H.P Lovecraft was near the end of his tether in the late ’30s. He had been writing for the pulps for nearly a decade with little to show for it except for a small, dedicated fan base — and poverty. His inheritance was nearly spent, he was never in good health, and he faced one of the direst fears a neurotic aesthete could contemplate: getting a job and meeting the public. He tried one last desperate toss to avoid this ignominious fate: Hollywood. He imagined a band of gentlemen-scholars of the unknown, who, much like himself, fell upon hard times and were forced to work for their keep, attempting to contain fell spirits and things that should not be when they intruded upon his beloved Providence- for a nominal consideration, of course. He wrote a treatment and sent it out west. One studio boss, seeing the potential for humor in three bumbling academics chasing ghosts, made some major changes (the scholars would also be tinkerers with all kinds of zany ghost-fighting gadgets, they now had a wise-cracking black employee, and it was set in New York), and turned Lovecraft’s stories into a fairly successful humor serial. Audiences were especially amused by Harold Lloyd’s deadpan delivery of Lovecraftian dialogue, with its references to “Gozer the Gozerian” and “shivs and zuuls.” Lovecraft, however, was not amused by the bowdlerization of his work, even if the films helped his financial situation. Money or no money, his health was not good, and on his deathbed not soon after cursed the name of the creation that would become his most famous: Ghostbusters.

One of the studio boss’s assistants tried to bring Lovecraft’s antisemitism to the boss’s attention. The boss handwaved it away, insisting that the Jewish stereotypes in Ghostbusters was an example of old neighborhood humor. “Look at the way this schmuck writes,” the boss insisted, “and tell me he’s not a garment-cutter’s kid who got a scholarship to a fancy college.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s