Friday, January 14, 2011
I recollect my fascination with the photo on the back cover of the hardback edition of The Other. The movie star handsome author of the tome was staring back at me from the book jacket & I was all a tingle, with my teenage hormones in overdrive. I was 17 years old & doing summer stock in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. All 4 shows were up & running by the beginning of August, leaving me with days free to swim, sun, smoke joints & read. I bought the book because of the author’s photo, but The Other turned out to be a very well written thrill ride of a horror story, & I now had quite a crush on the writer Thomas Tryon as well.
Tom Tryon was an American film & TV actor, as well as author of several science fiction, horror, and mystery novels. He was born Thomas Tryon in Hartford, Connecticut. He used his birth name as an author & the shortened version for the acting career.
Tryon was on Broadway in Wish You Were Here, a long running 1952 musical starring Florence Henderson & Jack Cassidy. He moved on to Hollywood and was cast in several films, including Moon Pilot, The Longest Day & In Harm’s Way. He appeared often on television series & made for TV movies.
His rugged good looks & masculine demeanor typecast him as a matinee idol & Tryon was unhappy at the lack of good acting roles. His best known work was as the star of The Cardinal, a role which brought him a Golden Globe. But he fought often with the director Otto Preminger, who seemed to take sadistic delight in humiliating Tryon on the set. Preminger actually fired Tryon in front of his parents when they visited the set, then rehired him after being satisfied that Tryon had been sufficiently humiliated.
The experience with the abusive Preminger & lack of interesting roles moved Tryon to put the brakes on an acting career & he moved to writing novels. His first book- The Other (1971), a spooky thriller about a pair of evil twins, was a blockbuster bestseller & became a film by Richard Mulligan starring my good close personal friend- Uta Hagen in a rare film appearance. Next was the equally as scary-Harvest Home, a terrifying tale that was made into a rather campy TV mini-series starring Bette Davis. His collection of novellas on the theme of moviemaking- Crowned Heads featured- Fedora, a thinly disguised tale of Greta Garbo, & was made into a 1978 film by Billy Wilder with William Holden. I think the movie is terrific & true to the book. I loved all his books but I have a soft spot for Night of the Moonbow (1989), about a young kid at camp who snaps after being harassed by his fellow cabin mates. Tryon’s best work revolved around boys, & the mischief they get into.
I sensed that Tryon was gay. He struggled with his sexuality throughout his career, but basically came out when he became the lover of Calvin Culver, known in the porn world as the superstar Casey Donovan. At the same time, Tryon also was lovers with Clive Clark, a member of the original cast of A Chorus Line, & an interior designer who decorated Tryon's Central Park West apartment, which was featured in Architectural Digest. Culver helped Tryon finish Crowned Heads on an extremely tight deadline by typing up the revisions & offering suggestions. Their relationship ended because the attention & publicity his lover received made the closeted Tryon fearful of being outed, which he felt could destroy his career as a writer.
But, Tryon never wrote explicitly about homosexuality. He was never part of the gay scene. His feelings on the matter are hidden in between the lines of his strange, moody works. He died in 1991 from stomach cancer. I can still picture that handsome man on the back of the book jacket.