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A Hundred in 2016

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Winner of the Alan Black Cirque du Livre Book of the Festival Award 2017!

Evolution

This book, my fifth, sprung out of the discovery that I suck at big deadlines but rock the little ones. If I tell myself that I'll have a book out by Phoenix Comicon, I'll fail every time. If, however, I set a project around a set of dates within a year, I nail them, just as I did when I wrote my Charlie Chaplin book, reviewing every one of his 1914 films on the one hundredth anniversary of their original release.

This celebrates centennials too, but of people. I did the research and found 35 filmmakers of note who were born in 1916, mostly actors and actresses but also producers and directors, a writer and the original fan, Forrest J. Ackerman. I then focused in on their screen careers and picked a film for each of them for me to review on their hundredth birthdays. I wanted these films to serve a number of purposes:

  1. They should be interesting films, not just routine programmers but ones that did something a little different.
  2. They should be varied, by era and genre.
  3. They should offer me a chance to talk not only about the person at hand but about an aspect of film history too.
  4. They should not be the obvious choices. I wanted to delve a little deeper than the famous and/or award-winning pictures.
  5. And many should fill in gaps that I've waited to fill for a long time.

And, as the year went on, I found that I'd mostly done a good job with that. I chose unique films like Skidoo and The Villain, for Jackie Gleason and Kirk Douglas respectively. I found films that gave a great opportunity, like The Spiral Staircase, in which Dorothy McGuire plays a mute leading lady, and 23 Paces to Baker Street, in which Van Johnson is blind. I chose favourite obscurities, like The Shiralee for Peter Finch, and films the stars didn't like, such as The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend for Betty Grable.

As I hadn't seen many of these films before, I was aware that I might pick wrong and indeed I did, but only in one instance. I originally chose The Bobo for Rossano Brazzi, which turned out to be a wonderful pick for an Apocalypse Later review, just not for him because, even third billed after the two leads, he's hardly in the film at all. So I had to go back and find another one, eventually settling on a much better choice, Psychout for Murder.

Some of these names are still famous today. Classic film fans tend to know who Gregory Peck, Glenn Ford or Kirk Douglas are; and Forry Ackerman has as important a legacy as anyone in Hollywood. Many others have strong followings, like Jim Nicholson, Jackie Gleason or Jack Arnold. Still more are easily recognisable anywhere within their sizeable filmographies, like Keenan Wynn, Michael Gough or Willie Best. A few are mostly known for one thing and others have sadly faded into obscurity.

Hopefully this book will help to keep all of these people, every one of them important in their own way, remembered by a new generation.

Dedication

I knew, of course, that most of the people I was going to write about had passed on, some many years ago. However, I was surprised to discover that two of my subjects were still alive and both were able to celebrate their one hundredth birthdays.

I therefore dedicated the book to them, to Olivia de Havilland and to Kirk Douglas, two great Hollywood stars who also changed their industry in ways that went beyond the screen.

Films Covered

Here's a complete list of chapters which detail the films included:

Film For
The Inheritance (1962) director Masako Kobayashi
The Brute Man (1946) actress Jan Wiley
Skidoo (1968) actor Jackie Gleason
Death Car on the Freeway (1979) actress and singer Dinah Shore
Bwana Devil (1952) producer Sidney W. Pink
Dance of the Vampires (1967) actor Ferdy Mayne
Angel Baby (1961) actress Mercedes McCambridge
Terror in a Texas Town (1958) actor Sterling Hayden
Behold a Pale Horse (1964) actor Gregory Peck
Babies for Sale (1940) actor Glenn Ford
Postal Inspector (1936) actress Patricia Ellis
The Ghost Breakers (1940) actor Willie Best
The Lost World (1960) producer Irwin Allen
The Spiral Staircase (1945) actress Dorothy McGuire
Deathtrap (1982) actress Irene Worth
Lady in a Cage (1964) actress Olivia de Havilland
The Night of the Grizzly (1966) actor Keenan Wynn
23 Paces to Baker Street (1956) actor Van Johnson
Hellzapoppin' (1941) actress and singer Martha Raye
The Iroquois Trail (1950) actor George Montgomery
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) producer James H. Nicholson
Doctor Syn (1937) actress Margaret Lockwood
Psychout for Murder (1969) actor Rossano Brazzi
The Shiralee (1957) actor Peter Finch
The Tattered Dress (1957) director Jack Arnold
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) actor Anthony Dawson
Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968) writer Talbot Rothwell
The Dark Eyes of London (1940) actress Greta Gynt
Johnny O'Clock (1947) actress Evelyn Keyes
Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) actor Michael Gough
Curse of the Queerwolf (1988) the original fan, Forrest J. Ackerman
10 Rillington Place (1971) director Richard Fleischer
The Villain (1979) actor Kirk Douglas
The Beautiful Girl from Bashful Bend (1949) actor Betty Grable
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) director Roy Ward Baker

Cover Art

I usually have a good idea what I want for my covers; the problem is finding new Arizona artists (who I can afford) to create them. This time out I didn't have the faintest idea what I wanted.

The book focuses on people important to film who were born in 1916, but I'm writing in 2016 as they reach (or would have reached) their hundredth birthdays, so the constant here is that hundred year passage of time. The world of cinema changed beyond recognition between 1916 and 2016, so I knew I wanted to cover that somehow, but I had no idea how.

I also had no idea where to find an artist, because I try to locate them based on whose style matches what I need. Without that idea, I didn't know what to look for. In the end, I found an artist entirely by accident. We both posted a comment on the same Facebook thread and I saw some of her art (on her profile) as I moved my mouse. I clicked and explored and realised that I'd found my artist.

She's Kris Michael, a versatile artist who works in many different media, all the way up to murals that take up entire rooms. Her portraits in pencil are incredible but that wasn't what I wanted here; I was looking more at her prints and lino-cut work. So we chatted and talked it through and came up with the concept between us, using a movie ticket as the focal image, but with a tear across the page so that a 1916 ticket would morph into a 2016 ticket.

Beyond trying to figure out what a movie ticket from 1916 actually looked like, because they're utterly ephemeral and I couldn't find a single image from earlier than the thirties, the hardest thing to get right was the fonts, because the title would go across that tear too, using the same concept of change.

Kris found an old-school font that looked awesome, especially in red on the background she created, but we had to go searching for a modern one for it to change into. In the end, Kris sent me to font sites and I picked out Northwood High, which was created by Pi Luo Chiu and free for personal and commercial use. I played around with it to confirm that it fit and then Kris and her mother Karen did the actual work to finish off the cover.

I had fun with the back cover, highlighting a host of unlikely moments covered within the book, from Jackie Gleason dropping acid in prison in Skidoo to Ralph Bates turning into Martine Beswick in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. I wasn't sure if the use of italics would work but the proof copy tells me that they did!

Layout Notes

I wrote this book in LibreOffice running on Linux (Ubuntu with MATE) because I like free software (free as in both beer and speech), so naturally I laid it out in LibreOffice too.

It's typeset in Gentium Plus, which is a newer version of the Gentium font I used in all four of my previous books. It's the same great font but the spacing is much better. This is an source font, released under the SIL Open Font License, which means that it can be used, modified and redistributed for free.

Creative Commons

Current copyright law in the US tells me that I should be able to profit from my work until 75 years after I've been buried. I don't buy into that because copyright was always intended to benefit the public (not creators) by ensuring a constant flow of work into the public domain where the public could do whatever they liked with it. It's how Disney got famous! To ensure that creators kept creating, it also gave them a temporary monopoly on their work, which was originally 14 years. If I couldn't make money off a book in 14 years, then let the public have their turn.

I toyed with the idea of copyrighting my books for 14 years and then releasing them into the public domain, but quickly realised I'd never remember to do that. Instead, I chose to license my books through Creative Commons, using the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 copyleft license. That means that you are legally allowed to copy and distribute them, with my blessing, as long as you:

Free Download

So please download a PDF of The International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival: The Transition Years from the link below, read it and share it with others so that it can reach as wide an audience as possible.

Please feel free to upload it to peer to peer networks, translate it into your own language or read it aloud and circulate it as an audiobook. Just obey the licensing terms above.

Remember, piracy is not the enemy; obscurity is the enemy!

Buy a Print Copy

Of course, I don't get paid anything from a free download so, if you enjoy the book, please consider buying a print copy to show your appreciation and help me pay my bills. If you don't have room for dead tree products, then please consider buying a print copy for a friend or donate one to a library instead. Either way, I get paid and someone gets to read a good book.

New copies are available for $15.99 at Amazon.com.

If you're in the UK, the book is £12.99 at Amazon.co.uk. It should also become available from the various other Amazon sites; it's €15.99 in Europe.

Signed copies are available from the Dog Eared Pages used bookstore in Phoenix. Trust me, it would not be a hardship for me to travel to a great used bookstore to replenish my stock!

Review the Book

Even if you only read the free PDF, please consider writing a review of it on Amazon.com. Reviews are like gold at Amazon, who will promote books which have obtained enough of them. Getting fifty reviews at Amazon would be like a Christmas present to me.

Of course, the same goes for other independent authors too. If you review their books at Amazon as well as mine, you can help to make it Christmas every month in indie world and we'll love you all the more!

Other Details

A Hundred in 2016 is my fifth book. It's also the first volume in my Annual series that covers projects that run through a calendar year and will see release as that year ends. Other technical details are:


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