Welcome, Creature Features Fans and Movie Genre Buffs, to my 16th published book. I realize this one is a bit afield of my usual work, if you consider I did six editions in the "Creature Features Movie Guide Series" as well as I WAS A TV HORROR HOST, my "autobiography." And have brought you plenty of DVDs strictly of a horrific and science-fictional nature.
Whew! Now it’s action icons, femme fatales and some of Hollywood’s most beloved stars! To me, these cinematic elements are equally exciting. They are part of those screen images that have come to affect our lives. Bottom line: It’s all part of being a cinema buff. And, in my case, THE GANG THAT SHOT UP HOLLYWOOD is a labor of love, and I hope it will touch you in a special way. You love movies like I do, or we would never have met.
The nutshell: GANG reflects my 33 years working as an entertainment writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, covering an estimated 800 personalities in the exciting, creative worlds of movies and television.
The book starts literally with Clint Eastwood, on the day in 1971 when he "shot and killed" the Scorpio Killer (Andy Robinson) during production of DIRTY HARRY. Also recounted: My meeting with Clint on the set of RAWHIDE, followed by our interview during production of MAGNUM FORCE in 1973. Over the years, I also cornered him to talk about UNFORGIVEN, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. Plus you’ll learn of The Lost Eastwood Classic! And encounter his two good-luck charms: ALBERT POPWELL and MARA CORDAY.
To tell the truth, Clint was the inspiration for GANG. Two years ago I was feeling a bit of "decay," meaning I was beginning to lose some of my joy for all the things around me. What could I do with myself that was new and different?
Suddenly one evening I saw Clint in the 1993 documentary "The Man From Malpaso." Clint remarked that his father once told him: "Progress, or you’ll decay." That word "decay" impacted on me, and woke me up to the need to get busy again. I went to my library to reread my old stories about Clint, and realized I had been given a legacy that perhaps I could now share with readers. With you.
And did I thrive for the next two years, finishing this book as well as CZAR OF NOIR, my DVD documentary on Eddie Muller, who has risen up to become one of the most important film festival figures with his annual Noir City Festivals in five major American cities. In 2011 Eddie set new records at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, drawing 13,000 attendees over a ten-day period – simply by showing old black-and-white crime films from the 1940s. You’ll find Eddie profiled at some length, as he feels I am the one who inspired him to pursue film noir as a profession.
As I wrote GANG, and the "decay" slowly eroded away, I searched for a style that would be very readable. I wanted you to share these best moments with me. So, travel back through time to experience what I had experienced, and to feel the things that I had felt. I think you will find these unusual encounters to be as three-dimensional as I could make them. And I wanted GANG to be as visual as possible, with the artwork on the same page as my descriptions. There’s an estimated 750 photos scattered through the 224 pages. Many of these photos I took myself.
The unusual cover design is by SCOTT MOON, the very creator and keeper of this website. Scott has been running the show for me for many years now, and also cares for the Bob Wilkins website, bobwilkins.net. I was also fortunate to secure the talents of professional illustrator JIM HUMMEL, who has authored several children’s books. Jim provided 12 original caricatures of major players. DIXIE DELLAMORTO, current girlfriend of horror host Mr. Lobo, has contributed eight original drawings.
So, here’s the rundown:
JAMES STEWART: Two separate encounters with the Oscar-winning actor. First, he discusses his Westerns and the unusually bitter characters he portrayed in them, and how he came to portray these parts in a unique way. Then, he discusses his Alfred Hitchcock films in an unusually candid way. Plus, you’ll meet one of Stewart’s best friends, a Golden Retriever named Beau, who in later years would be immortalized in a poem that Stewart recited one night on the Johnny Carson TV show. I’ll also take you into the World War II years when he was a well-decorated B-24 bomber captain. And you’ll go on a dangerous mission with Brigadier-General Stewart above Vietnam.
THE GANG THAT SHOT UP IWO JIMA–ON FILM: War is a theme that has intrigued me since my father told me stories about how he almost was shot to death fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. Because I worked at the Chronicle, I came to know news photographer JOE ROSENTHAL, who took the prize-winning photo of the flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima. I wanted to share my personal experiences with another Chronicle photographer, BOB CAMPBELL, who had also been on Iwo Jima as a Marine cameraman, and who had given me copies of his most famous combat photos.
Ironically, my boss at Channel 2 during my "Creature Features" years was RAY JACOBS, who had helped to raise the first small flag atop Suribachi. But his was a story that had never been told before, and because he had given me a full report, and copies of all the photos, I felt an obligation to share them with the public for the first time. I also pay tribute to JAMES BRADLEY, author of "Flags of Our Fathers," and Marine Corps heroes EUGENE SLEDGE (featured on Steven Spielberg’s THE PACIFIC) and DARRELL DUNCAN, one of my bosses at the Chronicle.
CHUCK NORRIS: I got to know Chuck very well during his early years as a film actor, and when he was making "An Eye for an Eye" in the Bay Area, he told me the philosophy he was following in the hopes of becoming a major star in crime and action films. He followed that philosophy and his dream came true. Now, here’s your chance to meet Chuck and understand why and how he morphed into a top box-office martial arts king.
FILM NOIR: In addition to an interrogation of EDDIE MULLER, the Czar of Noir, I decided to focus on a "warm swarm" of excellent actresses who had portrayed "femme fatales" during the best days of noir film-making. These ladies are busting out all over, and what isn’t there to like about that! So, get up close and personal with JANE RUSSELL, LAUREN BACALL, ANN SAVAGE, MARIE WINDSOR, COLEEN GRAY, EVELYN KEYES, ANNE PARILLAUD, ANNE FRANCIS, and CARROLL BAKER. Then, I have a special moment between Bacall and her lover man, HUMPHREY BOGART. But I’m not gonna squeal and tell you anything more about that.
ROBERT AND JOHN MITCHUM:
Of all my material, this is the most personal. Because I published John Mitchum’s autobiography, "Them Ornery Mitchum Boys," back in 1989, I had spent two years in the family’s inner circle. John drank plenty and told me stories that he might have otherwise kept off the record.
One shocking revelation concerns "Brother Bob’s" 1948 arrest at a sex orgy in the Hollywood Hills for marijuana use. What really happened behind the scenes is revealed here for the first time, along with other family secrets: such as why Brother Bob had to bop a drunken Brother John across the top of his head with a pistol. You’ll go on the set of their last project together, a TV movie entitled "Jake Spanner – Private Eye," and learn what made these guys tick. And see them together for the final time in exclusive photos I took.
SAMUEL FULLER: I spent several days with this notorious cult movie maker, and experienced firsthand his blunt, sardonic but always fascinating personality. I describe the day the writer/producer/director acted out scenes from his WWII classic "The Big Red One," long before he made the film, and I’ll take you on the set of his notorious feature film, "Naked Kiss," on the very day that he had a bitter encounter with his producer. An encounter that would jinx his career for the next two decades. You’ll also experience his war classic "The Steel Helmet" in a unique way – because to me it’s one of the best war movies ever made, and had a tremendous impact on me as a young teenager.
Karl Malden: Something unusual happened the night I met the star of "The Streets of San Francisco." I was able to secure his trust, so that he came to confide in me in later meetings and interviews over the next five years. We met atop Twin Peaks, at his favorite hotel, The Huntington, and at the Hall of Justice Morgue before it was over. And he told me why he was going to leave the series, before he even told producer Quinn Martin. In my eyes, Malden was one of the best actors of 20th Century cinema, and this is my tribute to him.
OTHER PERSONALITIES: HAL HOLBROOK & MARK TWAIN . . . STACY KEACH JR. (as Mike Hammer, Private Eye) . . . "The Virginian" star JAMES DRURY . . . Singers FRANKIE LAINE & MARTY ROBBINS . . . SHEB WOOLY & PAUL BRINEGAR (both of "Rawhide" fame) . . . character actors DON HAGGERTY and STEVE BRODIE . . . MICHAEL DOUGLAS . . . and many others!
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