It has been awhile since I blogged (a new age verb?). The list of unapproved excuses is headed by having been so busy with a multitude of events including getting through the typically hectic day-to-day.
There was the Brothers Warner festival this month, a guest appearance at the Robert Osborne Classic Film Festival in Athens, Georgia last week – a tremendous event, btw – and the Noir City L.A. Festival premiering at the Egyptian Theatre this Thursday evening.I have also been deeply involved in planning the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, California that is scheduled for May 28-31.I’ll end up writing or yakking about all of those events in one form or fashion, but this post is for Art.
After Arthur Lyons died-a shockingly sudden exit a year ago last week- I didn’t post anything about him on my blog.The public reason was because I was busier than hell helping out with the Palm Springs Film Festival. The private reason was that it was painful to think of Arthur being gone. It still is.
After a year has passed, I’ve grown to accept the fact that Arthur isn’t around to talk and laugh with anymore… but I still don’t like it.Here is a recollection of Arthur that I wrote for the Noir City Sentinel last May.
Arthur Lyons: A Personal Remembrance
“I wrote it out of a passion for film noir and indeed, B movies in general, and because tracking down these largely ignored films was akin to that excitement a paleontologist must feel dusting off a rock and discovering a dinosaur bone.
”From Death on the Cheap, the Lost B Movies of Film Noir by Arthur Lyons
Passion was the ruling precept of Arthur Lyons’ wonderfully eclectic existence.How many other cats managed a top tier restaurant, became a City Councilman, worked the corner of a heavyweight boxing champion, co-founded and produced one of the most enduringly unique film noir festivals in the country and wrote over twenty books on the widest expanse of subjects imaginable?
When Art suddenly died (this word reminded me of Arthur remarking on several occasions that use of the term “passed on” instead of “died” was asinine) less than two months ago, he left his beloved wife Barbara, an extended family along with a legion of friends and colleagues who remain stunningly bereft of his love and mischievous infatuations.
With the encouragement of mentors including Ray Bradbury and Mickey Spillane, Art developed into an accomplished writer by shear dint of determination and a deft prose style. Sample any of his Jacob Asch novels and the originality of his vision about the detective genre becomes immediately apparent.
Along with his family, his writing and his adored hometown of Palm Springs, California where he lived and worked for over five decades, no other interest stoked Arthur Lyons’ enthusiasm more than B movies.Although this shared obsession became one of the foundations of our relationship, what I will always treasure about Art was his unbridled generosity of spirit.
Only Arthur and Barbara would invite us to spend New Years Eve together in Palm Springs so we could all go out to watch the newly released remake of KING KONG the following day. A confirmed homebody, Art made the trek to L.A. several years ago to sample the Annual Film Noir Festival at the Egyptian Theatre and unexpectedly presented me with a beautiful silk Hawaiian shirt as a birthday present. And then there was the effusive hospitality and fun at the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival every year. You simply don’t make too many friends in this life that were as nice as Arthur Lyons.
Art immediately welcomed me into his midst as a colleague and invited me to introduce films and bring guest stars to his Palm Springs Film Noir Festival. He truly was a film noir paleontologist. After publishing his wonderful DEATH ON THE CHEAP, it seemed that his singular ambition was to locate films that no one else knew about… especially me! When Arthur introduced PORT OF FORTY THIEVES last year at the Camelot Theatres, he proudly stated that here was “…a film that Alan Rode has neither seen nor heard of!” I was simultaneously convulsed and flattered by such a humorous compliment from the true archivist of B noir obscurities.
Art was a child of Old Hollywood.His Dad, also Arthur Lyons, ran a successful restaurant on the Sunset Strip before relocating his business and family to Palm Springs in the mid 1950’s. A sporadic highlight at the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival would occur when Art’s life intersected with one of his festival guests. When Ann Savage appeared for a screening of DETOUR, she suddenly remembered that she dated Arthur’s father back in Hollywood during the 1940’s!Ann remarked: “I could have been your Mother…” as everyone rocked with laughter. There was no doubt that film noir; movie stars and Hollywood were inherent characteristics of the Arthur Lyons’ DNA string.
Our mutual interests not only encompassed the film noir genre (Art resolutely considered noir a genre, not a style), but also included a nostalgic affection for the low budget horror and sci-fi films from our baby boomer youth. These movies ended up becoming the topic of numerous conversations and schemes. At one point, we seriously discussed producing a 1950’s drive-in film festival highlighted by such fare as EEGAH, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN and INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN.
None of these latent brainstorms (probably not an accurate descriptor) amounted to much, but it was great fun to chew the fat over. Usually, we would both end up gasping in fits of hysterics discussing the relative cinematic merits of movies like VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE. Something I could count on when fare such as THE BLACK SLEEP or THE RETURN OF DRACULA popped up on television would be a phone call from Art. He would recall where he saw these films on their initial release – typically along Hollywood Boulevard – and would segue into stories about his boyhood including next-door neighbor Frank Lovejoy, Wallace Ford dressing up as Santa Claus for the kids in the neighborhood and Alan Mowbray working as a greeter in the Lyons’ restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Words can’t express how much I miss these phone calls and the joyous laughter we shared.
Art was an ardent supporter of my Charles McGraw book. After reading the tome, he called and raved about how great it was. This authentic endorsement meant a lot. No matter how considerate Arthur was, he could never play the phony. He enthusiastically suggested that we collaborate on a writing project and we started trading outlines. Sadly, this proved to be an endeavor that we never had a chance to fully pursue.
Like many creative people, Art encountered demons along the way that gnawed at his soul, but neither bad tidings nor evil spirits ever made an permanent inroad into his great heart.
Arthur Lyons was antithetical to the academic and serious approach to film noir specifically and life generally. He loved his family, his friends, his home town, his movies and memories and happily wanted to share it all. The incandescent delight of our mutual passions dimmed perceptibly when Art departed. I miss him.
Please celebrate the memory of Arthur Lyons by attending the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, California. For information, please visit the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival website.