Bette Davis tries to hang on to her freedom in a man's world.
This is a killer poster. You'd think Ex-Lady was a crime movie about a deadly femme fatale, but it'a actually a breezy little drama about a modern Manhattanite—played by a twenty-five-year old Bette Davis—who has always rejected marriage in favor of freedom and fun. She has a lover—made pretty clear in this pre-Code production—as well as a career as a commercial artist, but society and her father apply pressure for her to be conventional. Davis is fun in this, playing a woman who's smart and sweet, ambitious yet insouciant, and great with a quip. She's basically perfect, and this movie is an instructive artifact from the Jazz Age, a time when sexual mores went out the window and women began having sex before marriage. In fact, some data suggests the majority of unmarried women were non-virgins before tying the knot. Will Davis retain her independence? Will she marry and turn into Susie Normal? Can she and her boy toy Gene Raymond hang on to their love in this crazy mixed up world? We aren't telling. This is worth a watch, though some dialogue that's meant to be snappy comes across flat today. As a side note, though the film wasn't censored, several scenes would have been cut had it been released a few years later. See if you can spot them. You'll have to think like a Hays Code censor—i.e. a repressed, dirty-minded killjoy who sees filth in everything. Ex-Lady premiered in the U.S. today in 1933.
We'll be fine, officer. My brother has extras we can borrow.
Robbery victims George and Jayne Liberace pose for a photo made today in 1952 showing the only jewelry they have remaining after the burglary of their North Hollywood home. They may not look terribly devastated, but the place was totally ransacked by thieves seemingly clued in to the fact that George had a public appearance scheduled for that evening. As you may be aware, he was the older brother and business partner of Lee Liberace, aka just Liberace, the famed musician and performer, who was also well known for his extensive collection of jewels, which included a 59 pound rhinestone, and a 14K gold and platinum ring set with a marquise diamond. Presumably George hit him up for a loan the next day.
He totally ignores us for her. She can't drive a tractor or slaughter a hog, so what the hell is the attraction?
The hicks keep on coming. Above is another entry in the always fertile farmer sleaze genre, Shanty Road, by Whit Harrison, aka Harry Whittington. A hot hayseed named Amy inspires jealousy and desire among the locals, and things get interesting when a handsome young city doctor comes along and likes what he sees. In order to win Amy he'll have to beat back rivals and earn trust. You may remember Whittington also wrote the rural novels Shack Road and Backwoods Shack, and he authored others we haven't discussed. By now you've probably realized he was the king of this genre, and in fact he gave the niche its name—“backwoods novels.” This one doesn't have a backwoods price, though. Vendors are asking $175 and up for it. 1954 copyright.
First you need my shirt, now my pants? I believe you when you say we'll go faster. My question is faster at what?
Technicolor lithograph queen and nudist icon Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey returns on this print from A Fox. Corp from 1957 entitled “Clear Sailing Ahead.” We've shared three other lithos of hers, which you can see here, here, and here, and we have a couple more in reserve we'll get up later.
Would you be terribly disappointed if I chose gluttony? We'll do lust next, I promise, but right now I'm starving.
Above, another theft from Pinterest, Nicholas Spain's Name Your Vice, for Australia's Star Books, 1963. Spain was really Michael Skinner, a British author who also wrote as Alix De Marquand and Cynthia Hyde. The artist behind this cover is unknown, and it may even be in the public domain if the fact that it's being sold online as a postcard is any indication. It's a bang-up job in any case.
Can you get the ship's doctor for me? I seem to be stuck this way.
What is this yoga position called?
A: The Hidden Half Up.
B: A Flying Lotus.
C: The Gordian Knot.
D: A French Twist
Actually, it's none of those, though we think flying lotus is probably closest. Let's just say Danish singer Gitte Haenning is performing a little yoga on the deck of a cruise ship steaming its way to Mallorca in this photo made in 1977. We've been to Mallorca a few times, and on none of those occasions did we bother to exercise, so good on Gitte. Haenning's last name was difficult to pronounce, which led to her becoming a one-name star—just Gitte—in both music and cinema. All-in-all, amazing accomplishments for someone who spent so much of her time as a soft pretzel.
Likes include fine saki, sunset walks, and light humiliation.
Above, five promo posters featuring Naomi Oka, who appeared in dozens of pinku and roman porno films between 1972 and 1987, with 1979 being her banner year as twelve films hit Japanese screens. As you might imagine based on the above evidence, she was one of the queens of bondage. The posters above are for, top to bottom, Onna keimusho shikei, aka Women's Prison: The Lynching, Hentai shikijô nawa fujin, aka Abnormal Rope Wife, Hitozuma hentai, aka Abnormal Bride, Nihon no rinchi, aka Japanese Lynching, and Kinbalu ijo-ma, aka Distributing agency: Shin-Toho, also sometimes referred to as Disturbing: Rope Master. It's always important to note that restraint and bondage have a special place in Japanese culture, where it's considered—if not quite normal—not outstandingly weird either. Below you see Oka mercifully freed from bondage.
It isn't easy being more highly evolved than everyone else.
These covers are from John D. MacDonald hardbacks published by British imprint Robert Hale during the mid-1960s, two entries in his famed Travis McGee series. Eight years ago we shared a selection of Fawcett Gold Medal paperback covers from the series which were painted by luminaries Ron Lesser, Elaine Duillo, Robert McGinnis, and others. You can see them here if you're inclined. When we put together that set we hadn't read any of the books, so we figured it was time to take ole John D. and his creation McGee for a spin.
We read the novels you see above and the results were a bit mixed for us. McGee is a sort of fixer who lives an idle life on a houseboat in Florida, but takes detective-like jobs whenever money runs short. Despite his laid back trappings, he's a cynical, hypercritical guy who thinks he knows everything about everyone. MacDonald tries to mitigate this somewhat by making McGee occasionally critical of himself, but it's just a fig leaf. The guy is an enormous pain—manipulative, often pointlessly mean, and of the opinion that he can discern facts about people that they don't know about themselves.
These assessments of others always turn out to be true, as you'd expect since they come from the star character, but we couldn't help thinking how in real life McGee would be a real trial to know. That's just our opinion. But here's what's indisputable—MacDonald's female characters are mentally weak and sexually neurotic. McGee sometimes treats them shabbily and they later thank him for shaking them up. In The Deep Blue Goodbye when a woman important to McGee dies, he has virtually no reaction. His aplomb is inconsistent, considering at other times we hear his deepest thoughts about everything from the sexual proclivities of hippies to the eventual fate of western civilization.
Our feelings about him are probably generational. We weren't even zygotes when these novels were published, so maybe this sort of jaundiced and superior cynicism played better back in the sixties when a major cultural shift was underway. Despite our quibbles, the plots of these novels are engaging, and McGee, though full of himself, isn't invincible. The difficulties he runs into are surprising, and often deadly, particularly in Nightmare in Pink, in which the villains manage to put him into an exceedingly tight spot. A palpable sense of menace in the fiction helps carry the day.
The art above was painted by the genius illustrator Barbara Walton, who was sort of a house artist for Robert Hale Limited, producing scores of dust jackets for the company. In fact, she was one of the greatest of dust jacket artists, someone whose work surpassed its boundaries to become fine art. That fact may not be fully clear here, but trust us. We haven't talked much about Walton because of our focus on paperbacks, but she was really something. You can see another example of her work (one of her least impressive pieces) here, and an entire gallery of good stuff here.
Even half covered and drained of color the art is easy to recognize.
The famed French illustrator Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, saw his work reused in the unlikeliest places, including unlicensed on bootleg vinyl sleeves for The Cure and Joy Division. Today we thought we'd show you his art recycled in his native industry—publishing. The top cover for Ludwig Krauss's Les nuits bavaroises is from Éditions Les Presses de la Nuit and appeared in 1958, and the simplified second cover for Michel de Kerguen's Concerto pour un ange is from Les Éditions Gamma and appeared a year later. You can be sure the reworked Aslan was licensed, but none of the sites we visited seemed to realize it originated with him. So we're giving him official credit. Both covers are nice, but the first is truly brilliant.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
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