The Soused Cinema Library: Hollywood's Hellfire Club

>> Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hollywood's Hellfire Club: The Misadventures of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn and the Bundy Drive Boys
by Gregory William Mank with Charles Heard & Bill Nelson
©2007 Feral House
384 pages

Most booze movie aficionados are familiar with "The Algonquin Roundtable" and "The Rat Pack" -- two informal social clubs of famous inebriates. However, between those two groups, there was a forgotten gang of celebrity souses -- The Bundy Drive Boys. Boasting a roster of Herculean hooch-hounds including actors John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn, John Carradine, and Anthony Quinn; writers Gene Fowler and Ben Hecht; painter/art forger John Decker; and bohemian pants-wetter Sadakichi Hartmann; this boozy bunch was easily the most alcoholic and scandalous assemblage in Hollywood history.

Although the escapades of the Bundy Drive Boys had previously been documented by member Gene Fowler in his 1954 book Minutes of the Last Meeting, Fowler had felt obligated to overlook the more sordid stories of the group out of loyalty to his friends and their families. Gregory William Mank and his collaborators were not restricted as Fowler had been. Consequently, Hollywood's Hellfire Club is an uncensored, pull-no-punches account of the alcoholism, sexual scandals, depression, financial woes, and madness within the group. At the same time, this well-illustrated page-turner paints an affectionate portrait of each of these great men; and the authors focus as much on the talent, wit, and accomplishments of the Bundy Drive Boys as on their difficulties and immoral behavior.

Hollywood's Hellfire Club is well-researched and does an excellent job at separating fact from legend, which is no easy task when your subjects include celebrated liars such as Fields, Barrymore, and Flynn. Certainly some of the stories contained between the covers have been exaggerated in re-tellings over the years, but that just adds to the fun. I think you'll find that reading this book is as entertaining as hanging out in a bar listening to a bunch of old-timers swap stories about Hollywood's golden days. In short, it's highly recommended.

Hollywood's Hellfire Club: The Misadventures of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn and the Bundy Drive Boys (Paperback)


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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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