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The Cigar That Fell In Love With a Pipe: Featuring Orson Welles & Rita Hayworth Hardcover – April 29, 2014
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*Starred Review* Like any fine fabulist, Camus plays fast and loose with history, pretending not only that Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth were still together when The Lady from Shanghai came out in 1948 but also that Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn, a notorious tightwad, gave Welles a box of priceless Havanas for a movie he’d cut by an hour and spat out as a B picture. Those stretchers are relatively insignificant, however, within the lovely and ludicrous romance that follows. Orson knows from one puff that these babies were rolled by Cuban legend Conchita Marquez, whose sad story he recalls. She was a modest young woman of ample size who married her boss, not for love but to maximize his profits. She became allergic to tobacco, however, for which she was sent to Europe to be cured. During the Atlantic crossing, she met a pipe-carving sailor, the love of her life. Alas, it’s a doomed love, at least in this life. How the torcedor and the sailor come to be reunited in Welles’ study constitutes the rest of the tall tale, which is lofted to dizzying heights by the supple lines, imaginative layouts, and joyous, colorful energy of Abadzis’ masterful artwork. --Ray Olson
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The Cigar That Fell in Love with a Pipe is as whimsical as its title suggests and from the opening line “Once upon a time…” you know you’re in for a modern-ish fairy tale. True to the genre, writer David Camus eschews any attempt at creating real characters - Conchita’s boss/husband is as cartoonishly wicked as any villain Charles Perrault dreamt up - and of course the story is magical realist at best, so it’s hard to critique the usual narrative elements.
But like a lot of fairy tales, this book is a very light read and, barring any real message/moral, leaves little impression on the reader. You’ll read this in one sitting but will you remember it a month later? Unlike many of SelfMadeHero’s recent releases, no. Conchita’s life was tragic for the most part but quite one-dimensional.
It’s still enjoyable in parts and Orson Welles’ turbulent relationship with his then-wife Rita Hayworth was fun as the two fought over Welles’ cigar consumption (he was a true lover of them). I also get a strong Disney flavour to the book - the enchanted objects recalled the characters in Beauty and the Beast while Rita’s mischievous nephew felt like Sid from Toy Story. But by far the best part of the book is Nick Abadzis’ lovely artwork.
All of the pages look amazing but the splash pages in particular stand out, where Conchita’s soul leaves her earth-bound body and soars across the globe, revelling in sights and places she would never see outside of her dreams. Vibrant and colourful, they conveyed a powerful sense of freedom, and those last few wordless pages? The perfect ending.
If you’re looking for an amusing and unusual fairy tale with wonderful art, and of course enjoy non-superhero comics, give this book a chance to entertain you. If nothing else, you can’t say that this is another retread of “that old cigar roller becomes a cigar and her sailor lover becomes a pipe” storyline!