Edgar Allan Poe (born Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
Goodreads.com presents Poe this way:
The name Poe brings to mind images of murderers and madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead. His works have been in print since 1827 and include such literary classics as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This versatile writer’s oeuvre includes short stories, poetry, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and hundreds of essays and book reviews. He is widely acknowledged as the inventor of the modern detective story and an innovator in the science fiction genre, but he made his living as America’s first great literary critic and theoretician. Poe’s reputation today rests primarily on his tales of terror as well as on his haunting lyric poetry.
I’m not sure which of Poe’s works I first read but I know it was while I was in junior high, so roughly at 12 or 13. I think my grandmother may have had an anthology of his stories on her bookshelves. I know I also studied a couple of the stories as part of my English classes. Regardless of when, I know I have shuddered while reading some of the stories. For example, The Mask of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, or The Pit and the Pendulum. Stories such as The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Purloined Letter, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue are early examples of mystery/detective stories. His poetry is very dark, just as many of his stories were.
Poe’s page on IMDB shows him with 299 “writing credits” starting in 1908 and running to 2014. Many of the credits are for short films and TV but there are a number of feature films. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price all starred in multiple movies based on Poe’s stories and/or poems. Price and Karloff starred together in the movie The Raven loosely based on Poe’s poem of the same name. This movie also starred Peter Lorre and a young Jack Nicholson and was directed by Roger Corman. Yes, it is a guilty pleasure of mine. Corman also directed Price in film versions of The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death.
Lugosi and Karloff also starred in a 1935 film version of The Raven that looks to be a bit truer to the original poem.
We don’t have to sit upon a Midnight Dreary or ponder weak and weary to enjoy the words of Edgar Allan Poe. And we don’t have to go to his grave to toast him. We can enjoy the words and wonder from everywhere now.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons and is Public Domain