Take a walk on the wild side.
Above are three cover treatments for Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street, written by Al Palmer, and first published in 1949 (many sources say 1950, but Palmer’s current day publisher Véhicule Press says 1949). Sugar-Puss was set in Montreal in the debauched red light district centered around Dorchester Street (now René Lévesque Boulevard), and spiced with firsthand observations from Palmer, who was a night-crawling columnist for the Montreal Herald and later the Montreal Gazette. His main character, Gisele Lepine, leaves her small farming town, is swept up in bright lights and big city, and pulled into various dramas involving a newspaper man, a cabaret owner, drug-dealers, and chorus girls. Gisele’s situation soon devolves, bringing her up-close and personal with organized crime, murder, and white slavery (always, in mid-century novels, taken to be somehow worse than mere slavery). The novel was Palmer’s only one, but it has managed to endure among collectors, maybe because it has possibly the best title ever. He also wrote a city expose entitled Montreal Confidential. We like all three of these covers, but even if the first two seem of higher quality, with their splashes of purple and yellow, we think version three manages to capture a feeling of loneliness and alienation. The top piece is by Syd Dyke, the middle one by D. Rickard, and the last is by unknown.
, Montreal Gazette
, Montreal Herald
, Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street
, Montreal Undercover
, Al Palmer
, Syd Dyke
, D. Rickard
, cover art
She started her career with a fright but later laughed her way to the bank.
This shot featuring Canadian actress Barbara Kent nicely captures the spirit of Halloween. Kent was born Barbara Cloutman, and began her rise to stardom by winning the 1925 Miss Hollywood Beauty Pageant. Her first parts were in Prowlers of the Night and Flesh and the Devil, but her later roles were usually comedic in nature and were her most popular films. In all, she appeared in thirty-six productions, which sounds impressive until you wonder how well she might have done had this black cat never crossed her path.
Undercover but not inconspicuous.
Above, Canadian actress Alexis Smith, née Gladys Smith, in a Universal International Pictures promo shot made in 1950 for her cop thriller Undercover Girl. She also appeared in Conflict, Of Human Bondage, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, and more than fifty other films.
Special edition Boogie Nights poster is an explosion of color.
This promo for Boogie Nights was made last year for a Paul Thomas Anderson film retrospective hosted by the company Mondo, which markets limited edition screen printed posters for classic and contemporary films. The artist is the Japanese illustrator par excellence and constant enigma Rockin’ Jelly Bean. You can see this poster around the web with little difficulty, but we have a friend in Los Angeles who actually owns one and it really shocked us how off the colors are on every scan we’ve seen online. The above image, as oversaturated as it may seem, is close to correct. Even so, what appears as red is fluorescent magenta on the real poster, and the pale teal colors are closer to bright turquoise. Compare it to the shot below, which comes from the Mondo blog. The mild skin tones of the presenter tell us the colors of the entire image are true. Which means this is one blazingly garish poster, no? We love it. We could get one for as little as $300.00, but that’s still too rich for our blood. We wanted to share the image anyway, though, because Boogie Nights made its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival today in 1997.
Tabloid reveals the secret of successful marriages.
Above, a cover of the Montreal-based tabloid Midnight from today in 1965 with June Wilkinson on the cover and a header offering readers some marital advice. Our advice is never take advice from a tabloid. We’ve featured Wilkinson here quite a bit. You can see all those posts by clicking her keywords just below.
Monroe may wobble but she won’t fall down.
Marilyn Monroe shows up just about everywhere, and here she is yet again where we didn’t expect to see her—fronting a Malaysian film publication that appeared today in 1953. The magazine, called Filmalaya, is in English, which marks it as aimed at the British colonial community that occupied the upper stratum of society in Malaysia and Singapore. The cover photo is from a publicity series made when Monroe filmed the movie Niagara in Ontario, Canada in late 1952, and let’s just assume her perch is not as precarious as it seems and there’s a handy ledge or lawn behind her in case she goes heels up. But if she does, there are other stars in the magazine, such as Joan Collins, Betty Grable, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner, and Nat King Cole.
Filmalaya represents an interesting snapshot into colonial society, as in the article about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in London, which describes the thrills and excitement in Malaysia during the event. Doubtless, the mood around the Commonwealth probably seemed festive when viewed from inside the colonial bubble, but we doubt actual Malaysians were particularly moved. Needless to say, this magazine is rare, but luckily items from Asia are often a bargain, so this cost a mere six U.S. dollars. While the inside is nothing special visually speaking, that doesn’t matter when the magazine has this great cover and is such an informative slice of history. We’ve uploaded a few of the best pages below. Enjoy.
, Niagara Falls
, Marilyn Monroe
, Joan Collins
, Betty Grable
, Rhonda Fleming
, Ava Gardner
, Nat King Cole
, Queen Elizabeth II
Not exactly Canada’s greatest export.
Here’s another typical cover of the tabloid Midnight. We tend to think of this as a U.S. publication but it actually had offices in both Chicago and Montreal, and was printed in Canada, which presumably makes it a Canadian paper first and foremost. This issue appeared today in 1964 and the imprint had by this point been around for eleven years. We have no idea when it died but we’ve never seen an issue past 1969. We’ll have more from Midnight later, including some complete scans.
She may well have been wild, wicked and willing but we doubt she ever said it to Midnight.
Above, a Midnight from today 1966 with cover star Nobu McCarthy, wild, wicked and willing. Or so Midnight claims. Born Nobu Atsumi in Canada of Japanese extraction, McCarthy won the 1955 Miss Tokyo pageant, and later parlayed a chance Los Angeles encounter with a talent agent into a television and theater career dotted with film roles. As far as Midnight’s suggestion of availability goes, McCarthy was already married with children by 1966, and probably already too well-known to have to stoop to cheap publicity techniques on the covers of second rate tabloids. Which means we’re putting this quote entirely on the editors. After many years on screen and stage, McCarthy died of an aortal aneurysm while filming Gaijin—Ama-me Como Sou in 2002. Below is a still of her from her first credited film role in the 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy The Geisha Boy.
, Gaijin—Ama-me Como Sou
, The Geisha Boy
, Nobu McCarthy
, Nobu Atsumi
, Jerry Lewis
Whatever gets you through the night.
Paul Anna Soik is another great pulp artist who we hadn’t gotten to previously, but better late than never, especially when we’re talking about this particular cover. The scene is London's Soho district near Charing Cross Road, and he presents an image of two listless souls in an urban night infused with streetlight glare, marquee glow, and a sort of carnivalsque seediness. We know the location because the Palace Theatre is in the background. The book is a realistic look at vice and prostitution, and we can assume the woman here is a hooker, though an improbably upscale one to be soliciting. But Soik lived in Canada, so maybe he wasn’t all that familiar with London street trade. This is a Harlequin book, and Soik was basically a Harlequin house artist who painted numerous covers during the company’s early years. This one, which we think is one of his best, appeared in 1955. We’ll have more from him later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1975—Zapruder Film Shown on Television
For the first time, the Zapruder film of President John F. Kennedy's assassination is shown in motion to a national television audience by Robert J. Groden and Dick Gregory on the show Good Night America, which was hosted by Geraldo Rivera. The viewing led to the formation of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which investigated the killings of both Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
1956—Desegregation Ruling Upheld
In the United States, the Supreme Court upholds a ban on racial segregation in state schools, colleges and universities. The University of North Carolina had been appealing an earlier ruling from 1954, which ordered college officials to admit three black students to what was previously an all-white institution. In many southern states, talk after the ruling turned toward subsidizing white students so they could attend private schools, or even abolishing public schools entirely, but ultimately, desegregation did take place.
1970—Non-Proliferation Treaty Goes into Effect
After ratification by 43 nations, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. Of the non-signatory nations, India and Pakistan acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons, and Israel is known to. One signatory nation, North Korea, has withdrawn from the treaty and also produced nukes. International atomic experts estimate that the number of states that accumulate the material and know-how to produce atomic weapons will soon double.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
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