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Essay Example: The Whole Wide World, Howard and the Movies

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Like most of us, Robert E. Howard was a fan of the movies and like many people who lived through the Great Depression, movies were more than entertainment to him; they were a form of escapism. The movies were also a source of inspiration for his fertile imagination.  Indeed, some scenes from movies he saw even showed up in his stories – such was the case with King Kong and a Breckinridge Elkins story.

And I think he’d be surprised to find out he himself was the subject of a movie and any Howard fan worth his or her salt has seen that movie. The 1996 film The Whole Wide World is based on Novalyne Price Ellis’ book One Who Walked Alone, which details her reminisces of her time with Howard during the final years of his life.

A few days ago a review of  The Whole Wide World by Lars Walker was posted on The American Culture website.  Here is Walker’s take on D’Onofrio as Howard:

The role of Robert E. Howard is a big one, and actor Vincent D’Onofrio is every inch its equal. I’m not sure that what we’re seeing here is actually close to the original (I can’t help thinking it’s more a New York boy’s idea of a Texas boy than the genuine article), but he fully inhabits the part and you can’t take your eyes off him. (There’s an interesting scene, no doubt lifted directly from Novalyne’s journals, where he complains of his weak chin. This is manifestly untrue of D’Onofrio, but not of the real Howard). He plays Howard as a bipolar man-child, sometimes euphoric and grandiose, sometimes depressed and frightened at the prospect of facing life without his dying mother (to whom he has an unhealthy attachment), and sometimes just angry at the world.

Overall, it is a great review considering it is written by someone outside the realm of Howard fandom.  You can read the rest of it here.

If you are interested in reading more about Howard and the movies, Rusty Burke wrote up an in-depth history of Howard and the movies in his outstanding essay “Robert Ervin Howard Goes to the Movies.”