I’ve been reading a biography of the collaboration and rivalry of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, the two most prominent stars of horror movies in the 1930s and 1940s. Their first collaborative effort was in the movie The Black Cat – ostensibly the film of a story by Edgar Allen Poe; however, the real inspiration for the film was the life of Aleister Crowley, the self-confessed “Wickedest Man in the World”.
While doing so, I came across this piece of trivia…
At the same time as The Black Cat was in production, Aleister Crowley went to court in London to sue the artist Nina Hamnett for libel when she called him a black magician in her 1932 book, Laughing Torso. The case was dismissed by the judge, a certain Mr Swift, after the jury decided to stop the case by unanimously finding a verdict in favour of Miss Hamnett and her publishers. Mr Swift added:
“I have nothing to say to you about the facts except this. I have been forty years engaged in the administration of the law in one capacity or another. I thought that I knew every conceivable form of wickedness. I thought everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time or another before me. I have learned in this case that you can always learn something more if you live long enough. Never have I heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous, abominable stuff as that which has been produced by the man [Crowley] who describes himself to you as the greatest living poet.”
You can read more about the verdict in this transcript of the Daily Mail article of 14 April 1934. However, the incident prompted me to write the following clerihew.
Most people with the surname “Crowley” prefer a pronunciation that rhymes with “foully”. Aleister Crowley preferred instead to rhyme his name with “unholy”.