There is nothing like your best friend. Check out Bookstr’s top 10 best friends of literature!
“Dear Sir. I venture to submit to your notice the accompanying tale ‘The actor’s duel’. I once before trespassed upon your valuable time by sending up a sketch which did not come up to your standard – I trust that this may meet with a better fate. However defective the working out maybe I am conscious that the denouement is both original and powerful, worthy, I hope, of the traditions of your magazine.”
The above excerpt is taken from a letter written by Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The British writer would have turned 160 years old this past week (May 22). On Wednesday, The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh shared a picture of the letter on their Twitter account while appropriately hashtagging #SherlockHolmesday. Doyles’ words are indicative of a crucial period in the life of all creatives—a time when one is starving for success.
137 years ago, before knighthood, Arthur Conan Doyle found himself at the ripe age of twenty-two, (tactfully) pleading for publication. Like all young writers, Doyle was equipped only with a vague understanding of what he wanted to say to the world—it was just a matter of finding the right words. Regardless, his letter conveys obvious confidence in his ability to wow.
The “original” and “powerful” denouement Doyle refers to is the climax of his short story—after having stopped the abduction of his sister, a young actor (who had just won the role of Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet) finds out that one of the kidnappers is a colleague of his, a fellow actor playing Hamlet in the same play. In their next performance, the two use real swords in a duel, which grants the production a realness that the audience uproariously applauds. The crowd is unaware the two are actually fighting to the death. The duel plays out in a very art-imitating-life/Aronofsky-Black-Swan-esque way that makes the reader question the integrity of artistic perception.
According to an article on edinburghlive‘s website, Doyle asked Blackwood’s Magazine to consider his short story, then entitled “The Actor’s Duel.” At the beginning of the letter, Doyle reveals the publication had previously rejected another one of his short stories, “The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe.” Despite his best efforts, Blackwood’s turned Doyle down again (idiots); however, “The Actor’s Duel” was eventually published two years later as “The Tragedians” in Bow Bells Magazine.
In 1887, A Study in Scarlett was published—the first of many stories concerning the adventures of detective Holmes and Dr. Watson. In addition to tales surrounding the famous detective, Doyle also wrote many science fiction and historical and novels, plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction, yadda, and yadda. The writer was prolific and will go down in history as the man who made Benedict Cumberbatch what he is today… whatever that is, exactly.
Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t start writing until she was forty-three, and she wasn’t published until sixty-five—two full decades later. Harry Bernstein didn’t get published until he was ninety-six. Susan Boyle didn’t “dream the dream” until she was forty-seven, and Colonel Harland Sanders didn’t franchise his fried chicken business until well past forty. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s successes may not have come as late in life as those of the other icons mentioned, but this letter is an important reminder: (Yoda voice) the greatest teacher, failure is.
Featured Image Via Sherlock-Sherlockian.com
There’s something fun about bad guys. A memorable villain is just as much a key ingredient of literature as the hero, acting as the antagonist and obstacle in the way of the heroes goals. If done properly, a villain will be just as remembered and often as beloved as the hero, hailed for their command of evil minions, nefarious lines, and the threatening situations they put our plucky main characters in. But who are the best? Who are the cream of the crop among literary bad guys? Well, here are the top ten best and darkest villains in literature!
10. Annie Wilkes- ‘Misery’
Image via Stephen King wiki
Annie Wilkes is a cautionary tale, showcasing how mentally unstable being a ‘superfan’ can make you. When writer Paul Sheldon breaks both legs in an accident, Annie takes him in and begins to nurse him back to health. But slowly, she reveals she’s obsessed with the Misery series Paul writes and the latest book kills off Misery. Annie Wilkes snaps at this and forces Paul to write a new novel that undoes Misery’s death. She subjects him to multiple horrors within her house, such as slicing off Paul’s leg with an axe and stabbing a state trooper who tries to rescue Paul before running him over with a lawnmower. Annie Wilkes grows increasingly psychotic over the course of the novel and just as Paul does, the reader becomes increasing desperate to escape her presence. Annie Wilkes was played by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film adaptation, winning an Oscar for bringing the character to life.
9. Patrick Bateman- ‘American Psycho’
Image via Variety
Debuting in 1991 in the novel American Psycho, Patrick Bateman is a deeply, deeply disturbed man. A young investment banker living in Manhattan during the 1980s, Patrick Bateman is a serial killer who begins the novel in semi-control of his killing urges but spirals completely out of control as the novel progresses. Told from Bateman’s POV, the novel paints him as a racist, a homophobic, a narcissist, and a psychopath. However, Bateman may not even be a serial killer, as the novel frames his crimes as possibly not even having happened after he confesses at the book’s end. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Bateman is a deeply disturbed man and one whose mental state is at rock bottom, even if he’s a serial killer or not.
8. Count Olaf- ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’
Image via Lemony Snicket wiki
Children’s novels often have brought to life some of the most iconic villains in pop culture and Count Olaf is no exception. The main antagonist for the majority of the series, obsessed with claiming the fortune of the Baudelaire orphans. Over the course of the series, he appears in each location the children find themselves in, from steel mills to a reptile zoo to a carnival. Each time, Count Olaf assumes a new disguise in his pursuit of the kids, fooling everyone but them with his distinct personas. He may be a murderer with a flair for arson but Count Olaf is always a lot of fun, hammy and over the top in his villainy. Yet, at the end of the series, he manages to become a sympathetic figure and even allies with the children against a worse evil before he meets his demise, showing perhaps that he was more complicated than we thought.
7. Big brother- ‘1984′
Image via Wikipedia
Less a character than a symbol of tyranny and oppression, Big Brother is nonetheless the ruling leader of Oceania in 1984. Never seen in person, Big Brother might just a symbol of the tyrannical Party but that doesn’t matter. People believe he exists and the Party reinforces this belief to the oppressed populace. Posters decorate the city that bear the now famous slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’. The message is always clear: Big Brother sees all and if there is dissent, he knows. Big Brother becomes akin to God, a portrait of a tyranny realized at its terrifying conclusion.
6. Mr. Croup and Vandemar- ‘Neverwhere’
Image via Pininterest
Croup and Vandemar are a double-act, a pair of villains who are hired to track down the heroes in Neverwhere. It is not made entirely clear what they are but they’re not human, that’s for certain, as they have a habit of eating live animals and sometimes, chunks of furniture! Croup is a small fat man who is possessed with a verbose style of speech while Vandemar is his brutish partner who barely speaks and specializes more in killing things. The pair certainly make a memorable impression whenever they’re onscreen, serving as an excellent and terrifying pair of evil thugs who can’t be stopped by regular weapons.
5. Regal Farseer-‘The Farseer Trilogy’
Regal Farseer is a vain and cruel prince in line to acquire the throne in the fantasy kingdom of Buckeep. However, his plans of ascension are thrown into a snag when a bastard son of his father, Chivalry Farseer, called Fitz (the protagonist) comes to Buckeep. Regal is aware of Fitz’s heritage and plots to kill him. He eventually acquires the throne throughout the trilogy and Fitz is brought into conflict with his half-brother to get it back. Regal embodies jealously, cruelty, and arrogance, being one dark and vicious prince.
4. Randall Flagg-‘The Stand’
Described as Stephen King’s ‘ubervillain’, Randall Flagg appears through Stephen King’s multiverse to wreck constant havoc. He first appears in The Stand, as a demonic cult leader trying to establish a new society filled with his loyal followers after a plague has destroyed the Earth’s population. Flagg seemingly meets his end when his blown up by a nuclear warhead but reappears throughout further Stephen King works, revealing himself to be an immortal sorcerer who travels throughout space and time, his ultimate goal being to climb The Dark Tower to become a god. Assuming a vast number of identities, Flagg is always a manipulative, dark presence who strikes fear whenever he appears, no matter the setting or genre.
3. Professor Moriarty- ‘Sherlock Holmes’
Image Via Wikipedia
Even if you’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes story, you know this guy. Moriarty appears in The Final Problem, becoming famous as the antagonist who would (temporarily) kill Sherlock Holmes. There, Holmes has penetrated his criminal organization and is forced to flee across the country from Moriarty’s wrath. The pursuit ends on Reichenbach Falls, where the two fight and seemingly plummet to their deaths. Moriarty never appears directly onscreen, as the novel is narrated by Watson who never crosses path with the criminal leader but he is practically an overlord of the London underworld, just as brilliant as Sherlock but uses his mind for evil. It’s no wonder Moriarty was promoted to Holmes’s archenemy, he became such an iconic figure that adaptations see fit to use him as Sherlock’s ultimate enemy.
2. Dolores Umbridge- ‘Harry Potter’
Image via Harry Potter wiki
Forget Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge is a far more evil character because of how real she feels. Seemingly a sweet little lady, Dolores Umbridge reveals herself to be sadistic, cruel, and hits all the buttons to make her hate throughout the series. She interrupts Dumbledore during the Feast, she speaks to the students as if they’re a bunch of small children, she punishes Harry for his misbehaving by making him carve the words “I MUST NOT TELL LIES” over and over again into his skin while she watches with a sweet smile. Dolores hides behind her position of authority to inflict her sadistic whims on Hogwarts and its a sigh of relief when gets what’s coming to her at the end, although some think it wasn’t enough for this woman.
1. Sauron- ‘The Lord of the Rings’
Image via LOTR Wiki
The titular Lord of the Rings, Sauron is unique among fantasy evil overlords in that he never appears directly in the trilogy but his presence consumes everything and he’s responsible for every evil act in one way or another. A former Maiar, a divine angel, Sauron turned away from the light in his lust for power and crafted the One Ring to rule Middle-earth. But the forces of men and elves fought against him, destroying his physical form. Sauron took years to establish himself again, confining himself to his tower in Mordor and building a dark army to conquer Middle-earth while searching to regain the One Ring to claim ultimate victory. Sauron is arguably scarier for how he never appears, only referenced by Gandalf, Saruman, and Gollum but the way they speak of him, how they describe what he is, leaves no doubt that he is one of the greatest villains in literary history. Sometimes, the imagination is more powerful than what we can see.
When someone tells you they have fairies for sale, alarm bells should go off in your head, but turns out even just having a photo of a fake fairy could be worth a lot of money. Consider this: Photographs of the infamous Cottingley Fairies are expected to fetch £70,000 ($91,249.20) at auction.
For those unfamiliar with the case, this might seem completely off topic, but let’s talk about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Image Via Daily Mail
Sir Doyle was the writer who created Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but perhaps he should be best remembered for being a proponent of Spiritualism in his later years.
Come 1920, when Sir Doyle was sixty-one, something magical happened. Prairie Ghosts recalls how during that year “Conan Doyle received a letter from a Spiritualist friend, Felicia Scatcherd, who informed of some photographs which proved the existence of fairies in Yorkshire. Conan Doyle asked his friend Edward Gardner to go down and investigate and Gardner soon found himself in the possession of several photos which showed very small female figures with transparent wings”.
It seemed that in 1917 sixteen-year-old Elsie Wright and nine-year-old Frances Griffiths claimed that had seen fairies in their backyard creak. In an effort to convince their elders, the two cousins borrowed Elsie’s father’s camera, a Midg quarter-plate, and went out to the back.
Image Via Eye of the Psychic
When they returned, they had their proof. Keenly interested, Sir Doyle, The Gazette writes, “met the girls and asked them to take more photographs of the fairies, giving them two cameras in 1920”. The end result was a total of five photographs of fairies, although none of the photos were taken with Sir. Doyle watching.
Christmas of that year, Sir Doyle went on to publish an article about the fairies in the Strand Magazine. Although many others came forwards saying they had seen fairies as well, Sir Doyle found that none of them to be genuine. The Cottingley photographs, however, seemed real in his eyes. He even wrote in his 1922 book The Coming of the Fairies that the pictures “represent either the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public, or else they constitute an event in human history which may in the future appear to have been epoch-making in its character.”
Image Via Messy Nessy Chic
It’s ridiculous looking at these photos now to think that anyone would think these are real, but you have to remember that back then there was no television, the radio was barely twenty-five years old, and film making was in its infancy. Heck, World War One was not only still widely known as the Great War but it had only ended two years earlier.
Atlas Obscura noted that, “It wasn’t until the 1980s that an elderly Wright finally fessed up,” revealing that she and her cousin had “cut the creatures out of paper and staked them to the ground with little hat pins to create the illusion of floating. Hints of this sleight-of-hand were there, for those looking closely. The gnome’s belly, for instance, had a tiny hole where the pin poked through. Conan Doyle, for one, proposed that the little hole was a navel.”
Image Via Reddit
Needless to say, the photos are fake.
But that hasn’t stopped our fascination with the photographs and with the hundred year anniversary coming up, these photographs are back in our public consciousness. They are to auctioned off and are expected to fetch £70,000 ($91,249.20). Christine Lynch, Frances Wright’s daughter, told the Guardian that :
“It’s time they went to a museum where someone else can see them and enjoy them. They haven’t been on view at all so it’s nice for someone else to see them.”
Unfortunately, the eighty-eight-year-old also filled in how this story was never meant to go as far as it did. See, the girls were in trouble for going to the creak so much, so “Elsie had the idea of faking the photographs of the fairies and it was only meant to be to get her out of trouble.”
Image Via Independent.ie
See? They were going to the creak and getting dirty because they had to go and see the fairies. A cute excuse for getting some mud on you, but once the photographs were made they went the 1920s equivalent of ‘viral’.
“Elsie swore her to secrecy, and she said it ruined her life because she was looking over her shoulder the whole time,” the eighty-eight-year-old revealed.
Image Via Anomalies
Turns out this mystery has a truth that even the creator of Sherlock Holmes couldn’t fathoms: An innocent excuse turned into a heart-wrenching web of lies.
And now the photographs, revealed to be fakes, will be given to the public so they may do what they wish. They will be available at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, on April 11th.
Featured Image Via Quartz
🎶 Do you think I’d ever let you go? Do you think I’d ever set you free? 🎶
Apparently not, because “the sorry tale of Edward Hyde” is coming to theaters.
*Little girl squeals*
Not so fast, squealing little boy (and girls!). They aren’t simply filming the stage musical of Jekyll & Hyde, they are going to adapt it into a full fledged motion picture film (READ ALL ABOUT THE MAGIC HERE). In honor of that Godsend, we’re going to go through eleven of the oldest, strangest, and weirdest adaptions of the classic story!
In May of 1887, barely even a year after the book hit shelves, Thomas Russell Sullivan and Richard Mansfield teamed up to write a four act play. What blew audiences away was how Jekyll transformed into Hyde, which was accomplished with lights, staging, and Richard Mansfield’s facial contortions and changes in posture.
Image Via Awesome Stories
The play went on tour in Britain and ran for twenty years with Mansfield enthusiastically playing the role of Mr. Hyde until his death in 1907. The plot was already being reworked here, as the play gives Jekyll a love interest, Agnes, who is the daughter of Sir Danvers Carew, a man who Mr. Hyde will eventually murder. The play also ends with Mr. Hyde realizing he CANNOT transform back into Jekyll to escape the authorities, and committing suicide instead of an off-scene struggle between him and Dr. Jekyll. This play was adapted into a 1912 film of the same name that starred James Cruze, which is the earliest surviving Jekyll and Hyde film we still have copies of.
- Add a marriage plot
- Make the transformation scenes cool to get the audience talking about your adaption.
Eight years after the James Cruze film, we have the 1920 film starring John Barrymore. Again, it’s based on the Mansfield play with its love story, what with Jekyll having a fiancee called Millicent this time (not Emma) while also using the advent of film to have Hyde’s appearance become increasingly repulsive with each transformation.
When the film came out reviewers, like title characters in the film, were ‘split’. Variety said “as a medium for Mr. Barrymore…As the handsome young Dr. Jekyll his natural beauty of form and feature stand him in good stead and he offers a marvelous depiction of beastiality in the transformed personality of ‘Mr. Hyde'” but called the story “ridiculous”.
See how adding a cool transformations gets people talking?
Before I move on, I should mention how since its release the film has however been reassessed and holds a critical consensus of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with a average rating of 7.75/10.
When making the 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film, Paramount changed the name of fiancée Muriel Carew despite the fact she doesn’t appear in the original novella but instead in the Thomas Russell Sullivan and Richard Mansfield play. They asked John Barry to play the role again, but he was under contract by MGMT, so they instead went with Frederic March. Taking into account the novella’s implication that Hyde, as embodying repressed evil, is a semi-evolved simian-like being, the film stuffed canine fangs and had Frederic March dress up as a monkey. He won an Academy Award. The film also pronounces Jekyll as JEE-kal (as in seek, get in it? Hyde and seek?) which was how Robert Louis Stevenson intended it to be pronounced. It was remade in 1941 starring Spencer Tracy and that film pronounced Jekyll as Jek-el (the way you’ve been pronouncing it for this whole article).
So, the marriage stays but the names change and you get awards for great makeup.
Here’s a refresher:
- Add a marriage plot
- Make the transformation scenes cool to get the audience talking about your adaption
Add in a good script, good production, a good director, good acting, and you get an award. Where can we go next?
In 1953, Boris Karloff of Frankenstein fame played Dr. Jekyll in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There is no fiancee here, but Jekyll is infatuated with a woman named Vicky who intends to marry another man called Bruce Adams. Costello also turns into a large mouse, there’s confusion about who is who, and ends with Abbott and Costello getting chased out of the office by a bunch of monsters.
- No marriage plot
- Boris Karloff as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is cool
On Rotten Tomatoes, critic Steve Crum of Kansas City says “Bud and Lou meet another monster for infrequent laughs.
In 1971 came the British film, I, Monster. It stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing! Awesome. And it has a lot of Stevenson’s plot and dialogue and there’s no marriage plot and it has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 7.75/10.
Let me say that again: Christopher Lee is Mr. Hyde. He was also Dracula in the 1958 Hammer film. And you know who played Van Helsing in that movie? Peter Cushing.
Image Via Vintage News
Also Christopher Lee was up to play Grand Moff Tarkin in the first Star wars (or the fourth, depending on how you look at it), but he said no so Peter Cushing took the role. And that’s why Christopher Lee played Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, the fifth or second Star wars.
For some strange reason Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is now Dr. Charles Marlowe/Mr. Edward Blake but Peter Cushing is still called Utterson. Why? For some big reveal? Oh well. Dr. Charles Marlowe is a Freudian psychotherapist and honestly that with the whole ‘monster inside you’ concept.
- No marriage plot
- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing for the win!
It won. So much so that you read this whole article asking yourself “Why is he calling Dr. Marlowe Dr. Jekyll? Dr. Jekyll? That’s a stupid name! And Mr. Hyde? That’s not scary! Now Mr. Blake, he’s scary!”
Of course there’s a “Dr. Jekyll meets Sherlock Holmes.” It’s a 1979 novel by Loren D. Estleman titled Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes and is a ‘retelling’ of Stevenson’s story. See, Utterson hired Sherlock Holmes to figure out what the heck was going on. It’s basically a behind-the-scenes story that takes place concurrently with the original.
Of course, Sherlock figures out that Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde and confronts him, but upon realizing Mr. Hyde will never die uses his brilliant intellect to find the best solution…and mercy kills Jekyll.
In the last chapter Holmes meets with…Robert Louis Stevenson! He must be having a weird time, flashbacking to the Chantrelle trial, but the novel leaves that out and the fact that no newspaper apparently ever reported on the Hyde case. Strange, you’d think a half ape-scientist would get headlines, but whatever. It’s a story, and it ends with Stevenson promising to leave Holmes out of his novella so no one ever learns he killed Jekyll because that would be messy.
Kirkus summed this story up with this: “Unfortunately, though Estleman does a better, deadpan job of recreating Conan Doyle’s Watson style than many, he forgets that, without mystery, there is no Holmes–and here, we know all along what Sherlock is trying to deduce.”
In 1989, a low budget horror film adaptation of the novella called Edge of Sanity came out staring Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame stared as Jekyll and, wait for it, Mr. Jack “The Ripper” Hyde. It has no marriage plot, but again here’s perfect casting. What’s gonna happen?
TV Guide said the film “obviously isn’t meant to be taken seriously, despite its expensive production values and surrealistic photography—both surprisingly good. But the rest of EDGE OF SANITY (shot mostly in Budapest with some English exteriors) doesn’t measure up to its technical proficiency”. Good production values and photography only grants you one star, and thus Edge of Sanity got 1 out of 4 stars.
And that was one of the better reviews. “Tasteless, pointless, and unpleasant,” were what Leonard Martin, film credit, film historian, creator of the Walt Disney Treasures, called the film in his book Leonard Maltin’s 2010 Movie Guide.
- The ‘who is Mr. Hyde?’ mystery doesn’t work. The audience knows who it is, so just show us Jekyll transforming into Hyde
- This is almost like having Sherlock Holmes meet “Jack The Ripper”.
Interestingly enough, the next year would see the publication of The Jekyll Legacy by the author of Psycho, Robert Bloch. Andre Norton, fantasy goddess and creator of Elvenbane, or the Halfblood Chronicles, co-authored this unofficial sequel to Stevenson’s original novella.
It follows Hester Lane, a reporter from Canada, who discovers she’s Jekyll’s heir around the time someone continues with Jekyll’s experiments. Kirkus described the novel as having its “virtues come largely in looking at Victorian morals and the works of the Salvation Army, with the horror lightly handled,” which is interesting consider Jekyll’s butler Poole and Mr. Utterson given closure in the form of a bludgeoning.
- Sequels are weird when your titular character is dead, just ask The Saw movies.
Gracing the stage came the musical adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde. Conceived by Frank Wildhorn and Steven Cuden, the musical actually premiered in Houston, Texas in 1990 at the Alley Theatre. It did okay.
Kidding! Playbill.com notes that “box office records were broken, and a recording based on the staging was released. The show’s big hits, ‘Someone Like You’ and ‘This is the Moment,’ were heard on that recording (which has sold more than 150,000 copies).
This remarkable success blasted the musical onto a national tour throughout a national tour of the United States before gracing Broadway in 1997.
- A marriage plot
- Music that adds insight into Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde’s character
- The story throws its own spin on a classic tale that allows it to sing through the ages.
Come 1999 and Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta and all time wizard-impersonator, had released The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a three volume comic book with a hero squad that had Captain Nero, Dr. Jekyll/Mr, Hyde, and Dorian Grey. If this team were the Avengers, he’d be the Incredible Hulk.
Image Via Writeups.org
Then came the 2003 film adaptation where Mr. Hyde got the best treatment of any character, but that’s not saying much.
It’s called The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and boy is it strange. Dread Central said in their review that, “while this latest variation of the Jekyll story isn’t likely to win over any enthusiasts of the book, it will probably satisfy the undiscerning fan looking for some blood and a few unintentional laughs.”
‘Why?’ I hear you asked.
With no marriage plot, the original plot with retained with a few changed. The first change is the film is set in modern times instead of Victorian England. Okay, at least it’s new.
In an effort to update the character, a character is made into a female and her profession is changed. Her name? Detective Karen Utterson.
Since I can’t ask the patrons at the thirty theaters in Louisiana and Virginia that showed this independent film studio’s debut feature, I have to assume they loved it as much as I did.
BONUS-The Mummy (2017)
In 2017’s The Mummy, Russell Crowe appeared as Nick Fury-esque Dr.Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. It was the first and last film in the Dark Universe.
Sad times for Universal.
Featured Image Via New Historian