The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942)

edgarEdgar Allan Poe is best known as a writer of macabre tales, but in the film The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, a different Poe is revealed, and the viewer is confronted with a personality even stranger than the one revealed in the pages of high school literature books.

With a running time of only 67 minutes,the film is forced to quickly sketch in or cover in voice-over narration large portions of Poe’s life.  The troubled existence of a tortured writer; the dark, paranoid wellspring of Poe’s creativity; even his struggle with and eventual surrender to alcohol, these fascinating, even disturbing, aspects of his life are all de-emphasized in an effort to tell the larger story of Poe’s two great loves, which, surprisingly, turn out to be himself and—you guessed it—copyright law.

Eddie (as he is improbably known to family members) is more than ready to buttonhole anyone he meets and give them an earful about what a brilliant writer he is, but if his assessment isn’t met with immediate approval, the thin-skinned self-promoter storms off in a huff. The opinions of other characters in the film range from Thomas Jefferson’s “you show promise” to a unanimous thumbs-down from a group of printers who decide the publishing fate of The Raven. But there’s only one opinion Eddie truly cares about, and that opinion is his.

If you’ve ever wondered what two renowned writers like Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe would talk about if they met, this film has the answer. They’d talk about copyright law, of course! At length. And in great detail. As might be expected, Poe doesn’t restrict his analysis of copyright infringement to the famous; he’s more than willing to talk to anyone about it—particularly publishers who, understandably, don’t share his passion for the subject. Unable to hold down a job, Poe ends up discussing copyright law with grocers and landladies, a group that would much rather “discuss” when he’s going to pay his bills.

If Poe was alive today, he’d tell you himself just how terrific this movie is, and if you tried to record it, he’d give you a good tongue-lashing about copyright infringement.

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