Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Favorite Book: A THOUSAND AND ONE DELIGHTS An Affectionate Pictorial History of Those Fantastic Films of the 40's by Alan G. Barbour

This teeny-tiny pix is not a very good copy of the cover of the actual book, but it's the best I could find online. A lot of these older film books, while still available on the secondary collectible market, don't have cover images on google or elsewhere. I own this one but I don't have a scanner so you'll have to use your imagination: the cover is of 1940's and 50's film siren Maria Montez in COBRA WOMAN. She is shown lounging within the golden coils of a huge cobra. Perfectly apt.

In the 1940's and 50's, Latin bombshell Maria Montez (who never lost her charming Spanish accent) starred with Jon Hall in a series of lurid adventures in Technicolor. WHITE SAVAGE, ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES, ARABIAN NIGHTS, etc, films that held us spellbound when, as kids, we saw these, along with ten cartoons and a second feature, at the local theater. The price for all this magnificence? Usually no more than 25 cents. (Though, in truth, a few of these films I saw later on, on early tv, but I can't remember what I saw in theater and what I saw at home, so I prefer to romanticize the whole thing and think I saw them all in theater.)

Okay, now that I've revealed my status as an ancient, let me go back to the book:
A THOUSAND AND ONE DELIGHTS An Affectionate Pictorial History of Those Fantastic Films of the 40's; with fond recollections of the best Saturday afternoon
Serials. Illustrated with over 260 stills.
By Alan G. Barbour
Published in 1971 by Collier Books

I debated whether I should include this book among my favorites post (even though it is), as well as one more title I'll list later, because these are older books, a bit harder to find. Oh, they're available but you have to look for them on the secondary collectible market mostly. Not that they cost all that much, unless you want one in 'mint' condition in which case, you'll pay quite a bit more. But if you just want a copy sort of like mine, showing the well worn effects of being read and looked at with affection over the years, you can easily find a copy. I've had mine for years and now I wish I'd taken better care of it.

A THOUSAND AND ONE DELIGHTS (trade paperback) is filled with black and white photos of the films people my age remember very fondly, films that fueled our imaginations as kids. Mostly B-films, not top of the line studio productions, but they were still, quite good enough. I suppose, it some ways, they served the same purpose that television and later, the internet, served for kids of later generations.

I loved these movies and so when I found this book years ago, I bought it instantly. I wanted to use it as memory resource and also as a possible illustration reference. I have quite a collection of various reference books from the time I used to earn a living as a freelance illustrator. You just never knew where an idea was going to come from.

But the book is just plain fun to look through and it does contain some interesting info as well. Most especially of course, if you love movies of a certain era. The pictures, whether you're familiar with the actors and/or films, or not, appear incredibly naive in style and come from an era when the world was viewed in a totally different way.

The book is split up into different chapter headings:
THE KING AND QUEEN OF TECHNICOLOR (Maria Montez and John Hall, not to mention, Turhan Bey.)

And interestingly enough, there is a chapter devoted to B-westerns - DUSTY TRAILS TO ADVENTURE - which showcases the old Republic Studio western stars. When I look at them now I wonder that we ever believed any of this cowboy stuff, but we did. I mentioned in a previous post that I was so influenced by these movies I wanted to grow up to be a cowgirl. Yes, it's true. Ah, the dreams of youth.

Most of Alan Barbour's book is devoted to the 'studio stills' promised on the cover, so there's plenty to see. (Not necessarily all the pix I've included, those are mostly to give you a flavor of the sorts of movies talked about in the book.) However if you want a really comprehensive history of this particular movie era, you'll have to go elsewhere. This is purely a fun book.

The second book from my shelves, similar to this one, but a bit more difficult to find (and forget about a copy of the cover), is: LOST LANDS, MYTHICAL KINGDOMS, UNKNOWN WORLDS by Val Warren A Pictorial Excursion into the Realm of Cinematic Fantasy...Featuring Three Hundred Photographs. ISBN: 930-36840-1 This was published by Simon and Schuster in trade paperback form in 1979, and there are, included, a few b/w stills from the original Star Wars film.

This has even less text than the previous book, so it's mostly a picture-fest.

It has amazing photos of many early science fiction and fantasy films featuring actors even I have forgotten about. The science fiction of the 50's was so incredibly different from what we view today and it seems inexplicable that anyone ever thought the future would come close to looking as it was conceived in those films.

But maybe it's just as well. It helps us to look back with affection.


  1. Great pictures today! Love the visuals. :)

  2. Wallace: Thanks! I get carried away sometimes, but I just love these old movie posters. These are fun books to look through, for sure.

  3. The posters are great!

    I'll try to find some of the old movies at my library, and if I can't, I'll try a video store in my area that carries old films. How fun!

    Some of the films are beyond my scope, but old mysteries and comedies are fine. I remember Abbott and Costello, too.

  4. Kathy: I have a feeling that a lot of these old movies are better left in the imagination and memory. :)

    Though THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD with Sabu and Jane Duprez is still as good today as it was then. Jane Duprez was so incredibly beautiful, I wonder that she never became a huge star.

    And I do love The Saint movies with George Sanders and later his brother, Tom Conway. And yes, I admit it, I am a fan of Warren Williams.
    He played Perry Mason in a few films, but I don't think I ever saw those.

    And Buster Crabbe as FLASH GORDON was just right. He was the most awful actor, but somehow it all worked. Ming the Merciless made the show.

    And I do love some of those Abbott and Costello films, yes I do. HOLD THAT GHOST and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, especially.

    SHERLOCK HOLMES and the SCARLET CLAW has Holmes and Watson travelling to Canada! Can you believe it? Why the film wasn't set in a small English Village I'll never know. The setting could have been anywhere. But it's not a bad film.

    And finally, Kathy, you must try and get hold of some of Maria Montez and Jon Hall Technicolor films. They are so anachronistic and so fun!!

    Hmmm, on second thought, maybe these films hold up after all. :)

  5. ...and needless to say, I still love the Charlie Chan films! I think the only ones I don't watch anymore are the very old westerns, they just haven't held up that well.

  6. Wonderful! I love all the old B-detectives (Saint, Falcon, Lone Wolf etc.) and I had no idea that Ralph Bellamy had played Ellery Queen! I know him as the guy who never gets the girl in Cary Grant movies...

    This looks like a fantastic book. I'm going to have to get a copy!

  7. Nicolas: The book is a fun overview of those great movie times. Mostly photos and brief comments, but some good info as well. I was always a sucker for those Maria Montez, John Hall flicks as well as the B-detectives. I really need to start beefing up my dvd library.


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