What's in the box? Uh, you know, lipstick, gum, cigarettes, the souls of men I consume. The usual.
Above, really nice front and rear cover art for The Blonde on the Street Corner by David Goodis, which was published by Lion Books as a paperback original in 1954. Set in Philadelphia during 1936, the book examines a bunch of guys who have big dreams but no money, no motivation, and no ideas how to escape dead-end Philly. The narrative is basically plotless, like the characters' lives. Talk about a great depression. The cover art, by Robert Maguire, is beautiful but the blonde depicted is nothing like the blonde Goodis writes about. Goodis's blonde is overweight, married, and in her mid-thirties. She does have a sexual aura, though, and certainly fits the mold of a femme fatale. This is considered lesser Goodis, but it's still good enough.
A thousand and one nights with Evelyn Keyes is not nearly enough.
Above, the U.S. poster for A Thousand and One Nights, which we talked about in detail last year. The movie starred Evelyn Keyes as a wish-granting but mischievous genie, and Cornel Wilde as the lucky owner of her lamp and undeserving object of her affection. Terminally cute, this one, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1945. As a bonus, there's the magical Keyes below making herself disappear (behind a hat).
The point of no return.
Most mid-century lesbian fiction was written by men disguised behind pseudonyms. While Sloane Britain was indeed a pseudonym, its owner was actually a woman—Midwood-Tower editor Elaine Williams, who published from 1959 until committing suicide in 1964 at age thirty-three. The Needle concerns a woman who gets hooked on heroin and follows her long and winding road downhill, with the expected stops at dealing, prostitution, withdrawal, and relapse. But there are also a couple of great twists you don't get in typical heroin novels. Considered a classic of the drug sleaze genre, it was published in 1959. This fits nicely with our collection of needle paperback covers from a few years ago, which you can see here.
Sigh. I feel like an utter fool. This will completely kill my career. I just know it.
Linda Lawson, who danced at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as one of the famed Copa Girls, poses with a mushroom cloud on her head in her temporary dual capacity as Miss-Cue, a title bestowed by military personnel participating in the nuclear test Operation Cue at the nearby Nevada Test Site in 1955. High winds had caused the the test to be delayed several times, causing clever soldiers to change the name to Operation Miscue. From there it was just a small leap to actually giving the title to a lucky Vegas showgirl.
The above photo was made at the pool at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the summer of 1955, and the one at right was made at the same location earlier in the year, with Lawson in a different suit. Hard to know if publicity from getting all mushroom-cloudy helped raise her profile, but in any case she began appearing on television in 1958, and by 1961 had launched a movie career.
So from inauspicious beginnings wearing an oversized tuft of cotton on her head she carved out a résumé of steady work that lasted forty-seven years, which just goes to show that true talent often has a way of overshadowing career sins. All's well that ends well—but we bet she's still mad at her agent. Today Lawson is eighty years old and retired.
Good sleaze can be like beautiful music.
Above you see a really nice Robert Bonfils cover for Bogus Lover, published by Newsstand Library in 1960. What's bogus, though, is how the author got ambushed on this one. According to mysteryfile.com, Hy Silver—his real name, by the way—originally wrote a standard detective thriller that was converted without consent into a sleaze novel. And what a conversion: “Her hips began to sway in low, rhythmic circles, eager with anticipation, then faster until they were undulating to a restless mambo beat.” Note to aspiring novelists—remember to use Latin American music as a metaphor for really good sex. The rumba works, as do the samba and bolero, and the tango is a really good one, especially when describing the interaction of two tongues. We're giving you this for free. Run with it.
There's hard work and then there's Hardy work.
What is it about celebs and gymnastics we like? Maybe just the unusual nature of the photos, the way they depart from typical promo portraits. So today, joining previous bendy celebs such as Danielle Darrieux, Joey Heatherton, and Constance Dowling is French actress Sophie Hardy—yes, again. When we posted her as a femme fatale last month we hadn’t seen this photo yet. It had to be shared. You may also remember Hardy recently fronting a beautiful Japanese poster for The Trygon Factor. This image comes from around the same time as the movie, circa 1968. And the shot below shows her right side up, possibly lightheaded, but none the worse for wear.
McQueen behind the scenes.
At first we thought this was a promo poster for Steve McQueen's 1971 racing thriller Le Mans, which in Japan was called The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the distributors Towa Co. having opted for an English title, perhaps to make the film sound more exotic. But there's a smaller Japanese title at bottom—栄光のル •マン—which means “Glory of Le Mans.” It was while staring at this bit that we saw John Sturges and Lee Katzin credited as directors. But Sturges had nothing to do with Le Mans—Lee Katzin directed it alone.
It finally dawned on us that this poster is for a documentary about the making of Le Mans, using footage from the movie and, we're guessing, the two Sturges films that starred McQueen—The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. So this poster represents a bit of a mystery. It promotes a documentary that was seemingly released only in Japan. Note that it isn't for the 2015 doc Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans. That worthy effort was directed by Gabriel Clark and John McKenna.
No this is a different film. And we're pretty sure it's from the period just after Le Mans played in cinemas, for no other reason than the poster has a retro aesthetic, both in layout and font, that you don't find in Japanese promos after about 1980. But we searched everywhere and found no reference anywhere to a Le Mans doc from that time. Or in fact any Le Mans documentary by Sturges and Katzin. So we throw it to the readership. Got any ideas? Let us know.
Alternate theory: Sturges ended up on this totally by accident. It's a typo, and the poster is in fact for the feature film Le Mans.
, Towa Co.
, Le Mans
, The 24 Hours of Le Mans
, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans
, The Great Escape
, The Magnificent Seven
, Steve McQueen
, Lee Katzin
, John Sturges
, Gabriel Clark
, John McKenna
Good at getting married, bad at staying that way.
National Enquirer isn't a tabloid you think of as being vintage, but it goes back more than half a century, which makes it concurrent with revered publications like Confidential and Hush-Hush. This cover featuring Lana Wood caught our eye because, well, because she's Lana Wood. It also says she had three husbands before age twenty. That's true. She married Jack Wrather, Jr. in 1962, when she was sixteen, followed by Karl Brent and Stephen Oliver. Interestingly, all online sources say the Oliver marriage was in 1967, but this Enquirer dates from a year earlier, in fact from today in 1966. So someone's seriously wrong. Since we have evidence, we're saying all the online sources are mistaken. Wouldn't be the first time.
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
, Sharky's Machine
, Burt Reynolds
, Rachel Ward
, Bernie Casey
, Brian Keith
, Vittorio Gassman
, Charles Durning
, Mark Wahlberg
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
Some people are just terrible at waiting.
From reliably sleazy Midwood-Tower comes Wait Your Turn, published in 1962 and written by John Plunkett inhabiting the Jason Hytes pseudonym. A soldier returns home from two years away and finds that his virginal bride has not only caved in to another man's advances, but has also been set upon by a trio of local lowlifes who aren't remotely finished with her. Besides the elements of voyeurism and sexual aggression, one thing you could always expect from Midwood sleaze was well-executed cover art, and this one is very nice, but sadly it's uncredited. Should we guess who painted it? Well, we could, but we won't bother, because another thing Midwood was good at was hiring artists who could execute its signature style, which means this cover could really be any of several regular illustrators. Luckily, cover credits tend to come out in the fullness of time thanks to the tireless work of numerous aficionados more dedicated and better connected than us. We'll just have to hope something turns up on this eventually.
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