Revisiting the Literary Classics: HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC by David J. Skal
I was so enamored with Mr. Skal’s definitive biography of Bram Stoker (see my review of that book here) that I sought out another of his books–and by “sought out” I mean I bought a used copy on eBay. HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC tells the story of how DRACULA the novel became DRACULA the movie. It had a circuitous route, to say the least. There was the German rip-off that ended up becoming one of the cinema’s greatest masterpieces, NOSFERATU, a movie that by all rights we shouldn’t have at all, as it was ordered destroyed by the courts. (Thankfully they missed one.) The one-woman crusade waged by Bram Stoker’s widow, Florence, against anything and everything Dracula-related (leading to the aforementioned ruling that NOSFERATU must be destroyed). There’s even the story of how Bela Lugosi, in his passion for the role, effectively screwed himself with Hollywood for the remainder of his career. (We can also thank Lugosi for helping to persuade Florence Stoker to sign over the rights to Universal for 1931’s DRACULA.)
Skal’s book, a historical, non-fiction work, reads just like a novel. It could be that I am so passionate about its subject that I would find it so enthralling whereas a non-fan might find it dry or boring, but I don’t think so. Not that I would expect any non-fans to be reading this site in the first place, or reading Mr. Skal’s book. Although they should.