“Back then it was inconceivable to film in a real location, to shoot in a passageway, to bring cameras into stairwells. Shooting in the streets was unheard of. ROMA, CITTA APERTA represents something new because I tried to make a film the way it should be done, accessible to everyone, outside the control of the big studio system and all the slavery that entails.” — Roberto Rossellini
Despite their “Pact of Steel” and heads-of-state handshakes for the newsreels, the Italians and Germans had a long history of hating one another both before and during the Second World War. Behind their chest-beating about the founding of a new Roman Empire, the Italians always seemed only marginally interested in what was going on. It took them five years to defeat Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), this stalemate broken only when they violated the Geneva Conventions by using poison gas. Their 1940 invasion of neighboring Greece, intended as a display of machismo to Hitler, turned into a fiasco from which they needed a full-scale German military bailout. On the Germans’ end, Italians were incompetent buffoons and they didn’t even bother to tell them what they were doing most of the time. Mussolini read about the outbreak of war with Poland after the fact, and that lack of communication, and underlying distrust, would be repeated again and again. Germans were Nordic supermen who fought to the end, Italians were lazy Mediterranean prone to surrender: so goes the logic even today among many military historians. To their credit, most Italians, apart from ardent fascists and anti-Semitic contingents within the Vatican, saw the biological superiority aspect of Nazism for what it was: an empty ideological tool used to justify domination. Although he did pass racial decrees in 1938, Mussolini dragged his feet on any broader Italian participation in the “Jewish question” for a long time, although more out of fear of civil backlash than any humanitarian concerns.As Germany exerted more influence over the nation’s affairs, over 7,000 Italian Jews would be deported and executed by war’s end (see De Sica’s The Garden of Finzi-Continis for one narrative on this).
Everything collapsed in late-1943/early-1944, the setting for Rossellini’s film. American and UK Commonwealth forces landed in Sicily in the summer of 1943 and began moving north. Italy surrendered immediately and was split into a Fascist north, run by an exiled Mussolini and occupied by the German army, and a south that was cooperating with the Allied occupation. A slow grind through the mountainous regions south of Rome commenced. How to handle the city was a touchy situation. No one wanted to be held responsible for its destruction, particularly the Allies, who were taking heat for their highly-publicized flattening of the ancient monastery atop Monte Cassino, mistakenly labeling it as an outpost for German artillery spotters. As they lost control of Cassino, the Germans declared Rome an ‘Open City’, a military term for a city left undefended in hopes of not having it destroyed by invading forces. Rossellini’s love for dark comic irony is on display here, as we quickly come to see within the first five minutes that Rome is not quite as “open” as its title implies, as German SS, fascist police, and “Communist” (often anarchists or apolitical working-class, to be more precise) partisans fight for control. As in most German-held territories, the partisan movement gained steam as liberation drew nearer and suppression efforts intensified, with roundups of suspects and 5:00 PM curfews becoming the norm.
Although often overlooked when discussing the film, its shocking pivotal moment has foundation in fact. On March 3 1944, Teresa Gullace was in downtown Rome with scores of others whose relatives had just been detained due to suspicious activities. As she cried out for her husband and fought to get past the German blockade to pass bread and clothing through the bars of his cell, a German soldier withdrew his pistol and shot her in the neck. Six months pregnant with her fifth child, she bled to death in front of the horrified crowd, including her husband. The killing of Gullace and her unborn child incensed Italians and became a galvanizing focal point for Roman resistance. Fabrizi’s Don Pietro is an amalgamation of two priests, Giuseppe Morosini and Pietro Pappagallo, both of whom provided assistance to the underground against the wishes of the Vatican, and were executed by the Germans. This spirit of cooperation and mutual respect between clergy and “godless” communists would quickly unravel after the war but it does show some measure of help coming from rebellious elements within the Holy See, who we now know, at its higher levels, secured secret passage for numerous wanted Nazis via their so-called “ratline” to South America.
Despite the occasional lapses, there is no disputing that Rossellini’s Rome, Open City stands as a seminal moment in the new post-fascist Italian cinema that came to be known as Neorealism: it was shot on low quality black-market film stock; the German army shown are actual surrendered P.O.W. Germans; portions of the city were still being fought for as filming began; and bombed out locations were just that. To put it mildly, the chaos and discombobulation of the city provided the perfect backdrop that needed little assistance from art design. Such gritty realism was eons away from the escapist “telefoni bianchi” films of the Fascist years, as they were derisively labeled, where Roman mistresses in opulent penthouses called their rich industrialist lovers on large white telephones.
There are, however, clear signs of melodrama and Hollywood artifice, from the swelling score, to the subjective point-of-view camera shots. Rossellini did take some flak from his hardcore Neorealist peers for hiring Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi in the title roles, both of whom were well-known comedic actors of the day that began their careers in vaudeville. The interior sets, such as the Nazi headquarters, were built in the basements of buildings in downtown Rome, and it is here that artificial lighting and more conventional studio set-ups come into play. The Nazis themselves are what you would expect, i.e. 2D stereotypes of evil incarnate, with the notable exception of the Austrian defector from Monte Cassino. Modern viewers might also notice the effeminate nature of lead Nazi officer Bergmann, paired with his lesbian femme fatale informant. Even at this early stage, homosexual “deviance,” sadomasochism, and Nazism were being merged in subtle and not-so-subtle ways for popular consumption.
By all accounts, director Rossellini and co-scriptwriter Fellini shared a love for dark humor and irony that is evident in several scenes, particularly involving children. Children were of vital importance in Italian culture of the day, and they figure prominently in much Neorealist cinema; here, they are small adult partisans, taking comic beatings from their parents for staying out past curfew, when in reality they are not playing bocce but setting explosives. From Rome, Open City to The Bicycle Thief to The Children Are Watching Us, they come to embody rebirth, hope, and the potential for progress and modernity.
Overall, Rossellini is pretty easy on the Italians for their part in the war. This can be annoying, especially given his three preceding propaganda films, with their heroic pro-war message, albeit a state-mandated heroic message. And while that can be understood, although not justified perhaps, under the watchful eye of Vittorio Mussolini, Benito’s son and head of the fascist film industry, the same cannot be said of Rossellini’s independent postwar efforts, when he had full freedom to explore civilian complicity in war aggression. To his credit, in his subsequent film, Paisan, Rossellini does delve into more murky moral territory, criticizing both occupiers and liberators. By war’s end, Italian crimes in Abyssinia and Greece were pretty low down on the atrocity list, and self reflection didn’t really pull in returns at the box office. Rome, Open City with its tragic humanism and empathy, was a huge success for Rossellini and opened countless inroads for Italian cinema abroad. His refugee cohort from the fascist film industry, including Antonioni, Fellini, De Sica, and Visconti, would all have new opportunities as Italy reconstructed itself and Cinecitta studios became one of the prime movers on the European film scene.
As for the lasting impact of Rome, Open City almost seventy years on, I find it fascinating that Anna Magnani’s tragic scene seems to have become so interwoven with Italian popular consciousness that its narrative inventions appear even on a postage stamp commemorating Gullace, as the latter watches the truck driving away with her husband, thus mirroring the film, not the reality.
The fact that, after viewing Fritz Lang’s M, one will never hear Grieg’s Peer Gynt in quite the same way again speaks volumes of the film’s most brilliant asset: its innovative use of sound. M is, without question, the high water mark of Weimar era cinema, and the best film of Lang’s career in the eyes of many, including his own.
But let’s back up a bit. Any meaningful discussion on the merits of M must be properly placed within the context of the coming of sound to the medium itself. Through the din of today’s hyper-accessible, multi-media white noise, it is hard for many to comprehend silent film as anything beyond an inferior and defective medium that was only improved upon with the sonic innovations of the late 1920s, when the sound-stripping of celluloid finally synchronized aural with visual. But this is unfair; at the least a simplification, at the worst a gross injustice to the sophistication of the medium. By the coming of the first sound feature The Jazz Singer, silent film had evolved into its own complex film language, with its own rhythm, its own set of aesthetic rules; for example, by his masterwork Der Letze Mann, German director F.W. Murnau had managed to purge the ubiquitous intertitles altogether in favor of a universality of vision that transcended all languages and national demarcations. The artists’ protectiveness of this evolution can be seen by the reaction to the proposed transition, particularly from the creative elements. Producers and studio heads saw the gimmick and the novelty, and the subsequent dollar signs. Actors and directors saw the destruction of their craft by technicians and artless “inventors” who capriciously hocked their wares to an industry that could not resist this shiny new toy. After all, this was no small change; it was jumping off a cliff so to speak. The film medium was still relatively new and on tenuous footing. One misstep and all could come crashing down. For Germany, France, and the other European nations struggling to get films exported abroad, the problems went far beyond microphone placement and minimizing set noise: the coming of sound can be seen as an early instance of American dominance via cultural hegemony, an attempt to assert control over the international entertainment market under the dubious guise of “innovation.” At home, the new sound medium allowed studio heads the freedom to abolish existing star contracts and renegotiate on terms favorable to them, which they did with impunity, getting rid of a lot of squeaky wheels along the way. So no, it wasn’t just about getting to hear Al Jolson sing.
So back to Lang….Okay, a brief digression. In 1952, baritone-sax-great Gerry Mulligan moved to L.A. and started performing at the Haig with some other newcomers, including Chico Hamilton and Chet Baker. Red Norvo had just finished a tenure there and the upright piano had been removed from the stage to accommodate his older style of jazz. Mulligan–partly out of convenience, partly out of curiosity and the desire to push himself into uncharted territory–asked the management to leave it as is. As is evidenced in the earliest surviving demos, without the piano for harmony, this new quartet struggled with odd arrangements and awkward attempts at improvisation. But within weeks, their own unique song structures emerged, a West Coast jazz language built as much around communicative silences and pauses as East Coast bebop’s was all about bombast, speed, and notes-per-second.
M is Lang’s “pianoless quartet” moment, the point at which he struggled with a shifting technical variable–his first sound film–and ultimately envisioned something new, a use for audio beyond the banal conveyance of dialogue. He pioneered how sound could be manipulated to heighten the impact of constant intercutting between scenes, such as M‘s two concurrent discussions on how best to approach the capture of this troublesome child murderer, one happening at the police station, the other among the various “union” representatives of the criminal organizations, with Lang drawing ironic parallels between these two seemingly-opposed entities. In today’s films, such a montage is standard and barely noticeable, even a tired cliche. But in M, it still somehow feels fresh and revolutionary. Similarly, his use of operatic leitmotiv to impress upon the viewer the disintegrating chaos of a killer’s internal psyche is also highly advanced. And above all, the incredible intro sequence, with the girl’s abduction told through the repetitive, increasingly-distressed, off-screen calls from her mother, stretched across a triage of haunting sequential images: a human silhouette on a “Wanted” poster; a child’s rolling ball; a balloon snagged on a power line.
Lang’s oft-repeated tale of fleeing to France in the “dead of the night” after being approached by the Nazis to direct propaganda films has always held more than a whiff of fish story, with its self-aggrandized danger and egocentric escapism, as if his notoriety and position would have had no impact on his fate. Perhaps that is true. But like Pabst, who also declined to serve, I suspect he would have been simply ignored and marginalized. Contrary to his version of events, he did flee with all of his money and resources intact and also made several return trips to Germany from Paris before the outbreak of war.
Although fellow ex-pats Douglas Sirk and Billy Wilder achieved a level of success in the US rivaling Lang’s, it is only the latter whose cinematic greatness is divided equally between the pre and post war eras, with a cinematic canon spanning two languages. Lang would go on to direct some of the biggest and most important film noirs of the Hollywood era, particularly 1953’s The Big Heat, starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame. In M, within Peter Lorre’s complex serial killer, we see the early blueprint for what would become Lang’s trademark motif, and a cornerstone of practically the entire film noir genre: the doppelganger in conflict, the intermarriage of good and evil, and the non-judgmental exposure of the “grey zone” between the two.
Like Gray Gardens, Eat the Document, and Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story, Mädchen in Uniform is one of those rare films whose only availability in the pre-Internet days came through the grainy bootleg copies that film buffs passed around hand to hand. Examples of female directors from the Weimar years are almost non-existent. The first one often discussed is the technically-gifted, politically-clueless Leni Riefenstahl, an actor until 1932’s The Blue Light, her directorial debut. She is of course better known for aggrandizing the Nazi rally at Nuremberg in her Triumph of the Will (1935) and was handpicked by Hitler to accompany the Wehrmacht into the invasion of Poland to get action footage for newsreels; the first “objective” embedded journalist I suppose.
Luckily, for a little leftist balance, we have Leontine Sagan. Sagan started her career with Max Reinhardt, acting and directing for the stage before turning her attention, albeit briefly, to filmmaking. Of the two feature films she directed, Mädchen in Uniform (1931) is her only surviving work, released just at the launch of German sound film; and while not as sonically groundbreaking as Fritz Lang’s M, it nevertheless stands as a great achievement from that difficult transitional period and pushes boundaries in other areas.
Upon release, Mädchen in Uniform was a huge success in Germany and the most acclaimed film by a woman director to date. It also sold well in most countries that chose to import it, although an initial U.S. ban was purportedly only lifted after the direct intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt. Part of its German popularity surely stems from its being an adaptation from a novel, The Child Manuela by Christa Winsloe, which is based on her own boarding school experiences. While it remains unclear how Sagan was brought on board to direct, the film is one of those rare occasions where both director and screenwriter were women, as was virtually the entire cast. Since Sagan had zero experience in filmmaking, the experienced director Carl Froelich was brought on board to supervise the technical aspects and act as a “consultant.” To this day his influence on the film is still a point of considerable debate among film historians, particularly with regard to how much pressure he exerted on the narrative. Feminist film theorists tend to undermine any positive contribution, or at least remain leery of his intentions, while actors like Hertha Thiele later sang his praises and offered belated insights into the onset dynamics between the cast, Sagan, Winsloe, and Froelich.
Looking back on the film’s critical readings, one sees an interesting shift through the decades. In 1931, while the underlying homosexual overtones were noted and commented upon, this was not seen as a particularly important aspect of the story, at least with regard to media attention. Perhaps this had much to do with context, given the over-the-top sexual liberation of Weimar Berlin, where a suppressed love affair between headmaster and pupil would have been quaint compared to Marlene Dietrich’s raunchy performance in The Blue Angel, the film that took the LGBT subculture in Berlin by storm, according to Hertha Thiele. Hence, until the 1960s, scholarship and critical reception focused almost exclusively on the film’s indictment of Prussian militarism and its dehumanizing and destructive influence upon German society, which was by far a greater concern among the nation’s cultural cognoscenti. Thiele says that this was also the narrative angle emphasized by Froelich, despite his later collaboration with the Nazi Party.
But times, and interpretations, change. And today, first and foremost, Mädchen in Uniform is seen as a landmark moment in lesbian filmmaking, not only because of its content, but also because of the team responsible for its creation, with the openly-lesbian Winsloe and somewhat-more-closeted Sagan overseeing all stages of the creative process. It was a fleeting moment not to be repeated by either of them. The following year, Sagan co-directed a watered-down male version for British audiences, Men of Tomorrow, an odd title given its retrograde ideals. She later moved to South Africa and directed for the stage for the next forty years. Winsloe’s end is more tragic: near the end of World War II, she was murdered in a French forest for “associating” with a suspected collaborationist. The four Frenchmen who murdered them said that they thought the two women were Nazi spies; Winsloe, a staunch anti-fascist with Communist leanings, was anything but. All four were acquitted of any crime.
As for the actors, the success of the film resulted in the hugely-popular teaming of Thiele/Wieck being reunited for Carl Froelich’s Anna und Elisabeth (1933), where they again played lovers, albeit ultimately punished for their transgressions at the film’s end. More notably, Thiele had a significant role in Bertolt Brecht’s radically progressive Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World? (1932). Although the Nazis had already banned most of the films in which she starred, Goebbels approached Thiele with an offer to work for the Party’s propaganda machine, to which she famously declared “I do not switch direction every time the wind blows,” and shortly thereafter left for Switzerland, where she remained for many years, working in medicine.
When interviewed shortly before her death in 1984, Thiele said that she still received fan letters weekly, not from her then-current television work in West Germany, but from new generations of lesbians deeply affected by her anguished performance as Manuela from fifty years before.
One has to wonder what actually succeeded among German moviegoers during the 1920s, since most of the films now lauded as classics were so maligned in their day. Amazingly, given its accessibility and continued fame nearly a century on, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror falls into that sad category. It was the first effort by the newly-formed Prana-Film, one of the first “indies” that attempted to compete with the state-sponsored Universum Film AG, or UFA, which enjoyed a virtual monopoly in German film production. But an unexpected intervention by outside parties ensured that Prana-Film’s first release would also be its last.
German-born Murnau himself came from a comfortable life, if harsh and disciplined by today’s standards. Formally trained as an art historian, he abandoned an early painting career after realizing his efforts were, in his own words, “like Raphael without hands.” His time spent as a reconnaissance pilot in the First World War and the death of a close friend altered him considerably, and Murnau, already fragile psychologically and physically, withdrew further into himself. His alienation was not helped by his hidden homosexuality; or, to be more precise, its legal interpretation as defined by Paragraph 175 of the penal code, Germany’s infamous and long-standing law on “unnatural fornication” that equated homosexuality with bestiality. Although there was an increasing grass-roots call for 175’s repeal from 1919-1929, there was a parallel movement for its expansion, which would ultimately come to fruition under the Nazis in 1935. Thus, much of Murnau’s private life, compared to egocentric peers like Fritz Lang, remained shrouded in mystery for many years.
His first project, an anti-war film, never got off the ground due to the overall unwillingness from financial backers (the topic was not broached on German celluloid until its literature ventured there first.) Falling in with other artist friends with connections, his luck improved. Subsequent projects, including an early version of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde starring Conrad Veidt from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, are now sadly lost through a combination of bombs, neglect and nitrate. With 1921’s Schloß Vogelöd (The Haunted Castle), some took notice of his knack for horror, and Prana-Film, formed by filmmakers with an affinity for the occult, approached Murnau with their idea.
Inspired by Hugo Steiner-Prag’s illustrations for Gustav Meyrink’s fantastical novel The Golem (1915), Nosferatu took its design aesthetic from an entirely different source than the cliched, 19th-century Victorian romanticism that so defined the vampire genre of the day. There was nothing suave, debonaire, or attractive about the ratlike vision put forth by Murnau and actor Max Schreck, a then-unknown that, due to his last name meaning “to frighten or terrify” in German, many believed to be a pseudonym for some more prominent actor who wished to remain anonymous. Unlike his peers, Murnau abandoned the elaborate studio sets and filmed on location in parts of Poland and Czechoslovakia, which was virtually unheard of in those days.
It is, of course, all the more ironic and satisfying that what became the quintessential vampire film in the history of cinema is the very one ordered destroyed by the Stoker estate. The film’s producers naively believed that altering the storyline and changing names could circumvent rights claims by Stoker’s widow. The courts didn’t see it that way. At her request, all prints were to be recalled from distribution and destroyed immediately. One print leaked out to the international market and never made its way home; that was the oft-circulated legend anyway. As it turns out, prints surfaced piecemeal for decades and were slowly reconstructed to match Murnau’s production notes, including tinting specifications–many black-and-white German silent films were intended to be screened this way–and mood preferences for the score.
Murnau emigrated to Hollywood and made Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which was nominated for an Academy Award and still believed by many to be his greatest work, despite his disillusionment with the American system. In 1931, he died in a car accident in California, at the age of 42.
At this late stage, the massive gaps in Murnau’s oeuvre will likely never be filled, with fewer and fewer lost films being discovered from the “archives” of broom closets and theater basements. But as a recent jackpot of “lost” John Ford films found in New Zealand shows us, film preservation can often take freakish and unexpected turns.
“Sex was the business of the town. Inside my Berlin hotel, the cafe bar was lined with the higher-priced trollops. The economy girls walked the streets outside. On the corner stood the girls in boots, advertising flagellation. Actors’ agents pimped for the ladies in luxury apartments in the Bavarian Quarter. Race-track touts at the Hoppegarten arranged orgies for groups of sportsmen. The nightclub Eldorado displayed an enticing line of homosexuals dressed as women. At the Maly, there was a choice of feminine or collar-and-tie lesbians. Collective lust roared unashamed at the theater. Just as Wedekind says, ‘They rage there as in a menagerie when the meat appears at the cage.'” — Louise Brooks, “Pabst & Lulu.”
Of all the Weimar films, it is perhaps Pandora’s Box that has undergone the biggest reassessment by film scholars over the past sixty years, going from a much maligned failure upon its 1929 release to one of G.W. Pabst’s essential masterworks today. Much of that has less to do with Pabst than with the enduring and mysterious legacy of its major star, Louise Brooks, an American actor not particularly adept at sticking to the expected playbook of the Hollywood studio heads. One quick read through any of her acerbic essays from later in her life provide plenty of points for possible collision between Brooks and the old-boy studio network. Many women could no doubt navigate it with clenched smiles and gritted teeth, but Kansas-born Brooks, always ready to speak her mind, was not among them. When she got the call from Pabst to come to Berlin, she had little to lose and few bridges left to burn. German film scholar Lotte Eisner tells the story of showing up on the set and seeing Brooks sitting in a chair between takes, reading a book that she assumed to be American pop culture fluff or dime-store romance. Haughtily confronting her, Eisner was embarrassed and shocked to see it was Schopenhauer’s Essays in translation. In her later classic work on Weimar film The Haunted Screen, it was Brooks, not Pabst, that Eisner praised as a genius.
Eisner’s initial hostility should be seen in context. Even before casting was finished, German literati attacked the idea of a base film (film was perceived as inferior to stage and still a novelty at best) derived from Frank Wedekind’s two dramas, Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora, which the film synthesizes into a single narrative. Incorporating elements later adopted by stage Expressionists, Wedekind’s dialogue-driven dramas were highly controversial for their candid, if highly stylized, assault on pious sexual attitudes of the late 19th-century. And when, during the high-profile casting search, German actresses like Marlene Dietrich were passed over for an American, it was the final insult. Berlin reviews were brutal and the film failed miserably.
Problems on the set are legendary. Brooks spoke no German and had to be coached phonetically on all her lines (silent film viewers were excellent lip readers and often complained when lip movements failed to match the dialogue text.) Pabst could only communicate with her in broken English. Alice Roberts, unhappy about playing one of the screen’s first lesbians, requested that Pabst speak seductive French to her from offstage so she could make it through her tango scene with Brooks with her moral universe intact. The veteran actors didn’t hide their hatred of the lead, calling Brooks the “spoiled American” brought in to portray “their beloved German Lulu.” Instead of diffusing these onset tensions, Pabst often worked, in his quiet and erudite manner, to exacerbate them, knowing this would only heighten the intensity of the performances. The tactic, however ethically questionable, worked to perfection. Brooks said she had the bruises on her arms to prove it after several physical scenes.
Today, Brooks’s naturalistic performance and iconic look, with her laissez-faire disposition, black bob and bangs, has come to personify the post-WWI “Jazz Age” mentality, the embodiment of joie de vivre and sexual liberation. In Pandora’s Box, the fact that this impulse leads to the ugly inverse says more about masculine paranoia over the erosion of traditional power balances than the emergence of any feminist ideals. Perhaps it is that disorienting dichotomy–championing the new in one fist while reinforcing the old with the other–that strikes such a continued chord with viewers, as the film gets reinterpreted through the filters of media theory.
Strangely, despite their large age gap, both Pabst and Brooks were at the ends of their careers. Pabst made two incredible sound films–Westfront 1918 (1930) and Kameradschaft (1931)–before fading into obscurity with second-rate costume dramas during the Nazi years, which was thankfully the extent of his collaboration. Brooks was blacklisted after she refused to return to Hollywood and convert her silent performance in The Canary Murder Case into a sound version, another actress ultimately dubbing in her lines. The ensuing smear campaign that her voice did not translate well into sound sealed her fate in the industry. She taught dance lessons for a while before becoming a recluse in her Rochester apartment, only leaving to replenish her library book supply. She wrote extensively during this period and had many articles published in The New Yorker and various film journals, later assembled into the well-received book Lulu in Hollywood. It was Henri Langlois and the exploding French film community of the 1960s that brought Brooks to a new generation, with a big retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise, to which she was invited and treated as royalty by the younger New Wave filmmakers of the day.
On March 10, 1925, Otto Rothstock, a 25-year old dental technician, entered the publishing offices of writer and social activist Hugo Bettauer. As a curious Bettauer watched on, Rothstock calmly locked the door behind him, turned to face the desk, and fired a revolver five times into Bettauer’s chest at point-blank range. Such was the harmonious union between politics and art in Germany’s Weimar Republic.
Okay, in all fairness, Austria. Bettauer was a well-known and publicly-despised left wing journalist and author who had managed to carve out some notoriety for himself via his scathing exposes of the Viennese bourgeoisie, his weekly publication credited with at least one corrupt official’s suicide. He called for legalizing abortions, advocated for married women to retain their maiden names, and railed against existing sexual mores, which he criticized as pious, patriarchal, and out of step with the new spirit of modernity. Rothstock was a budding Nazi, convinced that his impromptu assassination and subsequent surrender (he hung out on the office sofa and waited for the police to arrive) was a public service in the grand name of Austrian nationalism, to rid the state of at least one fly in its ointment. Bettaeur lingered on for a week or so. Rothstock was deemed “insane” and back on the street in 18 months. A small-yet-prescient window into the future.
Although popular in his day and publishing 3-4 novels per year, Bettauer’s literary legacy (if one could call it that, given his almost complete obscurity) rests on two works, both of which were serialized in Austrian newspapers. His most famous, Die Stadt ohne Juden from 1922, or City Without Jews, gained more of a reputation after the war, when it was reassessed as an ominous harbinger of things to come (the use of freight cars strikes a particularly eerie parallel.) In Bettauer’s alternate reality, however, the Viennese citizenry expel all Jews from the city only to realize that, without them, their capital is crumbling and culturally deficient, at which point the mayor welcomes them all back with open arms and much public pageantry. The fact that the author uses this mass expulsion as a comically-improbable extreme to heighten the novel’s satiric impact only reflects the pre-1933 limits many Europeans placed on state-sponsored antisemitism.
But oddly, it was Bettauer’s 1924 Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street) that got him killed: an indictment of the corrupt Viennese establishment dressed up as a murder mystery. Like “crime” writer Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses Don’t They? or communist Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris, Bettauer used the “penny-dreadful” genre as a vehicle to communicate broader universal truths to the masses, to pose uncomfortable questions and shed light on hypocrisies and social inequities. And purportedly, it was this that director and fellow Austrian G.W. Pabst saw in Bettauer’s novel as well.
For his film adaptation, Pabst ditches some of the novel’s more melodramatic elements and puts the transient presence of the “street” front and center, a dark and claustrophobic artery tenuously linking its disparate inhabitants. Pabst’s love of Bertolt Brecht is in evidence, with lives alternately shaped and destroyed by poverty and opportunity, struggles for simple sustenance juxtaposed with a crass, opulent hedonism. Greta Garbo gets her big non-Swedish break here, quickly snatched up by Hollywood shortly after the film’s release and hitting it big internationally. Even more impressive is the performance of screen veteran Asta Nielsen, who comes across as hauntingly ethereal in scenes, part mousy librarian, part powdered drag queen. Werner Krauss, who plays the butcher, is better known for being the sadistic doctor in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. His only requirement of Pabst was that his dog get good screen time as well. But of everyone, it’s the multi-faceted protopunk genius of dancer/actor Valeska Gert, as the owner of the brothel, that steals the show.
Very few of the silent films now considered masterpieces of the German Weimar era have the difficult history of The Joyless Street. Granted, it was not uncommon for international silent films to suffer at the hands of foreign editors. With no sound synchronization to worry about, editors and projectionists could (and did) butcher at will, deleting entire sections, rewriting intertitle cards between shots, or whatever was needed to “sanitize” a film and get it past local censors. In a couple of snips, brothels became orphanages and sex workers became volunteers for the Salvation Army (to cite two German examples, the latter from another Pabst film). The relative completeness of its German counterparts—Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Der Golem—reflects the fact that, much like today, horror is tolerated better than sex in the U.S. market, particularly in the 1920s when cinema was still a burgeoning industry and hypersensitive to any critiques of its morality. So a cheery Teutonic rumination on starvation, sexual degradation, and economic collapse was sure to bring the x-acto knives out in force. Almost immediately, 150 minutes became anywhere from 120 to 90 to 57. Some reviewers of the day could not even piece together the basic narrative. A second obstacle faced by the restorers was the lack of any existing intertitles in the original German. For the purposes of this restoration, Filmarchiv Austria painstakingly recreated these using a combination of a 1926 censorship report, an early draft of the shooting script, and foreign print intertitles retranslated back into German.
The result: as close to the original vision as we will ever see, and an incredible restoration achievement over ten years in the making.
On an October night in 1913, Czech poet Hans Janowitz was walking through Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn, looking for a girl “whose beauty and manner attracted him.” He followed her laugh into an adjacent park, where she vanished into the shrubbery with a man. The laugh abruptly stopped. Unnerved, Janowitz hung around and finally saw the shadow of a man emerge, his face like an “average bourgeois” as he passed. The headlines next morning read “Horrible sex crime on the Holstenwall!” Janowitz attended the girl’s funeral, convinced that he had witnessed the crime; and there he locked eyes again with the “average bourgeois,” who seemed to recognize him.
This incident served as the inspiration for Janowitz’s script, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, albeit abstracted through the prism of a shattered Imperialist Germany. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that German film starts with 1919’s Caligari, and while the term “Expressionism” is often applied loosely to all films from the period, Caligari is one of a handful that plays by the aesthetic rules of that movement, with its jagged set design, chiaroscuro lighting, and stilted, arrhythmic performances. The cinematic German Expressionists (the movement was already underway in drama and art) were not concerned with what they considered mundane reflections on nature or the recording of simple facts. It wasn’t destruction, death and totalitarianism they wanted to expose but the interior visions these things provoke, filtered through the senses and refracted back as a more accurate representation of human experience. Mind giving form to matter, not the other way around — the driving creative force of the writers and set designers.
But mind giving form to money was what the producers wanted. They brought in director Fritz Lang to help make the surreal story more palatable (and exportable) but, due to other commitments, he had to drop out of the project early on. Despite his short tenure, Lang’s one recommendation infuriated the writers by bookending the narrative with “lunatic asylum” segments that they felt undermined the script’s anti-authoritarian message. Thus, the murderous, sleepwalking “everyman” manipulated and controlled by the totalitarian master became a deus ex machina by a guy in a straight jacket. Both the producers and new-director Robert Weine loved the idea and felt it would give Caligari more international appeal, putting the upstart German film industry on the map.
Other events helped to do that. And after Hitler and what the West perceived as the complete acquiescence of the German citizenry to Nazi will, the film’s subtext was so undeniably clear that the framing device hardly mattered anymore. Instead of the first classic horror film, Caligari became a huge unheeded warning cry that things were still amiss in the collective German psyche, that the servant /master game was still brewing behind the scenes in the Weimar Republic, or so thought expatriates like Siegfried Kracauer, whose 1947 study From Caligari To Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film set the scholarly debate framework for decades to come, until feminist film theory began to challenge some of those sacrosanct ideas. The film’s reputation continued to grow. Over the decades, it became an art house perennial, the iconic image of somnambulist Conrad Veidt (later the lead Nazi in Casablanca) cropping up on album covers, advertisements, and t-shirts. Of all the Weimar era films, only Lang’s Metropolis can claim such a lasting impact on our popular culture.
[NOTE: Written in 1998 as graduate project in Book History. Several editions have been published since which are not covered below. This version is missing the bibliography.]
“American books constitute packages and I imagine that the same rules which apply to pill boxes and canned food must apply to books…We have three kinds of packages for books–those which attract as flowers attract insects, those which establish their profundity with stern dull covers (since profundity is generally believed to be dull), and finally, those which by illustrations on their jackets indicate or lie about its contents. All of it is a fly catching process.” — John Steinbeck, in an open letter to the Trade Book Clinic, 1951
“Where shall I begin my tale? This one has neither beginning nor end, but only a perpetual unfolding, a multi-petaled blossom of strange botany.” — Endore’s Narrator, The Werewolf of Paris
Perhaps the above quotes best define the evolution of the novel I am about to discuss. Endore’s description of his work–or rather, his narrator’s description of the discarded manuscript he happens across–as a “multi-petaled blossom of strange botany” is no exaggeration; and likewise, Steinbeck’s cynical analogy between readers and insects is not so off the mark considering the tactics the publishers used to make this “strange botany” marketable, tactics which, depending on the audience and the decade, utilized either gaudy sensationalism, dull profundity, or a combination of the two. Given the dichotomy often taking place between text and paratext, it should come as no surprise that the work was destined for obscurity, being neither “Horror” nor “Literature”, comprised of both fiction and nonfiction. This inconsequentially is only exacerbated by the historical separation between high-culture and low-culture that has been synonymous with American literary scholarship in the 20th century. Nevertheless, since its initial publication in the early 1930s, the text has survived, primarily due to the ease with which it fit into the packaging strategies of the pocket paperback presses during and after the Second World War. In the following analysis, I will trace this evolution as it pertains to the paratexts, both authorial and publisher’s.
Brief mention should be made here of the nomenclature created by scholars in order to study those “outer” elements of a text. Philippe Lejeune, in his Le Pacte autobiographique, defines these paratextual elements as “a fringe of a printed text which in reality controls one’s whole reading of a text.” This idea was further elaborated on by French writer Gerard Genette in his study Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation: “The ways and means of the paratext change continually, depending upon period, culture, genre, author, work, and editon, with varying degrees of pressure.” The paratext, then, can be divided into two areas: the peritext–those elements directly, or physically, linked to the book itself, such as preface, postface, blurbs, synopses, illustrations, dustjacket design, etc.; and the epitext–those elements detached from the physicality of the text but which nevertheless manipulate the reader’s interaction with, and interpretation of, a given text, such as reviews, advertisements, personal correspondence, word-of-mouth gossip, etc. Using these concepts, I will examine the ways in which The Werewolf of Paris changed under these degrees of pressure and how the work’s various manifestations served to manipulate audience interpretation of text.
A Communist Werewolf Novel
With the exception of its modernist intro that establishes a sort of meta-narrative, Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris is a novel set in mid-19th Century France, from around 1850 through the Siege of Paris, and culminating in the Commune uprising of 1871. The principal characters are Bertrand Caillet (the werewolf) and Aymer Galliez (Bertrand’s “uncle”, though they are unrelated), with the plot spending more time on the latter than the former. It can be seen as both a parody of 19th Century European literature (including fake footnotes) and an extension of the new American simplicity visible in the writings of socialist peers like John Dos Passos. The work’s greatness lies in its technique of juxtaposing the lesser inhumanity of the werewolf against the greater inhumanity of industrialized capitalism, matter-of-factly placing Bertrand Caillet’s handful of “feedings” alongside the butchery and mass starvation of the Franco-Prussian War and the slaughter that followed, when the Parisian working classes and National Guard formed an alliance calling itself the Commune and attempted to oust the failed French bourgeoisie. The Communards maintained control of the Parisian government for about ten days, but when the military returned home from the front, they sided with the rich; and in only a week of street fighting, 20,000 men, women, and children of the Commune were murdered by governmental forces, and another 300,000 arrested. In both spirit and organizational zeal, it was to serve as the model for working class insurrections that followed, most importantly the Russian Bolsheviks.
Even by 1933 standards, the novel isn’t remotely horrifying in a conventional sense, as its clearly more concerned with social iniquities and the horrors mankind inflicts upon itself. Not that Endore uses the genre as an empty platform for an overt political message, for there are indeed reports from the 19th Century (most notable in Sabine Baring-Gould’s 1865 treatise The Book of Werewolves: Being an Account of a Terrible Superstition) that tell of a 1st Infantry junior officer named Bertrand, who was accused of desecrating Parisian graveyards and leaving “bodies lying about the tombs in fragments”. Initially the crime was so savage they assumed the perpetrator to be a “wild beast’, hence the author’s portrayal of Bertrand as a lycanthrope. Therefore, the novel’s strengths today lie in its esoteric information on French history and social mores; or, as one horror critic put it, Endore’s “annoying tendency to de-emphasize the werewolf” in favor of “historical digressions” that prevent a “straight-forward, action-packed narrative” (Ball, 5). On the contrary this tendency is its greatest asset, for within these digressions, class injustices are laid bare: the carriage driver who is wrongly convicted, belittled for his legal ignorance by a domineering judge; the foreclosing bankers, who sell off forests to clear-cutters who ruin the topsoil for generations; the selling of zoo animals to enterprising butchers, who offer rich Parisians exotic meats like ostrich, dingo, tapir, and kangaroo; and how, in the end, even Castor and Pollux, the two famous resident elephants, were finally sold to the Jocky Club’s chef for 27,000 francs; or how the Imperial Zoological Society convened to discuss new and affordable cuisine alternatives for the bourgeoisie (“Venison ragout of rats”, “Jugged cat with mushrooms”, “Consommé of horse with millet’), with the dinner ending in the creation of a public-relations campaign entitled “The Rat is Good Food!”
The novel’s ironic sense of humor set it apart from other prior works in the genre, such as Alexandre Dumas’ The Wolf-Leader (1857), George W. M. Reynolds’ Wagner: the Wehr-wolf (1846-47), and H. Warner Munn’s The Werewolf of Ponkert (1925), all of which suffered from an excess of Victorian romanticism, overblown sensationalism, or the odd plot conventions (climax upon climax) of an extended serialized piece of fiction. The Werewolf of Paris becomes the first modern commercially and critically successful attempt in the genre, a “great peak in a sea of mediocrity” (Copper, 138). It also set a new standard for an upcoming generation of leftist horror writers, including Psycho author Robert Bloch, who wrote the foreword to Citadel’s 1992 reissue; and Bloch, unlike many, first and foremost praises the work’s social commentary instead of deriding it as preachy.
Farrar & Rinehart initially published The Werewolf of Paris in March of 1933, with a run of five printings; three in March and two in April. Endore allegedly sold the manuscript outright to Farrar & Rinehart for a total payment of $750, although this could be apocryphal. Since Endore’s previous novel, The Man From Limbo, published by the same house in 1932, had sold poorly, such negotiations are not unlikely given the economic insecurities of the Great Depression. Farrar & Rinehart had achieved moderate success with Endore’s biography of Joan of Arc, The Sword of God: Jeanne D’arc (1931), as well as his translation of German philosopher Max Picard’s The Human Face (1930). Still, for reasons unknown–possibly because the above rumor is true, possibly due to its controversial content–Farrar & Rinehart did not publish Babouk (Vanguard, 1934; the author’s follow-up to Paris), a novel dealing with the famous slave revolt against French imperialists in Saint Domingue, present-day Haiti. Babouk was a critical success but a commercial disaster, and soon after its publication Endore found himself in Hollywood, earning a living as a screenwriter. The success of The Werewolf of Paris was a curse of sorts. It effectively pigeonholed Endore, up until the mid-1950s, as a horror writer; and as a result, most of his initial script assignments contained a supernatural slant. With the rise of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he was blacklisted due to his political views, thus facilitating his return to writing, where he had success in 1956 with Simon & Schuster’s publication of King of Paris, a biography of Alexandre Dumas. He continued with biographical novels on Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade, Voltaire! Voltaire! (S&S, 1961) and Satan’s Saint (Crown, 1965) respectively. He died in 1970.
Like several of his contemporaries–one being Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Simon & Schuster, 1935), an archetypal example of the crime novel with an existentialist, anti-capitalist subtext–Endore manipulated genre in a way that was both entertaining and political; and like McCoy, who was forever stamped with the “hardboiled” label, so Endore would be associated with the “school of the macabre” throughout his lifetime. In a sense, this association was unavoidable considering the sheer number of pocket/pulp publications of The Werewolf of Paris between Farrar & Rinehart’s clothbound original in 1933 and Citadel’s trade edition in 1992. Within this sixty-year gap, its physicality went through drastic changes that altered the ways in which readers interacted with the text: certain facets of the novel are exaggerated, others ignored, many deliberately distorted, in order to appeal to the expectations of a given publisher’s target market.
Revolution and Man-As-Animal
In their paratexts, the initial publications of The Werewolf of Paris, both the clothbound Farrar & Rinehart original (1933) and Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint (1934), set themselves apart from subsequent editions in a variety of ways; these include the placement of the work within a historical context, an emphasis on mass social/political instability (as opposed to a latter preoccupation with the Individual, or Individual vs. Victim), and, to a lesser extent, the depiction of the classical Western European lycanthrope known as loup-garou in France, lupo mannaro in Italy, etc. In addition, they are the sole examples of the work as it was designed to appeal to an educated, adult-oriented market.
Upon its release, The Werewolf of Paris was a tremendous success for the newly-founded house of Farrar & Rinehart, who, along with Simon & Schuster, was looking to publish “young authors” and works deemed too controversial by more traditional publishers. Perhaps some of this success can be attributed to the ambiguous role of reading in Depression-era America and how the criteria for selection differed between groups. According to data collected by the Social Science Research Council in 1937, “most men are divided in their allegiance to ‘all other’ magazines, for the most part technical, local, fraternal, or ‘high-brow’, as against detective and adventure stories” while “women prefer “parents’ and women’s magazines and movie, love, and radio” (Waples, 154). The study goes on to say that “heavy readers in modern society are those with little else to do–students, teachers, some housewives, editors, writers, and a few persons of leisure” (Waples, 185).
Obviously one must not assign too much weight to this study, especially in light of the fact that Waples draws a distinction between “an increase in the proportion of good fiction books to ‘other’ fiction books” in his analysis (Waples, 154). Nevertheless, this elitist, lowbrow/highbrow attitude exemplifies the cultural biases inherent in many educated sectors of society against genre fiction that worked on the sensibilities of the “lay” reader, namely, romance, mystery, horror, and westerns; or, as the report’s authors describe them, “the bloodthirsty adventure story and the erotic novel”; incidentally, it is interesting to note that some of the language incorporated in the SSRC report is not unlike some of the milder pulp blurbs seen in future pulp paratexts, such as the assertion that “most thrill seekers want their sensations raw” and “erotic novels are the best vehicles for thrills delivered wholesale” (Waples, 197). It was further asserted that the “stories of wild adventure” served to “compensate the dreariness of daily living” associated with the hardships of the Great Depression, a sentiment reinforced by the parallel success of the “escapist” motion pictures of the time. The SSRC’s report concludes: “Steady consumers of ‘Westerns’ today have been found largely among men of all ages with less than high school education. Their mental maturity is about that of a normal ten-year-old boy, who has not yet developed an interest in sex. Steady consumers of pornographic prints are but slightly more advanced. Both groups predominate among those who suffered most during depression” (Waples, 197). Since they are all believed to fulfill the same escapist function in the face of social disparity, one can safely extrapolate this same attitude to other so-called “sensationalist” or “titillating” genres as well.
Despite its success, there is ample evidence embedded in the paratext that The Werewolf of Paris was expected to appeal to this type of “underdeveloped” horror reader, hence the scarcity of its appearance in periodicals reviewing “educated” literature. Other Farrar & Rinehart titles from the same year, such as Anthony Adverse and Always A Grand Duke, warrant a considerable amount of advertising space in The New York Times Book Review, The Saturday Review of Books, and The New York Herald Tribune Books supplement, but The Werewolf of Paris is given a marginal amount of attention, often just a single ad upon the week of its release. At first glance, this gives the impression that, although they wouldn’t mind making a few bucks off of the book as a curio for fringe types and immature perverts (to paraphrase Waples), they do not exactly want to broadcast its publication to the literary establishment at large. Oddly enough, since this lack of promotion continues long after rave reviews and multiple printings, the publisher’s reluctance seems neither profit-driven nor out of fear of critical ridicule; on the contrary, maybe Farrar & Rinehart knew that one of the cheapest and most effective forms of promotion for a novel such as this was word-of-mouth, that “subversive” texts do not promote themselves through educated channels of communication and rely instead on the “fly catching process” bemoaned by Steinbeck, a process which places top priority on an eye-engaging design that will attract the reading public (Gerard Genette’s defines this public as not only the sum of actual readers, but also those who buy, but do not necessarily read, the book.)
The montage on the first editon dustjacket is a visually stunning mash-up, with original illustrations synthesized into a piece of well-known medieval art, all compartmentalized and divided by an L-shaped banner containing the title. De Koven, the designer as credited, created images of events occurring in the novel, a technique typically avoided in the pocket formats of the 1950s and 1960s, where innuendo reigned supreme. These representative illustrations are not, however, displayed in any position of prominence but are instead relegated to the corners and margins of the design. In fact, there are only three images of the traditional loup-garou: two images of wolves and one anthropomorphic transformation scene in the lower left corner. Given this, apart from the “catchpenny” title, there would be no reason for the reader to consider this a text on lycanthropy. If anything, one would assume the work dealt with revolution, medievalism, or the Black Plague. The painting used, Pieter Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death (1562), covers roughly two-thirds of the jacket, stretching across the front, the spine, and the back. The carnage is graphic: a horse-drawn cart with skulls driven by skeletons; emaciated dogs looming over discarded children; the dead and dying captured within nets while skeletons steal gold coins from overturned barrels, which becomes an interesting example of symbolic greed ignored by subsequent designers. This gruesome scene segues into another at the center of the spine, with the back portion of the painting showing an army of skeletons massacring a crowd of people, immediately conjuring associations with the Black Death and, if one looks closer and notices the crucifix-embossed shields used by the skeletons, the Crusades. Brueghel the Elder is often compared to Hieronymous Bosch, and the composition and color choices reflected in The Triumph of Death closely mirror the third triptych of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
One original aspect of F&R’s design, when compared to subsequent editions, was the choice to ground the novel visually within a historical context by emphasizing the brutality of revolution and war, not the evils (usually sexualized) of the protagonist. Here, the focus is on the government’s violent suppression of the Commune: the Goya-esque execution scene, the burning skyline, the mob and the crumbling of classical columns, etc. Since the execution scene is the only one of these incidents directly referenced in the text, these illustrations serve to create an atmosphere rather than provide graphic reproductions of actions occurring in the book, an approach that does not reveal too much of the plot for the reader. One only comes away with the impression of a collapsing authority, the attempted overthrow of the State, the blurring between man and animal. This “man as animal” motif is emphasized throughout the text, focusing on psychological duality as opposed to physiological metamorphosis. This paratextual emphasis, more philosophically centered than the cinematic archetypes of the pocket era, visually supplements Endore’s tacit question: Who is more savage, man or werewolf? After Farrar & Rinehart in 1933, this question vanishes from the paratexts, with minor exceptions, until Citadel in 1992.
On the dustjacket’s end-flaps, the eye is immediately drawn to the bold sans-serif type stating “Fourth Large Printing In Ten Days”, an unusual end-flap feature since printing information is normally relegated to the verso of the title page. The decision to include it so prominently, along with a duration of time, strikes me as a device to imply that volumes are flying off booksellers’ shelves quicker than the publisher can print them (this marketing technique was common with Farrar & Rinehart in the beginning, as many of their advertisements in The New York Times Book Review include such bylines.) Immediately underneath this, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is mentioned: “Dracula was a vampire–but Bertrand was a werewolf!” What significance this is supposed to have, if any, apart from associating this text to the former, is unclear. This headline serves as an introduction to a succinct, not-overly-sensationalistic synopsis of the plot, describing Bertrand Callais as “a creature from the hideous depths of demonology”, a line that sounds quite bland compared to the later pulps’ penchant for “flesh-torn corpses” and women “whose bloody wounds were drained by the lips of a man-wolf!”
A series of excerpts from critical reviews fill out the remainder of the end-flaps, including quotes from highly-respected literary sources The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Herald Tribune, and The Saturday Review of Books. I will discuss these in-depth when covering the epitext, but some mention of their basic function should be made here. The publisher manages to squeeze in two more Dracula references via blurbs from The New Yorker (“Mr. Endore has boldly gone after the overrated scalps of Dracula and Huysman’s Las Bas…”) and The Saturday Review (“…If the story of a mere vampire can attain the large popularity attendant on Dracula, Mr. Endore’s record of helpless, wanton wolvery should win a tremendous audience”), both of which assert the book’s similarity, if not superiority, to Stoker’s work. This seems an early instance of what will become a standard marketing tactic in the successive pocket-book paratexts, namely, the publisher’s attempt to form an association in the reader’s/buyer’s mind with cinematic conventions rather than literary ones. Farrar & Rinehart, however, are much more subtle in their evocation of Universal Studio’s tremendously-successful Dracula from 1931 than are the pulp presses, who shamelessly incorporate the iconography of film in order to appeal to their target audiences. This difference in audience, and the lack of a cinematic equivalent to lycanthropy, prevents such marketing tactics from occurring in 1933, a void that will be filled to capacity after the postwar paperback explosion.
The non-Dracula reviews, all relegated to the rear end-flap, vary with regard to their content. For example, The Herald Tribune comments on the text’s philosophical leanings and assumes the target audience’s grasp on European history (“…Builds the medieval legend of the werewolf into a story of Paris in the bloody days of the Commune…Reaches a crescendo of philosophic horror.”) Conversely, World Telegram’s tone is silly and condescending, showing the degree of literary seriousness allocated to lowly genre fiction by the critics (“Alexander Woollcott [writer of New Yorker review] is all a-quiver at this yarn…Brrrrrr–werewolves!”) The publisher’s decision to include a personal mention of Woollcott in the excerpt is interesting, and it clearly indicates an expected degree of familiarity on the part of the reader, who would be expected to understand and participate in this in-joke between literary colleagues.
The final excerpt, from The New York Times Book Review–“The reader who wishes to sup full of horrors will find enough of them in this extremely gory tale”–is perhaps the most significant, as it will be handed down from edition to edition with little to no revision, even appearing prominently on Ace’s front cover in 1962, some thirty years later. In fact, almost all of these reviews will be found scattered piecemeal throughout future pulp paratexts, seldom credited and in various states of abridgement, but typically forming the body of the blurbs themselves. In subsequent editions, it should be noted, the names of individual critics will no longer be included in the recycled reviews, but only the names of their parent publications.
Farrar & Rinehart’s interior peritext introduces elements that will later be condensed and edited in much the same fashion as the critical excerpts. Seldom will another publisher allot such breathing space to the text, donating an entire page to the epigraph, the dedication, and the half-title. The generosity is short lived, for Grosset & Dunlap’s 1935 budget reprint (identical in most respects to the original) introduces the traditional “If you liked this book, then…” section, which I will discuss momentarily. What this original edition does use, however, is the “Books by Guy Endore” device on the verso of the half-title. Four works are listed: Casanova: His Known and Unknown Life, The Man From Limbo, The Sword of God: Jeanne D’arc, and The Werewolf of Paris, all of which, with the exception of Casanova (John Day, 1929), were published previously by Farrar & Rinehart. Although this paratextual device will reappear later, with several additions, its impact here is quite different, as it reinforces impressions of the work’s historical origins by associating it with factual biographies of Casanova and Joan of Arc. Therefore, one would infer by this list, the critical mention of the Siege of Paris, and from the revolutionary images on the dustjacket, that the text has some basis in historical truth.
These historical inferences are further substantiated by Endore’s selection of an epigraph:
These creatures live onely without meats;
The Chameleon by the Air,
The Want or Mole, by the Earth,
The Sea-Herring by the Water,
The Salamander by the Fire,
Unto which may be added the Dormouse, which lives partly by sleep,
And the Werewolf, whose food is night, winter and death.
(AN OLD SAYING)
This is located in its traditional location, that is, the first right-hand page after the dedication but before the introduction. Of the four epigraphical functions outlined by Genette in Paratexts, Endore’s acts primarily as a commentary on the text, as opposed to a commentary on the title, which is “catchpenny” and self-evident enough. The occasional use of the epigraph as a sign of culture, or, as Genette says, a “password of intellectuality”, does not seem to apply here since the saying’s author remains anonymous. One could argue that this lack of attribution could derive from the fact that Endore himself created it especially for the text, as he did the fictional footnotes.
One interesting note concerning the book’s cloth boards: at the beginning of the 20th century, yellow covers were synonymous with licentious French literature; so, in addition to matching the red and yellow color scheme used on the jacket, the yellow boards could also be interpreted as an indicator of content, or as an ironic twist on this color/content association. The remainder of the book’s construction shows signs of Great Depression cost-cutting: the stitching used in the sewn binding is highly acidic and burning through the signatures in places; the paper quality, though far superior than that used for pulp publications, is still dingy and coarse. While many would criticize these inferior materials from a preservationist standpoint, they nevertheless possess an aesthetic which only adds to the archaic, ominous ambience of the work, a work whose storyline is–appropriately enough–structured around the retrieval of a manuscript from a Parisian rubbish pile.
Enter Budget Line
These same qualities carry over into Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint edition in early 1935, which consisted of two printings, one in February, the other in March. Since this printing is not dissimilar to Farrar & Rinehart’s initial trade run, I will not dwell on it extensively here; however, several paratextual modifications warrant mention. First, the book is ¾” smaller than its predecessor, with no adjustments or reductions made for typography or dustjacket design. This results in reduced margins and truncated illustrations on the jacket, with the ¾” divided evenly between top and bottom. This cost-saving measure results in the deletion of designer De Koven’s signature, an oversight that would be of importance if one could actually make out the events occurring on the hideously-reproduced jacket; everything is so dark, grainy, and faded that only those few scenes with high tonal contrast can be deciphered, thus sacrificing, in the reproduction process, not only the intricacies of the artwork, but also the vital information relayed to the reader through these illustrations.
Second, although the jacket’s illustration is (in theory) identical, the end-flaps have been altered to suit this new printing’s audience, which is, judging by some paratextual hints, both the horror lover and the romance reader. One major difference is the publisher’s synthesizing of the critical reviews into a single blurb, with only the New York Times Book Review’s (now attributed to simply the New York Times) used in full. Indeed, the “sup full of horrors” quote takes precedence over the others in less than a year; and although others will resurface, this review perseveres as the authoritative opinion for decades. The amalgamated quotes retain some of the language (“Commune”, “gory days of the siege”), but apparently those deemed too wordy for the bargain printing’s target market are deleted (“phosphorescent”, “ensanguined”). Along these same lines, which could be argued as a “dumbing down” of the text, the single quote that acknowledged and praised the work’s “philosophical crescendo” has been removed, thus impressing upon the reader that the text is nothing more than the tale of a “man by day, ravenous beast by night”, another soon-to-be archetypal, paratextual line that introduces sexual overtones into the publisher’s marketing strategy.
Another departure between the original edition and Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint is an increased emphasis on Dracula, both explicit (Bram Stoker’s) and implicit (Universal Studios’). Only one of Farrar & Rinehart’s more subtle allusions is duplicated in toto for this edition: the “Dracula was a vampire…” headline remains in its prominent position underneath the title on the front-end flap. The publishers, however, obviously feel this reference to be insufficient, so an advertisement for Dracula fills the rear-end flap, with, oddly enough, absolutely no emphasis placed upon the Grosset & Dunlap printing of that work. This is an interesting paratextual device, and I believe it to be an early forerunner of what will become the predominant marketing strategy for this book in the postwar era, namely, the suggestive association of the text with its cinematic counterpart, not to be confused with the “novelization” of a film. The same 1937 Social Science Research Council study I mentioned earlier takes note of this fact, reporting that “changes in popularity of authors like Buck, Dickens, Dumas, Tarkington, and Wells are largely explained either by the filming of their novels or by the date of a recent bestseller” (Waples, 177). Granted, when set against the shameless incorporation of film iconography inherent in the pocket editions, these allusions seem mild; but nevertheless, without the enormous success of Universal Studios’ Dracula in 1931, I seriously doubt the publishers would have devoted an entire end-flap to the work without at least marketing its own edition of the book, as they do so blatantly in the posterior peritext.
Judging from other parts of its peritext, it is a safe assumption that Grosset & Dunlap appealed, at least in this instance, to working-class women readers. On the recto and verso of the page preceding the rear flyleaf are advertisements directed at this audience. The recto, headlined “Romances of the Modern Girl”, offers “a list of books by well known writers of romance stories for the modern girl”, such as Puppy Love, Blonde Trouble, Sinless Sin, and Marriage a la Mode. The verso is more specialized, restricting itself to “Novels of Vida Hurst”, all of which are listed on the previous page, albeit without synopses. These Vida Hurst synopses are relatively uniform in their romanticism, with many emphasizing sacrificial love (“Here is the absorbing story of a girl’s battle for a love she considers dearer than life–a story thousands of girls will weep over as their own experience”), the dangers of diverting from convention (“The story of a girl who thought love more powerful than society–more important even than marriage”), and plenty of love-conquers-all idealism; I will, however, leave the interpretation of Second Hand Lover’s description that “Janice found there were no thrilling men out of bondage” to the reader’s imagination.
In this context, the advertisement for Dracula on the rear end-flap exacerbates the atmosphere of romanticism through its use of language, bringing to mind the sensual undertones of the text, “the mystery of its unfolding and the suspense of its climax”, as opposed to the horror associations one might conclude if viewing the advertisement singly, or in conjunction with the allusive headline on the front end-flap. Thus, this exemplifies how paratextual meaning can change when parts of the peritext are combined, or separated, from one another. One gets the impression from such double meanings that the publisher put a great deal of thought into their marketing strategies, incorporating techniques designed to attract several types of “insects”, depending upon both the intake, and the order of intake, of these paratextual devices.
In many ways, Pocket Books’ 1941 publication of The Werewolf of Paris is a paratextual milestone, exhibiting unique characteristics that do not appear again in any subsequent edition of the novel. It is an important transitional link in studying the publishers’ shifting emphasis from inhuman behavior by men acting as if possessed by wolves to the straightforward, less ambiguous one-werewolf/one-victim motif that will dominate the paratexts for more than thirty years. Thus, while adhering to the classical European conception of le loup-garou, Pocket Books simultaneously ushers in the novel’s pulp era, setting new standards for its paratext that will be adopted and modified in a variety of ways by the postwar presses, all of which eliminate the attention to detail so prevalent in this edition.
Given the origins of Pocket Books, this paratextual attention to detail is evidently intended to canonize the text itself. Pocket Books, founded in 1939 by Robert De Graff, was the first American mass-market paperback company to strike a balance between production and profits, a success due primarily to a combination of timeliness, clever marketing, and De Graff’s altruistic ideals of inexpensive literary salvation for the masses. Its only serious predecessor had been Modern Age Books in the mid-1930s, who, due to mismanagement, esoteric titles, and lackluster marketing, was unable to achieve commercial success. To reduce overhead, De Graff instituted the incongruously-named “perfect binding” (a cold glue process previously implemented by Penguin in the UK) and the Perma-Gloss lamination technique for covers. He also reduced the size of the format by a 1/2 -inch vertically, borrowed the original plates whenever possible, and increased print runs to ten times that of the typical cloth run (Davis, 39). De Graff’s selection process consisted of scouring the The New York Times Book Review and buying up the rights to as many bestsellers as possible, no doubt the method used to acquire The Werewolf of Paris.
Pocket Books’ success was immediate, and this phenomenal growth rate had much to do with their magazine/newsstand distribution model, which also included department stores and pharmacies. By the Spring of 1941, total sales had reached 8.5 million units, with Lost Horizon, Wuthering Heights, and The Good Earth topping the list (Davis, 43). New titles were announced in clusters of fifty, and it is within this second series, from 50-100, that Paris makes its paperback debut, at #97.
Unfortunately, later that same year, Endore’s novel, along with Appointment in Samarra, became the first casualty of paperback censorship due to complaints from readers and distributors alike (Davis, 43). The exact motivations behind this decision are difficult to ascertain, although it’s safe to say that it probably has something to do with the sexual relations between the priest and the young servant girl, i.e. the protagonist’s mother and father. Pocket’s quick compliance to pull the title should come as no surprise since they were an aspiring, young press unwilling to spark any controversy at this early stage in the game, before they had solidified their place in the publishing industry. First and foremost, it is safe to assume that, although Pocket’s target market was the literary-minded middle and lower classes “on the go”, they undoubtedly failed to take into consideration the fact that adolescent could easily obtain these books due to their 25-cent price point and, for those who couldn’t afford it, their “pocketable” size. This oversight was only exacerbated by the broad dissemination of Pocket paperbacks via magazine/newspaper channels of distribution, as opposed to trade hardbacks’ reliance on booksellers. All of these factors could have contributed to De Graff’s decision to delete the title from the company’s catalog. Since no reports of censorship surround the original 1933 release, whose content was identical, one may conclude that this ease of accessibility for the young–and their exposure to this “unholy union”– was the primary cause for the public outcry.
De Graff’s “altruistic” desire to provide fine literature at reasonable prices is reflected in his selection of the first one-hundred Pocket releases, which range from previously canonized classics to more modern authors, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck; in fact, it is not unlike the roster of clothbound reprint publishers then carving out their own niche, like Modern Library or Triangle Books, with perhaps a few more classical erudite titles thrown in to round things out. However, the buying public, and therefore the distributors, did not share in De Graff’s enthusiasm concerning the canonization of Endore’s novel, making it very clear that works containing such licentious and vulgar subject matter would not be allowed to enter the paperback pantheon alongside the likes of Shakespeare and Twain.
Although it does not overtly make any claims at canonization, as Triangle does two years later, Pocket’s design nonetheless reflects this adult-oriented target market, through both its exterior, and, even moreso, its interior peritext. The exterior contains visual references to both historical context and the loup-garou, and also utilizes straightforward language that is more concerned with the accurate representation of content as opposed to the deceptive sensationalism. Notre Dame, the visual cue used to convey setting, is famous enough to be recognized by the average reader, in lieu of the Eiffel Tower’s anachronistic absence. This edition marks not only the final concrete visual example indicating location, but also the last representation of the loup-garou, and the sole example of this archetype as an illustrative centerpiece. The victim makes its debut here as well (one of the rare instances on which a man fulfills this role), pinned under the foot/paw of the predator. This configuration (victor on top, victim on bottom) will be reintroduced into Avon’s 1951 edition, with an added emphasis on sexual dominance which I will discuss momentarily.
The second important contribution to the exterior peritext is the inclusion of an extended synopsis on the back cover, written in a fashion that is both a throwback to the mid-1930’s paratext and a departure towards the sensationalist blurbs used to sell the mass-market manifestations. “The two most exciting legends of the human race are the Vampire Legend and the Werewolf Legend” is an obvious comparison to Dracula somewhat exhausted by earlier hardbacks. However, other uses of language are interesting. For example, the publisher attributes the quality of the novel itself to Endore’s research efforts (“…and now, after a thorough research of the werewolf legend through the ages, Guy Endore has written a horror story to stand beside Dracula”), in addition to mentioning dates for the Prussian siege and the Communards’ insurrection (“…during the days of the siege of 1870 and the Commune…”). Perhaps one factor leading to its eventual censorship was the succinct manner in which the synopsis spoke of the relationship between “a peasant girl and a priest”, obviously unaware of the controversy this may cause in conjunction with the availability of the cheaper format; ironically, they decline to elaborate on the specificity of what they describe as the “grotesque and unmistakable sign of the werewolf”, which is later spelled out in no uncertain terms by several sexually-laden pulp editions.
Even more so than the exterior, Pocket’s interior peritext contains several unusual devices, all of which function primarily as canonical tools. The first can be found on the verso of the half-title and the recto of the title page, where Pocket Books Edition (on the verso) and The Werewolf of Paris (on the recto) are printed in a similar typeface and enclosed within identical borders, thus giving the impression that they are both of equal importance, that the publisher shares an equal responsibility with the author. Pocket further asserts its authority by stating underneath its “title”, the space occupied by “Guy Endore” on the title page, that “This book is NOT a digest or condensation of the original. It is the COMPLETE book.” It is interesting that Pocket Books stresses “Complete and Unabridged” as a major selling point while the succeeding publication of Paris, by Avon in 1951, emphasizes “Newly Revised and Edited” in their marketing strategy.
The second interior device appears on the verso of the half-title and is entitled “The Printing History of The Werewolf of Paris”. This supplies the reader with an in-depth breakdown of the novel’s publication thus far, providing month, year, and print run for Farrar & Rinehart, Grosset & Dunlap, and the current Pocket version. In conducting my research for this study, information regarding the book’s initial printing history was virtually non-existent until I located this comprehensive list, and this strange attention to detail affords the Pocket edition with a certain stately feel that reinforces the publisher’s justification for canonizing the work.
The last piece of interior peritext, and arguably the most important, is the closest The Werewolf of Paris ever gets to an anthumous postface–an autobiographical “About the Author” section immediately following the novel’s conclusion. Considering the incredibly small amount of public information available on the author, this three-page profile provides the reader with a considerable amount of insight, not only on his personal life, but also into his authorial intentions. Endore writes: “The writer’s task is to amuse, to interpret, to exhort. It is my aim to do all three together, whenever possible, in the form of novels, short stories, biography, etc.” He continues on with comments directly linked to the social-political slant of the text: “For my part I have not yet decided which is worse, the muted miseries of peace and industry, in which there are some spoils to be distributed, no matter how unjustly, or the clamorous horrors of revolution where success is hazardous and the spoils are nil.” In summing up, Endore admiringly states: “In politics I tend towards communism and the establishment of the classless society.” Although this admission no doubt came back to haunt him during the McCarthy witch hunt, its sincerity and lack of waffling qualifiers is refreshing. Paratextually, it serves to intensify the novel’s leftist political lens for the reader, a lens employed tenfold for the follow up Babouk.
These comments alter textual interpretation in various ways, perhaps less so since they are postface, not preface; however, the intent behind its inclusion is curious, as the postface can no longer effectively perform what Gerard Genette maintains are the two main functions of the preface: holding the reader’s interest and guiding them by explaining why and how they should read the text. Genette observes: “If the first function is not fulfilled, the reader will perhaps never have an opportunity to reach a possible postface; if the second function is not fulfilled, it will perhaps be too late for the author to rectify in extremis a bad reading that has already been completed” (Genette, 123). The fact that Pocket Books did not incorporate this paratextual device into all of its publications only confuses matters and leads one to believe that they did so whenever possible and affordable, and perhaps when the device could act as a canonical tool for the text itself.
The second transitory edition of The Werewolf of Paris, published in October 1943, approaches the canonization of the work much more explicitly, preying upon the audience’s fear of cultural inferiority by manufacturing the desire to build a comprehensive modern library. Triangle Books, a division of Doubleday, specialized in 39-cent hardback reprints that, according to the full-page advertisement on the back cover of the dustjacket, bring the reader “new, cloth-bound editions of famous books by authors of international reputation at a price never before thought possible. Here are real library editions–not small or expurgated books–with colorful, newly designed jackets, and printed complete from the expensive plates of the original” (Triangle’s emphasis). This publisher’s blurb is interesting for several reasons. First, it attacks the substandard quality of the mass-market editions while simultaneously adopting those substandard aesthetics: the garish jacket design, the sensationalist blurbs, the shoddy construction, etc. The emphasis on the abridgement practices of “small or expurgated” books, which are not worthy of a “real library”, is somewhat irrelevant since the success of Pocket Books had already facilitated a movement away from that practice, giving little credence to their accusations. Finally, Triangle’s tireless quest to attain the “expensive plates of the original” is quite humorous in light of the fact that Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint claimed that their reduced price was due in part to the use of these same pricey plates.
Since this interior peritext is identical to the original (except for the extremely acidic paper), Triangle’s jacket design offers the most vivid paratextual clues as to publisher intention and target market. Directly above the quote already discussed, an illustration shows “today’s family” of avid readers, voraciously partaking in their extensive library of Triangle editions–their true password into intellectualism and cultural modernity–while dialogue bubbles emphasize the diversity of the selection. All of the middle-class stereotypes are present: the financially-obsessed father (“Yes, it’s mighty satisfying to own good books at such a low price”), the mother preoccupied with familial behavior (“Reading has become our family’s most popular pastime”), the collegiate son with the Cub-Scout vocabulary (“Boy! Look at these top notch mystery and adventure stories!”), and the romantic star-struck daughter who automatically associates literature with film (“I like these love stories–and books on which ‘hit’ movies are based”).
This explicit cinematic association, the first of its kind, is no coincidence, especially when examined in conjunction with the newly-renovated jacket design of which Triangle boasts so proudly. Here we see an extension of the predator vs. prey motif initiated by Pocket two years earlier, with two significant alterations: first, the premier of the female victim and sexual subjugation; and second, the rejection of the loup-garou in favor of the “wolfman”, an archetype owing more to American 20th-century pop culture than European folklore. Indeed, the visual cues used to convey setting are quickly vanishing from the paratext, with only apparel (Bertrand’s top hat and cloak, the woman’s beret) and architecture (European facades, cobblestone streets) remotely indicative of France, thus showing Triangle’s inability to completely divorce the novel from its geographical context, a reluctance not shared by subsequent mass-market publishers throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
A Shifting Archetype
The paperback explosion following on the coattails of Pocket Books’ phenomenal success ushered in an endless string of pulp Paris’s that specialized in sensationalism, marketing sex and/or violence, and often both, to a less-literary and perhaps proletarian audience. In these mass-market editions, the aesthetics of cinema–particularly promotional materials–dominate over those of literature, with garish design and illustration more closely resembling the paratextual equivalent in that medium (one-sheet posters, lobby cards, etc.) than the work’s forerunners from the 1930s. Several factors give rise to this change. First, De Graff from Pocket Books and his early competitors had their origins in book publishing, which meant that they naturally adopted the conservative marketing strategies associated with those parent organizations, albeit with slight modifications for level of readership. On the other hand, the mass-market publishers who fought to get in on the postwar paperback action were almost exclusively from the magazine industry, naturally embellishing their editions of Paris with all of the eye-catching contrivances they could manage without crossing the line into censorship, a line that had apparently blurred to inconsequentiality since the outcry over Pocket’s edition in 1941. Gone were the altruistic intentions of these earlier pioneers, as insincere as they might have been, for now it was purely a game of profit, plain and simple, with no symbiotic relationship between text and paratext necessary. In fact, the dissonance occurring between this text and paratext is precisely what makes these editions fascinating. The Werewolf of Paris was by no means alone in this dissonance, although it can be argued that it lent itself quite easily, like so many others, to sensationalist paratextual representation, all the more so because of its catchpenny title and controversial content.
To cover the sensationalist aesthetics used by each individual mass-market publisher would be a lengthy and excruciatingly repetitive task. Therefore, for purposes of this study, I will examine only a handful of distinctive characteristics that act as vital links in understanding the evolution of the paratext. Suffice it to say that between the years 1951 and 1963, Paris saw no less than four pulp manifestations: Avon (1951), Studio Publications (Toronto, 1952) Ace Books (1962), and Panther Books (U.K., 1963). I will focus primarily upon the first two, Avon and Studio, as they contain the most interesting–and sometimes bizarre–paratextual devices.
Over ten years had transpired since Pocket’s aborted attempt to publish the novel and much had changed in the paperback industry, especially the intensity of the competition. The very elements which resulted in retraction in 1941 were now expounded upon and made into selling points, making Pocket’s paratext harmless and benign by comparison. Naturally, there was no shortage of lawsuits to go around. Pocket Books, who struggled to maintain their quasi-highbrow standards among a sea of scantily-clad women, won the suit against Avon which stipulated that the latter could not use the word “pocket” anywhere on its cover, nor could it continue to stain its edges red. “Complete and Unabridged!” had long ago become the standard, making its constant appearance all the more irrelevant. Oddly enough, in 1951, Avon opted for a different approach in its marketing campaign, proudly proclaiming “Specially Revised and Edited!” instead. My first impression–that this was simply a positively-slanted euphemism for “Condensed and Abridged”–proved misguided after I examined the content of the deleted passages. It is difficult to ascertain exactly who edited what and for whom. According to a piece of correspondence between Guy Endore and Rinehart & Company, dated November 1950, all of the publisher’s rights, title and interest on The Werewolf of Paris, The Man From Limbo, and The Sword of God were turned over to Endore per his request, although the two accompanying works were never reprinted; perhaps Endore’s initial letter would clarify the reasons behind this request, but I could not uncover it for this study. Nevertheless, it could be assumed that he wished to edit the novel especially for Avon, a publisher known in the paperback industry for its stringent maximization of page space. The verso of the title page states “Published by arrangement with the Author” but no indication is given regarding the editorial decisions, thereby tacitly distributing this responsibility equally between author and publisher.
Although it is not my intention to examine the textual, or non-paratextual, changes made to this edition, a few words should be said about the deletions since such attention is drawn to them in the paratext. Apparently Avon, unwilling to bore its audience with historical facts and esoteric information on 19th-century France, edited out any passages that did not contain scenes involving violence, sex, and/or the werewolf; I say that Avon and not Endore instigated this mainly because all subsequent mass-market editions revert to the original 1933 text. Since only about a third of the book actually centers around Bertrand Callait, this results in sizable deletions, dropping the book down to a scant 188 pages from Pocket’s unabridged 325, thus resulting in a version that conforms more closely to the conventional horror novel. The above-mentioned Zoological Society dinner is heavily edited, as are the political aspects of the novel’s final third. Gone, too, are the lengthy sections in which the narrator quotes from Aymar Galliez’s (the “uncle”) manuscript on Bertrand, sections which comprise some of the most lyrical passages in the novel. In a sense, the publisher could have been trying to compensate for the fact that the hyperbolic language used in the blurbs completely distorts the reader’s expectations of the writing style, which is so drastically different when compared to the language in the paratext.
The second important modification made by Avon can be found on the page following the title but before the introduction, a section entitled “Principal Characters”. Here, descriptions are given of the book’s five major characters in a style consistent with the exterior blurbs: for example, Bertrand Chaillet (sic) is summarized thusly: “Illegitimate son of an ungodly union, he was accursed by horrible longings–and a series of mutilated corpses showed his method of satisfaction!” (Avon’s emphasis). Although this technique is used in both drama and screenwriting, primarily as a tool to help the reader visualize the final product, in this context it attempts to influence reader expectations while simultaneously compensating for the dryness of Endore’s writing style. The italicized “clencher” attached to each description immediately conjures up the booming, dramatic voice associated with the most prevalent motion picture paratext–the trailer, or “teaser”, shown before a film.
Thus, with Avon, cinematic associations begin to dominate the paratext, not only in the area of language mentioned above, but also with regard to illustrative and design decisions. In 1941, The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney Jr. in the lead, was an enormous success and went on to spawn countless sequels and spin- offs (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man , The Three Stooges Meet the Wolf Man , etc.) In hopes of cashing in on this success, publishers began adopting the “wolfman” archetype established by Hollywood as the new standard, thus abandoning Endore’s mythological loup-garou–the human fully transformed into a wolf–in favor of the anthropomorphic, extra-hairy individual in ripped clothing. Although Triangle’s 1943 edition first showed signs of this major switch, they at least kept some of the visual cues to indicate Paris as a center of action, unlike Avon, whose cover bears little resemblance to Paris; not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the swampy setting for the Lon Chaney Jr. film, with willow trees hanging overhead and rings expanding from the pool of water in the background. According to the note in the interior cover, however, this is “the artist’s interpretation of Bertrand in his monster form, with one of his victims, La Belle Normande, after striking her down in the Bois de Boulogne!!!” When one compares this to the blonde woman (also in a red dress so presumably the same scene being portrayed) smoking indifferently on Triangle’s jacket, not under the werewolf but standing upright–and perhaps defiant–before him, it is easy to see the emergence of the objectified sexual victim as a marketing tool.
The second significant mass-market edition, released by Toronto’s Studio Publications in 1952, takes this sexual subjugation one step further while incorporating design elements that will reach their full potential some forty years later. The cover avoids showing the werewolf and instead only shows the victim: a woman, who resembles a Tennessee Williams’ heroine, clinging to a doorway in her slip, staring off to her left in horror at something unseen (the film adaptation of Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire had premiered the preceding year). This in itself would be an odd addition to the novel’s paratextual history, but what really pushes this edition into its own is the strange enlargement and duplication of the victim’s terrified expression as a backdrop, or as “wallpaper”, for the scene itself. In fact, Studio Publications goes to such an extreme to reduce the novel to pure sexual sensationalism that they leave the realm of folklore lycanthropy, defined as a supernatural, physical state of being, and inadvertently cross over into early psychology’s notion of lycanthropy as a mental disorder, completely divorced from any physiological transformation. This shift in focus conjures a great deal of ambiguity as to the identity of the werewolf, blurring the distinction between predator and prey (Is she staring at the werewolf? Is she the werewolf?), an uncertainty only clarified by the inclusion of the “he” in the cover’s blurb (“Enslaved by loathsome desires, he reigned as Satan, in a city not easily shocked by sin”). Again, an allusion to the setting of Williams’ Streetcar, New Orleans.
Another fascinating effect is how this instability carries over into the text itself: the paper is cheap, the type splotchy and smeared, as if applied with an ink stamp, with many of the letters reproduced as blurry double-images; both the dedication and epigram are ignored, and many “metatextual” footnotes are arbitrarily deleted; and yet, all of these things, as intrusive as they are, only add to the intense feelings of uneasiness, giving the reader the impression that the book was printed on contraband equipment, in a rushed state of panic, as if death were at hand during the print run.
This psychological slant, and the avoidance of the wolfman archetype, makes Studio’s edition a unique paratextual event that admittedly had little influence on subsequent publishers. Both Ace, in 1962, and U.K.’s Panther Books (Fig 15&16), in 1963, revert to the earlier Avon formula, with the exception of Panther’s use of a male victim instead of a woman, which is hardly revolutionary. Ace, obviously confusing vampires and werewolves, illustrates Bertrand with fangs, pointy ears, cape, and a widow’s peak, an allusion to Dracula that seems more the product of an incompetent illustrator than a regression to an older marketing strategy.
After this run of mass-market editions, The Werewolf of Paris sinks into obscurity, not resurfacing until the mid-1970s, in England, and remaining out of print in the United States until 1992. By the time the book does reappear, Endore is dead, thus laying the groundwork for the posthumous preface that, arguably more than any other element, affects reader interpretation of a text.
The Allographic Paratexts
The two most recent editions of The Werewolf of Paris finally show signs of the inevitable retrospective homage that is so common among books with long printing histories. Both Sphere and Citadel, in 1976 and 1992 respectively, include what Gerard Genette calls “allographic prefaces” by authors in their paratexts, each with its own agenda and personal motivations. Sphere’s is a curious addition to the line-up in that it is the only version that associates the novel with another author as part of the title, in this case, The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult, of which Paris is Volume 2. The illustration on the cover is a revamped version of Avon’s 1952 edition (wolfman, swamp, full moon, female victim), with the exception that the illustration is now framed within a circle covered with symbols of the zodiac. Apparently Wheatley is the author of many novels, which are offered for sale on the last page of the text, along with other volumes in this series, thereby giving his editorial selection quote a bit of credibility, provided you know who he is. This type of highly specialized publication, which would only appeal to an audience who either knew Wheatley, knew Endore, or who was curious about what type of “satanic” reading would be considered “occultish”.
The first thing that strikes the reader, especially those unfamiliar with Wheatley, is the arrogance with which he, or the publisher, plasters his name everywhere. As always, the novel begins with a self-reflexive section entitled Introduction, in which Endore establishes his “doctoral researcher” narrator and details the discovery of the manuscript which forms the foundation of the story. Wheatley confusingly places his own preface immediately under the Introduction heading, which causes his preface to blend directly into Endore’s text. The two-page preface itself merely summarizes the first half of the novel, ending with a “but I’ll let you find out the rest” conclusion that leaves one wondering why the preface was included at all. The remainder of the paratext is nothing extraordinary, with cliche language (“unholy union”, “man by day, wolf by night” etc.) and advertisements for both Wheatley’s own works and other books in the Library of the Occult. Oddly, Wheatley, a proponent of British imperialism with a hatred of the working class, makes no mention of the Commune or the book’s leftist leanings.
On the other hand, Citadel’s edition includes a canonical forward by Robert Bloch and incorporates design elements that combine both the chaotic man-as-animal motif, from the original 1933 Farrar & Rinehart edition, and the psychological duality that worked so effectively for Studio Publications in 1952. Bloch, whose novel Psycho formed the basis for Hitchcock’s film of the same name, discusses Endore’s life, the novel’s printing history, and the non-horror elements that have been virtually ignored in the pulp paratexts up to this point. Personal information, including his accidental meeting with Endore in Hollywood and his blacklisting, is incorporated into his analysis of the text, thus giving it a much more human feel than Wheatley’s superficial synopsis of the storyline. The discrepancies surrounding the facts of Endore’s life are apparent here, as Bloch mistakenly gives the author’s blacklist-era pseudonym for his birth name (he was born Samuel Goldstein, but following his mother’s suicide, his father changed the family name to Endore in an effort to eradicate the past, and possibly as a buffer against American antisemitism). Many of these inconsistencies were only clarified with the publication of Alan Wald’s “The Subaltern Speaks”, an analysis of Endore’s Babouk which appeared in the The Monthly Review in April of 1992; to my knowledge, it is the only scholarly analysis of any of the author’s works, its strengths lying primarily in Wald’s examination of Endore’s personal papers at UCLA. These small discrepancies aside, Bloch’s forward goes to great lengths to undo the years of sensationalism that have stigmatized The Werewolf of Paris since its first edition state, placing an emphasis first and foremost on the “savage combination of misanthropy and lycanthropy”, the way it “soars beyond the supernatural or the purely psychopathological” (Bloch, 1).
In addition, these observations are augmented by Bloch’s brief overview of the author’s works, most notably his first little-known novel The Man From Limbo (1930), and the two psychological mysteries, Methinks the Lady (1945) and Detour at Night (1959). With the latter texts, Bloch mentions Endore’s interest in Freudianism, an interest elaborated upon by Brian Stableford in Magill’s reference work Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature (1983), where, in the full-page entry dedicated to the novel, Stableford notes the relationship between Methinks and Paris, asserting that the werewolf itself is the embodiment of the unleashed Id, aspects of the text which went mainly ignored in 1933 reviews.
Citadel’s sophisticated design reflects those new psychological interpretations, showing simply an upper row of teeth–human teeth, it should be noted, and not animal canine teeth, a change which marks a return to both Farrar & Rinehart’s original “anonymous societal victim” motif and Studio’s aforementioned focus on psychological duality. Perhaps more importantly, Citadel emphasizes the ambiguity between chaos and order, between man and animal, that was first and foremost in the original edition’s paratext. On the other hand, Citadel contains residual effects of the novel’s mass-market history, the most prominent being its use of Ace’s plates and the blood splattering effects on the back cover that are somewhat reminiscent of Avon’s bloody-footprint-to-pawprint design. Still, the minimalism is quite impressive in light of the constant onslaught of sex and misrepresentative blurbs that cluttered the prior editions for decades, and it admirably leaves much to be discerned by the reader’s imagination.
The notion that an author being “pocketed” is a sure sign of canonization is somewhat misleading, depending on the publisher and whose canon you are speaking of. If simply the number of pocket printings of an author’s work was the sole criterion for entering into the canon, The Werewolf of Paris would no doubt be a contender; however, the fact that it refuses to conform to the preconceived expectations of the various audiences, both Horror and Literary, means that perhaps it will languish in obscurity forever.