They say even bad publicity is good publicity.
In this March 1957 issue of the tabloid Behind the Scene editors take swipes at assorted Hollywood icons, among them Yul Brenner, John Wayne, and others. Highlights include the allegation that Elvis Presley's career is mob controlled, that camera clubs are just fronts for porn peddlers, that Hedy Lamarr used Linda Lombard as a body double for Samson & Delilah, and that Lucrezia Borgia is the sexiest movie ever made. Also Mamie Van Doren's “secret weapon” is that anywhere she goes she always wears the least clothing of any woman present.
The shocking tales about Brynner have mainly to do with his claims of being a real life man of action, born on the Russian island of Sakhalin to Mongol ancestors. The truth was more mundane, but the lies helped Brynner establish himself as a star. As far as Elvis goes, he was dogged by rumors of Mafia ties later in his career, but this mention of a connection as far back as 1957 was a surprise to us. As always, people on both sides of the issue are willing to shout their version of the facts to the mountaintops, but nobody really knows who’s telling the truth. We’ll check with Elvis himself on this, since he lives just over in the next town since faking his death in 1977.
The interesting story here is the one about Gail Russell and John Wayne. Their acquaintanceship began when they starred in Angel and the Badman together in 1947, and continued when they reunited for Wake of the Red Witch in 1949. Whether they were more than just friends, nobody really knows. At the time Wayne was married to Esperanza Baur Díaz, and the relationship was marred by drinking and fighting, including one incident when Baur shot at Wayne. When the divorce inevitably came, it turned into one of the nastiest splits in years, with Baur accusing Wayne of being a violent drunk who beat her and fucked around with various women, including Russell, and Wayne accusing Baur of hanging around sleazy dive bars in Mexico, hooking up with strange men, and spending his money to entertain them.
The divorce was in 1953, but Behind the Scene, with this cover, is offering its readership dirt from an event that was still fresh in the public’s minds because it had been such a knock-down-drag-out spectacle. Russell had never weathered the limelight well, and she used booze to cope. Her long term drinking problem was exacerbated by the turbulence surrounding the Wayne-Baur split. Two weeks after the divorce she was arrested for drunk driving. It caused Paramount to decline renewing her contract, and she kind of floated around for a few years, trying to hook on with a new studio but drinking steadily all the while. In 1955 she crashed her car and fled the scene, and in early 1957 she drove though the plate glass windows of Jan’s Restaurant in Hollywood.
With hindsight, it’s clear Russell was in a death spiral, but in the Tinseltown of that day the situation was perhaps not so obvious. In August 1957, Russell was found unconscious in her home, passed out after a drinking binge. Even in Hollywood, she had now crossed the line from being merely a party girl to having a problem. She was persuaded to join AA, but couldn't stop drinking, and in August 1961 was found in her L.A. apartment, having died from liver damage, aged 36, another beautiful star that flamed out. All that and more, in thirty-plus scans below.
Okay! Please, enough! How about we just admit we're both wrong and leave it at that!
So, after all these years the consensus among experts finally is that cover artist Jacques Thibésart's stylized signature should be read Mik instead of Nik, so we've shared this cover today to call attention to the change we've made to all his previous mentions on Pulp Intl. The man has caused no end of trouble. But he's worth it, because just look at this piece above, with a femme fatale Harveying the living daylights out of a problematic male. This fronts Bevis Winter's Quand elles se mettent à cogner... which was published by Éditions Le Trotteur in 1953 for its series Le Roman de Choc, or Shock Novel. Winter was an English author active during the 1950s who published as Hyman Zoré, Al Bocca, Gordon Shayne, Peter Cagney, and other pseudonyms. It's possible—but not certain—that Quand elles se mettent à cogner... is actually a translation of Larry O'Brien's 1950 thriller Angels Bruise Easy. But don't quote us on that, because French mid-century popular literature is a constant mystery and not even the experts seem able to unravel it.
If you think this is painful wait until I tell you all the kinky things I did with your husband.
T'as triché marquise was written by the pseudonymous author George Maxwell and published in 1953 as part of Editions le Condor's collection La Môme Double-Shot. This is of the more violent entries in the series and the cover art reflects that. What we like best about it is how effortless the blonde makes her submission hold on the brunette look. Not a single golden hair has moved. Many of these Double Shot covers were painted by Jean Salvetti, but this one is by Jacques Thibésart, also known as Nik, or more likely Mik (we're still avoiding changing all those old posts but we'll get around to it). In any case, fine work.
She may be a bald mouse but you're about to be a dead rat, buster.
This beautiful cover was painted for Éditions le Trotteur's popular collection Espions et Agents Secrets by Nik, aka Jacques Thibésart, and illustrates Yannick Williams', aka Jacques-Henri Juillet's 1953 thriller Mademoiselle “Chauve Souris”, aka Miss “Bat”. That's a lot of aka's, and here comes one more. In French souris means “mouse,” chauve means bald, and the two words together mean “bat”—literally “bald mouse.” French paperback titles can get a little slangy, though. Souris by itself—a mouse—is also a word for a pretty woman. So there could be another aka happening here in the form of a pun. We don't know. Jo, where are you? We need you on this one.
Oh, and there's one more thing, also aka related. Thibésart has an unusual signature—not visible on this cover but viewable here—in which the “N” could be read as a stylized “M.” Just lately, online experts are beginning to wonder if his signature should be read “Mik” instead of “Nik.” Thibésart is still around, but in classic French fashion refuses to discuss any of this despite several queries being floated his way. So for now we'll stick with Nik. Also, we don't want to change all our previous posts on this guy. We will update later if needed.
Update: it was needed.
Sharks aren't the worst predators in the water.
Behold! The longest piece of promo art we've ever shared. The oceangoing thriller The Deep premiered in the U.S. in June 1977 as part of a wave of similar movies that came in the wake of Jaws (see what we did there, with the "wave" "wake" thing?). Yeah. So anyway, author Peter Benchley, who wrote the novels that spawned both films, used similar themes for the two, but switched the monster shark for human dangers in The Deep. The Japanese run of the film began today in 1977, and for once the Japanese title isn't something wildly different—they went with ザ・ディープ, which means “the deep.”
We've never seen anything like this poster before, and we doubt we will again. Also of note is that the movie, which was not considered top notch, was a massive hit thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign that saw co-star Jacqueline Bisset wardrobed in a white t-shirt that turned transparent when wet, such as during her opening diving scene in the warm Bahamian waters. Never had a pair of nipples made such a splash. A longtime a sex symbol and thirty-three years old when the The Deep appeared, the film made Bisset a legit superstar for the first time.
Human nature red in tooth and claw.
Whenever we have minimal expectations of a film and receive reasonable entertainment we're reminded why we like watching old movies so much. In The Leopard Man, for which you see a striking poster above, a New Mexico nightclub chanteuse loses her feline sidekick and it soon begins prowling the desert night and savaging women. Or is it? Pretty soon the singer and her manager begin to wonder if the leopard is being blamed for killings committed by someone—or something—else. The movie feels a bit like Cat People, which makes sense, because director Jacques Tourneur helmed both productions. But where Cat People was set in New York City, this one has a bordertown flavor, with flamenco music and various Mexican and Spanish characters in scattered roles, including Margo—just Margo—who was Spanish bandleader Xavier Cugat's niece. The solution to the mystery comes in a climax set against the town's creepy Spanish processions. It turns out the killer is a someone, not a something, but that was never truly in doubt. At just over an hour in length the movie is a pretty nice time killer, but the shorthand feel of it also shows why feature films tend to be longer. The Leopard Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1943.
Life on the edge of a razor.
Above is a Japanese poster for the 1972 blaxploitation film Come Back Charleston Blue, starring Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as the Harlem detectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. It was the sequel to the highly successful Cotton Comes to Harlem. The plot deals with the return of a legendary vigilante named Charleston Blue, who killed with a blue steel straight razor and is believed by some to be responsible for a series of recent slayings aimed at the local drug trade. He's supposed to be dead, but his casket is empty and his collection of razors has gone missing. Is he really back from beyond? You'll have to watch the movie to find out. Reviews were mixed, but there are some thrills and laughs, there's good location filming around Harlem and environs pre-gentrification, and the soundtrack by Quincy Jones and Donny Hathaway is a nice bonus. All-in-all, a middling effort, but certainly not a waste of time. Come Back Charleston Blue first played in Japan today in 1973.
Bill Edwards paperback art gains new recognition.
Bill Edwards' profile as a paperback illustrator has risen considerably in recent years. Like others who painted for sleaze imprints, it is not so much his technical ability that has garnered the attention, but rather the subject matter and a strong style. Edwards is a guy whose work you can identify in a millisecond. His women almost always have sharp cheekbones, ski jump noses, and a prominent beauty mark. The cover above for Rick Rand's New Girl in Town shows you all three elements up close. Edwards was also prolific like few other painters, which makes finding his work easy. Below are many more illustrations, some for novels with subject matter well beyond the pale, and we have other Edwards pieces populating Pulp Intl., for example here, here, and here.
French artist Jacques Puiseux spins us round with his pulp influenced vinyl art.
Pulp Intl. friend Jacques Puiseux staged a gallery show earlier this autumn and e-mailed over a few of his pulp influenced pieces. The exhibition was in Aup, a small town in the French Provence region, and Jacques' trompe l’œil pin-ups mimicking vinyl records managed to draw the attention of local feminists, female and male, who staged a protest concerning objectification of the female body. Apparently, they compared his work to the famed Pirelli calendars and said Jacques was almost as bad as Donald Trump.
Pulp Intl. would doubtless likewise be labeled sexist by these particular protesters, but of course a pulp history website could hardly fail to be. We would simply suggest that appreciation for beauty, whether male or female, is not inherently exploitative. While many feminists are actually quite vocal in their appreciation of beauty and sex (personified by the new wave of woman centered porn websites), a subset seem to believe that any male expression of appreciation for female beauty is a form of violence.
As we've mentioned before, since 99.9% of humans came into being through an act of sex, and sex drives our existence, biologically speaking, it follows that it's unreasonable to expect it not to be on people's minds much of the time. We're all wired that way. And since it is on people's minds, those thoughts and desires will be expressed. We agree there's a best and worst way to do it, and that a refusal should be taken at face value, and that safety is paramount, but we disagree that any expression of sexual interest by an unknown male toward a unknown female is wrong.
The feminist cause is right and moral, but we don't imagine the coming world as one in which women are never looked at by unknown men as sexual beings, or approached by unknown men at bars or parties, or complimented on their beauty by unknown men. We imagine a world in which those things happen and it goes only as far as a woman's consent permits. That might be no farther than a few exchanged words, but conversely it might go all the way to someone's bed for a lovely night. Doesn't that sound like a fun world?
Jacques, we think, would agree. He's a guy who thinks women are beautiful and that interest comes out in his art, as it has for countless other artists and always will. He also likes pulp, et voilà—what you get is what he's done above and below. We really like these, and they fit nicely into our conception of modern pulp. You can see a few more Puiseux pulp stylings at this link, and feel free to check out more of his record-like creations at the tumblr page Vinyles Passion.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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