Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen

Jun 7, 2019 by

Join PulpFest 2019 on Thursday, August 15, as we welcome pulp and film expert Ed Hulse for “Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen.” Ed will be debuting a book of the same title at our convention. Having spent decades researching the pulp-film nexus, Ed has shared his findings in a comprehensive encyclopedia that covers many hundreds of movies adapted from rough-paper fiction.

The motion-picture industry was still in its infancy when producers began licensing stories from pulp magazines for adaptation to celluloid. As early as 1912 — when movies were still novelties, screened primarily in store-front nickelodeons — recurring characters from the pulps were featured in short-subject series. That year the Edison Company enjoyed great success with THE CHRONICLES OF CLEEK. These monthly one-reel installments starred Ben Wilson as Thomas A. Hanshew’s “Man of Forty Faces,” a character then appearing regularly in the pulp SHORT STORIES.

Edison’s Cleek series was typical film fare of the day. During the silent movie era, a one-reel short yielded 12 to 15 minutes of screen time — just enough to tell a perfunctory story that might consume 5,000 to 10,000 words in prose. Nickelodeons ran “programs” that grouped four or five such films together. They changed their programs three to five times per week.

With filmmakers under constant pressure to satisfy thrill-hungry viewers, there was a huge market for adaptable yarns. Producers obtained stories from pulps and slicks alike. The two magazines most frequently tapped for material during the pre-1920 period were THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and THE ALL-STORY or ALL-STORY WEEKLY. During this period, many top pulp writers saw their rough-paper fiction immortalized on celluloid. This august group included Max Brand, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Allan England, Zane Grey, James B. Hendryx, Johnston McCulley, Frank L. Packard, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Perley Poore Sheehan, among others.

By 1920, the motion-picture industry had mushroomed. Lavish downtown “picture palaces” replaced the seedy nickelodeons, and practically every small town in the country boasted its own movie theater. Production, initially based on the East Coast, gravitated to Hollywood. Wall Street began investing in the most profitable studios. Weekly attendance soared to 40 million people and would continue to grow throughout the Roaring Twenties. Melodramas were second only to comedies as the most popular and profitable screen subjects. This meant that westerns, thrillers, and detective stories were in constant demand. Writers specializing in these genres could usually find a producer to license their pulp yarns if they looked hard (or had aggressive literary agents).

The demand for pulp fiction lessened somewhat as “talking pictures” took over the movie business in the late twenties. As the Great Depression began to affect American consumers, Hollywood was hard hit. In order to compete for the dimes and quarters that bought tickets, the studios increasingly adapted famous stage plays and mainstream novels. Such stories were carried by dialogue, rather than the melodramatic action of the sort found in rough-paper magazines. The Thirties still saw a significant number of pulp-based films, but they were increasingly low-budget “B” pictures and serials emanating from the Poverty Row studios.

Prominent pulp characters brought to the silver screen were Tarzan, Zorro, Buck Rogers, Sam Spade, The Shadow, The Spider, Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian, and John Carter of Mars, to name just a few. But there were many others not easily recognizable to today’s aficionados. Ed will identify many of these in his presentation, which will be accompanied by a selection of rare stills and posters from the films.

A journalist for nearly forty years, Ed Hulse has written or edited many books about vintage motion pictures and their stars, as well as numerous books about pulp fiction. He was the editor and publisher of BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, the award-winning journal devoted to the study of adventure, mystery, and melodrama of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at this year’s convention. Please click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(THE MARK OF ZORRO — a 1920 silent — is the first of three adaptations of Johnston McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano.” It was serialized in five parts in ALL-STORY WEEKLY, beginning with the August 9, 1919 issue. Starring Douglas Fairbanks as the title character and his alter ego, THE MARK OF ZORRO was the first film to be released by United Artists, the company formed by Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith. The film’s advertising prominently mentioned ALL-STORY WEEKLY, its pulp source. Our presentation, “Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen,” will include behind-the-scenes information on the making of this historic film.)  

A Century of Zorro

Jun 5, 2019 by

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. The peaceful indigenous people were victimized by the corrupt military commanders. One man rose to stand against injustice and the abuse of power. One man stirred the hearts of Californians and gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was the masked avenger known as Zorro!

Thursday night, August 15, at PulpFest, publisher/author and 2019 Munsey Award nominee Rich Harvey of Bold Venture Press presents “A Century of Zorro,” marking not only the centennial of the legendary pulp character, but also the publication of the first matched set of every original Zorro novel and short story in six attractive volumes from Bold Venture Press.

Zorro was created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley. In the original stories, Zorro has a price on his head, but is too skilled and cunning for the authorities to capture him. Zorro is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, the only son of Don Alejandro de la Vega, a wealthy landowner. He adopted his secret identity after learning California had fallen under the thrall of a ruthless dictator. Diego conceals his identity by posing as a cowardly fop.

Zorro was introduced in McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” when it was serialized in the pages of ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919. The success of its 1920 film adaptation as THE MARK OF ZORRO, starring Douglas Fairbanks, convinced his creator to author further adventures. Over the next forty years, McCulley penned a total of five Zorro novels and nearly 60 short stories featuring the masked avenger. The stories appeared in ARGOSY, WEST, and other magazines. In book form, “The Curse of Capistrano” was retitled THE MARK OF ZORRO and sold more than 50 million copies. McCulley’s numerous follow-ups never achieved the same level of success. Most were never collected in book form until Bold Venture Press’ definitive editions.

Zorro appeared in over 40 film and television adaptations, including Walt Disney’s 1950s TV series starring Guy Williams. The character has appeared in numerous literary pastiches as well as radio, comic books, newspaper strips, and stage plays.

Being one of the earliest examples of a fictional masked avenger with a double identity, Zorro inspired the creation of several similar characters in pulp magazines and other media. McCulley’s hero is a precursor of the superheroes of American comic books, with Batman drawing particularly close parallels to the character. As such, today’s superheroes are very much “Children of the Pulps.” Join Bold Venture Press founder Rich Harvey on the opening night of PulpFest for a celebration of “A Century of Zorro.”

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering.

Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(Created by the prolific pulp writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro debuted in “The Curse of Capistrano,” a five-part serial that ran in the pages of the Munsey magazine, ALL-STORY WEEKLY during the month of August 1919. It will be the centennial of the first Zorro story during this year’s PulpFest.

The cover art featured on the August 9, 1919 issue was painted by P. J. Monahan. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Monahan moved to Brooklyn in 1907. He became one of New York’s most prolific artists for the first three decades of the twentieth century, creating advertisements, movie posters, commissioned art, and, most of all, pulp magazine illustrations and covers.

Along with Bob Fujitani, Bob Correa and Alberto Giolitti, the late pulp artist Everett Raymond Kinstler created the interior pencils and inks for the Zorro stories featured in Dell’s FOUR COLOR COMICS series. Kinstler drew issue numbers 497 — featuring “The Sword of Zorro,” with the cover painted by an unknown artist — 538, and 574. Born in 1942, Kinstler was a freelance artist for the pulp, slick, comic book, and paperback industry before turning to portraiture during the 1950s.)