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Vampires, Detectives, and Hawks: A History and Analysis of William Faulkner’s Unpublished Screenplay Dreadful Hollow

When Jill Faulkner Summers found the screenplay for the vampire film Dreadful Hollow among her father’s papers in 1999, she turned it over to Lee Caplin, executor of the Faulkner estate. Joseph Blotner’s 1974 Biography doesn’t mention the script and until Faulkner Summers found her copy, the only known copy of the screenplay belonged to Bruce F. Kawin who provides a brief summary of it in Film and Faulkner and mentions it again in his paper, “Faulkner’s Film Career: The Years with Hawks,” presented at the 1978 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference.1 Though Kawin provides no details from the script, he calls Faulkner’s work a “solid and compelling work” and “a brilliant horror story” (164). Kawin received his copy of the “lost” screenplay from Howard Hawks and promised Hawks that he would never show anyone the screenplay; a promise he continues to honor today.  I located Hawks’ copy of the screenplay in his archived estate papers, and it is this copy that forms the subject of this essay. It is unclear whether Faulkner’s and Hawks’ scripts are identical copies because Lee Caplin refuses to let anyone examine the copy found by Summers.2

Caplin claims Faulkner wrote the script as a “lark” for his drinking buddy, completely dismissing the film and overlooking the seriousness with which Faulkner applied himself to scriptwriting by the mid 1930s.  Faulkner’s often repeated remarks about his time in Hollywood have caused much scholarly debate about his connection with the film industry.  However, Kawin considers Sam Marx’s impression of the connection as the most accurate because, as head of the story department at MGM, Marx was in a position to judge Faulkner’s commitment to screenwriting.   He writes, “Marx’s impression is that Faulkner considered fiction his major medium, that he knew little or nothing about film when he started at MGM, and that he had no interest in doing anything in the film business beyond writing—but also that Faulkner was ‘sincere’ about his studio work, that he wanted to ‘earn his salary,’ and that he was disappointed when his scripts were not approved for production” (Introduction, xxv). Faulkner most certainly earned his salary writing Dreadful Hollow because he turned a novel with B movie potential into a distinctive screenplay that bears a strong resemblance to his more serious work as a novelist.

The screenplay is an important contribution to Faulkner scholarship in particular and film adaptation studies in general because the script has not been altered or edited in any way by anyone other than Faulkner. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually occur when a film goes into production have not happened.  The script is completely Faulkner’s own and reading the screenplay allows a rare glimpse into Faulkner the screenwriter after he had been at it in Hollywood for over ten years. This essay provides the first thorough analysis of Faulkner’s unpublished screenplay for Dreadful Hollow. The first section gives an overview of how the script came to be, Hawks’ attempts to get the film made, and a detailed summary of the screenplay with new plot details not mentioned in earlier published summaries.  The second section focuses on the screenplay as a vampire narrative that borrows conventions from earlier vampire texts and catalogues the significant changes Faulkner made to the vampire novel on which the screenplay is based.  Faulkner chose to emphasize the vampire’s lesbianism to a greater extent than any earlier female vampire text, which is all the more striking because a female vampire film had not been made since Dracula’s Daughter (1936).  He also added details and made filmic changes to the story that cause the vampire’s destruction to appear as a rape or lynching and a revenge response to her lesbianism.  Finally, the essay shows how Faulkner reworks the novel’s conventional detective narrative for the film by including his own specific interests in crime narratives to give Hawks another vehicle for his vision.  He was rewriting the detective stories, “Knight’s Gambit” and “An Error in Chemistry” for publication while working on the screenplay and had just completed the screenplays for To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) for Hawks.  Both narratives, the vampire story and the crime story, intersect in the character of Jillian, who Faulkner rewrites into Dracula’s Mina: a woman who is simultaneously the vampire’s victim and a modern woman, almost a femme fatale, who can stand up to Dr. Clyde.  This essay argues that Faulkner’s screenplay should be taken as indicative of Faulkner’s sincere attitude towards script production, that it contains traces of his more serious, canonical work, and that it forms a supplement to his more literary work.

Part One: An Account of the Script’s Creation and a Synopsis of its Story

In November of 1944, Howard Hawks paid $2,500 for the film rights to the vampire novel Dreadful Hollow that Helen Mary Elizabeth Clamp had published in 1942 under the pseudonym Irina Karlova (Kawin, “Sharecropping”, 197). That winter, Hawks focused his complete attention on the vampire film and Moss Rose and used both films as an excuse for not taking on other projects at Warner Brothers, whom he wished to leave (McCarthy 404). He gave Faulkner the assignment to write a screenplay based on the novel.  The screenplay Faulkner wrote has no date or studio stamp, but most likely he produced it somewhere in the year between November 1944 and November 1945. Karlova wrote several letters to Hawks over the next few years asking when he planned to begin production on the film. There is no evidence he ever answered her question.

The film, with its striking lead female vampire, would have been the perfect vehicle for Hawks to raise another female actress to stardom. In 1944, Maila Nurmi was working in a small part in the Broadway play, Catherine the Great, but it was her role in Michael Todd’s Grand Guignol Midnight Show’s “Spook Scandals,” that drew Hawks’ attention to her. He brought her back to Los Angeles and gave her the vampire lead in Dreadful Hollow.  Due to the project being postponed innumerable times, Nurmi is rumored to have walked out on her contract with Hawks several years later.  On April 30, 1954, she debuted as Vampira, a late night local horror show hostess in Los Angeles, and appeared in many B movies over the next decade, including as Vampira in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).

Vampires, Detectives, and Hawks: A History and Analysis of William Faulkner’s Unpublished Screenplay Dreadful Hollow Michelle Moore Literature/Film Quarterly
Figure 1: Maila Nurmi reprising the role of Vampira in Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Howard Hawks gave her the lead role in Dreadful Hollow, which she accepted.

Hawks remained excited about the script Faulkner wrote for him and attempted to persuade studio heads to back it over the next decade (McCarthy 403).  While in negotiations with 20th century Fox in mid to late 1947, Hawks tried to press the film on Daryl F. Zanuck, who had no interest in it (McCarthy 432).  Hawks continued trying to get the film made as late as 1954.  In a letter dated November 16, 1954, Jack Warner explained to Hawks why he would never make Dreadful Hollow: “Unless we get a film about an important subject, we would not want to make a deal at this time. We believe that stories such as Dreadful Hollow ... would be a waste of time” (McCarthy 535).  The film was never made.

The screenplay begins with nineteen-year-old Jillian Dare arriving at an out-of-the-way English countryside train station.   Handsome and educated Dr. Clyde asks her who she is and why she has happened upon “Little Rotting-Off-the Map.”  She refuses to talk to him and walks the rest of the way to the Grange.  Outside the gates of the Grange, she meets Jacob Lee, the village idiot and Grange’s gardener, who grants her entry into the large, old, imposing house.  Inside, she meets Sari, the housekeeper, a strange older woman who does not welcome Jillian.  Sari introduces her to the mistress, The Countess Czerner, an invalid aristocrat, who arranged for Jillian to come stay with her as a paid companion.  Later that night, Jillian sits down to dinner with the Countess.  The table is covered with red meat and rich opulent food, not the food of a sick invalid.  Jillian watches the Countess tear into her food with relish, especially the peaches.  After dinner, Sari locks Jillian in her room, warns her to stay there, and gives Jillian the key to the locked door.

Jillian lets herself out and a strange bat-like figure swoops at her. Over the next few days, she continues to observe strange events: the large stuffed wolf in the library seems to move and causes her to faint; the bat swoops at her again; Jillian cuts her wrist in front of the Countess, who sucks out the blood; the much younger Vera, the Countess’ supposed niece who looks like a younger countess, comes to visit.  Doctor Vostok, a surgeon and scientist with a pointed grey beard, accompanies Vera under the pretext of being the Countess’ physician, but his air and the strangeness of Vera’s arrival leads Jillian to become suspicious of the visitors.  

The narrative contains numerous clues that Vera is really the countess and a large part of the plot revolves around the Countess’ custodians keeping this knowledge away from Jillian.   When a child goes missing from the village, Jillian begins to do detective work to figure out the mystery of the Grange. Dr Clyde, too, considers himself an amateur detective and begins to hunt for clues for what happened to the missing child.  The local authorities call in the professionals, Scotland Yard.   

While hunting for clues, Dr. Clyde finds a missing portion of his father’s journal that tells the full story about his father’s trek to the Czerner castle in Transylvania. The novel tells the journal’s story through extracts; the screenplay through a flashback sequence.  The journal’s story begins with Clyde’s father, a Doctor, learning about the Czerners through local gossip at a pub.  The gossip reveals that Count Czerner married the cursed Gypsy Magda and they had multiple children.  When a local child goes missing, the townspeople beheaded her and staked her at the crossroads.    Her blood and the curse that goes with it is now passed down to the female members of the Czerner family. After hearing Magda’s story, Dr. Clyde’s father continues his journey to the castle and once there, meets the younger Czerner Count, who has married one of his cousins who descended from Magda and possesses her curse.  He asks Dr. Clyde for his help.  Dr. Clyde agrees to help but is unclear about what exactly he has agreed to do. He goes to the castle and participates in the violent extraction of his wife’s teeth.   It turns out, that the Czerner women are vampires and the only way to stop them from feasting on the young is to remove their teeth and starve them to death.

Both the novel and the screenplay then return to the present, ending the novel’s use of journal entries and the screenplay’s flashback sequence. The narrative begins to tie its loose pieces together quickly, signaling the approach of its conclusion.   Dr. Clyde is asked to help with the violent removal of the current Countess Czerner’s teeth, just as his father did, and she is revealed to be transforming herself into the swooping bat-like figure that haunts the Grange.  But before they can remove her teeth, the Grange burns, presumably killing the Countess and her guardians.  Dr. Clyde helps Jillian to escape, and the story ends with their engagement.

Part Two: How the Screenplay Reveals Faulkner’s Signature in its Manipulation of the Conventions of the Vampire Genre

Hawks gave Faulkner full control of his adoption of Karlova’s novel. His script reveals that he knows vampire narratives well enough to make significant changes to his source material by changing narrative emphases and by rewriting parts of the narrative to be more filmic. He rewrites the narrative to be more like his own work and to represent his own literary interests, adding elements of homoeroticism that resemble those in Absalom, Absalom and making narrative and filmic changes to cause the vampire’s destruction to appear as a rape or lynching, one of the violent elements of the post-Civil War South that Faulkner chronicles through the psyches of Yoknapatawpha County’s residents. In Faulkner’s hands, the rape becomes a revenge narrative that must considered as a continued discussion of the subject alongside Sanctuary and Absalom, Absalom!

Faulkner chose to emphasize the vampire’s lesbianism to a greater extent than any earlier female vampire text, which is all the more striking because a female vampire film had not been made since Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and because Faulkner had not written a literary text that contains elements of female, instead of his more typical male, homoeroticism. The screenplay gives far more attention and weight to the Countess’ interest in Jillian than the novel does, because Faulkner retains every scene in the novel that hints at the Countess’ preferences for young women.  By retaining every scene, while simultaneously condensing the story, the Countess’ erotic interest in Jillian becomes a much larger part of the overall story.

Vampires, Detectives, and Hawks: A History and Analysis of William Faulkner’s Unpublished Screenplay Dreadful Hollow Michelle Moore Literature/Film Quarterly
Figure 2: The Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) seduces and then attacks Lili (Nan Grey) in Universal Studio's sequel to Dracula (1931): Dracula's Daughter (1936).

In Faulkner’s version, the Countess has clearly set her sights on Jillian from the first moment she sees her:

Countess: Come here, child. (Jillian approaches. The countess’ fixed brilliant stare does not waver)
Nearer. (Jillian comes nearer as the countess extends her hand. Jillian feels a sudden inexplicable reluctance, but she puts her hand into the countess’. The countess caresses it).
So you found your way here. You’re not afraid of being buried alive in this lonely place with two old women?
(To Sari, still caressing Jillian’s hand)
Don’t deny it Sari. If I’m old, you are too, you know. (8)

The Countess continues to caress Jillian’s hand and wrists in scattered scenes throughout the script.  The seductive attention paid to Jillian’s hands and wrists by the Countess eroticizes their relationship.   The Countess’ voracious appetite, which Faulkner describes  as being like that of a “stevedore,” further suggests her unbridled love of flesh (15) and marks the sentence with Faulkner’s own voice.  When the Countess reveals her vampirism, by drinking from a small cut on Jillian’s wrist, it appears a natural extension of her desire for Jillian.

Faulkner’s script directions indicate that he wanted to emphasize not just the potential relationship between the Countess and Jillian, but also the strange relationship between the Countess and Sari.  Sari acts the part of a servant, but her sharp tongue indicates that she is much more than a servant to the Countess.  She says to Sari: “If only you were not so pretty---so young---I never wanted it.  I was against it from the first,” (11). Several lines later, she warns Jillian, “If my lady begins to fondle and make a fuss over you, you must let me know at once.  AT ONCE,” (12). Faulkner underlined the warning for emphasis. Sari’s clear anger at the Countess’ interest in Jillian may be because her own relationship with the countess is threatened, and the sexual tension between the three women permeates the screenplay.

In the last fifteen years of Faulkner scholarship, much has also been made of the homoeroticism that underlies many of the relationships in Faulkner’s gothic novels. Norman W. Jones points out that “History in Absalom invokes both the warm activity of sexual union and the preternaturally cold immobility of the graveyard.  It seems to spark the roommates while also threatening them in stasis and decay unless they can return to the present, here represented by a warm bed—a sexual, physical return from their imaginative narrative encounter” (347). Henry’s love for Bon has what Jun Liu calls, “an intensity suggestive of homoeroticism” (185) and as Adelaide P. McGinnis has concluded, “Henry’s love for Bon thus rests more on an intense romantic and physical attraction than on concern for Charles Bon as a human being” (222).  Many critics, including Robin Wood and Leigh Brackett, have also noticed that homoeroticism that underlies many of Hawks’ plots (170).  Dreadful Hollow is exceptional within both Faulkner’s and Hawks’ bodies of work because the homoeroticism occurs between two female characters, rather than between two men. 

Even though the presence of the female homoeroticism makes the script exceptional within Faulkner’s canon, the majority of the narrative draws from the same female vampire stories Faulkner alludes to in his more literary work: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Dracula. Because Karlova’s allusions and borrowings are the same as Faulkner’s, her novel loosely resembles a Faulkner novel even before he went to work producing the screenplay and is most likely why Hawks gave the script-writing job to him.   Jane Eyre names Bertha Mason, Rochester’s first wife, as a vampire and Faulkner wrote a version of her story in Absalom, Absalom! to tell the story of Sutpen’s first wife on Haiti.  Dreadful Hollow weaves Bertha’s story into the backstory of the first Countess Czerner and the unsuspecting man who married her.  Wuthering Heights appears most prominently in Dreadful Hollow, through the repeated naming of “The Grange” as the site of the domestic horror story.  In The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature, James Twitchell identifies Bronte’s novel as a vampire novel and argues that Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship is emotionally vampiric.1 F.A. Rodewald in “William Faulkner and Emily Bronte” argues that Wuthering Heights influenced Faulkner even more that Jane Eyre.  Because both Bronte novels contain metaphorical female vampires and Faulkner relies heavily on these novels, it may be said that Faulkner’s interest and work with female vampire narratives predates Hawks assignment to write Dreadful Hollow. His familiarity with the source material allows him to bend Karlova’s novel into a script more resembling a Faulkner narrative.2

Faulkner’s literary canon, too, contains portraits of metaphorical female vampires who pass in society and feast on the young in his more literary works.  Absalom, Absalom! features the idea most prominently when Mr. Compson, explaining what a “Southern lady” is in general and who Miss Rosa is specifically tells Quentin: “it is as though she were living on the actual blood itself like a vampire, not with insatiability, certainly not with voracity, but with that serene and idle splendor of flowers arrogating to herself…” (68). In Mr. Compson’s mind, Miss Rosa is a vampire who staves off age through the application of a particular kind of Southern femininity that emphasized purity.  She freezes in time, young and outraged at Sutpen’s proposition. He also alludes to her summoning of his young son and her attempt to transfer the narratives of her old narrative to his young mind, effectively unburdening her through a vampiric transference.  In “A Rose for Emily,” Miss Emily Grierson’s masquerade repeats Miss Rosa’s in that Emily, too, freezes at the moment she kills Homer Barron.  She keeps her crime a secret by hiding behind a mask of genteel southern femininity and involves the young girls of Jefferson in her cover-up by giving them China painting lessons.   Both women appear prototypes for Faulkner’s portrayal of the masquerading Countess of Dreadful Hollow.

Dreadful Hollow’s vampire plot revolves around the Countess’ ability to masquerade in plain sight, a lesbian and a vampire. Ellis Hanson has suggested that gothic projections of lesbians, such as those in Carmilla, come from heteronormative male pornography, “in which lesbianism functions as an exotic form of foreplay and exhibitionism, produced primarily for a straight male market” (35).  Dreadful Hollow could be seen as participating in this kind of production, eroticizing the Countess as a way to increase ticket sales in the primarily straight male horror film market, something Faulkner and Hawks would be very interested in doing. However, earlier studies in reading lesbian vampire texts allow for a much larger play of possibilities for alternative forms of sexuality than had been previously theorized. One such study, Richard Dyer’s “Children of the Night: Vampirism as Homosexuality, Homosexuality as Vampirism” examines the vampire’s queerness and hinges on a reading of the Otherness of the vampire as emerging out of the vampire’s ability to pass.  The vampire’s queerness is simultaneously concealed and revealed, hidden and apparent.  The vampire can appear different, standing out, and yet also not be fully recognized for who he is, despite participating in society.  The Countess’ reappearance as the younger, more beautiful Vera, marks the moment Dreadful Hollow labels the female vampire’s ruse as specifically a form of feminine masquerade that endangers men and young girls.

Laura Mulvey’s analysis of Marilyn Monroe’s appearance in Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) speaks to the ways in which Faulkner may have imagined the female vamp masquerading in what would be Hawks’ Dreadful Hollow.  She points out that:  “As Hawks noted, Marilyn’s appearance is supremely cosmetic.  Her features came to life through the application of make-up.  But the more perfect the mask, the more it suggests that something is concealed, which adds a hidden threat to the appearance of beauty.”  Mulvey then stops just short of naming Monroe’s make-up application as that of an old vampire hoping to stave off the inevitability of death.  She continues “Of course, many stories, legends and folk tales tell the story of a woman whose beauty is only an appearance which conceals a body that is in fact decaying and disgusting ...  Marilyn seemed to have some sense that the artificiality of cosmetics is a protection from the body itself and its inevitable slide into decay” (226).  Hawks’ films have always contained vamps. Faulkner rewrites Dreadful Hollow to make the very successful metaphor explicit, because the story is about an actual vampire who is overtly feminine, queer, and lives openly in a small town through her masquerade.

Vampires, Detectives, and Hawks: A History and Analysis of William Faulkner’s Unpublished Screenplay Dreadful Hollow Michelle Moore Literature/Film Quarterly
Figure 3: Marilyn Monroe's hair and makeup in Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes(1953) is deliberately artificial in its perfection. Here, the mask slides a bit and she appears an older vamp who uses makeup to conceal and stave off the effects of an aging and decaying body.

In the novel, the Countess masquerades not just as the younger woman Vera, but also as a dark, bat-like figure with a white face that swoops at Jillian in the hall and hangs from the rafters. The Countess’ ability to transform herself into a bat connects her imagistically to Bram Stoker’s vampire, and the popular film versions of his novel, F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) that rely heavily on the transformative powers of the vampire as a plot device. In Bram Stoker’s novel, the vampire’s monstrous transformation into an animal preys on British Victorian cultural fears of what Stephen Arata calls “reverse colonization.” Faulkner kept the bat-like figure in the screenplay and in doing so allows the screenplay to produce some of its horror by playing off of the audiences’ fears about societal degeneration caused by immigration of the monstrous other. Faulkner’s signature on the screenplay becomes most apparent at this moment because he heightens the tension by adding a white mask to the bat-like figure. The addition of the mask adds an additional grotesquerie to the bat-like figure by highlighting the Countess’ tendency to always wear a metaphorical mask regardless of whatever form she takes.

The bat’s white mask suggests that in Faulkner’s interpretation, the vampire’s behavior should be associated not just with sexual behavior or gendered behavior, but with racial behavior.  Jillian’s and the audience’s fear of the figure must now be understood as the same fear that drives the violence in Faulkner’s more literary work: twentieth-century white America’s fear of miscegenation and racial passing.3 Because the Countess wears a white mask over her dark body, she can be read as taking part in what John Duvall calls “Faulkner’s whiteface minstrelsy,” which provides yet another way of thinking about the vampire’s masquerade (109).  The Countess wears whiteness and in doing so, reveals whiteness to be a disguise, a persona that can be slipped on or off. She caricatures the idea of whiteness, mimicking its features, but ultimately revealing it to be fake. Ken Gelder identifies the vampire’s uncanny ability to fluidly move between dueling identities as signaling “nothing less that his irreducible Otherness” and it is this ability most of all that make it monstrous (13).

The image also suggests that Gavin Steven’s “black blood/white blood theory” in Light in August may have been on Faulkner’s mind when adding the mask to the creature. Jay Watson has argued that when Gavin Steven begins to sort out Christmas’ behavior according to which color blood dominates at a particular time, “Complex human behavior is immediately reformulated—refigured—as racial behavior, and the person(a) of Joe Christmas is literally rent in two” (97).  However, the racial duality that splits Joe Christmas into halves should be easily traversed by the supernatural vampire. In the screenplay, the Countess does so by taking on new identities and transcending cultures until her mask is revealed as a mask.  With the addition of the mask, she becomes marked as racially other, which leads directly to her destruction.  Faulkner’s seemingly small change causes the destruction of the female vampire to now be coded as a racial lynching that punishes her for desiring and possibly violating the young and white Jillian.4 

Faulkner emphasizes the potential lesbian violations in Karlova’s novel, and in doing so demonstrates his knowledge of Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, the first explicitly female vampire novel, and the only other female vampire film of the time, Dracula’s Daughter (1936), which has a small lesbian scene between Dracula’s daughter and a servant girl.  Dreadful Hollow borrows the Countess’ character directly from LeFanu’s novel, changing only her age and her status at the time of the narrative.  The novel’s end reveals young Carmilla to be an incarnation of the Countess Mircalla Karnstein who has been preying on young girls for centuries.  Because the novel and screenplay’s audience eventually links the Countess’ youthful appearance as Vera to the ongoing problem of the missing young girls in the village, the Countess becomes like Carmilla’s own folkloric ancestor, Elizabeth Bathory, an infamous sixteenth-century Hungarian Countess who bathed in the blood of youth to stave off bodily decay and the loss of her beauty.

Jillian faces the threat of rape by the Countess and whenever Jillian gets too close to being violated, she swoons and faints, undermining the rationality and stability she had previous exhibited.   Sabine Sielke reads the ambiguity of rape in the seduction narrative as signaling difficulties with the issue of feminine consent and subject position. In her reading of Charlotte Temple, she points out that: “Charlotte is prevented, through unconsciousness, from signaling either consent or non-consent, the novel manifests her lack of personhood.  Accordingly, we are never told how long in fact she remains unconscious” (18). It is unclear what happens to Jillian while she is passed out and the ambiguity is rendered even more unclear by the fact that her scary encounters are told to Dr. Clyde after the fact, with sketchy details.  Her fainting prevents Dr. Clyde and the audience from having to grant her consent to a lesbian relationship with Countess. Bonnie Zimmerman points out that in films that show “the lesbian as a vampire-rapist who violates and destroys her victim, men alleviate their fears that lesbian love could create an alternate model, that two women without coercion or morbidity might prefer one another to a man” (23).  Jillian’s fainting serves the purpose of ensuring that Jillian’s sexuality never needs to be directly explained and, therefore, will not make the male audience members uncomfortable.

The film, then, is Faulkner’s version of a vampire rape-revenge film, in which society destroys the female vampire through a metaphorical castration/rape because she threatened young girls.  In order to set up the Countess’ destruction, Faulkner makes another large change to the novel. He reworks Dr. Clyde’s father’s diary entries into a single flashback narrative by borrowing heavily from Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932), the first film solely about a female vampire.  Vampyr ends with the opening of the old woman/vampire’s grave and her phallic staking by the lead male character in scene that punishes her transgressions with metaphorical rape.  Dreadful Hollow is a unique vampire narrative in that the female vampires are not staked, but have their teeth forcibly removed so that they can no longer eat.  In the novel’s diary entries, Clyde’s father’s has a long discussion with the Count before the removing the Countess’ teeth and the text mentions that the dark form is tied and bound.  Faulkner removes much of the conversation and the image of the tied and bound vampire.  What stands in is an extreme close up on the removed vampire’s teeth, a filmic element not found in the novel:

164      EXTREME CLOSE                CLYDE’S HAND
On the palm are four lone, needle-like teeth.  Presently the hand closes convulsively.
                              CLYDE (John)
                (holding out an empty glass)
More wine—please
Czerner pours from a decanter on the table.  Clyde drinks (131).

The screenplay transforms the expected staking/phallic rape that ends all other vampire narratives into a forcible castration/rape that renders the vagina dentata inert, harmless, and punished.  She is lynched and castrated while at the same time violated, which allows the narrative to retain the idea that the vampire is raped, the significance of the staking at the end of earlier vampire narratives, without repeating the staking itself. The shift happens because this vampire is female and overtly lesbian.  

In Faulkner’s more literary work, rape always happens off camera: Temple Drake’s in Sanctuary, Nancy’s in “That Evening Sun” and Dewey Dell’s in As I Lay Dying. Sielke’s reading of Temple’s rape at the end of Faulkner’s Sanctuary draws from Mieke Bal’s rereading of rape as “by definition imagined” and present “as experience and as memory, as image translated into signs only” (142). Sielke shows that rape in Faulkner is “deferred, displaced, and never present.”  Yet it is both “retrospectively remembered and foreshadowed” (88). Faulkner continues this pattern from his earlier through the showing of vampire teeth as signs to which the audience helps to ascribe significance to the act of forcibly removing them. He reworks the novel so that even a metaphorical rape in Dreadful Hollow is never actually shown, again stamping the narrative with his indelible signature.  

Ken Gelder notes that Carmilla seems to sanction the lesbianism, rather than condemning it as the story unfolds, but the novel’s ending removes the object of desire, Carmilla, from the narrative completely, and so renders a kind of judgment on the long term prospects for that relationship (60-61).  Dreadful Hollow’s story takes a similar view of the Countess’ lesbianism because she is not punished by having her teeth removed. She is never lynched metaphorically because of her interest in younger girls, but instead, she is removed from the village through the burning of the Grange.  Faulkner could have easily rewritten the story’s end for Hawks to include the showing of the countesses’ teeth. Instead, he leaves the ending ambiguous, which complicates the screenplays treatment of feminine sexuality, a hallmark of Faulkner’s writing.

Part Three: A Consideration of How Its Story Reveals Faulkner’s Signature in its Manipulation of the Conventions of the Crime Genre.

Dr. Clyde, along with Jillian, spends the last third of the narrative searching for clues that will reveal why a child has gone missing from the village and what, exactly, is happening to Jillian at the Grange.  The narrative shifts from a plot about the vampire’s sexuality to what Karen Hollinger names the discovery plot, which “seeks to control the monster by a process of demystification.  This narrative moment culminates in the devaluation or punishment of the monster or at least in the acquisition of sufficient knowledge of his mysterious behavior to find a way to deal with his threatening presence” (298). Faulkner accomplishes the shift by injecting his own brand of popular crime narrative into the screenplay by emphasizing popular aspects of the film noir. 

Towards the end of the screenplay, the detective narrative becomes the main storytelling mode.  For example, one sequence shows the typical blocking and sequence of events expected in a crime drama.  Clyde and the detective from Scotland Yard stand together:

-motionless, listening the small window behind them.  There is no sound in the dark house.  Gregory now has a tiny flashlight in his hand….
173 INT Library          Clyde and Gregory
-enter slowly and cautiously.  The room is very dark.  Gregory closes the door slowly and soundlessly, turns, flashes on his tiny pencil of light.

Clyde whispers, then:

The light sweeps to a corner, steadies.  The corner of course is empty.  The light moves to another, pauses, moves up to the top of the bookcase, moves slowly along the molding at the top of the wainscot.

Then Clyde speaks:

The light moves on, picks up the photograph of the countess, is about to pass on.

Then after more conversation:

FAINT SOUND OF FEET begins in the hall.  With amazing rapidity and making no sound at all, Gregory goes to the door, opens it quickly and silently, stands flattened beside it, looking out into the hall has Clyde joins him. (136)

The sequence shows how deftly Faulkner could manipulate the detective and crime genres if he wished to strip them down to the essential, linear elements that Hawks favored.  Light in August, Sanctuary, and Absalom, Absalom!, all detective novels of sorts, show the ambiguity that Faulkner favored while writing about violence and in the case of Absalom, Absalom!, explaining Quentin Compson’s motive for killing himself. Faulkner spent a great deal of time working with the detective form in the years prior to writing the screenplay and immediately after and the genre must have been very prominent in his mind when Hawks assigned him the script.  When Dr. Clyde first appears in the screenplay, Faulkner writes that he, “looks like a poet,” a slight nod towards his identification with Clyde that replicates the one he has with his more literary detective Gavin Stevens (3).

Faulkner had spent the late winter of 1942 writing “Knight’s Gambit,” a detective story about the lawyer Stevens and narrated by his nephew, Charles Weddel.  Blotner writes that the story showed, “a growing fondness for these two familiar characters and reflected his own current preoccupations.”  Harper’s Magazine rejected the story that year because of its “obscurity and complexity” (435-36).  Sometime in the winter of 1944 to the early spring of 1945, he rewrote “Knights Gambit” hoping to finally sell the piece (474). The summer of 1945, he rewrote “An Error in Chemistry,” because Harold Ober asked him to “clear up some ambiguity,” so he could place it in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and enter it in their contest for mystery stories (467).  He was rewriting these stories while writing Dreadful Hollow and the need to create a succinct crime story out of Dreadful Hollow most likely guided his revisions as he tried to “clear up some ambiguity” in his literary crime stories so they would sell.  Faulkner was also rethinking Intruder in the Dust around that time, and he called it a “mystery-murder though the relationship is more relationship between Negro and white,” in a letter to Ober five years before working on the screenplay.  In 1948, he finally wrote the novel as a doubly structured novel that somewhat resembles Dreadful Hollow with its structure of a lynching covered up by a murder-detective story (490).

Reading the screenplay as a crime story turns the Countess’ queer ability to pass in society, despite evidently being a vampire, into a ruse employed in one kind of crime narrative, where the criminal passes by blending in and masquerading among the innocent.  Faulkner uses this kind of crime narrative in “An Error in Chemistry.”  Gavin must investigate the mysterious disappearance of Joel Flint, who had been arrested for killing his wife, from his jail cell.  Eventually, he uncovers that Flint has been in disguise as his dead wife’s father, an old man with a mustache, and was trying to collect her insurance the whole time.  It turns out, he is also a magician known for his ability to do a disappearing act.  Flint plays his double role easily, until he mistakenly reveals he doesn’t know how to make a cold toddy.  His outsider status becomes apparent only when a native discovers his inability to eat or drink the proper, customary food for the region, just as with the vampires: the Countess Czerner, Carmilla, and Count Dracula.

Faulkner made a mistake typing halfway through the screenplay.  He typed “Hyde” instead of Clyde halfway through the screenplay, and the error hints that he was thinking the doctor/detective hid some kind of potentially dual and therefore monstrous secret nature (77).  His earlier novels contain detective characters who split apart just as his characters attempt to zipper dual personalities and even characters into one.  Quentin in Absalom, Absalom! seeks to explain the death of his future self: the published first but chronologically later Quentin in The Sound and the Fury.  As he does so, the stories about the past split and reveal two Bons, two Sutpens, and two different Souths.  Gavin Stevens rends Joe Christmas in two while attempting to explain the novel’s violent crimes.  Even though Clyde’s dual nature doesn’t appear in the screenplay, Faulkner makes changes to the novel’s depiction of Jillian, which makes her appear almost as dual as the vampire.   The vampire story and the crime story intersect in her character because Faulkner rewrites her into Dracula’s Mina: a woman who is simultaneously the vampire’s victim and a crime novel’s modern woman who can stand up to Dr. Clyde.

Karlova dwells on Jillian’s innocent and childlike qualities, setting her up to be the vampire’s victim.   When she arrives on the train platform, the novel compares her to “a little white-headed girl in a pink pinafore among the roses and sweet peas” (4).  Faulkner writes the scene very differently.  Jillian:

has just got off the train,  She is about twenty, pretty in neat in inexpensive clothes.  She has a bag with her…She looks and is shy.  She glances about, somewhat at a loss, then speaks with determination to the stationmaster:  “I want to go to the Grange, please.  Is there a cart of some sort I could hire?” (1)

In Faulkner’s version, Jillian’s language never undermines her strength and determination as it does in the novel.  The novel’s Jillian speaks in a stilted and formal way that shows how uncomfortable she is alone on the platform:  “I want my luggage taken up to the Grange.  You’ve got some sort of conveyance, I suppose?” (5). Her air of formality serves only to highlight and illustrate her naïveté.  Faulkner’s Jillian, while still shy and young, always speaks her thoughts directly and never uses country colloquialisms like “Golly” that pepper her thoughts in the novel.  Faulkner also cuts back the pet names that Dr. Clyde likes to call her through the novel, retaining only Mother Goose’s “Muffet.” Faulkner’s changes to Jillian’s character result in a character that is stronger and demands more respect from Dr. Clyde.  She becomes a strong female wanderer, through Faulkner’s employment of the same script language he used for Lauren Bacall’s characters in To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946).

Faulkner had just completed the screenplay for To Have and Have Not on May 1, 1944 and the revision by May 13.  He spent the remainder of the year working with Leigh Brackett on writing and revising The Big Sleep, finishing on December 15 (Blotner 456, 462). Since Hawks bought the rights bought the film rights to Dreadful Hollow in November of 1944, it was most likely the next screenplay Faulkner wrote. Faulkner’s note to Hawks in the margin of the screenplay indicates that he saw Jillian in similar terms as the character he had just written from Bacall:  “Howard: One modern woman running is ridiculous, comic; one chasing another doesn’t help it much” (145). The changes made to Jillian’s character gives the screenplay two female leads by rewriting her into the kind of woman Hawks liked to have in his films as leads. It’s also significant that Faulkner would write a female driven narrative, something that does not exist in his more literary writing. Naomi Wise writes of Feathers, played by Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo (1959), “Feathers embodies the clearest depiction of female superiority in Hawk’s action films: She has all the Hawksian ‘masculine virtues (decisiveness, courage, professionalism and style) plus the ‘feminine’ ones (warmth, humor, openness)” (115). The Hawksian woman has the same gender duality Faulkner had already been giving many of his more literary characters: Drusilla, Judith Sutpen, and Jenny Sartoris, and in a vampire film, her strength may be seen as similar to that of the deadly, female vampire.

Vampires, Detectives, and Hawks: A History and Analysis of William Faulkner’s Unpublished Screenplay Dreadful Hollow Michelle Moore Literature/Film Quarterly Vampires, Detectives, and Hawks: A History and Analysis of William Faulkner’s Unpublished Screenplay Dreadful Hollow Michelle Moore Literature/Film Quarterly
Figures 4 and 5: Faulkner finished the screenplays for To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) just before beginning work on Dreadful Hollow. Lauren Bacall embodies the kind of powerful, modern women Hawks liked to have in his films.

Faulkner rewrites Jillian into a kind of femme fatale where she poses a potential threat to Clyde’s masculinity simply because she possess such courage and strength. Mary Ann Doane, writing about the film femme fatale translates Christine Buci-Gluckmann’s definition of Modernism as  “the moment when the male seems to lose access to the body, which the woman then comes to overrepresent” (34). Both Jillian and the Countess overrepresent with their bodies, stealing the narrative from the male lead. The Countess’ lesbianism and desire for Jillian may also be read as posing the additional threat to Clyde of his losing access to Jillian’s body for marriage purposes. Faulkner removed the multiple hints and mentions of an impending marriage between Jillian and Clyde that Karlova drops in the novel, so the film’s ending appears more what Bruce Kawin has noted, as a meeting between equals than the inevitable ending of a comedy of manners. This meeting of equals rarely appears so blatantly in Faulkner’s canon and so should be noted as exceptional.

Doane argues that: “Indeed, if the femme fatale overrepresents the body it is because she is attributed with a body which is itself given agency independent of consciousness. In a sense she has power despite herself” (2). The female vamp, or femme fatale, succeeds in harnessing masculine power, whether it is in the arenas of exchange or commerce and uses it for the same gain that men do. She succeeds at the game despite the fact she is a woman, feminine, and therefore historically excluded. In Dreadful Hollow, Faulkner emphasizes that Jillian has been placed in the dangerous situation with the Countess because of her family, by having Jillian constantly remind Suri and the film’s audience that she needs money for her sister’s medical treatment. Her mother is unable to work and so Jillian’s must make up for what her mother lacks by taking care of the older Countess as a “companion” and essentially selling her youthful energy to aid the Countess and her family. Narratives about femme fatales initially pose their femininity as a hindrance, a barrier to be crossed, and a contamination that will prevent her from full, masculine achievement. Ultimately, Jillian’s and the Countess’ feminine bodies stands apart from their thinking, and therefore, masculine minds. But, in these kinds of crime stories stories, their bodies are what ironically gets them the power they crave. Because Faulkner rewrites Jillian so thoroughly, she should be added to the ongoing conversation about his women characters in Faulkner scholarship, especially because she is his perhaps his most obvious representation of the new, modern woman.

Faulkner wrote Dreadful Hollow immediately following To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, and so it should be read along with those two films as indicative of the kind of work he produced for Hawks at the time. The screenplay reveals Faulkner’s approach to adaptation was to add elements that could deepen an audience’s appreciation of a form. In doing so, he resists the Hollywood Studio system’s tendency to whitewash corners and soften the shadows of source materials, something that would have been appreciated by his friend and sometimes employer, Hawks. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually accompanied any script Faulkner wrote for a studio have not happened and the script is completely Faulkner’s own. The screenplay reveals him to be a serious and focused screenwriter with a wide knowledge of early film narratives and techniques who by 1945 had become quite good at his trade. Faulkner stamped the screenplay with his signature multiple times and so it contains large traces of his more canonical work. These echoes serve to further blur the lines between his “literary work” and his “commercial work” and suggest, instead, that for Faulkner, the distinction was perhaps not as clear as scholars have made it out to be. It therefore, should be considered a supplement to his more literary work. I wholeheartedly agree with Kawin’s 1977 assessment of the script: It’s Faulkner’s best screenplay and it deserves a place among his better-known and published work.


1 Gene D. Philips also briefly summarized Hawks’ script in Fiction, Film, and Faulkner. 

2 I wish to thank James D’Arc, Curator of the Motion Picture Archive at Brigham Young University for granting me access to and permissions to quote from the screenplay, as well as Norm Gillespie and the staff of the L. Tom Perry collection for their help. I wish to thank Edwin T. Arnold for bringing the screenplay to my attention.

3 For more readings of the vampirism in Wuthering Heights, see Lakshmi Krishnan, ‘“Why Am I So Changed?’: Vampiric Selves and Gothic Doubleness in Wuthering Heights,’ Journal of Dracula Studies 9 (2007): 39-52; Carol Senf, The Vampire in Nineteenth-Century English Literature (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988); Beth Torgerson, Reading the Brontë Body: Disease, Desire, and the Constraints of Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

4 For an extended reading of Faulkner’s uses of the vampire in his more literary work, see Michelle E. Moore,“The Unsleeping Cabal’: Faulkner’s Fevered Vampires and the Other South,” Faulkner Journal 25.1 (2010): 61-82.

5 See Leonard Cassutto, The Inhuman Race: The American Grotesque in American Literature and Culture (New York: Columbia UP, 1996).

6 In William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist, Daniel J. Singal reaches a similar conclusion, despite reading the same passage in Light in August for a very different purpose. He writes that “Faulkner the Modernist must surely have also meant this passage to be ironic” (184).

7 Faulkner’s rewriting of Jillian into a stronger girl detective than Karlova first imagined her as being may also indicate his knowledge of the popular Nancy Drew series, begun in 1930.

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