I only just got the memo that Richard J. Anobile (1947-1923) passed away a few days ago.
Classic comedy fans all know Anobile’s name for a couple of reasons. The broader reason is that he authored all of those coffee table books full of photo stills and quoted lines that allowed readers to experience classic comedies and other old movies from the comfort of their homes, back in those grim, bleak days before home video. It was literally the only way we had to relive favorite movies, or sometimes, to experience them at all, back in the ’70s and early ’80s.
More particularly Anobile is known for his books on the Marx Brothers, including one that was pretty controversial I believe, for it quoted a sundowning Groucho in unguarded moments, and man did he say some outrageous things! He said like 100 things to offend everybody: left, right, gay, straight, black, white, male, female — as very old people will do. But usually gatekeepers will keep such utterances by actual stars from seeing the light of the day. I mean, Groucho didn’t censor himself in the best of times, but in his dotage you got a clear, unobstructed window into the mind of a pretty feral guy whose values were formed around 1912. Very educational stuff. Groucho tried to sue to prevent publication, but, alas I guess he’d signed something.
Anobile’s classic comedy books were The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, Why A Duck? Visual And Verbal Gems From The Marx Brothers Movies, Hooray for Captain Spalding! Verbal & Visual Gems from “Animal Crackers”, A Flask of Fields: Verbal and Visual Gems from the Films of W.C. Fields, Godfrey Daniels!” Verbal and Visual Gems from the Short Films of W. C. Fields, Who’s on First? Verbal and Visual Gems from the Films of Abbott & Costello (a slim pamphlet, I gather), The Best of Buster: The Classic Comedy Scenes Direct from the Films of Buster Keaton, and A Fine Mess: Verbal and Visual Gems from the Crazy World of Laurel and Hardy. He also did one on Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. My girlfriend had a bunch of these books, and it was really my first pathway in to a lot of this stuff. I do know how to pick ’em!
Anobile also did several similar books on a variety of other movie classics (horror, noir, etc) and later wrote photonovels and novelizations of contemporary things like the Star Trek movies, The Wiz, and Robert Altman’s Popeye. He also seems to have lots of credits as a movie and tv producer and production manager, most recently on a show called The Kings of Napa.
For more on Anobile, see his New York Times obit here.
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