Femmes Fatales Dec 21 2016
A CLAIRE WINNER
Trevor makes the most of her smoke break by posing for a master.

Brooklyn born actress Claire Trevor made more than sixty movies over seven decades, including the important film noir entries Raw Deal, Born To Kill, Johnny Angel, Murder My Sweet, and Key Largo, the latter of which snared her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. And if you haven't seen her in it you really should. She was one of film noir's defining artists, an indispensable participant in it. We're also fond of her in lighter fare such as 1965's How To Murder Your Wife, with Jack Lemmon. The noirish shot above was used as a reference photo by the legendary Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas. He painted a portrait of Trevor which you see inset just above, and you also see her posing with the piece below. The portrait was commissioned by her employers Fox Film Corporation as a promo image, a type of work Vargas did often, and the studio used prints of portrait as lobby cards. All of these images came about in 1934.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 4 2015
SUMMER MOON
Shine on you crazy diamond.


There’s some confusion online about whether this promo poster for Moon over Miami was painted by Alberto Vargas. Jan-Christopher Horak’s book Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design states: “Virtually all movie poster design work remained anonymous, although a few well-known designers received contracts, including Alberto Vargas for Moon over Miami.” On the other hand, several auction sites claim Vargas only worked on the print ads, and that the artist who painted the poster was charged with emulating the Vargas style. So there you go—cleared that right up, no? Well, we tend to believe Vargas would not have received a contract simply for print ads. What would the point of that be? So we think this piece is his.

In any case, we’ve always loved the poster and it prompted us to finally watch the film. Guess what? It’s just what you’d expect from looking at the art—goofy, gooey, and terminally good-natured. None of that is particularly pulp, but hey, crazy as it sounds, some filmmakers actually prefer to downplay death and mayhem. Betty Grable stars here as a woman determined to marry a millionaire. She sets up at a Miami hotel with her sister and aunt, and pretends to be rich herself, with the aim attracting the proper suitors. Confusion ensues, enlivened by musical numbers. Grable proves in this movie why she was a star, as does the object of her destiny Don Ameche, and excellent support comes from Carole Landis and Charlotte Greenwood. We don’t generally go for this sort of film, but we liked this one, as did our girlfriends. Now back to death and mayhem. Moon over Miami premiered in the U.S. today in 1941.

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Intl. Notebook Apr 10 2013
LEGS FOR DAYS
Attack of the 150-foot woman.

When Michael Todd’s famed musical Mexican Hayride opened in New York City he decided to have the program art, which had been painted by Alberto Vargas, aka Varga, reproduced at giant scale on the billboard atop the Winter Garden Theater where the show was being staged. This photo shows Varga’s giant pin-up almost completed. In person the matador-like figure, which is modeled after but isn’t quite a portrait of star June Havoc, was probably garbed in bright red with gold brocade, matching the colors of the program art. The reverse of the photo says: A gargantuan Varga girl, 157 feet wide and 30 feet high, has been completed atop the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway in New York. Sketches for the illustration were made by artist Varga in Chicago. Of course, the horizontal image doesn’t look very impressive at a mere 433p in width, so through the magic of Photoshop and for no other reason than we wanted to see what it looked like, we’ve reoriented the image below. There’s some egregious pixel stretching happening on the lower half of the figure, but all things considered, it looks pretty good. You can drag it to your desktop and rotate it for a better look. The photo was shot today in 1944.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 2 2012
A VERY GOOD YEAR
Looking forward to each new day.

During our digging around at the Denver Book Fair we found one of the greatest calendars ever printed. This is not that calendar. So just imagine what we have in store. No, this is just a lil’ ole Varga calendar, published by Esquire magazine in 1946, and featuring twelve of Alberto Vargas’ classic pin-up paintings. In 1946 Vargas was doing quite well for himself, having established himself as one of the pre-eminent pin-up artists in the world. That success came to an abrupt halt that same year when Vargas lost a legal dispute with Esquire. It wasn’t until Playboy hired him in 1959 to paint a monthly Vargas Girl for the magazine that he regained a solid financial footing and reclaimed his throne as a top pin-up artist. Vargas died in 1982, but his work has continued to increase in value, with originals routinely auctioning for $10,000 or more. Actually, if you go online you even see sellers asking ten dollars for individual Vargas pages ripped from his old calendars. That strikes us as a bit extreme, but then we’re cheap, so what do we know? See the other Varga calendar we posted here. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 1 2012
VIVA VARGA
And a happy New Year.

Above, a 1945 Esquire magazine pin-up calendar by Peruvian artist Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez, who back then went only by the moniker Varga. We can’t think of a better way to start the year than with a dozen of his paintings. Well, maybe a hangover cure would be the best way, but this is a close number 2. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 21 2009
V IS FOR VIRTUOSO
France’s V gave us some of the great covers of the pulp era.

V is one of our favorite vintage publications. This one was published sixty-two years ago today, and features cover star Susan Hayward. V was basically a celebrity and culture magazine, but also emphasized sexuality by publishing artful nude photos. If we’re reading this cover correctly, the magazine launched in 1943—curious, since there was a little thing called World War II raging then. We have a hard time believing a Nazi or Vichy-approved V is the same as the one we’re seeing here, but we’ll look into that. Whatever transition the magazine made from the war to post-war years, in the fifties it changed again from handtinted covers featuring film celebs, to pin-ups conjured from the airbrushes of some of France’s best illustrators, such as the image from René Caillé below. One wonders if these are two distinct magazines with the same name. We'll look into that too. Anyway, Caillé isn’t as well known as pin-up masters like Vargas or Bolles, but as you can see he was a singular talent. We located a few more V covers, and we’ll show you those later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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