Laird Cregar

A Hollywood Tragedy

Paperback Edition


In stock

About the Book

In 1944, Laird Cregar played Jack the Ripper in The Lodger, giving one of the most haunting performances in Hollywood history. It was the climax of a strange celebrity that saw the young American actor—who stood 6’ 3” and weighed more than 300 pounds—earn distinction as a portrayer of psychopaths and villains. Determined to break free of this typecasting, he desperately desired to become “a beautiful man,” embarking on an extreme diet that killed him at 31. This first biography of Cregar tells the heartbreaking story of the brilliant but doomed actor. Appendices cover his film, theatre, and radio work. Many never before published photographs are included.  The limited hardcover edition is available here.

About the Author(s)

Gregory William Mank has written and recorded many DVD and Blu-Ray audio commentaries, has won four Rondo Awards, and has written numerous books on classic horror films. He and lives in Delta, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Gregory William Mank

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 329
Bibliographic Info: 95 photos, filmography, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019 [2018]
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7899-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2844-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Author’s Note xi
Introduction: The Ripper Incarnate 1
Part I: If You Try to Find Me, I Will Kill Myself
1 Philadelphia 8
2 The “Secret Heart” Thing 18
3 A Grotesque 26
4 Life in a Sedan 33
5 Oscar Wilde 44
Part II: The Lion of the Hour
6 Success 54
7 The Rabbit with the Glass Teeth 60
8 Gooseberry the Great 67
9 He-Goat Lucifer 76
10 The Saint Bernard 83
11 I Wake Up Screaming with Laird Cregar 91
Part III: Betsey
12 Seven Years Old in Hollywood 100
13 The Man Who Shouldn’t Have Come to Dinner 103
14 Quaking Like Jelly 107
15 Riding the Cannon 118
16 Swashbuckler 125
17 The Hideaway and a Sad Farewell 131
Part IV: “We Want You Just As You Are, Mr. Cregar.”
18 Who Was Who in the Zoo 136
19 Three in 1943 145
20 Horror 154
21 “Don’t Let Him Catch Ya, Dearie!” 157
22 “Gloomy Sunday” 166
23 The Ripper in Person 170
Part V: “A Beautiful Man”
24 Hangover Square’s First Draft, and the Debacle of Laura 180
25 A Failed Romance, a Revised Script, Abbott and Costello Meet Laird Cregar, a Female Stalker, and the Tragedy of Henry VIII 187
26 “The Bette Davis of the 20th Century–Fox Lot” 194
27 Blowing Up 201
28 Fox Infernos 210
29 The Last Act 219
Part VI: Denouement
30 What I Wanted for Christmas 230
31 Legacy 235
32 A Final Tribute 242
Filmography 245
Theater Credits 285
Radio Credits 289
Unrealized Film Projects 291
Chapter Notes 293
Bibliography 307
Index 309

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Booklist Starred Review
  • “Decades of research…the author brings Cregar back to vivid life in this culmination of an ‘almost lifelong’ fascination with the actor…as with most good Hollywood biographies, this one interweaves its subject’s life story with the story of the movie business itself…Mank finds joy as well as tragedy in Cregar’s attempt to live his dream…gives rich life to an unknown Hollywood story”—Booklist
  • “Mank offers one of the first in-depth studies of Samuel Laird Cregar…a compelling, cautionary tale of an actor who held his own”—Library Journal
  • “Mank quotes many people who knew or researched Cregar. The stories are amazing as are the photos…an incredible entertaining opus. As good as anything you have ever read, or will ever read about an actor and name we knew…yet, we really didn’t know”—Little Shoppe of Horrors
  • “With his hyper-dramatic style and flawless research, Mank has become one of the finest classic film writers/historians working today, and he has been raising the bar of film scholarship for decades…excellent…Creggar’s life and career has never had the light of scholarship and film criticism sine on it until now, and there is so much here to discover and enjoy..the highest recommendation.”—Midnight Marquee
  • “Incredibly detailed and meticulously researched”—Pop Culture Classics
  • “Scrupulous archive research…Mank has left no stone unturned while searching for personal reminiscences…scrupulously documents Cregar’s various stage appearances”—Film International