentions Nerval having a pet lobster, as above, amidst other fantastic claims. This may be the inspiration for the play's character 'Lobster Man.'

Flanders and Swann make mention of Nerval's pet lobster in the introduction to "Je Suis Le Ténébreux".[5]

Works by Nerval

Les faux saulniers (1850)
Voyage en Orient (1851), resulted from his extended hashish-filled voyage of 1842 to Cairo and Beirut. It must have puzzled readers of conventional travel books, for it retells Oriental tales like Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, in terms of the artist and the act of creation.
La Bohème Galante (1852)
Les Nuits d'Octobre (1852)
Sylvie (1853)
Petits châteaux de Bohême (1853)
Les Filles du Feu (1854), a volume of short stories.
Les Chimères poems appended to Les Filles de Feu, translated by Mark Lamoureux
Aurélia (1855), his fantasy-ridden interior autobiography— "Our dreams are a second life," he wrote— which influenced the Surrealists.
Promenades et Souvenirs (1854–56)


1.^ Sieburth, Richard, Gerard de Nerval: Selected Writings, p. xxxi, Penguin Group, London, 1999
2.^ James, Clive; Curry, Andrew; Birkill, S. J.. "Shadow and the Widower". Smash Flops.
3.^ Horton, Scott (2008-10-12). "Nerval: A Man and His Lobster". Harper's Magazine.
4.^ Gautier, Théophile. Portraits et Souvenirs Littéraires (Paris: Charpentier, 1875), Richard Holmes trans.
5.^ "At the Drop of a Hat - Je suis le Ténébreux". Flanders and Swann Online.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gustave Dore's "The Raven" Illustrations

Gustave Doré illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper and Brothers in 1883.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deathday: Raven Illustrator Gustave Dore 1883

Paul Gustave Doré ( January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) was a French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor. Doré worked primarily with wood engraving and steel engraving.


Doré was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. His skill had manifested itself even earlier, however. At age five he had been a prodigy artist, creating drawings that were mature beyond his years. Seven years later, he began carving in stone. Subsequently, as a young man, he began work as a literary illustrator in Paris, winning commissions to depict scenes from books by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.

In 1853, Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible. A decade later, he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters. Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper Brothers in 1883.

Doré's English Bible (1866) was a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in New Bond Street. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had obtained the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808. Doré signed a five-year contact with the publishers Grant Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year, and he received the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the project. Doré was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world renowned, but his woodcuts and engravings, like those he did for Jerrold, are where he really excelled as an artist with an individual vision.

The completed book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics. Some of these critics were concerned with the fact that Doré appeared to focus on the poverty that existed in parts of London. Doré was accused by the Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying." The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down." The book was a financial success, however, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers.

His later works included Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tennyson's The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. His work also appeared in the Illustrated London News.

He continued to illustrate books until his death in Paris in 1883. The city's Père Lachaise Cemetery contains his grave.

"Epigram for Wall Street" Published 1845

I'll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,
Better than banking, trade or leases —
Take a bank note and fold it up,
And then you will find your money in creases!
This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,
Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;
And every time that you fold it across,
'Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!

-The End-

Epigram for Wall Street (1845) was printed in the New York Evening Mirror on January 23, 1845, the poem is generally accepted as being written by Poe, though it was published anonymously. Interestingly, the title neglected to capitalize "street." The humorous poem of four rhyming couplets tells savvy people interested in gaining wealth to avoid investments and banks. Instead, it suggests, fold your money in half, thereby doubling it.

It appears Oliver Stone has doubled down on Wall Street.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Raven (1963 film)

The Raven (1963) is a horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman.[1] The film stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff as a trio of rival sorcerers. Part of a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations produced by Corman through American International Pictures, the film was written by Richard Matheson based on references to Poe's poem "The Raven." Nominally in the horror genre, it is more appropriately classified as a B movie horror-comedy.

Three decades earlier, Karloff had appeared in another film with the same title, Lew Landers' 1935 horror film The Raven with Béla Lugosi. Aside from the title, the two films bear no resemblance to one another.

A novelization of the film was written by Eunice Sudak adapted from Richard Matheson's screenplay and published by Lancer Books in paperback.


The sorcerer Dr. Erasmus Craven has been mourning the death of his wife Lenore for over two years, much to the chagrin of his daughter Estelle. One night he is visited by a raven, who happens to be a transformed wizard, Dr. Bedlo. Together they brew a potion that restores Bedlo to his old self. Bedlo explains he had been transformed by the evil Dr. Scarabus in an unfair duel, and both decide to see Scarabus, Bedlo to exact revenge and Craven to look for his wife's ghost, which Bedlo reportedly saw at Scarabus' castle. After fighting off the attack of Craven's coachman, who apparently acted under the influence of Scarabus, they set out to the castle, joined by Craven's daughter Estelle and Bedlo's son Rexford.

At the castle, Scarabus greets his guests with false friendship, and Bedlo is apparently killed as he conjures a storm in a last act of defiance against his nemesis. At night, Rexford finds him alive and well, hiding in the castle. Craven, meanwhile, is visited and tormented by Lenore, who is revealed to be alive and well too, having faked her death two years before to move away with Scarabus. As Craven, Estelle, Rexford and Bedlo try to escape the castle, Scarabus stops them, and they are tied and locked up. Bedlo panics and flees away in raven form, having convinced Scarabus to turn him back into bird form rather than face torture. As Craven is confronted with the choice of Estelle's torture or of him giving away the secrets of his "hand magic," Bedlo flies back in, frees Rexford, and together aid Craven.

Craven and Scarabus then seat facing each other and engage in a magic duel. After a lengthy performance of narrow escapes and derision, Craven defeats Scarabus, and escapes with his friends after rejecting Lenore, who tries to reconcile with him after alleging she had been "under a spell". The castle then tumbles down on Scarabus and his mistress, but they are shown to survive, though Scarabus has been stripped of his magic.

Rexford and Estelle retreat alone, while Bedlo tries to convince Craven to turn him back to human form once more. Craven tells him to shut his beak and recites the famous lines from Edgar Allan Poe's poem: "Quoth the raven - nevermore."


Vincent Price as Dr. Esramus Craven
Peter Lorre as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo
Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus
Jack Nicholson as Rexford Bedlo
Hazel Court as Lenore Craven
Olive Sturgess as Estelle Craven


1.^ "The Raven (1963)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 17 June 2010.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Raven (1935 film)

The Raven (1935) is a horror film starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi, and directed by Lew Landers. It revolves around Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, featuring Lugosi as a Poe-obsessed mad surgeon with a torture chamber in his basement and Karloff as a fugitive murderer desperately on the run from the police. Lugosi had the larger role, but Karloff received top billing, using only his last name.

Almost three decades later, Karloff also appeared in another film with the same title, Roger Corman's 1963 comedy The Raven with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson. Aside from the title, the two films bear no resemblance to one another.

Plot summary

After pretty Jean Thatcher (Ware) has been injured in a car accident, her father, Judge Thatcher (Hinds) and beau Jerry (Matthews) implore retired surgeon Dr. Richard Vollin (Lugosi) to perform a delicate operation to restore her to health. Vollin agrees and is successful; he befriends the spirited and grateful Jean, in the process revealing his passion for all things related to Edgar Allan Poe, including his collection of torture devices inspired by Poe's works (such as a pit, pendulum with scythe, shrinking room, etc).

After Vollin reveals his growing love for Jean to her father, the Judge quickly discourages him from the affair. Angered, Vollin hatches a plan when Edmund Bateman (Karloff), a murderer on the run, comes to his home asking for a new face so he may live in anonymity. Vollin admits to not being a plastic surgeon, but says he can help Bateman, and asks him to help in exacting revenge on the Thatchers, which he refuses. Vollin performs the surgery, but instead turns Bateman into a disfigured monster, promising only to operate again on Bateman when Vollin's revenge is exacted. Bateman finally reluctantly agrees.

Vollin hosts a dinner party, among which Jean, Jerry, and the Judge are guests. One by one, the guests are caught in the Poe-inspired traps. Ultimately, Bateman is shot by Vollin as he rescues Jean and Jerry, but throws Vollin in to the shrinking room where he perishes, and the guests escape.


Universal's pressbook heavily focused on Karloff, calling him "the uncanny master of make-up," as well as the connection to Poe. "Was Edgar Allan Poe a mental derelict?" it asks. The pressbook suggests that Poe's characters were "but a reflection of himself." Universal also suggested that cinema owners write letters to local high schools and colleges, urging their teachers to suggest the film to students.[1]

Reception and reputation

Too strong for 1935 tastes, with its themes of torture, disfigurement and grisly revenge, the film did not do particularly well at the box office during its initial release (much like another 1935 horror movie, MGM's Mad Love, starring Peter Lorre), and indirectly led to a temporary ban on horror films in England. With the genre no longer economically viable, horror went out of vogue. This proved a devastating development at the time for Lugosi, who found himself losing work and struggling to support his family. Universal Pictures changed hands in 1936, and the new management was less interested for the moment in the box office novelty of the macabre.

Outside of being rivals in horror films of the time, with Lugosi resenting Karloff's spectacular success in the wake of playing the role of Frankenstein's monster, both men were united in getting the fledgling Screen Actors Guild off the ground in the mid-1930s. During the production of The Raven Lugosi encouraged four additional members of the supporting cast to sign with the guild.


Boris Karloff as Edmund Bateman
Béla Lugosi as Richard Vollin
Lester Matthews as Jerry Halden
Irene Ware as Jean Thatcher
Samuel S. Hinds as Judge Thatcher
Spencer Charters as Bertram Grant
Inez Courtney as Mary Burns
Ian Wolfe as Geoffrey
Maidel Turner as Mrs. Harriet Grant


1.^ Smith, Don G. The Poe Cinema: A Critical Filmography. McFarland & Company, 1999. p. 57-8 ISBN 0-7864-1703-X

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Raven (1915 film)

The Raven is a stylized silent 1915 movie biography of Edgar Allan Poe starring Henry B. Walthall as Poe. The movie was written and directed by Charles Brabin from a novel and play by George Cochran Hazelton.

Plot summary

The film begins by tracing Poe's ancestral heritage before Poe himself is born. After the loss of his parents, Poe is taken in by the John and Francis Allan in Richmond, Virginia. The film then jumps ahead about 15 years to Poe's time at the University of Virginia. Due to debts from playing cards and a growing interest in wine, Poe begins to have difficulties. He hallucinates that he has killed a man in a pistol duel.

Poe meets Virginia and they spend a day together, riding a horse and sitting "beside the glassy pool of romance." He tells her a fairy tale, a raven perching on Poe's shoulder as he finishes the story, before they go on a walk together. Upon seeing a black slave (listed in the credits only as "Negro") being whipped, he buys the slave with an "I.O.U." for $600.00. The slave's former owner then goes to John Allan to collect the debt. Allan calls Poe a "scoundrel" for causing so many bills.

After having a drink with his "chum" Tony, Poe goes to visit Virginia. Tony follows shortly after and the two compete for Virginia's affection. Later, Virginia says she will choose the man who guesses which hand holds a wreath behind her back. Poe allows Tony to go first and, though he guesses correctly, Virginia secretly switches the wreath to the other hand so that Poe can win. Shortly after, in front of Tony and Virginia, Allan questions Poe's spending habits. Allan causes quite a scene, despite his wife's attempts to calm him. Poe is asked to leave the Allan family but Virginia offers to come along. Poe's recently-purchased slave comes along as well.

Poe has an alcohol-induced hallucination that recreates his poem (and the film's namesake) "The Raven". As Poe sits alone, he hears a tapping at the chamber door. The door knocker moves on its own and Poe thinks he sees the outline of a large, black bird. As Poe stumbles outside, the word "wine" appearing on a rock he braces himself against, he sees a ghost. As he reaches for another sip of wine, a human skull appears in place of the glass. Finally, a raven makes its way into the room, repeating the word "Nevermore" as Poe attempts to talk to it.

Poe, in Fordham, New York, is in "dire poverty" along with Virginia and her mother Maria. Virginia has a terrible coughing fit, a sign of her tuberculosis. Poe, desperate for money, unsuccessfully attempts to sell some of his work to George Rex Graham. Virginia, bothered by the cold winter weather, is kept warm by Poe's old coat from his time at West Point and from their pet black cat. She dies the next day, causing Poe great grief.

Sarah Helen Whitman is introduced at the end of the film, assisting an elderly couple. She and Poe, however, do not cross paths.


Henry Walthall was granted the lead role as Edgar Allan Poe after previously playing the same author in D. W. Griffith's The Avenging Conscience in 1914. Because of the repeat role, he was dubbed "the image of Poe."[1]


Henry B. Walthall ... Edgar Allan Poe
Warda Howard ... Virginia Clemm/Helen Whitman/The Lost Lenore/A Spirit
Ernest Maupain ... John Allan
Eleanor Thompson ... Mrs. Allan
Marian Skinner ... Mrs. Clemm (as Marion Skinner)
Harry Dunkinson ... Tony
Grant Foreman ... George Rex Graham
Hugh Thompson ... David Poe, Jr. (as Hugh E. Thompson)
Peggy Meredith ... Mrs. Hopkins Poe
Frank Hamilton ... David Poe, Sr.
Billy Robinson ... Joseph Reed
Bert Weston ... Negro
Charles Harris ... Mr. Pelham (as Charles K. Harris)


1.^ Smith, Don G. The Poe Cinema: A Critical Filmography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1999. p. 20 ISBN 078641703X

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Death of Poe (2006 film)

The Death of Poe is a 2006 independent film that tells the tragic story of the mysterious disappearance and death of the American author Edgar Allan Poe. The film is shot mostly in black-and-white with occasional color sequences.

Plot summary

After a textual montage summarizing Edgar Allan Poe's life, the film begins in late September 1849 with Poe awakening from a hallucination where he is buried alive. He prepares to take a trip to New York City via a ferry steamboat from Richmond, Virginia, to Baltimore, and from there, another ferry to New York City itself. He discusses his plans to marry his childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster with a stranger taking the same steamboat, who suggests that he meet with a few potential investors for his planned magazine The Stylus. Though Poe had intended only to pass through Baltimore, he agrees to meet the investors who, one by one, turn down his request for funding.

Poe is depicted as having some type of memory loss, which is first evident when he offers to pay his boat fare twice after forgetting he had already paid. In Baltimore, he more than once forgets the arrangements he has made at his hotel as his stay in the city is extended. One night, he chooses to dine in a local tavern rather than at the hotel. There, he meets an old friend from his days at West Point. In desperation, he asks his former classmate and the classmate's companion for money to help start a magazine, saying proudly he has already raised $1,000. Poe leaves the tavern to retrieve his prospectus for the magazine. His classmate follows him and beats him up to steal the $1,000 he had collected.

An injured and delirious Poe is then found by organizers of a cooping ring. The author, along with several others, are forced to multiple polling locations around Baltimore to place multiple votes for the candidate for mayor. A couple of victims of the scam die amidst the brutality of their captors.

Afterwards, Poe is released and he eventually collapses in the street and is found by a local tavern owner. The man calls for Poe's uncle Henry Herring and Dr. Joseph Snodgrass. The men discuss what to do with the incoherent, half-conscious Poe. Snodgrass assumes he is drunk and suggests they let him sleep it off - a theory the film seems to dispute by showing him early in the film declining offered alcohol several times. Herring becomes more concerned and demands Poe be taken to Washington College Hospital, despite the expense.

At the hospital, Dr. John Moran tends to Poe, unable to accurately determine his situation or the cause of his failing health, or how he received his injuries. He muses to his wife, Mrs. Moran, that he does not want to be known as the physician who killed Edgar Allan Poe. Over the next three days, the bedridden Poe is kept in seclusion in a private room as Moran denies Poe visitors, including his Baltimore cousin Nielson Poe, who becomes convinced that his cousin is about to die. Poe ultimately does die after one final hallucination or perhaps a flashback where he sees his dead wife Virginia Clemm.


The film was shot on location in Baltimore and Virginia, and at the studios of Redfield Arts [1]. Principal photography took place in June and July 2005.


Mark Redfield Edgar Allan Poe
Kevin G. Shinnick Dr. John Moran
Jennifer Rouse Mrs. Moran
Tony Tsendeas Neilson Poe
Kimberly Hannold Virginia Clemm
Wayne Shipley Henry Herring
Jonathon Ruckman Joseph Walker
George Stover Thadeus and Zacharlah Wainwright
J.R. Lyston The Irishman
Kurt Bouschell The Proud Father
Sandra Lynn O'Brien The Talented Daughter
Chuck Richards The Stranger in Richmond
Deborah L. Murphy Maria Clemm
Dave Ellis Cornelius Ryan
Jimmyo Burril Election Gang Leader
Thomas E. Cole Caleb
Erik DeVito Horace
Pete Karas The Landlady's Son
Andrew Ready Griswold's Clerk
Tom Brandau Rufus Griswold
Holly Huff Elmira Shelton
T.B. Griffith Steamboat Captain
Douglas Spence A Porter
Shawn Jones Election Gang Member
Johanna Supensky The Landlady
Josh Metz Election Gang Member
Samuel DiBlasi Jr. Cooping Victim
Richard Arnold Cooping Victim
Michael H. Alban Barman
Sean Paul Murphy Dr. Snodgrass
Jay Carroll Surgeon's Assistant
Rick Kelton Mr. Charles
Dick Svehla Drunk
Gary Svehla Drunk
Leo Dymowski Drunk
Charlie Wittig Drunk
Barry Murphy Temperance Preacher
Mallory Herberger Nurse
William Blewwett Doctor
George Sherry Doctor


The Death of Poe had its world premiere at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, United Kingdom on September 30, 2006. The U.S. premiere was at Baltimore's Charles Theatre on October 11, 2006.

The film was released on DVD in the United States by Alpha Video on December 5, 2006. Alpha's release also included two rare early films based on Poe's work: The Avenging Conscience (1914) (D.W. Griffiths' silent film adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart"), The Raven (1915), and additional bonus material.

The film was also screened at the Fargo Film Festival in Fargo, North Dakota on March 11, 2007.


British film journalist M.J. Simpson described the film as "an impressive and imaginative piece of independent film-making, available at a ridiculously low price and thoroughly worth the time, effort and cash of anyone who has ever enjoyed reading (or watching films based on) the words of Edgar Allan Poe."[1] managing editor James Plath wrote that Redfield's portrayal "really does bring the character to life," however the production "doesn't have the level of acting or script sophistication to make it play in Peoria . . . or anywhere else where Poe isn't revered."[2] This sentiment was echoed by DVD Pub Review, who stated that "Mark Redfield has a lot of talent, but it seems that he tries too hard to do too much."[3] Both Plath and DVD Pub Review lauded the extensive bonus material of the DVD release.


1.^ "The Death of Poe -". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
2.^ "DVD review of The Death of Poe". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
3.^ "The DVD Pub reviews Death of Poe". Retrieved 2007-03-30.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Deathday: Le Corbeau Director Henri-Georges Clouzot 1977

Henri-Georges Clouzot (August 18, 1907 – January 12, 1977) was a French film director, screenwriter and producer. He is best remembered for his work in the thriller film genre, having directed The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques, which are critically recognized to be among the greatest films from the 1950s. Clouzot also directed documentary films, including The Mystery of Picasso, which was declared a national treasure by the government of France.

Clouzot was an early fan of the cinema and, desiring a career as a writer, moved to Paris. He was later hired by producer Adolphe Osso to work in Berlin, writing French-language versions of German films. After being fired from German studios due to his friendship with Jewish producers, Clouzot returned to France, where he spent years bedridden after contracting tuberculosis. Upon recovering, Clouzot found work in Nazi occupied France as a screenwriter for the German-owned company Continental Films. At Continental, Clouzot wrote and directed films that were very popular in France. His second film Le Corbeau drew controversy over its harsh look at provincial France and Clouzot was fired from Continental before its release. As a result of his association with Continental, Clouzot was barred by the French government from filmmaking until 1947.

After the ban was lifted, Clouzot reestablished his reputation and popularity in France during the late 1940s with successful films including Quai des Orfèvres. After the release of his comedy film Miquette et sa mère, Clouzot married Véra Gibson-Amado, who would star in his next three feature films. In the early and mid-1950s, Clouzot drew acclaim from international critics and audiences for The Wages of Fear and Diabolique. Both films would serve as source material for remakes decades later. After the release of La Vérité, Clouzot's wife Véra died of a heart attack and Clouzot's career suffered due to depression, illness and new critical views of films from the French New Wave. Clouzot's career became less active in later years, limited to a few television documentaries and two feature films in the 1960s. Clouzot wrote several unused scripts in the 1970s and died in Paris in 1977.

Deathday: Mystery Author Agatha Christie 1976

Dame Agatha Christie, DBE, (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976), was a British crime writer of novels, short stories and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 80 detective novels—especially those featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple—and her successful West End theatre plays.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling writer of books of all time and, with William Shakespeare, the best-selling author of any kind. Only the Bible has sold more than her roughly four billion copies of novels. According to UNESCO, Christie is the most translated individual author, with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her. Her books have been translated into at least 103 languages.

Christie's stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25 November 1952 and as of 2010 is still running after more than 23,000 performances. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. Most of her books and short stories have been filmed, some many times over (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and 4.50 From Paddington for instance), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.

In 1968, Booker Books, a subsidiary of the agri-industrial conglomerate Booker-McConnell, bought a 51 percent stake in Agatha Christie Limited, the private company that Christie had set up for tax purposes. Booker later increased its stake to 64 percent. In 1998, Booker sold its shares to Chorion, a company whose portfolio also includes the literary estates of Enid Blyton and Dennis Wheatley.

In 2004, a 5,000-word story entitled The Incident of the Dog's Ball was found in the attic of the author's daughter. This story was the original version of the novel Dumb Witness. It was published in Britain in September 2009 in John Curran's Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years Of Mysteries, alongside another newly discovered Poirot story called The Capture of Cerberus (a story with the same title, but a different plot, to that published in The Labours Of Hercules). On November 10, 2009, Reuters announced that The Incident of the Dog's Ball will be published by The Strand Magazine.


In late 1926, Agatha's husband, Archie, revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On December 8, 1926, the couple quarreled, and Archie Christie left their house Styles in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for eleven days.

On December 19, 1926, Agatha was identified as a guest at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel (now the Old Swan Hotel) in Harrogate, Yorkshire, where she was registered as 'Mrs Teresa Neele' from Cape Town. Agatha gave no account of her disappearance. Although two doctors had diagnosed her as suffering from psychogenic fugue, opinion remains divided as to the reasons for her disappearance. One suggestion is that she had suffered a nervous breakdown brought about by a natural propensity for depression, exacerbated by her mother's death earlier that year and the discovery of her husband's infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative, with many believing it a publicity stunt while others speculated she was trying to make the police believe her husband had killed her.

To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club. In the 1971 New Year Honours she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, three years after her husband had been knighted for his archeological work in 1968. They were one of the few married couples where both partners were honoured in their own right. From 1968, due to her husband's knighthood, Christie could also be styled as Lady Agatha Mallowan, or simply Lady Mallowan.

From 1971 to 1974, Christie's health began to fail, although she continued to write. Recently, using experimental, computerised, textual tools of analysis, Canadian researchers have suggested that Christie may have begun to suffer from Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. In 1975, sensing her increasing weakness, Christie signed over the rights of her most successful play, The Mousetrap, to her grandson.

Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976 at age 85 from natural causes at her Winterbrook House in the north of Cholsey parish, adjoining Wallingford in Oxfordshire (formerly part of Berkshire). She is buried in the nearby churchyard of St Mary's, Cholsey.

Christie's only child, Rosalind Margaret Hicks, died, also aged 85, on October 28, 2004 from natural causes in Torbay, Devon. Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard, was heir to the copyright to some of his grandmother's literary work (including The Mousetrap) and is still associated with Agatha Christie Limited.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Deathday: Mystery Author Dashiell Hammett 1961

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961) was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse).

In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on film, Hammett "is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time" and was called, in his obituary in The New York Times, "the dean of the... 'hard-boiled' school of detective fiction." Time magazine included Hammett's 1929 novel Red Harvest on a list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.

A lifetime's heavy consumption of alcohol and cigarettes worsened Hammett's tuberculosis contracted in World War I, and then according to Hellman "jail had made a thin man thinner, a sick man sicker . . . I knew he would now always be sick." He may have meant to start a new literary life with the novel Tulip, but left it unfinished perhaps because he was "just too ill to care, too worn out to listen to plans or read contracts. The fact of breathing, just breathing, took up all the days and nights."

As the years of the 1950s wore on Hellman says Hammett became "a hermit," his decline evident in the clutter of his rented "ugly little country cottage" where "[t]he signs of sickness were all around: now the phonograph was unplayed, the typewriter untouched, the beloved foolish gadgets unopened in their packages." Hammett no longer could live alone and they both knew it, so the last four years of his life he spent with Hellman. "Not all of that time was easy, and some of it very bad, " she says but, "guessing death was not too far away, I would try for something to have afterwards." January 10, 1961, Hammett died in New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, of lung cancer, diagnosed just two months before. As a veteran of two World Wars, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.