Monday, January 27, 2014


D.G. Wills is one of my favorite bookstores in La Jolla or anywhere. He has books that no one else carries and events that no mainstream bookstore would bother with. Many of them have been recorded and can be found on his website.

Friday night, we were fortunate enough to squeeze into the store to hear Noah Isenberg who has written the definitive biography on Edgar G. Ulmer: EDGAR G. ULMER: A FILMMAKER AT THE MARGINS.  Now I am betting you have all seen DETOUR and perhaps THE BLACK CAT, RUTHLESS and BLUEBEARD. But he made many other pictures, some good, many bad in his tumultuous years in Hollywood. His is perhaps the prototypical story of Hollywood's use and misuse of directors from the thirties to the sixties. His daughter, Arianne, was also on-hand to enlarge on Isenberg's themes with personal reminiscences. Both she and her mother were called upon for assistance in all things over the course of Ulmer's life.

Mr. Isenberg was a delightful speaker. He left the majority of time for questions, which gave Arianne and him time to do what he referred to as their "Borscht-belt Routine." 

He has also written a study of the film DETOUR. 

Noah Isenberg directs Screen Studies at Eugene Lang College-The New School for Liberal Arts, where he is also Professor of Culture and Media. The recipient of various grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Austrian Fulbright Commission, the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna, and the Humboldt Foundation, he has published his work in such diverse venues as Bookforum, Moving Image Source, Film Comment, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Criterion Collection, Film Quarterly, The Nation, the TLS, Threepenny Review, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic and the New York Times. He's currently at work on a new book, Everybody Comes to Rick's: How 'Casablanca' Taught the World to Love Movies, for W.W. Norton (and Faber & Faber, in the UK). More info can be found at:

And from the critics:
J. Hoberman-The season’s must read (months if not years from paperback): Noah Isenberg’s long-awaited biography “Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins” (University of California Press). Ulmer—whose CV includes “People on Sunday,” “The Black Cat,” “Detour,” four Yiddish talkies, a half dozen bargain basement classics and as many indescribable oddities—had a life that was every bit as interesting as his film. The writing is scholarly but, given the material, charged with irony and full of pep.


Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins, Noah Isenberg

  • Director Edgar G. Ulmer is perhaps best known today for Detour, considered by many to be the epitome of a certain noir style that transcends its B-list origins. But in his lifetime he never achieved the celebrity of his fellow Austrian and German √©migr√© directors--Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Fred Zinnemann and Robert Siodmak. Despite early work with Max Reinhardt and F. W. Murnau, his auspicious debut with Siodmak on their celebrated Weimar classic People on Sunday, and the success of films like Detour and Ruthless, Ulmer spent most of his career as an itinerant filmmaker earning modest paychecks for films that have been forgotten.

    In Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins, Noah Isenberg, Director of Screen Studies at the New School and author of Detour (BFI Film Classics, 2008), provides the little-known details of Ulmer's personal life and a thorough analysis of his wide-ranging, eclectic films--features aimed at minority audiences, horror and sci-fi flicks, and genre pictures made in the U.S. and abroad. Isenberg shows that Ulmer's unconventional path was in many ways more typical than that of his more famous colleagues. As he follows the twists and turns of Ulmer's fortunes, Isenberg also conveys a new understand- ing of low-budget filmmaking in the studio era and beyond.
And here is a podcast if Noah isn't coming your way and you would like to hear more about the book.


George said...

I'm reading David Thomson's brilliant MOMENTS THAT MADE THE MOVIES so this fits right in. Hope you're enjoying your stay in the warmth. We're supposed to be hit with an arctic blast tonight. Temps tomorrow morning will be below zero (wind chill temps -30).

Anonymous said...

Noah is great! I was fortunate to have him as an adviser at the New School (he was the one who introduced me to Megan's book, DIE A LITTLE, and urged me to take her course). He's been working on this Ulmer book since I first met him almost 10 years ago. I can't wait to read it.


Anonymous said...

Patti - Oh, that sounds terrific. I'm so glad he was so engaging and that you enjoyed yourselves. Thanks for sharing.

arianne ulmer cipes said...

Patti It was Great to meet you in La Jolla, Thank you for your kind words, I had a piece of good news when I returned to LA, TCM will premiere our newly preserved print (from UCLA) at the April TCM Festival in Hollywood. Again, Thank you. Arianne Ulmer Cipes - EDGAR G ULMER PRESERVATION CORP. E-MAIL AUCIPES@AOL.COM