Scott Allen Nollen is an American historian, biographer, archivist, filmmaker and musician known widely as the author of a series of popular books on the history of film, music, literature and African American studies. He was born on April 2, 1963, in Harlan, Iowa. His father, Harold N. Nollen, served in the United States Coast Guard prior to running a successful petroleum distribution business, to which his mother, Shirley A. (Stoltz) Nollen, also contributed. From age 12 in 1975, Nollen worked for his father until beginning his university studies in 1984. The maternal line of his father's family has been traced back to Bavaria in 1676.
Nollen's literary collaborators include science-fiction legend Ray Bradbury, author-filmmakers Nicholas Meyer and Michael A. Hoey, British musicians Ian Anderson and Dave Pegg, R&B singer Ruth Pointer, television producer Tony Oppedisano, celebrity offspring Dame Jean Conan Doyle (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Sara Jane Karloff (Boris Karloff) and Chris Costello (Lou Costello), and Theron Denson, "the World's Only African-American Neil Diamond Tribute Artist." He also is known for producing, directing and playing two roles in the independent film Lofty (2005), with his nephew, Ryan C. Baumbach, and co-writing the screenplays for the award-winning documentaries Kreating Karloff (2006) and Finnigan's War (2013).
Nollen's parents began reading to him at a very early age, and he was able to read and write by the age of four, before attending Kindergarten. He has cited his favorite authors as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells and Mark Twain. He has noted that his greatest writing "teachers" have been Stevenson, Conan Doyle and Poe, all of whose considerable works (including essays and uncompleted material) he has read in their entirety. Stevenson's classic novel Treasure Island (1883) he describes as a "perfect literary work and perhaps the only truly 'cinematic' work ever created entirely in another medium, especially prior to the invention of film." His favorite poet is Scottish bard Robert Burns, whose works are written in English and the Auld Scots dialect, which Nollen also reads and writes.
Nollen's top 20 classic film directors are John Ford, Charles Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa, John Huston, James Whale, Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz, F. W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Masaki Kobayashi, Keinosuke Kinoshita, Anthony Mann, Robert Wise, William A. Wellman, Frank Borzage, Elia Kazan and John Brahm.
His five top post-1960 directors are Sidney Lumet, Nicholas Meyer, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood.
Boris Karloff has been Nollen's number-one thespian from childhood; and over the decades of viewing nearly every surviving classic Hollywood film through the 1960s (as well as a large percentage of world cinema from the same period), Edward G. Robinson, Glenda Farrell, Takashi Shimura, Setsuko Hara, Robert Ryan, Henry Fonda, Stan Laurel, Ward Bond, Ann Dvorak, Janet Gaynor, Edmond O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, James Cagney, Victor McLaglen, Toshiro Mifune, Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, Steve Cochran, John Cassavetes, John Anderson, Chester Morris, Richard Dix, Loretta Young, Bette Davis, Lionel Barrymore, Lou Costello, Richard Conte, Robert Stack, Guy Kibbee, Laurence Olivier, Paul Robeson and, of course, Marlon Brando were added to his acting pantheon. His top child actors are Roddy McDowall, Margaret O'Brien and Shirley Temple.
From "more recent years," his top actors (for both films and classic television) are Robert Duvall, Susan Oliver, Rip Torn, Woody Strode, Harry Bellaver, Nehemiah Persoff, Ossie Davis, Lois Nettleton, Brock Peters, Rod Steiger, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, James Whitmore, Nita Talbot, Paul Picerni, Ed Harris, Frank Langella, Jeremy Irons, Ian McKellen and Dennis Franz.
After studying the Hollywood cinema for nearly 50 years, Nollen has concluded that "the single most under-rated, nearly unnoticeably versatile actor, because of his Hollywood movie star status and 'unsavory' reputation, was the indescribable, mightily intelligent Errol Flynn, whose real talent, as a performer and writer, which is what he really wanted to be, will never be known. Basil Rathbone called him 'the most beautiful male human animal I have ever seen,' and his self-torture made him destroy himself. I've often empathized and identified with Errol."
Nollen's most "personally mesmerizing" experience while watching a film in a theater occurred in 2008 during Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard, in a Dallas cineplex while having the venue "all to himself."
His two favorite places are Inverness, Scotland and Monument Valley, Navaho Nation, on the border of Utah and Arizona, where John Ford shot many of his finest films, including two of Nollen's "Top 20 Films of All Time," The Searchers (1956) and Fort Apache (1948). Others include the Japanese classics, Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring (1949), Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952) and Seven Samurai (1954), and Keinosuke Kinoshita's Twenty-Four Eyes (1954).
Since 1983, Nollen has written scores of articles and essays, as well as authoring and editing over 40 books, including The Boys: The Cinematic World of Laurel and Hardy (1989), Boris Karloff: A Critical Account of His Screen, Stage, Radio, Television and Recording Work (1991), Robert Louis Stevenson: Life, Literature and the Silver Screen (1994), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the Cinema: A Critical Study of the Film Adaptations (1996), Boris Karloff: A Gentleman's Life (1999), Robin Hood: A Cinematic History of the English Outlaw and His Scottish Counterparts (1999), Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001 (2001), The Cinema of Sinatra: The Actor, on Screen and in Song (2003), Louis Armstrong: The Life, Music and Film Career (2004), Warners Wiseguys: All 112 Films that Robinson, Cagney and Bogart Made for the Studio (2007), Abbott and Costello on the Home Front: A Critical Study of the Wartime Films (2009), Jilly! Sinatra's Right Hand Man (2009), Paul Robeson: Film Pioneer (2010), Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond (2013), Black Diamond: The Real Illusion (2013), and Glenda Farrell: Hollywood's Hardboiled Dame (2014).
Of all his editing assignments, Nollen is most pleased to have worked on the U.S. edition of the autobiography of one of his heroes, Sir Christopher Lee, Tall, Dark and Gruesome (1999). Along with Sir Christopher, his favorite acquaintance and correspondent was actor, author and gourmet chef Vincent Price. His closest film-industry friend will always remain "the beloved Michael A. Hoey," whose original screenplay for the bizarre comic Elvis Presley film Stay Away, Joe (1967) he called (in the writer's presence) "a tragically under-rated experimental masterpiece."
Nollen co-wrote the Grammy-nominated book for the Time Warner CD box set Frank Sinatra in Hollywood 1940-1964 (2002), joining other Sinatra scholars including film historian Leonard Maltin, jazz authority Will Friedwald, and record producer Chuck Granata. In 2002, Nollen's Jethro Tull was nominated for Best Rock 'n' Roll/R&B book by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.
Educated at the University of Iowa, Nollen earned a BA in Honors History (1988), a BA in Broadcasting and Film (1988), and an MA in United States, Modern European and African American History (1989). His main influences while at the University were Professor Lawrence Gelfand (History) and Professor Samuel Becker (Communication Studies), who had been recommended to him by Nicholas Meyer, who has maintained a strong relationship with the school. Another highlight for Nollen were his private discussions with legendary astronomer and physicist James Van Allen.
From 1991-2001, Nollen served as a federal archivist, filmmaker and lecturer for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC, and at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. His travels took him to institutions throughout the U.S., including a "private visit" in the boarding house where President Abraham Lincoln passed away and a night sleeping in the (very short) bed of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The onset of two serious, permanent progressive illnesses, requiring long term hospitalizations and major surgeries during 2010-11, ended Nollen's extensive traveling to do research for book projects. Now confined to home under strict diet and medication regimens, Nollen remains out of the public eye, often serving as a pro-bono consultant for other biographers, historians, filmmakers and activists
In 2014, Nollen was selected by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress to contribute to the National Film Registry website, writing essays on Paul Robeson's The Emperor Jones (1933) and John Ford's Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In 2015, Nollen completed a chapter on Robert Louis Stevenson's novels Treasure Island and Kidnapped for a book on the Walt Disney films for Rowman & Littlefield and a long-planned book on the classic Warner Bros. "social-problem" film I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), starring Paul Muni and Glenda Farrell, which includes a full biography of the actual fugitive, Robert Elliott Burns, for McFarland.
Nollen recently finished a chapter on John Ford for the book Blue and Grey, in Black and White and Color: The Civil War on Film for Lexington Books, and currently is writing the first-ever book in English on Akira Kurosawa's favorite actor, Takashi Shimura: Chameleon of the Japanese Cinema, for McFarland. You may "like" the Facebook page for this forthcoming book at https://www.facebook.com/takashishimurafilms/ (Nollen also has a separate Facebook page for each of his other books.)
He also is writing a "companion volume" (for McFarland) on the great Japanese actress Setsuko Hara (1920-2015), the favorite of master director Yasujiro Ozu (Late Spring  and Tokyo Story , among others). This biography, as with the one on Shimura, will be the first written in the English language.
The composer of hundreds of "home-grown" songs and tunes over the past four decades, Nollen served as drummer for the Midwestern-based jazz quintet "Together" during 1978-1984, and has constantly collaborated with his cousin, guitarist and songwriter Todd M. Jacobsen, since 1974. The duo write and record as "The Bramwell Fletcher Band," a tribute to the British actor who "laughs himself insane" in the classic Universal horror film The Mummy (1932), starring Boris Karloff in the titular role. "Without music, life would be even more difficult to live!" has kept a strong heartbeat pounding.
In April 2017, in part to celebrate his 54th birthday, Nollen made a rare trip, by train, from his home, to Chicago, "his kind of town," to spend a weekend with his longtime friend Brian O'Malley and virtuoso guitarist Martin Barre, who had played with Jethro Tull for 45 years. Now leading his own band, Barre played two shows at Martyrs' nightclub, where Nollen enjoyed spending time with his favorite guitarist, wife, Julie (on their 40th wedding anniversary), and the band members. When Nollen told the musician, "I wouldn't want to live in a world without Martin Barre in it," he replied, "Please stop saying that. You'll make me cry."
Upon his return from the Windy City, Nollen admitted to Todd Jacobsen, "Over the past 40 years, how many times has that man's playing done just that to me?"
Why does Nollen keep writing? He said, "Writing is not why I write. It is what gets me to the writing--the detective work--that drives me. After I solve the mystery, I'm really done, and the writing is just a semantic way of passing on knowledge to others, even though they'll probably never know how damn difficult it was to generate. I guess it's like most work--you just drive down a highway, not even thinking of the backbreaking toil of so many people who constructed the thing. Yes, I've practiced writing all my life, always trying to make it better--leaner, more concise, more readable--but it's always that lifelong desire to be Sherlock Holmes that has kept me (and keeps me, now being disabled) going. As long as there are mysteries that interest me, I'll always want to solve them. Why is that the way it is?"
In June 2017, Nollen was accepted into Strathmore Publishing's Who's Who of Executives and Professionals Worldwide, to be published in 2018. In August, Who's Who also awarded him the honor of "Number-One Representative of the Publishing Profession in the World for 2017," which earned him a placement of his biography at the front of the book, website, and all major internet search engines.
Nollen, by making a round trip via Tokyo of 20,000 miles, will be spending the month of September 2017 on the island of Java in Indonesia, where he will marry Yuyun Allena Nollen, who not only will become his wife but also the official research assistant on his two Japanese books.
In the end, Nollen would like to be known as having "tried as hard as I could to avoid prejudice, intolerance and hate in all its forms. In my lifetime, I'm afraid humans have become so enamored with disposable technology that they've imparted so little importance to their own intellectual and philosophical evolution. After 30 years of working as a historian, it's often difficult to remain positive, but there's always hope. My Number-one U.S. President is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My all-time favorite human beings from the U.S. have been (male) the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and (female) Jane Addams."
The Boys: The Cinematic World of Laurel and Hardy. McFarland, 1989. ISBN 978-0786411153.
Boris Karloff: A Critical Account of His Screen, Stage, Radio, Television and Recording Work. McFarland, 1991. ISBN 978-0786440733.
Robert Louis Stevenson: Life, Literature and the Silver Screen. McFarland, 1994. ISBN 978-0786467129.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the Cinema: A Critical History of the Film Adaptations. McFarland, 1996. ISBN 978-0786421244.
Midnight Marquee Actors Series: Vincent Price. Midnight Marquee, 1998. ISBN 978-1887664219.
Boris Karloff: A Gentleman’s Life. Midnight Marquee, 1999. ISBN 978-1887664233.
Midnight Marquee Actors Series: Peter Lorre. Midnight Marquee, 1999. ISBN 978-1887664301.
Robin Hood: A Cinematic History of the English Outlaw and His Scottish Counterparts. McFarland, 1999. ISBN 978-0786437573.
Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001. McFarland, 2001. ISBN 978-0786411016.
Sinatra in Hollywood, 1940-1964. Reprise/Warner Bros., 2002. ASIN B000066BN9.
The Cinema of Sinatra: The Actor, on Screen and in Song. Luminary Press, 2003. ISBN 978-1887664516.
Louis Armstrong: The Life, Music and Screen Career. McFarland, 2004. ISBN 978-0786418572.
Midnight Marquee Actors Series: Peter Cushing. Midnight Marquee, 2004. ISBN 978-1887664530.
Warners Wiseguys: All 112 Films that Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart Made for the Studio. McFarland, 2007. ISBN 978-0786432622.
Abbott and Costello on the Home Front: A Critical Study of the Wartime Films. McFarland, 2009. ISBN 978-0786435210.
Jilly! Sinatra's Right-Hand Man. Vegas Broom Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0578009216.
Paul Robeson: Film Pioneer. McFarland, 2010. ISBN 978-0786435203.
Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond. McFarland, 2013. ISBN 978-0786458547.
Black Diamond: The Real Illusion. Midnight Marquee, 2013. ISBN 978-1936168361.
Glenda Farrell: Hollywood's Hardboiled Dame. Midnight Marquee, 2014. ISBN 978-1936168477.
It's the Disney Version!. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. ISBN 978-1442266063.
The Making and Influence of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. McFarland, 2016. ISBN 978-0786466771.
Blue and Grey, in Black and White and Color: The Civil War on Film. Lexington Books/Rowman and Littlefield, 2017.
Takashi Shimura: Chameleon of the Japanese Cinema. McFarland, forthcoming.
Setsuko Hara. McFarland, forthcoming.