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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

Essays

Elly Bloch

Steve Vertlieb

While growing up during my early teenage years in the late fifties and early to mid sixties, I discovered a wondrous world of horror literature reprinted in paperback form for an entirely new generation of fans and aficionados. It was during this time that I first discovered the works of both H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Bloch. While Lovecraft became my favorite author, Bloch would eventually become a dear and treasured friend. From 1970 until his passing, Bob Bloch became a mentor and pal. We spoke often on the telephone, and exchanged hundreds of post cards and letters. Upon my first trip to California, Bob invited my brother, Erwin, and I to spend the day with him. He drove the two of us all over Los Angeles, and did his level best to make my first trip to Hollywood Land a memorable one. We walked the western streets at Paramount, visited George Pal in his studio office, spent time with Uncle Forry and, eventually, returned to Bob's home for dinner.

It was there that evening that I first met the delightful Elly. She was Bob's loyal and loving soul mate. She was sweet, kind, and generous with her time and emotions. She accepted Erwin and I as she would her own children. During dinner I asked Elly which of Bob's books was her favorite. She shocked me with her admission that she had never read any of her husband's books. "I don't wish to see that side of him," she said. Beyond the printed page, Bob Bloch was a warm, witty, kind and gentle soul. That was the man she married. That was the only man she wanted to see.

When dinner ended Elly, like a good Jewish mother, saw to it that Erwin and I had a tempting care package of food to take back home with us. In the twenty five odd years that followed, Elly was always a friend. Whenever I'd telephone, she'd yell excitedly to her husband..."Bob, Bob...it's Steve Vertlieb." Whenever Bob came to the phone, he made me feel as welcome as a brother or a son. When Bob's life was cruelly snuffed out by Cancer I felt crushed and heartbroken. I spoke with Elly on the phone to share my feelings of love both for Bob and for her. She told me that she was thinking of leaving California to return to her family somewhere in the midwest, I believe. She said that she simply couldn't bear to remain among the memories of a man she'd devoted her life to...and who simply wasn't there any more. It was just too painful.

I lost track of Elly after that. I tried to find her over the years, but she had seemingly disappeared from radar. Then, several days ago, I learned with great sadness that Elly had passed away. I wish that I could have reached out to her somehow...to remind her of how deeply she was loved and respected, not only as the wife of a great writer but as a caring and special woman whom I'd learned to love. But it wasn't to be. Elly, if you can see these thoughts from wherever in Heaven you've chosen to reside once more with your beloved Robert, please smile down occasionally so that those who were honored to know you may feel the radiant warmth and sunshine of your goodness...and may you rest eternally in sweet and joyous peace.

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A published, award-winning writer, film historian, critic, archivist, and poet, Steve Vertlieb has been writing about motion pictures and symphonic film music in a variety of books, magazines, journals, and tabloids since 1969.

He penned the lead chapter in Avon Books' 1976 anthology on the original 1933 production of King Kong, The Girl in The Hairy Paw; co-authored My Memories of Mario Lanza, an affectionate remembrance of the famed tenor's boyhood on the streets of South Philadelphia; authored a lengthy study of Britain's gothic vampire films of the 1970's in Dracula: The First Hundred Years; and offered a major study of the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and his principal composer, Bernard Herrmann, for a special issue of Midnight Marquee Magazine. He wrote a provocative essay on the production of David O. Selznick's classic Portrait of Jennie for Cinematic Hauntings and contributed a touching, personal tribute to British composer, James Bernard, for the anthology Memories of Hammer.

He has also written columns, articles, and reviews for such publications as L'Incroyable Cinema in England, The Late Show, Black Oracle, Midnight Marquee, Home Viewer, and Cinemacabre, for which he contributed a celebrated column on the art of motion picture music. He served as Associate Editor and frequent contributor to New York's ground-breaking film tabloid, The Monster Times, and has enjoyed success as a poet in the pages of such magazines as Outer Darkness and Songs of Innocence.

Steve worked in Philadelphia television and radio for fourteen years as a film editor, cameraman, floor director, and announcer and lent his voice to an independent motion picture filmed in Maryland. He has appeared as a guest critic and lecturer on numerous television and radio programs, including the nationally syndicated series "Fresh Air," hosted by Terry Gross, and has lectured at Philadelphia's prestigious Museum of Art.

He has hosted a richly received personal appearance by Oscar-winning special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen; authored and presented a posthumous lifetime achievement award to legendary composer/conductor Bernard Herrmann; and served as announcer at a memorable film conference, introducing such luminaries as Janet Leigh, Patricia Hitchcock, and Roger Corman to a star-studded audience.

In 1981, he was awarded the M.A.F.C. trophy for Best Writer of the Year. Soon after, he was inducted into the Legion of Honor by The Chapel of Four Chaplains for his volunteer work, recording programming for the blind community. He currently contributes monthly film criticism to a popular Internet Web site. Among his many accolades are two letters of artistic admiration, received in 2002 and 2003, from former President William Jefferson Clinton.

This essay was written in March 2007. It is copyright 2007 by Steve Vertlieb, and is printed here with his permission.