Is there anything sweeter than a beautiful movie palace?
You probably recognize Grauman's Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles. These days it's called TCL Chinese Theatre, because it's owned and operated by TCL Corporation—based in China, ironically. Since we write so often about movies we thought it appropriate to discuss the beautiful buildings in which the films were exhibited. Back in the day these were usually purpose-built structures, though some did split duty for stage productions and concerts. While many of these old palaces survive, nearly all surviving vintage cinemas in the U.S. were under threat at some point. Generally, if they hadn't been given historic protection they wouldn't be upright today.
Other times, if a city was poor, real estate costs didn't rise and old buildings stood unthreatened, usually idle. This happened often in the American midwest, where movie houses were neglected for decades before some were resurrected amid downtown revitalizations. It sometimes happens in Latin America too, although occasionally the formula fails. For example, Cartagena's majestic and oft photographed landmark Teatro Colón, located in the historic section of Colombia's most popular coastal tourist city, was torn down fewer than six months ago to make way for a Four Seasons Hotel.
Some of the cinemas below are well known treasures, while others are more unassuming places. But even those lesser known cinemas show how much thought and work was put into making moviegoing a special experience. The last photo, which shows the Butterfly Theatre in Milwaukee, exemplifies that idea. The façade is distinguished by a terra cotta butterfly sculpture adorned with light bulbs. As you might guess, many of the most beautiful large cinemas were in Los Angeles, which means that city is well represented in the collection. Enjoy.
Paramount Theatre, Oakland (operational).
Cine Maya, Mérida (demolished).
The Albee Cinema, Cincinnati (demolished)
Cooper Theatre, Denver (demolished).
Paras Cinema, Jaipur (operational).
Cathay Cinema, Shanghai (operational).
Academy Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Charlottenburg Filmwerbung, Berlin (demolished).
Pacific's Cinerama Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
York Theatre, Elmhurst (operational).
La Gaumont-Palace, Paris (demolished).
Essoldo Cinema, Newcastle (demolished).
Théâtre Scala, Strasbourg (operational).
Teatro Colón, Cartagena (demolished in 2018).
Teatro Coliseo Argentino, Buenos Aires (demolished).
Pavilion Theater, Adelaide (demolished).
El Molino Teatro, Barcelona (operational).
Fox Carthay Theatre, Los Angeles (demolished).
Kino Rossiya Teatr, Moscow (operational).
Nippon Gekijo, aka Nichigeki, Tokyo (demolished).
Cine Impala, Namibe (operational).
Cine Arenal, Havana (operational).
Teatro Mérida, Mérida (operational, renamed Teatro Armando Manzanero).
Ideal Theater, Manila (demolished).
Odeon Cinema, London (semi-demolished, converted to apartments).
Mayan Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Rex Cinema, Port au Prince (being restored).
Urania Kino, Vienna (operational).
Tampa Theatre, Tampa (operational).
The Butterfly Theater, Milwaukee (demolished).
De Sade administers shock treatment in new art book from Goliath.
Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, was a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and author of novels, short stories, plays, dialogues, and political tracts. But he's best known, of course, for his libertine sexuality. Since his death in 1814 he has continued to enthrall scholars, social critics, and historians. Now Berlin based art publishers Goliath, a group always fascinated by the sexually bizarre, have taken their own careful look at de Sade, publishing Marquis De Sade - 100 Erotic Illustrations, a collection of art from various Marquis de Sade books, put together as a hardcover volume.
Goliath points out that everyone knows what sadism is, but nobody actually reads de Sade. They've solved that problem by doing away with text entirely. It's a canny choice, because for all de Sade's renown, critics remain passionately divided over his literary worth. There are those who say his writings were merely a fig leaf for his obsessions. If that's the case his fig leaf has been ripped away in this book, and you get a set of ink drawings that detail everything he loved without trying to intellectualize, condemn, or justify it.
The illustrations are shocking, of course, but de Sade lived to shock. He'd probably be thrilled to know he still manages to do that more than two centuries after his death, as well as to learn of his influence on Japanese roman porno cinema, women-in-prison movies, bondage literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey, and other odd niches of modern media.
Considering de Sade's fame, those who don't know his history might assume that French society was hopelessly depraved to tolerate his acts. Actually, the opposite was true. He spent thirty-two years of his life in prisons and asylums, and escaped having his head and shoulders separated by the guillotine—more than once—due only to political upheaval.
When examined by psychiatrists the diagnosis was that de Sade was “insanely obsessed with vice.” There can be little doubt this diagnosis was spot on, as he gambled away his fortune, consorted with prostitutes, staged orgies, forced servants and maids to perform sexual acts, drugged the unsuspecting, indulged in corporal punishment, and of course engaged in every sexual variation and deviance known.
Though 17th century France didn't find much humor in de Sade, with the passage of two hundred years the illustrations in Goliath's book do provoke a few laughs—from us at least—as lords and ladies relentlessly diddle, fondle, suckle and paddle each other. We don't mean to make light of de Sade's crimes—the French were probably right to stuff him away. But considering the fact that his work has been routinely banned and burned—even by his own son at one point—it's instructive to be able to look at the contents of a mind that has had such an influence on our own weird and depraved age. You can find more information about Marquis De Sade - 100 Erotic Illustrations on the Goliath website.
Marquis De Sade - 100 Erotic Illustrations
It's not perfect, but it's pretty close.
The colorful magazine Mr. was published out of New York City by the imaginatively named Mr. Magazine, Inc., and was in the mold of male oriented publications such as Man's Life or Adventure for Men. This issue is from May 1953 and we grabbed it from the now idle Darwin's Scans website. Queen Cristina of Sweden pops up inside, which surprised us, considering we just learned about her for the first time in our lives less than a month ago and here she is again. You also get contemporary figures such as Billy Graham (the boxer), Kid Gavilan, and Hubert F. Julian, aka the Black Eagle of Harlem.
But the magazine focuses mainly on fiction and true adventure. We like the story about Berlin as a center for vice, with “horrible sex cults flourishing” in the post-war rubble. Ludwig Dietzler writes, “I am one of the few non-Berliners who have witnessed the orgies [snip] which thrive in basements, cellars, and other suitable hiding places.” Hmm... it doesn't sound all that bad to us. Elsewhere in Mr. you get beauty queens Carlyn Carlew and Trula Birchfield, as well as Apache dancer Yvonne Doughty. What's an Apache dancer? You'll just have to look. Scans of that and everything else appear below.
Monroe goes for a spin in Italy.
Marilyn Monroe fronts this RCA soundtrack album sold in Italy featuring songs from the film Follie dell'anno, which originally appeared in the U.S. as There's No Business Like Show Business. There are four numbers written by Irving Berlin here and Monroe handles the vocals. If you want this platter it'll cost you probably a hundred dollars or more, so good luck with that. We're content to enjoy the sleeve. The shot of Monroe turned backward in her director's chair is one we've never seen before.
Even paradise can be improved.
Italian actress Elsa Martinelli makes a beautiful beach look even better in this nice promo image, and we can only assume she didn't go in the water with all those necklaces on, because otherwise she might have sunk and been lost forever. Martinelli was an era spanning star who debuted onscreen in 1953, made numerous excellent films, including The Indian Fighter and Et mourir de plaisir, won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 6th Berlin International Film Festival in 1956, and accumulated more than fifty screen and television credits through 2004. The above photo was shot in Brazil around 1970.
Goliath goes miniature with a new collection of vintage erotica.
Nobody makes erotica quite the way Berlin based art book publisher Goliath does. In the past we've featured its erotic photo volumes Private Pornography in the Third Reich, Strictly Bondage, Kinky Bondage Obsession, and Dirty Rendezvous. Now Goliath has a new collection out called Photographia Erotica Historia, a compendium of hundreds of vintage erotic images compiled in mini-book format. It's leather bound, just about three inches high, close to 400 pages in length, and stored in its own snazzy little slipcase.
The miniature format was chosen by Goliath as homage. Mini books were popular in the late 1800s when erotic images needed to be easily concealable. Such items are collectible today, as are the individual studio photos and naturist shots from which much of Photographia Erotica Historia's content is culled. As a bonus you get some drawings and ink renderings to go along with the photos. The version you see above has French text, but the volume is available in five languages, including English.
Goliath publishes an array of material, but its erotic output is our favorite because it makes people challenge their own assumptions about art, sex, desire, and the idea of the past as a place where people were less devoted to matters of the flesh. Spoiler alert: maybe they weren't, as a scan through Photographia Erotica Historia will illustrate. Our previous Goliath books—which we tend to leave laying around when guests come by—have provided endless hours of conversation and entertainment, and we expect this one to do the same. We have a few sample photos below, and you can visit the Goliath website here.
Photographia Erotica Historica
Hey solider—ever made it in a smoking ruin with the stench of death in your nostrils?
We don't know if there were enough prostitution-in-the-ruins novels written during the postwar period to qualify as a sub-genre, but it seems to us we've seen quite a few of them. We highlighted Scott Graham Williamson's Torment around this time last year, and now we have another—Erika, aka Fräulein, by James McGovern. The book revolves around a woman who is tricked into becoming a prostitute in divided Berlin before finally finding Mr. Right and escaping. She's named Erika Angermann, a symbolic name if ever there was one, hinting at what the men in her life put her through. Erika aka Fräulein was a hit when published in 1956, and became a 1958 movie with Dana Wynter and Mel Ferrer. The book is bit obscure today, but was well regarded in its time. We'll look into how many novels like this are out there and if there are enough maybe we'll put together a group post.
Hah hah, don't worry about my gun. Worry about my mood.
Above, a photo of German actress and dancer Taina Béryl, aka Taina Beryll, aka Tayna Beryll, happily playing with a sidearm, which given a choice is better than her unhappily playing with it. Her name is often spelled "Tania" around the internet but that's incorrect. As a dancer Taina-not-Tania Béryl performed at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, and in cinema was seen in such productions as Une blonde comme ça, L'inconnue de Hong Kong, and Berlin, cites with los Espias. 1963 on the image.
Even she doesn't know it yet, but she's a danger junkie.
The Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco closes tonight. We couldn't be there, living as we do across the ocean, but like last year we screened some of the films at home and that has been a treat. We said at the end of last year's group of write-ups that we probably wouldn't do it again, and that turned out to be a lie. Next year we definitely won't do it. It's fun, but makes the website almost like actual work, which isn't what this is about at all. It isn't you, Noir City, it's us.
Tonight's final entries on the festival slate are Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which we've discussed below, and the film for which see two promo posters above—Victoria. The hook here is the movie is shot by director Sebastian Schipper and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen in one take—not many takes digitally spliced, but a single analog take about two hours and fifteen minutes long, beginning in the wee Berlin hours and extending into dawn. Schipper has said in interviews that he had three chances to get it right, and the finished film the is the result of the third effort.
It tells the story of Spanish millennial Victoria (Laia Costa), whose lonely existence is changed when she meets local boy Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his three friends during a night at a disco. Sonne seems like a nice enough guy, and Victoria leaves with him and his buds for a sojourn along streets and a rooftop that ends with the two agreeing to meet again. It's at that point one of the friends get sick from all the booze he's ingested, and Sonne desperately asks Victoria to drive the remaining trio somewhere. Why? Because wherever they're going there are supposed to four of them and three will not do. Uh oh. Where are the boys going? To commit an armed robbery.
Victoria doesn't know this at first. It becomes clear soon enough, but only after she's in too deep and stuck as a getaway driver. Of course, the audience knows she's in trouble long before that. If there's a flaw with the movie it's merely that Victoria doesn't seem lonely, reckless, or clueless enough to get herself into this mess. But maybe that's a function of the movie's nature. We can't know her in two hours, filmed in real
time,with no structural concessions for subplots, flashbacks, or any of the standard expository digressions. We have to take her at face value, and accept her as revealed to us. If you do, then the blossoming of her inner danger junkie is logical and seamless. Victoria is really an astounding achievement, and not just because of the single take. Schipper is almost twenty years older than the cast he directs, but he's made a generational landmark of a film.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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