The Fiend Without a Face
Posted November 8, 2011on:
The Fiend Without a Face…
…became Richard Gordon’s most well known movie, but most film fans do not know his name because he generally didn’t take a screen credit. On the other hand, classic horror movie fans know him well as the producer of “The First Man Into Space,” “The Haunted Strangler,” “Corridors of Blood,” and many others.
I first met Richard Gordon over 30 years ago when he sold rights to one of my movies. He began Gordon Films, Inc. in 1949 as an international sales agent importing and exporting films to the United States, and was still going strong over 60 years later. He was the consummate film fan, particularly of movies from the 1930s, who knew every bit player as if they were family members. During that time he produced two dozen, mostly horror movies, and was the last person living who had worked with both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Dick was working on a deal to sell a few of my movies to England when he was stricken a few months ago.
Dick was born in England in 1925, and was a textbook example of an English gentleman; reserved, articulate, private, well spoken, respectful, cultured (he had an amazing art collection,) mannerly (the type who would stand up when a lady got up from the table), and a canny businessman. He upheld a custom, from an era of long ago, of hanging up pictures of his clients on the wall behind his desk. But there was a lot more to Richard Gordon.
Dick and his friend Joe Cattuti, were devoted to each other, and the two of them travelled around the world for half a century. Dick and Joe, and my wife, Donna, and I, had dinners with them which always lasted over 3 hours. Joe and Donna would talk about all kinds of things, but it always started out about fashions. Dick and I focused on movies: How it was going to the movies as a child in England; how he and his brother, Alex*, asked strangers to accompany them into horror movies (there was an “H,” for horror, rating which excluded youngsters from attending without an adult,) his time in the British Navy in WWII where he learned German (and how it helped him in business), how his father, whose favorite movie was “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924), hated his own job and encouraged his sons to go to America and give a shot at their passion.
I asked him what he thought about the fact that each of his movies entertained millions. He looked bemused and responded, “Well, not quite millions.” I defended my math: First there were movie theatres, then countless airings on TV, and later cable, satellite, VHS, DVD, and now video on demand…all around the world. He paused for a few seconds and the look on his face told me he had never actually thought of it that way before. (Tens of millions would be more like it.)
One year I met him in Pittsburg at a horror convention where lots of old movies are shown, and old stars would sit in a room and autograph stills for a fee. On the flight there I thought to myself that it would be completely out of character for Dick to charge for an autograph; that he’d find it undignified, as well as disrespectful to his fans. When I got there he was signing autographs, and not only didn’t charge for them, he provided the stills.
Richard Gordon, a class act.
If you can only read one book over the next year, let it be “The Horror Hits of Richard Gordon”
Richard Gordon’s producer-brother, Alex, also had an interesting life in the movies: