HOLLYWOOD—Lou-Tellegen may not be a name that moviegoers today recognize. He’s one that most Hollywood historians certainly know, and he should be remembered for the indelible mark he made in motion picture cinema’s beginning age. David W. Menefee is the author of “The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen." The masterful biographer of many famous names in Hollywood has done a spectacular job of making Lou-Tellegen recognizable to today’s readers, and yet he manages to maintain and preserve the mystique-like ability to chronicle the pre-Golden age of Tinseltown in his tome.
Lou-Tellegen was a native of the Netherlands. He became one of the world’s first movie stars. And if you think today’s stars have turmoil, drama and intrigue in their lives, Lou-Tellegen will offer you much more excitement. Thanks to the excellent writing abilities of author Menefee, the reader is able to capture insight of what Hollywood stardom used to be like, and what made this man such a force in its infancy. Long before he became famous as a film icon, he was the son of a brave, extremely crafty and brilliant Dutch military general. Young Lou-Tellegen found his way into the boxing ring to make a living, and also worked as a circus trapeze artist, and as a nude model in Paris for the legendary Auguste Rodfin. Menefee states in his book that Lou-Tellegen became an eager and dedicated stage actor with Italy’s most famous actress at the time, Eleonora Duse. Then, France’s renowned actress Sarah Bernhardt plucked him from obscurity with a four-year contract. An with dedication and hard work, she made Lou-Tellegen a world-famous thespian and superstar.
"The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen" cover
Hollywood soon wanted Lou-Tellegen for the silent movie era films that it was making at the time. He later married one of the greatest and most beloved opera singers, Geraldine Farrar. Later in life, on a very dark day, the fairy tale magic of the star’s incredible life quickly came to a sudden and shocking end that stunned the world as much as Rudolph Valentino’s death earlier did to movie fans. Only Lou-Tellegen’s death was by his own hands.
The exhaustively and well-researched biography is a page-turner. I have to admit that I do love reading. However, for anyone who thinks reading about a former movie star that may not be in the headlines today isn’t very fulfilling, it is with great joy that you will find this book instrumental in awakening your senses, and you will also find Menefee as mesmerizing a storyteller as the great literature giants of all time.
The book is filled with exceptional and rare photographs of the star, during his life and throughout his fabled but tortured career. Amazingly, what the book also manages to do, in addition to exciting the reader, is that it gives a cautionary tale to anyone who believes Hollywood is an easy place to be. Even when you are considered one of the biggest stars on the planet, it only adds to one’s current highs and loves in their private life. Also, I found Lou-Tellegen’s life to be sad and very poignant. Though he accomplished more in his short life than most actors can see possible in many decades. His life was filled with sadness, regret, and most of all, longing. Isn’t that what makes most actors so tormented? Especially the most powerful and talented of the group. This story is chronicled in explicit and extraordinary fashion. No one will read this book and finish it feeling empty or unfulfilled. Menefee’s writing style and talent is as legendary as the many stars he’s memorialized in print.
My favorite Lou-Tellgen film is “3 Bad Men,” which was a John Ford film in 1926. However, in the final chapter titled “The Plays and Films of Lou-Tellegen,” his entire body of work, which is vast and diverse, is detailed incredibly by the famed Hollywood historian Menefee.
“The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen” is one of the most rare and terrific biographies you can find in print today. The book is available at Amazon.com, and you can learn more about this great silent-era film star from the definitive biography on him. This book should be in every drama and film school in America.
Image Courtesy: David W. Menefee