Wait. Okay, you're right. No argument. I really messed up. But wouldn't it be an even bigger sin to shoot me?
Verne Tossey's cover art on this 1953 Signet paperback edition of Jack Webb's The Big Sin suggests that the sinner of the title is either the armed woman or her unseen target, but actually the sinner is someone who isn't even alive. It's a beautiful Mexican showgirl named Rose Alyce whose death has been ruled suicide by gunshot. But protagonist Father Shanley believes her death had more sinister origins, because Alyce was a devout Catholic he knew as sweet Rosa Mendez, and he's convinced she would never commit “the big sin.” You can only truly know someone inside the confessional booth, apparently. Shanley uncovers government corruption and teams up with detective Sam Golden on the way to solving the mystery, of which mobsters are an integral part. We ran across a beautiful dust jacket for the book from British publishers T. V. Boardman, which came from an interesting site called dustjackets.com that reproduces hardback sleeves for vintage books. That strikes us as a pretty cool idea. You can have a look at that site here.
Work hard, play hard, die young, live forever.
Dorothy Baker's hit 1938 novel Young Man with a Horn tells a story inspired by jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, who, along with Louis Armstrong, was one of the most important early jazz soloists, but who drank himself to death in 1931, when he was only twenty-eight. Baker's protagonist is Rick Martin, who gets to live a couple of years longer than Beiderbecke before she knocks him off. Hope that didn't give too much away. The book was optioned by Hollywood and became a 1950 movie starring Kirk Douglas, which we talked about last year. The great cover, our primary interest today, was painted by British artist Josh Kirby, a legendary illustrator who during his long career did fronts for westerns, crime thrillers, James Bond novels, and non-fiction books, as well as creating many fronts and interior illustrations for sci-fi magazines. As you can see, he had a bold vision and a very confident hand. We'll keep an eye out for more of his work. This one is from 1962, for Corgi Books.
Phillip Marlowe gets involved in shady business.
Above, a very nice piece of William Rose cover art incorporating a window shade for Raymond Chandler's Playback, from Cardinal Books, 1960. This is the last Phillip Marlowe novel Chandler wrote. It first appeared in Britain in 1958 as a hardback. Basically, it's a missing persons case set in California in which Marlowe is put on the trail of a woman being pursued by various shady figures from her past. Many critics consider it lesser Chandler, but it has its plusses. The mystery blog Bloody Murder agrees, and you can read a detailed positive review there by following this link.
The French always know a good thing when they see it.
Today we have assorted scans from an issue of Folies de Paris et de Hollywood published in 1964 with cover star Sally Douglas, a British actress who appeared in numerous films and who's popped up on Pulp Intl. a couple of times before, including, memorably, fronting the French magazine Evocations. Her film roles were often uncredited, and when she was acknowledged it was often in less-than-flattering terms. For example, in Doctor in Love she was “dancer in strip show,” and in Genghis Khan she was simply “concubine.” Probably the most cringeworthy of her credits was in A Study in Terror, in which she was “whore in pub.” It's a hell of a way to make a living, but between movies, television, and modeling she managed to become mildly famous and fondly remembered. Elsewhere in Folies de Paris et de Hollywood you get glamour models and burlesque performers, and they all add up to another visually pleasing slice of naughty nostalgia. We have many more of these in the website. Just click the keywords below and start scrolling.
But since you're about to have so much of it inflicted on you shouldn't you be telling yourself it isn't real?
The cover you see here was painted by Eric Tansley, who produced relatively few paperback fronts as far as we can discern, but who was prolific in other areas, including illustrating nature books and making western fine art. This nice effort for British author Robert Westerby's Only Pain Is Real is from 1953.
Unexplainable interest in Eva Braun artifacts maybe not such a mystery after all.
Once again demonstrating that people with an overabundance of money will buy anything, a private bidder yesterday purchased a pair of Eva Braun's panties at auction. Yes—Eva Braun. Yes—panties. The sale took place in the English town of Malvern, at Philip Serrell Auctioneers & Valuers, and along with the monogrammed fascist frillies, which you see above, were sold a gold ring, a red lipstick, and a silver lipstick holder, all once possessed by Braun. But it was the undies that fetched the top price, going for £2,900, or about $3,600. That's a lot of money for panties. But according to a representative of the auction house, “an array” of prospective buyers offered bids on the item, pushing the price more than seven times higher than expected.
Now that the buyer has the undies, you're doubtless wondering what he plans to do with them (and you just know it's a "he" we're dealing with, by the way). He could display them at home, maybe frame them. Or he could tuck them safely away for later resale at a profit. He could even donate them to Munich's Pinakothek art museums, which collect such items. But he'll do none of those things. Nope. He's going to wear them.
You're thinking that's crazy. You're thinking, okay, it may be a good way to appreciate a pair of fine panties, but doesn't rapid depreciation generally follow getting nutsack on a historical artifact? And you'd be right, normally. But the buyer knows something about Eva Braun's panties you don't. In fact, all the rich auction attendees who bid on them knew the same thing, which is why they competed with each other. Eva's panties are magic.
Once you wear them—and you must wear them for the magic to work—you instantly possess the ability to see worth in anyone. Which means the winner of the auction will have something special to help him navigate the fraught world of one percenters in which he moves. When he meets up with Martin Shkreli, instead of dismissing pharma bro as an obvious genetic misfire, he'll say, “Oh, he's really a teddybear once you get to know him.” Rupert Murdoch? “That guy's actually okay. He's a cheeky one, ole Murdo.” Bill Cosby? “Oh, he's harmless. You should see his soft jazz collection.” Eva's panties magically let the wearer see the worst monsters in the world as not all bad, which could be useful on election day. They even work when you look in a mirror. Suddenly your sad rationalizations seem totally sound.
But there's more. If the wearer combines the panties with the lipstick and ring he or she will actually have sex with and marry the absolute worst person in the world. And he or she will do it even if it means utter isolation from friends, family, and anything that even resembles real life. And they'll stay loyal even after it becomes obvious their mate is dragging themstraight to doom. Unfortunately, said doom could destroy the valuable panties along with the wearer, but guess what? There are other pairs. One turned up in Ohio just last year. And another was sold in Maryland. Others surely exist, so if you want to waltz blithely through the rarefied world of vulture capitalists, sexual predators, and corrupt politicians, now you know how to do it. And if you navigate this world cleverly, in time maybe one day people will need Eva's panties just to tolerate you.
Kay Kendall deals the room a serious blow.
British actress Kay Kendall is not well known today, but until her early death at age thirty-two she seemed ticketed for longlasting stardom. The above shot is from the comedy Genevieve, where she spontaneously shows the fellas how to play trumpet even though she's absolutely blotto. It's a funny scene in an entertaining movie, and was her breakthrough performance. What wasn't funny was her death. Legend has it that a routine blood test revealed leukaemia, which was disclosed not to her but to husband Rex Harrison, who thought it best to keep her terminal status from her, instead telling her she was suffering from anemia. It isn't clear whether she ever knew what killed her, but one would guess she did, at the end. Today she has a major charity named after her—the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund.
She has a classic case of cold feet.
British actress Janine Gray must really be suffering in this cold. She was born in Bombay, India, and though she left at age five, may have been there just long enough to get used to the tropical weather. Her show business career was short, but she did appear in some of the better television series of the 1960s, including The Avengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Saint, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The shot above was made to promote her role in the cinematic comedy Quick Before It Melts, which is set in Antarctica. Luckily for Gray it was filmed in California. But that's a place that can feel pretty cold too, when you have no pants. See below. 1964 copyright on these images.
Ice is nice, but harder than water.
British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir. In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.
When girl meets girl sparks fly.
Above and below is a small percentage of some of the thousands of lesbian themed paperback covers that appeared during the mid-century period, with art by Paul Rader, Fred Fixler, Harry Schaare, Rudy Nappi, Charles Copeland, and others, as well as a few interesting photographed fronts. The collection ends with the classic Satan Was a Lesbian, which you’ve probably seen before, but which no collection like this is complete without. Hopefully most of the others will be new to you. Needless to say, almost all were written by men, and in that sense are really hetero books reflecting hetero fantasies (fueled by hetero misconceptions and slander). You can see plenty more in this vein on the website Strange Sisters. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
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