Friday, October 30, 2009


Have a happy and safe Halloween weekend!

"POE TRICK OR TREAT" (2009) by Mark Redfield

Acrylic on canvas. 22x28 inches.

To see more of my artwork, please visit my Etsy shop. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


It makes me shudder just to think about it.

Of all the tools available to an actor to help with the transformation into other characters, spirit gum, the horrid substance used to mostly attached false mustaches and hair to the face, is the most loathsome.

Chaplin suffered it every time he played The Tramp. Groucho Marx, however, avoided the horror of spirit gum, and carried his trademark mustache over to film from vaudeville by painting his on. Yes, even in the movies. In close-ups. Somehow we buy the grease painted 'stache in the Marx Brothers universe. Odd to see Groucho sport real nose bristles later in his life...


Spirit Gum, to the best of my knowledge, was invented, as we know it, use it and loathe it today, around 1895. It's a vile compound of ether (the spirit) and resin (the gum), that works as a temporary glue and is applied to the face to attach lace mustaches, beards, hair and prosthetic make-up appliances. Rubber appliances are things that add and change the facial features; think Bert Lahr's nose in The Wizard of Oz or Roddy McDowell's ape face for Planet of the Apes.

There are other adhesives used nowadays to apply facial prosthetic make-ups, but spirit gum is still in everybody's kit.

The first brand I ever used was made by Zauder Brothers, when I first experimented with stage make-up around the time I was ten years old or so. Prior to that, my dad once painted a mustache on me for Halloween one year for my cowboy costume, using water colors (when I was three or four) and I painted on a Groucho a couple of Halloweens later myself, using something from my mom's make-up table. Maybe mascara. I can't remember.

The Zauder's spirit gum was pungent, and burned slightly as it dried. That's my first memory, and the one that always haunts my sense-memory banks, regardless of how many times I've used spirit gum over the years, and it's been hundreds since those first experiments applying crepe wool hair to my tender young skin. To me, it just smelled bad, and made my eyes water slightly. Today, after a century of only limited brands like Zauder's and Stein's, there are other mixtures from companies like Mehron that smell better; but the essential properties of the stuff are the same.

I hate the stuff so much (but also chose to use it for characters so much) that there is an alarming trend that I've had to watch out for when doing a long run of a play. In the dress rehearsals I've always left enough time to prepare myself and the make-up so I'm not rushed and panicked before the first entrance. But as the run of a play progresses, I have found that, dreading the application of the spirit gum, I put off starting the make-up later and later (staring in the mirror at my upper lip), dangerously close to needing to be on stage. Not a good thing. But I've never missed an entrance because I wasn't mustachioed-up and ready!

The only way to avoid the stuff, professionally or at Halloween, is to grow the real thing. Or go the Woody Allen route in Bananas and slip a beard with wire hooks over your ears. But that's easier said than done. And not very realistic, unless realism isn't the desired effect.

First, a word to men. (Being male, I speak from experience, so we'll start there. Also, it's usually men who have to glue stuff to their upper lips...)

Shave the night before. I can't stress this enough. Unless the skin of your upper lip and below the nostrils is as tough as an old dried ostrich skin wallet, shave early. You can get away with a lot on stage, and a wee bit of stubble won't be seen. I've made the mistake of shaving just before I've had to glue a mustache on, and it's uncomfortable and sometimes burns. So shave many hours before, if possible, and let your skin "heal" a bit before applying spirit gum.

For women, be particularly careful around areas with fine hair, especially the jaw line. Spirit gum is best removed with spirit gum remover (made by all the same manufacturers that make spirit gum), and it will dissolve with soap and water and regular make-up remover, but still and all, be careful about certain hirsute areas. Perhaps this is more important when using liquid latex on a woman's face, but one nasty substance at a time. On with more fun with spirit gum...

Removal of the false hair and spirit gum. Getting a tad ahead of myself, but NEVER just rip off your mustache. As funny as that is in the movies, it will tear and damage your skin. And you don't want to do that especially if you have to re-apply the mustache the next night, for the next performance. If applied correctly, a mustache will stay on for some time and withstand rigorous facial movement. Always work a little spirit gum remover under a loose edge of the mustache, and gently work it away from the skin. Treat the skin, after washing gently, with a good moisturizer.

Applying the mustache, beard or false hair. I won't go into preparing wool crepe hair for making beards and mustaches, that's a whole other ball of hair--er--wax, but simply the application of the spirit gum. Frustration often comes from applying the adhesive right out of the bottle with a swab or two on the lip and finding the mustache then won't stick at all, while one's fingers get stickier and stickier, worse than a maple syrup-covered flap jack eating contest winner. Take your time.

If you're applying a base make-up, try to leave the area you'll glue the mustache to clean. (It will help make attachment easier, and with a lace hair piece, keep the lace clean).

First, the brush. The small bottles of spirit gum often come with a little brush attached to the inside of the bottle cap. I like to use a better, wider brush with a longer handle (from the art supply store) to apply the spirit gum. Open the bottle and, in a plastic or small glass dish (a petri dish is perfect) pour out a small amount. This lets the gum begin to breathe. Then with the brush, paint a layer of the gum only on the area of the skin the loose hair (or lace, if your using a good lace piece, store bought or specially made) will touch. Let this breathe a few moments.

I often fan the wet spirit gum (usually with the program of the play I'm doing--a superstition, but I digress). This "airing" action helps make the gum sticky. I tap that wet gum with the brush slightly. If you can see the "stickiness" of the gum pull away slightly, and feel the pull, then apply a second coat. Repeat the "airing" fanning.

The gum should be nice and sticky. If I can help it, I never touch the gum with my finger tips, as that creates problems touching other materials. Take the hair piece and then carefully put it in position, and press gently. It should stay in place long enough for you to then take a lint less towel, and press firmly and strongly. The mustache or hair piece should be left alone for several moments letting the gum really grab hold. Repeat pressing into the skin with the towel until you feel it's good and stuck.

Oh, and if, like me, you can't stand the smell of the stuff, breathe through your mouth during the entire gluing ordeal. You won't be "stung" by the ether, and your eyes won't water...

It'll feel warm as the resin is activated and becomes "gummy". I've found that after a few moments, and the warmth passes, it feels better and somewhat comfortable.

Wearing the fake mustache. There's always a strange glass-eyed, uncomfortable look that comes over a persons face as this foul stuff is applied and the unnatural caterpillar of a mustache is worn. Getting used to a fake mustache comes from only two things. The first is using it enough times that one can start to actually forget one is wearing it and it becomes second nature, and the second (which helps with the first point) is trust. You simply have to trust that it will stay on your lip and you must force yourself, at first anyway, to speak, move and make facial movements as you would normally do. Simply by wearing one enough (and as early in dress rehearsals as possible) you'll soon forget about it in the heat of battle. I mean, on stage.

The most important thing is to not allow yourself to freeze your upper lip, and impede your speech, or give your face a stiff, funny look. Wear the mustache. Don't let the mustache wear you.

In case of emergency--what to do if it comes loose or, god forbid, OFF during performance. Well, you're on your own.

Knock wood, but that's never happened to me yet on stage, in front of an audience.

Clean up's a breeze. If it's a lace mustache you're using, always clean the lace with spirit gum remover after you take it off. Don't procrastinate and put off the cleaning of the lace, no matter how anxious you are to hit the bar after the show. Otherwise the lace will get gunked by the gum, and won't look as realistic. I use an old soft tooth brush, dip it in the remover, and carefully work the remover into the gum and fleck it away, over a paper towel. Let the piece air dry. Then, hit the bar and have a drink. You're done.

Photo (above): Mark Redfield with every inch of his head spirit gummed and liquid latexed as the Chinese character "Chaing" in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2002). Make-up designed, sculpted and applied by Robert Yoho.


Remembering ELSA LANCHESTER on her birthday!

Elsa Lanchester was born on October 28th, 1902 and will always be remembered for her delightful and stunning turns as Mary Shelley and The Bride in Universal's 1935 production of The Bride of Frankenstein.

As a child in England she studied dance with Isadora Duncan, and at the age of 12 taught dance to neighborhood children! Consumed by performing, she worked non-stop, rising and being noticed until she landed a role in a play called Mr. Prohack, in 1927. In that production, she met her future husband, another young rising star of the British stage, Charles Laughton.

After they were married, they often worked together on stage and in film, even appearing as Peter Pan and Captain Hook, respectively, in the popular J.M. Barrie play Peter Pan, at the London Palladium, the year after The Bride of Frankenstein was released.

Her early film work included work in early talkies with other rising stars like Laurence Olivier, and H.G. Wells even wrote some scripts for her in early silents made in 1928.

Elsa Lanchester crafted a stellar career creating memorable characters, and worked steadily until 1980. She did a number of turns in Disney films, including "Katie Nanna" in Mary Poppins (1964) and the delightfully funny "Jessica Marbles" in Murder By Death (1976).

Charles Laughton passed away in 1962, and Lanchester continued working in Hollywood until her death in 1986.

British author M.J. Simpson is currently working on an exhaustive biography.

(Original image "True Love", acrylic on canvas, and text copyright Mark Redfield.)

Monday, October 26, 2009


I have a confession to make.

I collect pictures of Disney Princesses at Disneyland. This is a picture of me and Snow White, early one morning just inside the gate in March, 2004.

Disneyland, the original park in Anaheim, California, is the only one that really matters to me. It's more than childhood nostalgia, too. It is the park I first experienced as a child and I've been to the one in Florida, and the one outside Paris, but for me, it's the one that Walt Disney actually walked in. That matters most to me.

What also matters and fascinates me is that Disneyland, opened in 1955 and only taking about a year to build (!) is an absolute marvel of design, architectural design, engineering, urban layout and storytelling. It's marvelous entertainment and theater, designed by filmmakers.

I have an annual pass, and go several times a year. I love to play tour guide to friends who have never been; I love to also go alone. People watch. Study the designs of the buildings, landscape, and attractions. Disneyland, as Walt said, "will never be finished", and is constantly changing and adapting. I'm glad to have seen Tom Sawyers Island before it became Pirate Cove. Happy to have experienced the original submarine ride. Greatly miss the days when Tomorrow Land actually looked forward to the future, before it was re-designed as a Jules Verne-esque/Buzz Lightyear black hole. End confession(s). For now...

And the young lady in the photo above is, of all the "Snow Whites" I've seen in my time, the best. She's my favorite Snow White.

I don't know who she is; I don't know here name (I never want to engage the actors in the Park in a way that will "break the illusion", for me, them or the other guests).

That crisp, early morning in March (I get to the Park when it opens and leave when it closes), I got through the ticket gate and was waiting for a friend to join me. As I had a few moments, I watched Snow White greet and interact with the morning visitors. Disney casts their Park characters very carefully and very well, but this girl was different. Many can wear a costume and wig and be close to the "real thing", but this Snow White was perfection.

Beyond pretty and with an eerie resemblance to her animated-self on screen, she even, very naturally and without strain, sounded just like Adriana Caselotti, who voiced Snow in the 1937 film.

I watched her as she spoke and played and took pictures with kids and adults, never seeming to fall back on "patter" or scripted greeting. It's very hard work to keep that up during the scheduled times a character is "on stage". This Snow White, plain and simple, had presence.

When my friend arrived to join me for the day, inspiration had struck and I knew I wanted a picture with her--with me as "the eighth dwarf". As I slipped off my shoes and got down to kneel on them, Snow got the gag immediately and laughed merrily. She said nobody had ever done that (flirt!) and that she thought it was very funny. I thanked her for the picture and my friend and I entered the Park for the day.

I never saw her again.

I was back the next month, in April, with a group celebrating the birthday of a friend who had never been there. We spent two days in the Park. I got to play tour guide and, careful not to be a bore, rattled off every arcane piece of knowledge I knew about the place and it's history. Yes, we saw "Snow White", but it wasn't the girl from the month before. Our little group (now closer to seven in number) tried the "dwarf-shoe" gag at my suggestion, but this Snow seemed confused and even annoyed at what we were doing. Ah, well...

So, to whoever, and where ever, the Snow White is that is kissing the top of the head of the eighth dwarf in the above photo---thanks for being a wonderful actor and making a little magic happen that morning in March, '04! If she's still performing, I hope she's having a great success.

Text and Photo (c) Mark Redfield


"HITCHCOCK AND BATES HOUSE" by Mark Redfield (2009)
Acrylic on canvas. (16x20)

Image (c) Mark Redfield. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Keep watching for this cover of the soon to be published NEW AND UPDATED edition of this essential film reference book: Keep Watching the Skies ! The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren.

Bill Warren's book is an absolute must-have. Acknowledged as an indispensable guide to 1950's science fiction films, this new edition includes additions, updates and revisions that Warren has labored over since 2007. Originally published in two volumes, here's the publisher's (McFarland) description:

Long recognized as the definitive reference work on the hundreds of science fiction movies that terrified and fascinated a generation with zombified teenagers, robots, invading aliens and monsters of every description from 1950 through 1962, Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies! is newly revised and expanded in this 21st Century Edition. Featuring new entries on several films not found in the original two volumes, it also revisits, revises and expands the commentary on every film that was covered previously. In addition to a detailed plot synopsis, cast and credit listing, and overview of each film’s critical reception, it delivers richly informative assessments of the films and a wealth of insights and anecdotes about their making, often drawing on remarks by the filmmakers that have emerged since publication of the original edition. Now arranged alphabetically by film title for ease of use, and containing more than 270 photographs (many of them rare, and some in color), it includes for the first time a single comprehensive index as well as seven useful appendices.

The new 21st Century Edition features an extraordinary cover by Kerry Gammill, and new interior artwork by Frank Dietz, along with hundreds of fabulous photos.

You can pre-order Keep Watching The Skies!-The 21st Century Edition directly from the publisher at McFarland

Warren, Gammill and Dietz have been friends and associates for several years now, and I want to pass along these links for you to see more of artists Gammill and Dietz work. Kerry Gammill's Monster Kid Online Magazine can be found HERE, and Frank Dietz Sketchy Things can be found HERE.

Can you identify all of the famous characters depicted in Gammill's fab cover art?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


There's a new "gadget" I've added to the blog, over there on the right-hand side of the page, called CARTOONARAMA. Of the cartoons, drawings and paintings I've been doing lately, many have been of actors and various portrayals.

My painting is of Charles Ogle as Frankenstein's monster in the very first telling of the tale, Frankenstein (1910) produced by Edison's company. Ogle appeared in over 200 silent films, and the images of him in his gruesome make-up as the monster tantalized horror film fans for years, as the film was thought lost until the mid-1970's. "Edison's Frankenstein" is now available on DVD, and has been bootlegged and available on the internet.

I guess I was struck by the mask-like qualities of the make-up in the famous photo I based the cartoon on, and so it appears as a mask floating in blackness. The cartoon is acrylic on canvas, measuring 16x20. Actors and their characterizations that I've painted that I'll post in the future include Lon Chaney, John Barrymore, Laurel and Hardy, Peter Sellers---just doodles of actors and famous faces that inspire me...

Text and original image (C) Mark Redfield.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Books BY Actors: 'STICKY MAE GREY' by Jennifer Blaire

Just in time for the lil' ones this Hallowe'en, Jennifer Blaire's new book STICKY MAE GREY!

Who is Sticky Mae Grey and what's it all about? Here's the publisher's description: "Sticky Mae Grey has upside down hair, lives in an upside down house, has small monsters and creepy-crawly animals as pets, and she likes it that way. She and her odd little family invite a mysterious friend to a midnight party. Then, Sticky takes a trip to the Moon and meets the strange creatures there. A children's book that celebrates diversity and engages children in rhyming in two quirky and fun stories with full color pictures by cult-film actress, Jennifer Blaire."

You can order the book HERE at Lulu for $19.95

I worked with the delightful Ms Blaire in DARK AND STORMY NIG
HT (now doing the festival circuit.) Best known for her comedic turns in Larry Blamire's previous films THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA (2001) and TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD (2007), here's a shot of her and co-star Daniel Roebuck between camera set-ups, unraveling the mysteries in DARK AND STORMY NIGHT (2009).

Ordered my copy of STICKY MAE GREY today! Break-a-leg with it Jennifer!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


My conversation with Lugosi biographer and scholar Gary D. Rhodes can be read HERE.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Topol, currently starring in Fiddler on The Roof, The Farewell Tour in North America, starred in the original West End production in London in 1967 and the 1971 film. His performances and incarnations of Tevye are beloved and the tour has been selling-out in every city The Farewell Tour appears.

But I can't get Zero Mostel out of my mind.I've been fascinated and drawn to the unquantifiable magnetism that is Mostel since I was a child. Naturally I was too young at the time to realize it was Mostel who voiced the villain in The Electric Company's LetterMan cartoon vignettes...I would experience the full comedic force of Mostel first in Mel Brooks' The Producers, and be forever hooked and fascinated.

Merely a gleam in my father's eye when Zero Mostel created the role of Tevye the milkman in the original Broadway production in 1964, I heard Mostel's voice before I ever saw him---either on film or live-- on an LP cast recording of Fiddler my parents owned (or was it an 8-Track tape? I distinctly remember 8-Tracks my parents had. They included the soundtrack of Cabaret, a Tom Jones collection, and a Johnny Mathis collection, but I digress...) It wasn't until I was treated to the 1976 revival of Fiddler that I was able to witness Mostel live, and "hooked and fascinated" was signed, sealed and delivered forever. I was a card-carrying Zero Mostel fan for life.

His presence was impressive and alarming. I consumed everything I could find on Mostel; I learned of his black-listing and prosecution by the House Un-American Committee; I learned about his early comedic career in coffee houses in New York City; I fell in love with his art and his paintings; I wished I had seen his stage performances in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, Ionesco's RHINOCEROS and so many other live performances, but had to feed my fandom and study of his work with his films, some good, some not-so-good. For many years I owned a 16mm print of THE PRODUCERS.

I can't explain why a particular actor captures my imagination, except that somehow, their presence provides a kind of comfort. It's almost that simple.

Zero Mostel was the first Tevye in the original production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It was Mostel, out of enormous respect and love for the work of Sholem Aleichem, that the mood, style and feeling of Aleichem was worked into the musical. Mostel brought major contributions to the show, including the origination of the "cantorial sounds" that are now inseparable from songs such as If I Were A Rich Man.

He would win a Tony Award for his work, along with co-star Maria Kamilova. Others in the original cast included Beatrice Arthur as Yente, Austin Pendleton as Motel, and Bert Convy as Perchik. Mostel's script for Fiddler, with his margin notes and sketches, is kept at the New York Library of the Performing Arts.

For me, Zero is Number One!

Friday, October 16, 2009


"A house divided against itself cannot stand" -Abraham Lincoln

For the professional American actor, these are important websites to bookmark and frequent.

As we continue moving into the 21st Century, actors have much to consider as changes and challenges are continuing to affect the way our work, especially in film, television and the internet, is created, sold and distributed to the public. In recent months, SAG and AFTRA have held elections, ratified new contracts, and we all have important work ahead of us, especially as “New Media” is tracked and studied, and the momentum of merger between the two union’s progresses.

Get involved and stay involved with your unions!


The layout and frequency of timely updates at the SAG site have greatly improved since interim NED David White came to SAG. Updates and member alerts affecting members all across the country, especially in the Regional Branch Divisions has improved. More could be done with the RBD, but there has been improvement. Bookmark: SAG


AFTRA’s website is perhaps, in my opinion, more informative overall than SAG’s, and has a better lay-out and is more user-friendly. Bookmark: AFTRA


This blog contains the liveliest, smartest discussion on the internet regarding the ins-and-outs of SAG and AFTRA politics and union matters. A frequent “must read”. Bookmark: SAGWATCH


This blog pulls SAG and AFTRA news from around the country, and also, like SAGWATCH, offers clear analysis of the workings and politics of both unions. Bookmark: THE SAG REPORTER

In my links list (on the right) are links to other important US actor unions, including Canada and the UK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog: Announcing The Boris Karloff Blogathon!

November 23-29, 2009 is the Boris Karloff Blog-A Thon! I'll be pitching in with some reflections on Karloff, especially his early union work as a founding member of The Screen Actor's Guild (see photo, above). Too much fun to not participate! Coming in November, from various bloggers in the blogosphere, with Pierre Fournier and his wonderful Frankensteinia site leading the way!

More info about the other bloggers here, at:

Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog: Announcing The Boris Karloff Blogathon!


In this NPR report of the Poe Funeral event, which happened on Sunday, October 11th, 2009, you can hear clips of my eulogy, along with the actors who played Sarah Helen Whitman (Helen McKenna-Uff), Rufus Griswold (John Spitzer), and H.P. Lovecraft (Matthew Bowerman). I'll post more behind-the-scenes info about what went into the event along with photos, later this week.

Note: click the "play" button above and the story should play for you.

It was a thrilling day, and the actors did a remarkable job--more later! Recovering today...

Friday, October 9, 2009


Larry Blamire's new comedy murder mystery DARK AND STORMY NIGHT stars Daniel Roebuck, Jennifer Blaire, Fay Masterson, Andrew Parks, Dan Conroy, Jim Beaver, James Karen, Betty Garrett, Marvin Kaplan, Bob Burns and Mark Redfield and more!

The film is scheduled this month at the following festivals in the US and UK:

Saturday, Oct. 10th, 2009 at 9:15 PM at the San Rafael Film Center, San Rafael, California.
and Saturday, Oct. 17th 2009 at 3:45PM at the Sequoia Theater, Mill Valley, California.
Visit for info and tickets.

Friday, October 16-Sunday, October 18, 2009
Visit for info.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at the Prescott Film Series.



We are happy and pleased and also excited and pleased to announce that Shout! Factory has just acquired North American DVD and digital rights to THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Both Shout! and Bantam Street are thrilled about the teaming and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.

I've been a big fan of Shout! since they started releasing box sets of SCTV some years back, and their sensibility is right up our alley (if we have an alley--I think we do--somewhere). As you can see, they release some very cool and eclectic stuff (I have recently been enjoying HIYA KIDS, their compilation of vintage 50s TV kids shows).

THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT DVDs will be launched at ComiCon in July, 2010. Both will be loaded with extras in typical Shout! fashion.

But wait, there's more.

Our own Mike Schlesinger is masterminding a theatrical release of not only those two films, but also TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD (which he's dubbed "The Thrillogy"). This will be in March 2010, in support of the DVD release, and the films will piggyback around the country to select cities. And, yes, they're family friendly, so bring the kids.

From the moment we met with Shout! we had a mutual feeling that this was an ideal partnership, and we couldn't be happier about it--particularly in the current tough market.
--Larry Blamire


The old blog was being neglected and I was posting only sporadically. I've had fun putting this new version together, and really appreciate the kind words the blog has received since launch. I've been surprised by the amount of traffic it's gotten in such a short time!

So, thanks for dropping by and taking a peek; I think I'll hang with this and see where it goes. I know it's been very "Poe-centric" recently, but with all of the events in Baltimore regarding his bicentennial, I guess that can't be helped. Theme-oriented isn't so bad. Maybe that's a way to focus and choose what to post in the future.

Next week I'll wrap up Poe with photos of the actors who are portraying the famous literary figures who will be speaking at Poe's funeral in Baltimore on Sunday, October 11th. Then some behind the scenes stuff about THE DEATH OF POE and playing Eddie...but first have to manage to get through the weekend.

The press has certainly picked up. In the last couple if days I've done numerous radio interviews about Poe and the Bicentennial funeral event--from Maryland to Edmonton, Canada.

By-the-bye; that photo above really is what it looks like when the alarm goes off for a 5AM on-set call for a movie...especially when one isn't a morning person!

See you Monday--

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Honored to be asked to speak at the funeral event for Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore on October 11th, here is the eulogy that I'll read:

“What exactly is it that occurs at the moment of death, especially to a man, who in that moment, is not permitted to die…” …“The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who can say where the one ends and where the other begins?”

These immortal words were written, of course, by—screenwriters Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and Robert Towne. They were spoken by the actors Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone or Ray Milland. And they were committed to the medium of film by director Roger Corman. And that, not too surprisingly, is how I first encountered Poe. Vincent Price as the oh-so-sensitive Roderick in Corman’s 1960 film House of Usher. Up late one Saturday night as a boy in Baltimore, watching old horror movies on Channel 45’s Ghost Host…or was it Channel 20’s Creature Feature? I can’t remember which, and it doesn’t really matter. These old horror movies they used to run were my doorway to literature, and to the works of Poe. Been hooked ever since.

Edgar Allan Poe has been part of the cinema almost since the birth of the medium itself . The first film known to be based on a Poe story was adapted from Murders in the Rue Morgue, and the film was entitled, you guessed it--- Sherlock Holmes in the Great Murder Mystery. An American film from 1908. It’s clear, even a hundred years ago, who the more popular detective was… But the plot of a murderous ape was taken from Poe. The first biographical drama about Poe the man, and the second Poe film of record, was made and released exactly 100 years ago in 1909; one hundred years after Poe’s birth. It’s simply called Edgar Allan Poe, and was directed by the Father of Cinema himself, D.W. Griffith. Poe was played by the popular Broadway star Herbert Yost, and the silent one-reeler took its story points mostly from the poem The Raven and from the sad episode of Virginia Poe’s death.

Griffith would make two more Poe-inspired films just before World War One…and since the silent era, hundreds of films have been made based on Poe’s works—with more coming. Lugosi and Karloff starred in a clutch of films for Universal in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, mostly only using Poe’s captivating titles, and nothing more. On stage--operas, ballets, musicals, one man shows, puppet shows, street performers---radio plays, records, CD’s, MP3s, Poe lives--And in technologies not yet known—Poe will live on!

But it’s Roger Corman, I think, with his cycle of Poe films in the 1960’s that introduced a generation to the literature of Poe, outside of reading The Raven in High School, that kept Poe alive for us today.

As an aside, I’m really pleased that Corman will receive an honorary Oscar next year for his prolific body of work. Fitting that the announcement was made this year, on Poe’s Bicentennial.

And for those who claim that the film adaptations aren’t “as good as the book” or complain that “they ruined the book”, I can only summon no greater authority than author and screenwriter Richard Matheson, who, as I mentioned, adapted some of the Price/Corman Poe films. When someone said to him, after seeing a film based on one of his works, in great sympathy and horror, “look what they did to your superb novel I Am Legend”, Matheson smiled, pointed behind him and said, “They haven’t done anything to my novel. There it is. On the shelf for anyone to read.” And so are the works of Edgar Poe.

I, myself, have played Poe on film; it’s really only a portrait of the universal struggle of the artist. I didn’t intend to make it. It happened while adapting Poe’s stories into new film scripts. But I came away wondering-- just who this complex man was, and what happened that fateful week in 1849. Poe taught me a great deal. And I discovered, although I’m an actor, that he and I have something in common—something in common with all artists. Beyond the struggle, the need for recognition, --we share compulsion—we are compelled to create and tell stories. To the very end.

I think Poe would approve of all of us who have strutted our “hour upon the stage”, trying to get into his skin and the spirit of his work. After all, Poe’s parents were actors. He was practically born in a trunk. There’s something of the actor in all writers. Our tools come from the same creative toolbox.

And so, on behalf of all my fellow players and filmmakers who have spoken Poe’s words and have attempted to give life to his ideas and stories in other mediums; this is my tribute: learn your lines, don’t bump into the furniture, and remember, Poe’s original work is always within reach, on the shelf.

Image and text (c) Mark Redfield, 2009

THE DEATH OF POE October 7, 1849

THE DEATH OF POE can be ordered here.

Monday, October 5, 2009


A new series of DVD's called AMERICA: HER STORIES, HER PEOPLE debuts with the first in the series: THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.

Starring Mark Redfield and Michael Mack and produced and directed by Tony Malanowski, BUNKER HILL tells the dramatic story of two fathers and their young sons caught up in the events that lead up to one of the most famous battles of the American Revolution as they volunteer to defend the Heights overlooking Boston Harbor in 1775.

Filmed in New Jersey with hundreds of re-enactors for the battle scenes, THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL includes extensive interviews with leading historians and authors, multiple extras that can be used as teaching aids for schools. The dramatic script was written by William Chemerka and the film includes a thrilling adventure music score by William Stromberg and John Morgan.

THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL is available now at


Since posting "Redfield's Make-Up Morgue", I've been asked just what a make-up morgue is.

Simply, it's any collection of photos that help a make-up artist or actor design and execute their make-ups. Back in the early newspaper days, a photo morgue was the collection of photos a paper might keep on hand to illustrate stories.

Corson suggested that the collection be kept in a standard, accordion-style file folder, labeling sections to reflect the collection ("old age", "beards", fantasy make-ups", etc.) Photos could be taken from wherever you found them--newspapers, magazines, or photos you took yourself for reference.

My "morgue" eventually grew in size and moved to a metal filing cabinet, not just because I accumulated a great collection of faces for make-up inspiration, but because I found I was also using the collection as a photo resource for my drawing and painting.

Nowadays, almost any image can be found on the Internet, and some people keep there material on a computer. But the old-fashioned, hard copy way is still best for me, because I can take the pictures and info I need with me where ever I go, and I don't worry about getting make-up on the laptop!

The phrase "make-up morgue" comes from Richard Corson's book STAGE MAKE-UP, the best make-up book ever published. My first edition of Corson's book was an early edition I found at a used bookstore. All of the photos were in black and white, but the book provided so many tips and techniques that I quickly wore it out. I bought my next edition in college as a theater major (for around forty dollars, as I remember) and wore that one out, too.

Now in its 10th edition, with new material added by additional authors James Glavan and Beverly Gore Norcross supplementing Corson's original text and updated photos, can be found at