In a comment on my post yesterday, Patti Abbott wrote, "I wonder if anyone remembers Philip Wylie." Some of his fiction is currently in print from University Press Bison Books, one mystery is available from Fender Tucker's Ramble House, and Bill Pronzini recently collected five mystery novellas for Crippen & Landru -- all worthwhile endeavors, but none with the publishing numbers Wylie enjoyed in his heyday.
Wylie (1902-1971) was an extremely popular writer and social critic whose influence can be seen in much of the Twentieth Century's popular culture. His 1942 essay collection Generation of Vipers popularized the term "Momism," a perceived American obsession with motherhood.
In a situation much like that of Cleve Cartmill, John W. Campbell, and Astounding Science Fiction, Wylie was investigate by federal authorities for a story that posited the use of Uranium-235 in the building of an atomic bomb -- months before the first a-bomb test; but unlike Cartmill, et al., Wylie was placed under house arrest. (Wylie later acted as an advisor to the chairman of The Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy.)
Wylie's 1931 book The Murderer Invisible formed half the basis of James Whale's 1933 film The Invisible Man. Wylie's contribution was uncredited; the other guy's (some Britisher named H. G. Wells) was not.
Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator was a major inspiration for Superman.
His 1933 novel, co-written with Edwin Balmer, When Worlds Collide was the inspiration for Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon.
An avid deep-sea fisherman, Wylie wrote 37 stories about charter boat captain Crunch Adams and his mate Des Smith for (mainly) The Saturday Evening Post. The stories were collected in at least five books and inspired the 1955 television series Crunch and Des, starring Forrest Tucker and Sandy Kenyon. The Crunch and Des stories are thought to be an inspiration for John D. McDonald's Travis McGee. (Just as Wylie's 1932 novel The Savage Gentleman is thought to be an inspiration for Doc Savage.)
An article Wylie wrote for SEP popularized the hobby of orchid-raising. (Yes, Nero Wolfe was there long before this, but Wylie helped bring the hobby to the general public, not just those who had a greenhouse on the roof of a brownstone.)
A well-publicized episode of television's The Name of the Game titled LA: 2017, had Wylie envisioning a dystopian government following a world-wide environment disaster. (I didn't think much of that episode (too strained and predictable), but the image of a geriatric audience rocking to a geriatric band in a secret (read forbidden) underground club still sticks with me -- more so lately, when I attend a concert.) Wylie later novelized that episode as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017.
IMDB lists 22 titles credited to Wylie, from 1932's Island of Lost Souls to a new version of When Worlds Collide currently in development. Add to this his (at least) 39 books and hundreds of stories and articles, you have an author, dated perhaps, but who should not be overlooked.
Speaking of dated...
Starring Charlie Ruggles, Lionel Atwell, Gail Patrick, and Randolph Scott, from 1933, here's Murders in the Zoo:
For more of this week's Overlooked Films and Television, visit Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.