Doll, Author Of Ghost Stories Book, Will Co-Host Movie
Susan Doll, author of many books including co-author of Haunted Tales from the Holler, which includes ghost stories of Tyler County, is set to appear on Turner Classic Movies Nov. 30, 8 p.m., as she co-hosts with Robert Osborne the movie The Locket.
For those who might be unaware, Doll explains The Locket as a “1940s mystery film about a woman whose adult life is affected by a traumatic childhood incident.” The film stars Robert Mitchum, whom Doll describes as “my favorite actor,” as well as Laraine Day. Doll says the movie contains “beautiful black and white cinematography that makes symbolic use of light and shadow like the best black and white films did.”
Doll describes her co-host, Osborne, as “the face of Turner Classic Movies.” She adds that Osborne is a professional announcer as well as a film historian who hosts most of the films that are shown on TCM. This means that Osborne introduces each film with “interesting information about the movie, the star, or the behind-the-scenes production.” Doll says this way, the viewer gets an informed experience. “They have an idea of why the movie is significant. I am co-hosting with him, so that means we chat about the interesting merits of the movie beforehand and then refer to a couple of interesting tidbits after it is done.”
Besides the locally placed Haunted Tales from the Holler, Doll, whose mother lives in Tyler County, has written extensively on film and popular culture for a variety of publications, including Encyclopedia Britann- ica, Facts on File, and Magill’s Survey of Cinema. She has authored a career biography on Marilyn Monroe titled Marilyn: Her Life and Legend and several books on Elvis Presley, including her latest, Elvis for Dummies, as well as The Films of Elvis Presley, Elvis: Forever in the Groove, and Elvis: American Idol.
Doll has coauthored books with other writers, including the collaboration on Haunted Tales from the Holler with her favorite writing partner, Grace Morrow, writing Florida on Film with David Morrow, and contributing to Blanche Lazzell: The Making of an American Modernist for the University of West Virginia Press.
“I’m lucky to have had a diverse career,” Doll says. She adds that she’s worked in publishing and still considers herself to be a decent editor. She has worked for arts organizations as a researcher and writer. Currently, she teaches college- level courses in film and art history full-time at Ringling College of Art and Design and writes about history and pop culture. She has previously worked for Facets Multi-Media and anticipates doing some writing for them in the future.
Doll has a BA and MA in art history and an MA and PhD in film history. Of her extensive career, she says “My career has always involved researching and interpreting art and popular culture. I got involved in publishing because of the research skills I learned in college. I apprenticed as an editor for a reference book publisher and that experience led to writing about interpreting history, art, and popular culture.”
This skill at interpretation, Doll says, fostered her interest in ghost stories and what they might reflect or symbolize. Of Haunted Tales from the Holler, Doll says, “(The book) featured actual ghost stories told to us by residents of Tyler County, which we researched, looking for the historical or symbolic context behind them. My family is from Tyler County, and I have always been interested in the history and folk history of the area.”
As for her work with TCM, Doll says she has worked as a free-lance writer for TCM for approximately four years. As a regular blogger, she posts a new piece about movies every Monday. Additionally, Doll writes articles on specific films for TCM’s online research archives. About her start with TCM, Doll says, “I actually approached them about writing, and the editor of TCM offered me a blogger’s position after looking at my writing samples and experience. Unlike a lot of personal blogs on the internet, the TCM writers have a proven background in film studies-a must in order to be considered.” Doll says her fellow bloggers are very talented writers and she is proud to be in their company.
Doll says she has a lot of respect for the mission of TCM, which is “to treat popular film as an art form, with its own history and unique contributions to our culture.” She adds, “Movies are the art of the people, and cinema should be respected as such.
It should also be noted that Doll’s upcoming television appearance is not her first. She says she’s been on television a few times and has been interviewed on radio a lot. Specifically, she notes that in 2009 she was interviewed extensively for a PBS show about one of her books on Elvis Presley-Elvis for Dummies. As for any television appearance jitters, she says “I like talking about popular culture in formal situations, and being in front of a college classroom for over 20 years will get you past any fears of speaking in public.
When asked how two of her most popular writing topics-Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe-caught her interest, Doll says she wrote her dissertation on Elvis Presley, his southern background, and how his background influenced his career. Doll says that when her publisher discovered her dissertation topic, he asked her to adapt part of her dissertation for a popular book. “My book was a fair and accurate portrayal of his career,” Doll says, “which his millions of fans appreciated.” Doll says the success of this book led to another book, “about his movies, and then to another book about his early years, and so on.”
When asked for a movie recommendation, Doll concludes with the following: “There are so many movies everyone should see to expand their horizons. But, I will recommend a movie for your readers who live along the Ohio Valley, because the story is set in this area during the Depression. Night of the Hunter is an unusual film from 1955 starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish. It’s based on a novel by West Virginia writer Davis Grubb about a serial killer who fancies himself a preacher.”
She adds, “Deluded and demented, he makes his way down the Ohio River, marrying and killing widows for their possessions and money. At one point, he is caught for stealing a car, and he serves time in the penitentiary in Moundsville. The exteriors of the prison and aerial shots of the Ohio River were shot on location. In the dialogue, the characters talk about Sistersville and Parkersburg. It has beautiful photography, including a haunting image of a dead woman sitting in a car at the bottom of the river.”?
Be sure to check out The Locket on TCM Friday night, 8 p.m.