The Conrad Veidt Society
The influence of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari“ on Upton Sinclair's “They Call Me Carpenter”.
by Paula Vitaris
In ''The Monster Show,'' David J. Skal's cultural history of the horror film, the author briefly mentions in his chapter on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari a novel by Upton Sinclair, ''They Call Me Carpenter,'' which describes the tumultuous events brought on by a screening of the controversial film.
The novel itself takes place in a thinly-
Carpenter's (as Christ is called throughout) initial encounters are with Billy's
friends in the movie industry, including vamp star Mary Magna -
The fictional riot in ''They Call Me Carpenter'' caused by the showing of Caligari,
WAS, according to Skal, inspired by an actual event. More than 2,000 people -
Sinclair's use of Caligari is not arbitrary, however, as its storyline echoes throughout
''They Call Me Carpenter,'' which recasts Dr. Caligari and Cesare into aggregate
creations that serve to illustrate Sinclair's overriding social concerns about class
exploitation. Caligari becomes the wealthy capitalists -
Sinclair could not have known that Hans Janowitz, one of the screenwriters of Caligari,
had been a soldier in World War I and (with co-
The novel also shares a similar narrative structure with the film; although not the
ravings of a madman, as Caligari turns out to be, the events of ''They Call Me Carpenter''
are revealed to be a dream. Wounded Billy, the stand-
Carpenter has no direct parallel in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Instead, he functions
to point out the inherent contradiction between Christianity as preached by Christ
and as practiced by the wealthy. His speeches imploring compassion, justice, mercy
and sharing of wealth are interpreted by the mob and its masters as "Red" propaganda,
although they're all taken directly from the Bible. (Sinclair updates the Biblical
passages to formal modern-