Reading Jamie Curtis: Scream Queen (published by BearManor Media) is like having a conversation with a friend who is fanatical about the actress. Thing is, it’s not like having one of those boring conversations where you wish your friend would shut up; it’s the type of conversation where you’re likely to ask (several times), “And then what happened…?”
Author David Grove has done an exhaustive amount of research, conducting countless interviews with the casts, crews and the filmmakers of Curtis’ early films, as well as ex-boyfriends, members of Curtis’ family, etc. As the book’s title suggests, Grove dedicates the majority of its 492 pages to Curtis’ Scream Queen career, specifically from Halloween through to Halloween II. Between the two Michael Myers flicks, The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, and Roadgames all have double chapters dedicated to their making and release. It’s probably the most thorough examination these films are likely to see.
Grove begins the book with background on Curtis and her upbringing as the daughter (along with sister Kelly, star of Michele Soavi’s The Sect) of Hollywood Golden Couple, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, and ends with her success in escaping Final Girl typecasting. Curtis’ struggles with her lineage, her unconventional good looks, relationships and career are all included here. As Grove states in the book, one of his goals in writing it was to document “the horror boom between 1978 and 1981.” Add to this the Curtis bio and retrospectives of six films, and you’ll realize that Grove has set some pretty large objectives for himself. Fortunately, Grove is up to the task, and provides an in depth and entertaining examination of each subject.
Some of the book’s most intriguing information, from my perspective, comes in shedding light on the reasons behind some of Curtis’ career choices, and in the details of the behind the scenes info. If you’ve ever wondered why an actress who wanted to escape her Scream Queen persona would do six horror flicks in a row, or why Curtis’ hair looked so bad in Halloween II, the answers are all here, folks!
The presence of John Carpenter and Debra Hill is felt throughout the book, and it’s clear that Curtis sees them as the people responsible for starting her career. Both Carpenter and Hill are quoted frequently here, giving insight on Curtis and the films that the three made together. Hill’s death in 2005 gives the book the air of being the final word on the subject.
Grove, who has written for Fangoria, Film Threat, and Rue Morgue among other publications, is currently in the planning stages of a second book about the Friday the 13th films for FAB Press. In the meantime, for anyone with an interest in one of our genre’s most likeable, talented, and in some senses trailblazing Patron Saints, Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen is a must read.