Saturday, January 22, 2011

One Who Walked Alone

It's Robert E. Howard's birthday today. As you can imagine, as much time as I spend reading his works, this is a day where I give his life a good bit of thought. With that in mind, I'm rereading Novalyne Price Ellis' memoir, One Who Walked Alone, which was about her friendship and brief romance with Howard and which was made into the movie The Whole Wide World, starring Renee Zellweger as Novalyne and Vincent D'Onofrio as Robert E. Howard.
This is one woman's memory of the creator of Conan and crew, and so perhaps a bit subjective, but still the best first hand account of part of REH's life that we have. I recommend the book and the film highly, though I sometimes thought D'Onofrio's performance a little over the top.
Still, he won definite points with me in an interview, when asked what his take was on REH as a person, he said that from his conversations with Novalyne and others that he thought the people who thought Howard was crazy just didn't get the picture. He referred to Howard as "Very much in his head." He goes on to say that Howard was a writer and very much into his work. "I think basically that's it. I've known artists in my life who were like that, that are very deep in their heads." He does make one unfortunate mention of Howard's attachment to his mother, but the movie does highlight Hester Howard as sort of the villain of the piece. That's a part I don't necessarily agree with but that's how Novalyne saw it. She thought Hester saw her as a rival for Howard's affections.
Anyway, I'll also probably read a few letters from the collections of Howard's letters this morning, and maybe some of REH's fiction later. Happy Birthday, Bob.


Taranaich said...

Even though Hester is something of an antagonist in The Whole Wide World, I felt the scene with Howard changing her clothes was actually quite a touching moment. Knowing what tuberculosis sufferers had to go through with night sweats, the Oedipal connotations of the scene fall away, and all we see is a son caring for a sick, ailing mother.

It's one of those films where bringing preconceptions can alter the experience, I think.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Indeed. In fact D'onofrio even mentions that he read a book about Howard and the author thought Bob was "psychotic'. Three guesses as to the book and the first two don't count. So we know where his thoughts about Hester came from.
I have always wondered how much editing Novalyne did on the diaries of her youth when she wrote One who Walked Alone and if her own opinions about Hester Howard softened once she had a family of her own.

Taranaich said...

Oh boy, lessee... DVD? DVD? And... DVD?

It's indeed possible Novalyne's views changed over the years. Then again, Novalyne also wasn't privy to all the information at the time either.