Karl Dane - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Built into the concept of stardom is the reality that, inevitably, the star will flame out, fade and die. Young actors don’t want to think about this certainty: how could they, when they’re being lionised all over the planet? Smart stars prepare for not being stars by expanding their interests, looking great in public and saying hip things about the present.

When “The Big Parade” was released in 1925, John Gilbert, Renee Adoree and Karl Dane
were the stars of the year in the picture of the year. By 1933, Renee Adoree was dead and Karl Dane had made his swan song in “The Whispering Shadow”, a Bela Lugosi serial. The following year, he died by his own hand. John Gilbert had a brief reprieve in 1934 in “Queen Christina” opposite Greta Garbo, but by 1936 he was dead.

“Karl Dane” by Laura Petersen Balogh shows the rise and fall of this unforgettable character star. In silent movies, his thick Danish accent was no handicap, but in the early sound era, film offers when they came were often bits or non-speaking roles. Karl Dane tried to do other things, like running a Westwood hot dog stand. His co-star, George K. Arthur, explains its failure: “People could not bear to watch his despair. So they didn’t come to buy his hamburgers.” Even though “Karl Dane” is a sad book, the author makes many fascinating points about Hollywood then which still apply to Hollywood now. For more information, go to mcfarlandpub.com

© 2010 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 05/05/10
Movie Magazine International