Femmes Fatales Jul 6 2018
HOME COOKING
How can I be making your mouth water? I haven't even put the food in the pot yet.


This shot of superstar Kim Novak was made when she was filming Billy Wilder's 1964 comedy Kiss Me, Stupid. This was one of Novak's most memorable characters—Polly the Pistol, party girl with attitude, waitress at a roadhouse called the Belly Button, and sometime prostitute. The movie is worth it for her alone, but she happens to co-star with Dean Martin and he's always a bonus.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 9 2016
HEATING UP THE '20S
Monroe, Curtis, and Lemmon give jazz a swing.


On this promo poster for the Marilyn Monroe comedy Certains l'aiment chaud, aka Some Like It Hot, it looks like Russian illustrator Boris Grinsson went a little strong on Monroe's wink, making her look like she got a splinter of glass in her eye, but Monroe actually looked that way in the promo photo used as the basis of the art, which you can see at right.

You know all about this movie, so we won't bother to go over it. We'll just mention, if you haven't seen it, don't be surprised that it's in black and white. There are so many color production photos from this one—like the several we've shared below—that we even forgot. And we'd seen the movie several times, though not in about ten years. When it opened with documentary style footage of a car chase and shootout followed by a title card reading “Chicago, 1929,” we were thinking, “Ah, this is where it shifts to color.”

But of course it didn't, and we suddenly remembered that this was a later black and white production, made the same year Technicolor films such as Ben Hur and North by Northwest hit cinemas. According to our research, Monroe actually had a stipulation in her contract that all her films had to be in color, but director Billy Wilder wanted black and white because the heavy makeup worn by Curtis and Lemmon—who spend most of the movie disguised as women—looked green in Technicolor. He lobbied Monroe and she finally agreed her co-stars could not be green.
 
Does Some Like It Hot fit under our self-defined umbrella of pulp? Of course—there are gangsters, the aforementioned shootout, and it's about two jazz musicians on the run. And few Hollywood figures are more pulp in essence than Monroe. The character of nightclub singer Sugar Kane is one of her better creations. Sit back and enjoy. Some Like It Hot premiered in the U.S. in February 1959, and opened in Paris as Certains l'aiment chaud today the same year. Another promotional poster by Grinsson appears below, and you can see the very different West German promo poster here.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 9 2015
UNLUCKY SEVEN
Is there anything worse than an itch you can’t scratch?

The Seven Year Itch is one of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic roles. She’s great in it, but the movie is stagey and clunky and some of its humorous elements haven’t aged well. But Monroe successfully personifies temptation as the upstairs neighbor of married schlub Tom Ewell, and her sexy-but-virginal interplay with him demonstrates once again that she was a uniquely talented comic actress. There’s also really no way to overstate her beauty, nor the ease with which she inhabited these sorts of oops-I-made-you-love-me roles. Simply put, she made everything better, and did it with skill and something more—pure magic. The promo shots below show her famed upskirt scene, which, by the way, never occurs in quite this form in the film. Onscreen we only see her legs twice and two reaction shots. Not sure why director Billy Wilder made that decision—the whole of Monroe is surely better than just a part, no? The German title of the movie was Das verflixte 7. Jahr, which means “the cursed seventh year,” and the poster you see above is from the West German re-release of the film in 1966. The Seven Year Itch, with Monroe, Ewell, and Evelyn Keyes, originally premiered in West Germany today in 1955.

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Femmes Fatales Mar 6 2014
GRACE UNDER FIRE
In space no one can hear you cuss out your former employers.

One good Star Trek femme fatale deserves another, so here’s Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Janice Rand during Trek’s first season in 1966. Whitney, whose character harbored an unrequited (perhaps) lust for Captain Kirk, was unceremoniously fired from the show when the producers decided Kirk needed to have a new love interest each week. Since Uhura was a major character (and could fly the ship in an emergency), and Nurse Chapel was married in real life to creator Gene Roddenberry, Whitney got the axe. She described herself as incredibly bitter over the decision, but bridges were mended when she appeared in the first Trek motion picture in 1979. Above she’s in character as Kiki the Cossack from the great Billy Wilder comedy Irma la Douce, 1963.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 17 2009
HEISS AND EASY
Monroe delivers in a classic comedy.

It had a classic premise: two Jazz Age musicians witness the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and have to flee Chicago before the Mafia massacres them too. They disguise themselves as women and hide as members of an all-female musical troupe. One of the men, played by Tony Curtis, falls in love with fellow musician Marilyn Monroe but can’t reveal his gender; the other man, played by Jack Lemmon, is pursued by a rich and persistent suitor who thinks he’s found the woman of his dreams. It was called Some Like It Hot, and it was the type of absurd adventure only a confident veteran like Billy Wilder could have directed. He used all of his experience to coax top-notch acting out of a troubled Marilyn Monroe, who needed twenty to thirty takes to get some of the scenes right. In the end you’d hardly notice—her performance as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk looks effortless, as does those of Curtis and Lemmon as the two bickering buddies running for their lives. The final result was an award-winning comedy that even fifty years later has the power to deliver out-loud laughs. Above you see the film’s German promo art, which in our humble opinion is a masterwork in its own right. Some Like It Hot premiered in West Berlin today in 1959.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 17
1955—Disneyland Begins Operations
The amusement park Disneyland opens in Orange County, California for 6,000 invitation-only guests, before opening to the general public the following day.
1959—Holiday Dies Broke
Legendary singer Billie Holiday, who possessed one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, dies in the hospital of cirrhosis of the liver. She had lost her earnings to swindlers over the years, and upon her death her bank account contains seventy cents.
July 16
1941—DiMaggio Hit Streak Reaches 56
New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in his fifty-sixth consecutive game. The streak would end the next game, against the Cleveland Indians, but the mark DiMaggio set still stands, and in fact has never been seriously threatened. It is generally thought to be one of the few truly unbreakable baseball records.
July 15
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
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