Biography of Val Lewton, Man in the Shadows

This post is part of the Val Lewton blogathon hosted by Stephen, aka Classic Movie Man & Kristina of the Speakeasy blog – see more posts at either Classic Movie Man’s Lewton page or the Speakeasy Lewton page.

When Kristina invited to me to participate in this blogathon honoring movie producer Val Lewton, my first instinct was to turn down the offer. The horror genre had never been a particular favorite of mine, and not only had I never seen a Val Lewton film, I had never even heard of him. But being someone who is always trying to expand my knowledge of film history, I decided to learn more about him and his movies before I made a decision.

The simple way I use to describe the type of movies I most like to watch would be those “about real people doing real things in normal settings,” and with names like Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man, the movies produced by Val Lewton didn’t exactly sound like they’d fit that bill and sounded like they’d be too strange for my tastes.

But when I watched clips of a few of his movies, I realized that they were more like the type of movies I usually like than I ever would have guessed based on their titles alone. In fact, the one Val Lewton movie that I have watched so far, The Seventh Victim (1943), had “normal” looking scenes set in restaurants, hotels, apartments, and even a school where the main character, played by actress Kim Hunter, worked as a kindergarten teacher. Had I not known better, I never would have guessed it was considered horror at all.

When I read that the great director Martin Scorsese described his movies as “wonderfully inventive, beautifully poetic and deeply unsettling . . . some of the greatest treasures we have,” I took it as a sign that I should find out more about those movies and the people who made them, which is why I decided to do this biography of Val Lewton. Continue reading →