From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 27 Jun 2001

Thanks to Hugh Lessig for alerting me to the Jim Tully material on the Dennis McMillan website. I have not searched it out yet but have to wonder if McMillan was alerted to Tully by Charles Willeford who contemplated writing a book on Tully. There is a forward, circa 1970, in Willeford's WRITING AND OTHER BLOODSPORTS.

Tully's BEGGARS OF LIFE is non-fiction. It is the best hobo memoir I have ever read and considering the stiff competition from Willeford, Jack London, William H. Davies and others that is not minor praise.

Tully (1891-1947) was a good friend of H.L. Mencken. So good that Mencken asked Tully to look after his wife to be (Sara Haardt) when she went to Hollywood to do a screenwriting gig in 1927. Tully made a fortune in Hollywood as a writer for the movie magazines. Willeford said he was a forerunner of the "new journalism" school of the 1960s. He was also a friend of and employed by Charlie Chaplin and later wrote one of the first biographies of Chaplin.

Tully's fiction is worth searching out and has much in common with the hardboiled fiction of Hammett and others. Books include SHANTY IRISH, CIRCUS PARADE and LAUGHTER IN HELL. His novel THE BRUISER probably drew on his own experience as a boxer. A short stocky guy, Tully gave up boxing after being knocked out in the ring and staying out for 24 hours.

Mencken wrote of him: "If Jim Tully was a Russian, read in translation, all the professors would be hymning him. He has all of Gorki's capacity for making vivid the miseries of poor and helpless men, and in addition, he has a humor that no Russian could conceivably have."

He was in bad health his last few years and beyond BEGGARS OF LIFE has been pretty much forgotten. BEGGARS was made into a film in 1928 starring Louise Brooks and directed by William Wellman. I seem to recall reading that Brooks and Tully did not hit it off during the making of the movie.

Richard A. Moore

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