Thursday, August 2, 2012

More about Jim Tully, author of Beggers of Life

In the 1920s and 1930s, author Jim Tully was a household name. His writing - a singular brand of rough and tumble realism - was both popular and critically acclaimed. In his heyday, Tully's books appeared on bestseller lists, were adapted for the stage, and were made into movies.

On August 1st, the Cinefamily theater in Los Angeles screened the 1928 film, Beggars of Life, which stars Louise Brooks. The film was based on a celebrated 1925 novelistic memoir by Tully, a once popular "hobo author."

Over the last few years, Kent State University Press in Kent, Ohio (Tully's one-time home) has been reissuing this forgotten writer's long-out-of-print books. So far, they've released Circus Parade (with a foreword by the late comix artist Harvey Pekar), Shanty Irish (with a foreword by film director John Sayles), The Bruiser (with a foreword by critic Gerald Early), and Tully's breakthrough work and what's likely his best remembered book, Beggars of Life (with an introduction by series editors Paul Bauer and Mark Dawidziak).

Last year saw the release of Bauer and Dawidziak's outstanding biography, Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler. That book includes a foreword by documentary film maker Ken Burns, who has called the book a "wonderful, hugely important biography."

And also last year, the Akron Summit Library hosted an event with Paul Bauer and Mark Dawidziak called "Jim Tully: Rediscovering a Lost Ohio Writer." And here it is in its entirety. The video lasts one hour and seventeen minutes. Check it out.

Three films were made from Jim Tully books, including Beggars of Life (1928), Way For a Sailor (1930), and Laughter In Hell (1933). Beggars of Life is the only silent film among the three. This William Wellman directed feature starred Wallace Beery, Richard Arlen and Louise Brooks. Way For a Sailor was John Gilbert's second talkie. It also featured Wallace Beery, and Tully himself. Laughter In Hell is described as a chain-gang melodrama. It stars Pat O'Brien.

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