Do Savannnah

Unplugged: New biography tells story of underappreciated Savannah author Harry Hervey

  • Cover of “The Damned Don’t Cry — They Just Disappear” written by Harlan Greene
  • Harry Hervey portrait (Courtesy of Harlan Greene)
  • Cover of “The Damned Don’t Cry” written by Harry Hervey
  • Harlan Greene (Courtesy of College of Charleston)

Unplugged: New biography tells story of underappreciated Savannah author Harry Hervey

31 Jan 2018

Harry Hervey, one of the most interesting and culturally significant Savannahians of the 20th century, has never been appreciated as he deserves, but that might change soon.

Author and historian Harlan Greene will unveil his new biography of Hervey, “The Damned Don’t Cry ― They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey,” with a talk and book signing at 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at Trinity United Methodist Church on Telfair Square.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by The Book Lady Bookstore and The Learning Center at Senior Citizens Inc.

Hervey (1900-51) is best remembered these days for his 1939 novel “The Damned Don’t Cry,” a potboiler that scandalized Savannah with its portrayal of the city’s decadence and hypocrisy.

But Hervey wrote plenty of other fiction and has 17 credits as a writer in the Internet Movie Database. He wrote the stories that were adapted into screenplays for “Shanghai Express” (1932) with Marlene Dietrich and “Road to Singapore” (1940) with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

Hervey was also openly gay, which was obviously something of a novelty in the first half of the 20th century.

The Georgia Historical Society is fortunate to have an extensive collection of papers, manuscripts and photos that chronicle the life of Hervey and his longtime partner Carleton Hildreth. For a City Talk column many years ago, I immersed myself in the fascinating collection for a few hours.

After spending so much time with the collection, I was left with the impression that Hervey was a genius who spent most of his adult life on the cusp of fame. I sure wish that I could have seen Savannah as Hervey saw the city.

Greene brings an impressive résumé to the project. He heads the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library, has written several books about Charleston history and won the 1991 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction for “What the Dead Remember.” This new biography was published by the University of South Carolina Press.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged ( and hissing lawns ( Email


What: Talk, book signing on Harry Hervey biography

When: 3 p.m. Feb. 2

Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.

Cost: Free

Info: 912-233-3628