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Celebrating Jim Tully—In Hollywood

by Leonard Maltin
October 8, 2012 1:00 AM
1 Comment
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Tully confers with director Sam Wood during production of Way for a Sailor (1930) in which the author tried his hand at acting
Courtesy AMPAS/Margaret Herrick Library Tully confers with director Sam Wood during production of Way for a Sailor (1930) in which the author tried his hand at acting

Several months ago I reviewed the revelatory biography Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler by Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer, who spent years researching the life of this celebrated—but now curiously forgotten—author and Hollywood figure. This coming week the authors are coming to Los Angeles for a series of events they’re calling a Tullyfest, and I am happy to help spread the word. Whether you want to participate in a literary salon at historic Musso & Frank’s Grill or drop in at the Egyptian Theatre for a rare screening of the 1933 Universal film Laughter in Hell, based on Tully’s book, these are wonderful opportunities to draw on interest in vintage Hollywood, L.A. lore, and 20th century literary life. If you missed my book review, you can read it HERE and learn more about the famed “hobo author” who captured the imagination of America’s literati in decades past. I present the following information verbatim from Tullyfest’s press release.


LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association, UCLA Special Collections and The American Cinematheque celebrate the life, writings and films of Jim Tully (1886-1947) with a week-long "Tullyfest."

Events include:

1) October 10 - LAUGHTER IN HELL screening at the American Cinematheque

2) October 11 - REDISCOVERING JIM TULLY Bonnie Cashin Lecture at UCLA Special Collections and opening of exhibit (open thru December) of selections from the Jim Tully Papers

3) October 14 – JIM TULLY'S HOLLYWOOD walking tour

4) The LAVA Salon at Musso & Frank honors JIM TULLY: A HOBO IN HOLLYWOOD (Detailed event info is below.)
FOR MORE TULLYFEST INFO: Contact Kim Cooper,, 323-223-2767.

On October 15, for its fourth quarterly Salon at Musso & Frank, LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association, makes a departure from the celebrated subjects of past literary Salons (Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and John Fante) to honor a forgotten luminary of the 1930s Hollywood scene, the hobo novelist, journalist and screenwriter Jim Tully.

The LAVA Salon, entitled JIM TULLY: A HOBO IN HOLLYWOOD, wraps up a full week of Tullyfest celebrations stretching from Hollywood to Westwood and back again. Tullyfest events unfold in this order:

Laughter in Hell Poster

1) LAUGHTER IN HELL film screening and talk at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre.

WHERE: American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

WHEN: Wednesday, October 10, 7:30pm

COST: General Admission $11.00. Cinematheque Members $7.00. Seniors

65+/Students w/valid ID $9.


Tullyfest week begins with a screening of the 1933 film Laughter in Hell with an introduction by Jim Tully's biographers Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer. Copies of their book Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler  will be available for purchase from historic Hollywood bookseller Larry Edmunds. Based on the 1932 Tully novel, this hard-boiled, pre-Code film stars Pat O'Brien as a wife-killing railroad worker who busts out of prison and takes up with Gloria Stuart. At the time of its release, the film gained notoriety for its no-holds-barred depiction of prison brutality and lynching. It is rarely screened today, and was for many years thought to be a lost film.


WHERE: UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library Main Conference Room,
11360 Charles E. Young Research Library, Los Angeles, CA 90095

WHEN: Thursday, October 11, 4-6pm (lecture), exhibition is open through December

COST: Free, but reservations required and space is limited. RSVP by October 2, 2012 to UCLA Library Development at 310.206.8526 or


For the second Tullyfest event, UCLA Library Special Collections hosts the Bonnie Cashin Lecture by Paul Bauer and Mark Dawidziak, entitled "Rediscovering Jim Tully: Golden Age Hollywood's Hard-Boiled Writer" in the Charles E. Young Research Library Conference Center. Bauer and Dawidziak are authors of the biography, Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler (Kent State University Press, 2011).

The lecture will be followed by a reception in Library Special Collections for the opening of the accompanying exhibit, "The Life and Times of Jim Tully -- From Drifter to Celebrated Author" curated by Lilace Hatayama. The exhibit will feature selections from the Jim Tully Papers, including drafts of his novels and first editions, correspondence with Hollywood celebrities, sports figures, writers, editors, and screenwriters, research files for his non-fiction pieces, photographs with celebrities of the day, and mementos of his strong ties to his hometown of St. Mary's, Ohio.

Jim Tully in another Clarence S. Bull portrait.
Courtesy AMPAS/Margaret Herrick Library Jim Tully in another Clarence S. Bull portrait.

3) JIM TULLY'S HOLLYWOOD walking tour presented by LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association

WHERE: Tour begins at the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, 6644 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90028

WHEN: Sunday, October 14, 3 (time subject to change, check calendar link)

COST: Free, but reservations are required, and will be accepted starting on October 4 from the link below.


The third Tullyfest event is a free two-hour walking tour that will focus on the locations which were important to Jim Tully's career in the motion picture industry, during the teens through the 1930s. The tour will be lead by Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer, who are Jim Tully's biographers and who will be presenting at the LAVA literary Salon at Musso & Frank Grill the following night. Sites on the tour include: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Grauman's Chinese Theater, The Musso & Frank Grill, Mark Twain Hotel and the former Chaplin Studios.

4) Monday, October 15 - The LAVA Salon at Musso & Frank presents JIM


WHERE: Musso & Frank Grill, 6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

WHEN: Monday, October 15, 2012 from 6-11pm.

COST: $100 per person, ticket price includes 3-course prix fixe dinner prepared by Musso & Frank chefs and Salon presentations. Cocktails not included.

TO PURCHASE TICKETS: Call Musso & Frank at (323) 467-7788 or visit the restaurant Tuesday-Saturday between 9am and 5pm.


The fourth and final Tullyfest event is the LAVA Salon at Musso & Frank honoring Jim Tully: A Hobo in Hollywood.

There is simply no Hollywood restaurant more closely tied to the city's literary legacy than Musso & Frank--a favorite of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Fante, Hellman, Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Saroyan, Parker, West, as well as a new generation of luminaries.

In honor of this ongoing writerly tradition, in January 2012 LAVA (The Los Angeles Visionaries Association) launched a dinner and lecture series, The LAVA Salon at Musso & Frank, a quarterly literary salon and prix fixe dinner celebrating the great writers and personalities who have frequented the establishment.

The LAVA Salon at Musso & Frank was just named Best Literary Salon by Los Angeles Magazine in its “Best of L.A.” issue.

The first Salon, featuring Dan Fante reading from his recent memoir, was a rousing success, with Larry Wilson of the Pasadena Star-News observing "The sold-out crowd spoke to our hunger for a Southern California literary history." And of the second sold-out Salon, featuring "L.A. Noir" author John Buntin discussing the true crime roots of Raymond Chandler's fiction, Carolyn Kellogg noted in the L.A. Times that "someone who didn't know any L.A. history would have found it to be a robust and welcoming introduction." And at the third sold-out Salon, David Kipen celebrated the late work of F. Scott Fitzgerald as Adrienne Crew reminded us that for all her sharpness, Dorothy Parker had a genius for friendship.

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1 Comment

  • Jim Reinecke | October 9, 2012 5:26 PMReply

    Couldn't help but notice the fine print in the displayed newspaper ad for LAUGHTER IN HELL that the supporting cast includes two actors that appeared in contemporary films about the brutalities of chain gangs; namely, Berton Churchill (I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG) and Tom Brown (HELL'S HIGHWAY). Now that this film has returned to circulation (albeit limited) it would be another candidate for a third edition of the Classic Movie Guide (Yes, I'm still hoping that this much needed book will see the light of day before somebody finds, say, CONVENTION CITY---and, as you may have gathered from some of my earlier posts, that film is my personal Holy Grail among lost movies).

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