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Celebrating Jim Tully—In Hollywood

Celebrating Jim Tully—In Hollywood

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:

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.

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.

The LAVA Salon at Musso & Frank is the brainchild of Kim Cooper & Richard Schave, proprietors of literary and historic tour company Esotouric — Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, James M. Cain’s Southern California Nightmare, Charles Bukowski’s Haunts of a Dirty Old Man, John Fante’s Dreams from Bunker Hill — who through 2009-10 hosted a free cultural Salon on the last Sunday of the month at Clifton’s Cafeteria. With the new series, LAVA expands its congenial, intelligent and unpredictable cultural programming into Hollywood with a quarterly literary Salon event held in Musso & Frank on a night when the restaurant is closed to the general public. Seating is extremely limited, and these intimate gatherings always sell out.

On Monday, October 15, you are invited to join Jim Tully’s biographers Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer for Jim Tully: A Hobo in Hollywood, a night spent exploring a fascinating Hollywood literary figure who star blazed brightly through the 1930s, and unaccountably faded after his 1947 death.

The son of an Irish ditch-digger, Ohio-born Jim Tully (1886-1947) hit the road in 1901, spending most of his teenage years in the company of hoboes. While chasing his dream of becoming a writer, Tully rode the rails and worked as a tree surgeon, boxer, and newspaper reporter. All the while, he was crafting his memories into a dark and original chronicle of the American underclass. When he began to set his experiences onto paper in a style that was hard-boiled before the genre existed, he became a literary sensation.

At October’s Salon, Jim Tully’s biographers Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer will seek to answer the fundamental question: “Why isn’t Jim Tully still a household name?” Tully exploded onto the scene with a stream of critically acclaimed novels, among them “Beggars of Life” (1924), “Circus Parade” (1927), “Shanty Irish” (1928), “Shadows of Men” (1930) and “Blood on the Moon” (1931). Yet the books were out-of-print for decades, their author forgotten.

To answer this question, Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer must look to the Hollywood of 1912, to the sleepy little suburb that Tully found and watched grow up around him, as he built his incongruous twin careers as motion picture publicist and independent writer. From his piercing insights into and deep ambivalence toward his longtime employer, Charlie Chaplin, to anecdotes of great friendships with W.C. Fields, Jack Dempsey, Damon Runyon, Lon Chaney, Frank Capra, and Erich von Stroheim, Tully exhibited a lust for life which was only surpassed by his devotion to his craft. By 1930 Tully was a major American author, and had launched a parallel career as a successful journalist. Both his novels and journalistic exposés shook the country and his peer group in Hollywood.

But Tully’s novel “Ladies In The Parlor” (1935), was declared obscene and most copies destroyed, and Chaplin successfully prevented Tully’s publisher from releasing a biography of the actor. By the mid-1940s, crippling physical ailments and family heartbreak left the writer on the ropes. With his death in 1947, his name quietly slipped from the front ranks of American Letters and into obscurity.

Since 2009, Kent State University Press has been rectifying this long neglect with a series of Tully reprints. And in 2011, it published Mark Dawidziak and Paul Bauer’s definitive biography, Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler, drawing on new information found in the Tully papers at UCLA Special Collections.

The time is ripe for a revival of interest in this fascinating American character, and we invite you to play a part in it at the October Salon and at all of the October TULLYFEST events.

Also appearing at the Salon is Howard Prouty (Acquisitions Archivist at The Academy Foundation/Margaret Herrick Library and proprietor of

ReadInk) with the latest in his popular series of talks on a famous Los Angeles book seller with a history of Hollywood’s landmark Pickwick Bookshop. And before and after the formal dinner and Salon presentations, guests will mingle with Hollywood historian Philip Mershon (proprietor of The Felix in Hollywood Tour Company).


For much of the mid-20th Century, to rub shoulders with America’s greatest novelists and screenwriters, one needed merely to go to the corner of Cherokee Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. Here, within the tight triangle of the Writer’s Guild offices, Musso & Frank Grill and the Stanley Rose Bookshop, flowed the commercial and social sap that nourished the tree of American letters. The famous minds who congregated still inspire awe: William Faulkner, Scott Fitzgerald, John Fante, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, William Saroyan, John O’Hara, Dorothy Parker, Nathanael West and many more.

And at the center of it all was the famed “Back Room” of Musso & Frank, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. Beginning in 1936, in response to the restaurant’s growing popularity, Musso’s expanded its operations into a small room tucked behind the Vogue Theater. A door was punched through the west wall of the dining room, and a haughty door man installed. His instructions were simple: the back room was to be the exclusive domain of Hollywood’s literary lions, their friends and romantic partners. It was called, informally, The Cocktail Room or The Round Table or the Algonquin West.

The party raged on, six nights a week, for twenty glorious years.

In 1955, Musso & Frank expanded to the east, and the contents of the “Back Room” — the long bar, chairs, light fixtures, coat racks– were moved wholesale into the “New Room.” The “New Room” was no longer the exclusive retreat of literary Los Angeles, but the writers kept coming. Today, Musso & Frank’s clientele still includes celebrated novelists, screenwriters, poets and songwriters, all of whom cherish the old world hospitality, traditional Continental cuisine and opportunity to soak up the same rarified air that nourished the greats.

LAVA co-founder Richard Schave, the Salon host and co-curator, says “I would argue that along the bar in the old Cocktail Room, somewhere between the drinking, bragging, fighting and general hell-raising, the better half of the Hard-Boiled School of American Letters was hashed out and put down on paper. The purpose of the Salon is twofold. First, to set the record straight on some basic milestones: the rise and fall of the original Cocktail Room and its reincarnation as the “New Room” and the symbiotic relationship Musso & Frank shared with the legendary bookshop next door, Stanley Rose’s. Secondly, a more ephemeral aim: in these hallowed rooms, that still bear the nicotine stains from Raymond Chandler’s pipe and Charles Bukowski’s cigarettes, we want to seek out and amplify the spark which all those great souls have left behind. Musso & Frank is just bricks and mortar, but incredible ideas and connections were forged here, and we believe that spark is waiting to be reignited and make its impression felt in Los Angeles again.”

Each Musso’s Salon evening will focus on different aspects of Hollywood’s literary lore, feature fascinating speakers and special guest historians, and be hosted by LAVA co-founder Richard Schave.

Mark Echeverria, 4th generation General Manager/Proprietor of The Musso & Frank Grill, says, “For 93 years The Musso & Frank Grill has been a keystone in Hollywood’s ever-evolving history. Some of the world’s greatest people have walked through our doors, sat at a booth or a bar stool, and dreamt the unimaginable. That is what makes Hollywood so unique: unimaginable things come true. Musso & Frank Grill has always been that inspiration in people’s lives to make the impossible, possible, and it is now time to tell the true story of the people who put Hollywood on the map, and the restaurant they did it in–The Musso & Frank Grill. We are extremely excited to work with LAVA to bring you living history in a setting where history continues to happen, even 93 years later. So please enjoy an authentic dining experience you would have found in the early decades of last century, and bring yourselves back to the time era of the literary giants, and truly get a journey through the history of Hollywood, in the restaurant that Hollywood grew up around, The Musso & Frank Grill.”

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