With the sweet often comes bitter.
La dolce vita, aka The Sweet Life, is one of those movies everyone claims to have seen, but surprisingly few have actually sat through. Fellini’s ironically titled 1960 masterpiece hit American shores for the first time today in 1961. There’s nothing we can tell you about it that hasn’t been said, as reviews both professional and amateur abound on the interwebs. But the two posters above, both painted by Giorgio Olivetti, may be new to you. You can see more examples of Olivetti’s work here. In the meantime watch the movie. Seriously.
Anita Ekberg dies in Italy.
She was born Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg in Malmo, Sweden, but became famous as simply Anita Ekberg. Some of her screen roles included 1955’s Artists and Models, and 1956’s Zarak Khan and Back from Eternity, films that made her very famous. But it was 1960’s La Dolce Vita and her portrayal of the wild starlet Sylvia for which she’s most remembered. The uniquely talented Anita Ekberg, dead in Rocca di Papa, Italy, aged 83
Ekberg is as good as gold.
Promo image of Swedish superstar Anita Ekberg in costume for her role in Zarak Khan, 1956. The shot appeared a few years later in the French film magazine Cinémonde, March 1959.
The mission statement was simple—take cheap shots at every star in the firmament.
Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.
For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?”
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."
This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.
, Top Secret
, La Dolce Vita
, José Bolaños
, Frank Sinatra
, Elizabeth Taylor
, Richard Burton
, Marilyn Monroe
, Anita Ekberg
, Christina Paolozzi
, Alfred Hitchcock
, Prince Rainier III
, Mike Todd
, Emilo Fernandez
, Laverne Roach
, Benny Paret
, Emile Griffith
, Franco Silva
, Marlon Brando
Anita Ekberg single-handedly changes the ethnic makeup of an entire country.
The cover of this November 1956 issue of True Adventures is great by itself, but as a bonus readers are treated inside to a photo feature on superstar Anita Ekberg, who had been filming the adventure flick Zarak Khan. The movie concerned the exploits of an Afghani outlaw (or resistance fighter, depending on one’s point of view), and Ekberg, rather amusingly, played an Afghani girl named Salma. Criticisms were voiced concerning the blue-eyed Swede’s casting in the role, but these rang hollow, considering the presence of Kentucky-born Victor Mature in the lead. In any case, the film’s producers Irving Allen and Cubby Broccoli didn’t care if Ekberg made an unlikely Afghan—to them having her shimmy around in a midriff-baring harem outfit was worth it. Were they right? You can be the judge of that for yourself by checking this link.
If you think I’m having a good time now, you should see how much I enjoy it when the water isn’t fuh-reezing.
Above, the cover and some interior scans from the Dutch cinema magazine Cheerio! #117, featuring an eclectic selection of international stars, 1956.
, Venetia Stevenson
, Jayne Mansfield
, Elsa Martinelli
, Sophia Loren
, Marcelo Mastroianni
, Anita Ekberg
, Doris Day
, Belinda Lee
, Martine Carol
Suppressed was in rare form in November 1955.
Above is the cover of the NYC based tabloid Suppressed from this month in 1955. This issue shows Suppressed in full bloom—bold, brash, fearless. Within the next two years a series of Hollywood lawsuits against scandal magazines would begin to make editors wary of being dragged into court for committing libel and slander, but 1955 was still the heyday for celeb bashing, and Supressed engaged in what might be best described as open warfare against film stars. Here’s a small sampling of some of the gut punches in this magazine:
Marlon Brando: silly.
Anita Ekberg: egocentric, a martyr.
Rita Gam: the all-time fizzle of 1955, a bad actress, with a figure that leaves something to be desired.
Judy Holliday: pudgy.
Marilyn Monroe: childishly immature, with an inferiority complex.
Debbie Reynolds: inane.
Gloria Vanderbilt: unable to think of anyone besides herself; has more neuroses than acting talents.
Robert Wagner: pompous, unintelligent.
We could go on, but you get the point. We’ve written many times on this website that nothing in media is truly new, and this is yet another example. Click over to any muckraking celebrity blog right now and you’d think journalism, as well as simple grammar, went down the toilet around the year 2000. But no, they were always in the toilet. Remember, Suppressed and its brethren Confidential, Whisper, On the QT, Hush-Hush, et.al., were not fringe. By itself Confidential was the biggest newsstand sellerin the U.S. These publications were powerful. Like modern American cable news, they assumed leading roles in making the public swallow false political memes—a commie under every bed, a black man in every bed, and the loose women who made it all possible.
But unlike today’s fawning cable news, Suppressed was generally scornful toward the rich. For instance, this issue discusses millionaires’ secret playgrounds while parking quotation marks around words like “classy,” and “the right people.” The actual playgrounds are described as “last stand” resorts, where the rich can feel safe from the rabble of middle class America. A few pages later the editors decry nepotism in Hollywood, naming a dozen famous actors and actresses who allegedly got their start because of mommy and daddy’s money. All in all, Suppressed is a head spinning mixture, and at the end of each issue a typical reader was probably convinced of one thing—the only good people in the world were those who were exactly like him.
New York City
, Marlon Brando
, Anita Ekberg
, Rita Gam
, Judy Holliday
, Marilyn Monroe
, Debbie Reynolds
, Gloria Vanderbilt
, Robert Wagner
, Nejla Ates
Continental Film Review was a leading voice of foreign film in Britain, as well as a leading source of cheap thrills.
We’re showing you this August 1966 Continental Film Review for one reason—Raquel Welch. She appears in both the front and back of the magazine, and the latter photo was made while she was in the Canary Islands filming One Million Years B.C. That photo session featuring a blonde, windblown Welch was incredibly fruitful, at least if we’re to judge by the many different places we’ve seen frames from the shoot, including here, here, here and especially here. There had not been a sex symbol quite like Welch before, and in 1966 she had reached the apex of her allure, where she’d stay for quite a while.
On the cover of the magazine are Christina Schollin and Jarl Kulle, pictured during a tender moment from the Swedish romantic comedy Änglar, finns dom? aka Love Mates. Inside you get features on the Berlin and San Sebastian film festivals, Sophia Loren, Nieves Navarro, Anita Ekberg, and more. CFR had launched in 1952, and now, fourteen years later, was one of Britain’s leading publications on foreign film. It was also a leading publication in showing nude actresses, and in fact by the 1970s was probably more noteworthy for its nudity than its journalism. The move probably undermined its credibility, but most magazines—whether fashion, film, or erotic—began showing more in the 1970s. CFR was simply following the trend, and reached its raciest level around 1973, as in the issue here. Fifteen scans below.
, Canary Islands
, Donostia-San Sebastian
, One Million Years B.C.
, Änglar finns dom?
, Raquel Welch
, Leticia Roman
, Sophia Loren
, Marcello Mastroianni
, Christina Schollin
, Jarl Kulle
, Nieves Navarro
, Anita Ekberg
She’s Andressing you with her eyes.
European publishers, like Italy’s Tecnografica, often used celebrities on their book covers. Here’s a favorite example—Swiss actress Ursula Andress on the cover of the illustrated giallo Invito alla violenza, by Hugh Pentecost, aka Judson Pentecost Phillips, aka Phillip Owen. The shot is from a 1965 photo series, another frame of which appeared in Spain’s Triunfo magazine. We don’t know whether the series was shot for Triunfo and rented by Tecnografica, or vice-versa. Possibly neither. It could have been shot as a promo series and sold to both Triunfo and Tecnografica. Alternatively, maybe Tecnografica simply appropriated the image. We only suggest that because we can’t think of any reason Ursula Andress would have needed to gnaw grass on the cover of a cheapie giallo three years after she appeared in Dr. No. Maybe we’ll find out the answer to that one later. In the meantime, we’re working on an aggregate post of celeb covers, which we’ll get up soon.
Update: Rafael wrote in with this: I suggest that these are promotional photos for 4 for Texas (USA 1963), freely appropriated by magazines everywhere.
And indeed he is right. Once we knew the movie we found many more promo shots of Andress wearing the same outfit. 4 for Texas also starred Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, as well as Anita Ekberg, which all sounds worthwhile to us. We will defnitely screen a copy of it. Thanks Rafael, for the help.
, La tecnografica editrice
, 4 for Texas
, Ursula Andress
, Hugh Pentecost
, Judson Pentecost Phillips
, Frank Sinatra
, Dean Martin
, Anita Ekberg
, cover art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
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