Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Robert Florey, the French Expressionist by Brian Taves

Here is a book well worth recommending, Robert Florey, the French Expressionist by Brian Taves. Originally published in hardback by Scarecrow Press in 1986, Taves groundbreaking work was reissued last year in softcover by BearManor Media.

Florey is a director of great accomplishment perhaps best known to fans of Louise Brooks as the director of King of Gamblers (1937), a terrific little proto-noir crime film in which Brooks had a small role. (Her part was later cut).

King of Gamblers is a low-budget gangster film in which Akim Tamiroff takes an unusual featured role as a slot-machine racketeer whose bombing of an uncooperative barber shop leads to a murder charge. (The film was also known as Czar of the Slot Machines.)

By her own account, Brooks accepted a bit part in the film because the director "specialized in giving jobs to destitute and sufficiently grateful actresses," referring both to herself and to Evelyn Brent , who also had a role. King of Gamblers is extensively discussed in Taves' book. (During his career, Florey also worked with actress Anna May Wong. That's her on the cover.)

From the publisher: "Discover the remarkable film career of Robert Florey, in Robert Florey: The French Expressionist by Brian Taves. During almost a half-century in the movies, from 1916 to 1963, Robert Florey directed sixty five features and 220 television films at most of the major studios. His greatest success came in thrillers, scripting the original Frankenstein and directing such horror classics as Murders in the Rue Morgue with Bela Lugosi and The Beast with Five Fingers with Peter Lorre.

Robert Florey (far left) looks over Louise Brooks shoulder,
as Evelyn Brent (far right) looks on.

Displaying skill in many genres, Florey also co-directed two renowned comedies, The Cocoanuts with The Marx Brothers and Monsieur Verdoux with Charlie Chaplin. Florey was always known as an artist, gaining fame first through his experimental avant-garde shorts, such as The Life and Death of 9413 - a Hollywood Extra, and he is renowned for directing episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.

His features remained distinctive for integrating European filmmaking styles into the Hollywood studio system. Author Brian Taves takes advantage of numerous primary sources, including studio archives, interviews with associates, and access to all of Florey's papers. Taves thoroughly analyzes and locates Florey's films within the context of the times, relating them to such topics as the influence of expressionism and other techniques, the realm of the "B" film, the position of the contract director in the studio system, and the transition of movie talent to television.

This new edition of a book out of print since 1995 delves more deeply into Florey's remarkable career. In addition to a Bibliography, the book contains several appendixes, including a Filmography, a Television Filmography, and "Charles Chaplin's Tirade Between Takes of Monsieur Verdoux" (transcribed by Robert Florey), as well as an Index."

"A book on Florey is long overdue… Now the job has been done, and done magnificently…. I’ve already used the book in one of my film history courses, and I hope it’ll find is way on to a lot of university shelves. And for the film history enthusiast, it’s a must…. Worth every penny…” -- William K. Everson, Films in Review

 "A crucial biography in the study of film history. Robert Florey, the French Expressionist reveals deep insight about the important director thanks to skilled writing and access to rare archival materials." -- Gary Rhodes, Film historian and Bela Lugosi biographer

“One of the most ambitious studies of a director who worked largely in B filmmaking…” -- Kristin Thompson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Essential…. An epic work that every horror fan should own…. The depth of interpretation of Florey’s style, his background, his detailed film career as recreated by Taves is simply gripping in its detail.” -- Gary J. Svehla, Midnight Marquee

About the author: Brian Taves is author of a range of books on film history and popular culture, from the silent cinema to the era of television, on genres from science fiction to historical adventures. Taves earned his doctorate in Cinema-Television Critical Studies at the University of Southern California in 1988 and has been a film archivist with the Library of Congress since 1990.

The newest book by Taves, Hollywood Presents Jules Verne, chronicles more than a century of adaptations of the science fiction pioneer's stories to the screen. Taves has been the author of countless articles on Verne over the last thirty years, and edited and coauthored The Jules Verne Encyclopedia (1996), a Locus nominee for Best Nonfiction Book. Taves is currently editing the Palik Series, stories and plays by Verne never before translated into English, for the North American Jules Verne Society, published by BearManor Fiction.

Taves wrote the first biography of the acclaimed silent movie producer, Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer (University Press of Kentucky, 2011) , a volume named to the "ten best" film books of 2011 on Huffington Post, and chosen by Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) as their "book-of-the-month" for January 2012.

Examining different film making professions, Taves wrote his first book on director Robert Florey. Taves explored the career of P.G. Wodehouse as a screenwriter, commentator on Hollywood, and the source of numerous screen adaptations (McFarland, 2006).

In a series of volumes, Taves offered the first scholarly examination of the historical adventure genre. He examined the genre first in film and television, in The Romance of Adventure (University Press of Mississippi, 1993), then delineated one of its most distinctive authors, Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure (McFarland, 2005), following it with a critical anthology of Mundy stories, articles, and poems which had never appeared in book form before, Winds From the East (Ariel Press, 2006).

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