Hollywoodland Nov 12 2015
It’s a Delight from beginning to end.

Above and below are assorted scans from an issue of Screenland published this month in 1940. The issue we posted previously was from 1923. In the intervening years contributor Delight Evans had become editor, and as a result had become one of Hollywood’s most powerful starmakers. Evans was uniquely talented and got her break when, as a fifteen-year-old, she had a story purchased by Photoplay. That was in 1915. By 1917 she was working for Photoplay in Chicago, and quickly ascended to an associate editor position there. At least one online source says she was an editor at Screenland by 1923, but even for someone that gifted twenty-three is a bit young to be helming one of America’s biggest magazines. We have an issue from December 1923 and it was Frederick James Smith in the corner office. But Evans was in charge by at least 1934, which we can confirm because we have an issue from that year too. When did she actually take the reins? No idea. This is where it would be nice to click over to a Wikipedia page or something, but she doesn’t have one. A trailblazer like this—can you believe it? But we shall dig. Evans needs some online exposure, so we’ll see what we can do. Twenty-one scans with a galaxy of stars below. 


Sportswire Sep 29 2015
The boys of summer headline autumn’s biggest event.

The Los Angeles Dodgers board a United Airlines DC-7 charter plane headed to Chicago, where they would battle the Chicago White Sox in the 1959 World Series. Pictured are Sandy Koufax, Don Zimmer, Pee Wee Reese, and other stars. The Dodgers won the series four games to two. The three games played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum drew huge crowds, with game five’s attendance of 92,706 remaining a World Series record to this day. The photo was made today in 1959.


Vintage Pulp Sep 28 2015
Two flavors of femme fatale, one type of health risk.

Above is a rare double-sided Robert Bonfils cover, Lash of Desire with a flipside of Pillow Tramp, from the Dollar Double Book Company of Chicago, with both covers featuring a signature—a rarity from Bonfils. G.H Smith was aka M.J. Deer, Jan Hudson, Jerry Jason, Dusty North, et al, and Hastings was aka March Hastings, Laura Duchamp and Sally Singer. The art for Lash of Desire features a confident, challenging female figure, while Pillow Tramp presents a less edgy woman seeming to offer easy pleasures. But of course, all femmes fatales lead to the same result in mid-century sleaze fiction—disaster. A lot of Bonfils’ cover output was for various Greenleaf Classics imprints during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but these efforts from 1962 show him in more conventional form. Compare them to this front, this one, and this one.


Sportswire Jun 16 2015
If I can’t have you, nobody else can.

The above photo shows Ruth Ann Steinhagen in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, where she was being held after shooting Chicago Cubs baseball player Eddie Waitkus at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Steinhagen had invited Waitkus to her hotel room after a Cubs game, first via a note telling him she had an urgent matter to discuss with him, and later by phone. When he finally went to her room she told him (though accounts vary), “If I can’t have you nobody else can,” and shot him in the chest with a .22 rifle she had grabbed from a closet. Steinhagen was an early example of a new breed of psycho—the celebrity stalker. The story of Waitkus’s shooting would later be used by author Bernard Malamud for his 1952 novel The Natural, which was in turn made into a truly excellent 1984 movie with Robert Redford. The jail photo was made today in 1949, and the shooting had happened two days earlier. 


Vintage Pulp Jun 7 2015
Why bother to become a real expert when fake expertise is so much easier?

There’s no limit to the range of tabloids from the 1960s and 1970s. Yesterday we showed you Private Affairs, and today we’re going downmarket with Offbeat, which came from Beta Publications of Chicago. The main thing that’s offbeat with this publication is the cover design, which you can see on this issue that appeared today in 1965 features elements skewed relative to each other and the magazine’s frame. We like it. Content-wise, though, Offbeat is nothing new. Its report on the shocking habits of American housewives is just sleaze fiction dressed up as research. The number one reason wives cheat, according to W.D. Sprague, PhD, is revenge against cheating husbands. Readers are treated to a steamy retelling of a wife’s affair with a milkman—yes, really, a milkman—and another wife tells the story of how she ran into an old boyfriend one day and they fell into the old pattern and started having sex regularly again. It’s pure lit-porn.

W.D. Sprague was not the creation of tabloid editors you might suspect, but rather an actual author who published Sexual Behavior of American Nurses, Sex and the Secretary, The Lesbian in Our Society (A Problem That Must Be Faced!), and many other romps that swelled readers’ groins while doing the same for his bank account. The article in Offbeat is actually taken directly from Sexual Behavior of the American Housewife, another Sprague winner. His real name was Bela von Block—yes, really—and he also published under other names besides Sprague. His PhD was a hoax, of course, but who needs a degree when you’re smart enough to make a career of faking expertise about the inner lives of women? Some of his work was done for reliable sleaze imprint Midwood-Tower, but he also published for Lancer and other companies. We’ll undoubtedly run across him at some point in the future.


Vintage Pulp Apr 27 2014
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. 


Vintage Pulp Jun 10 2013
Bad luck and trouble in post-war Germany.

We’re back to the West German publication Illustrierte Film-Bühne today, supplementing our post from two months ago. These examples are all from American dramas or films noir produced during the 1940s and early 1950s, but which premiered in West Germany later, typically 1954 or after. You can see the earlier IFB collection here.


Vintage Pulp Apr 23 2013
You’re a spoiled boy, Tommy. You want things and you’re not content until you get them.

One thing about writing Pulp Intl. is it gives us an excuse to fill in blanks in our movie résumé. The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, and Joan Blondell, was one such blank—until last night. A rags-to-riches-to-ruin story, it was one of the earliest gangster flicks, one that was a big hit but which had suffered the scissors of Hays Code censors. It’s always interesting to note the scenes cut from a post-Code movie, because those say the most about attitudes of the times. For example, the scene in which Cagney is measured for a suit by a gay tailor differs in no discernable way from such scenes in today’s movies. There’s macho discomfort by the lead and effeminate fussing by the tailor that leads to the inevitable inseam measuring, all played for cheap humor. We don’t condemn or endorse this sort of thing—it’s just fascinating to see how little has changed in eighty some years. Two other scenes were cut due to sexual suggestiveness, and those are also quite interesting to watch.

But what’s most important of course is James Cagney, and he is indeed amazing as Tom Powers, a kid whose ambition propels him toward the big cash and high risk of the Chicago bootlegging underworld. Not only was The Public Enemy a career-solidifying role for Cagney; it brought Jean Harlow to the notice of a much wider audience than she had reached up to that point. Her true breakout would come months later in The Platinum Blonde, but to be blunt, it’s lucky for her she had Howard Hughes molding her career, because her performance in The Public Enemy could have killed her chances to land a starring role. To a certain extent, she’s supposed to be damaged goods, someone who isn’t ever particularly fazed or impressed or emotive, but the scenes she should ignite—like the one in which she tells Cagney he’s just a spoiled boy—feel like rehearsals for later, better work. Contemporary reviewers agreed, panning her performance, but Harlow doesn’t damage the film. She isn’t really given much to work with, so watch this for Cagney, who scorches. The Public Enemy premiered in the U.S. today in 1931.


The Naked City Mar 5 2013
Six murders, scarce leads, and a city gripped by fear.

This two-color cover from Headquarters Detective appeared in March 1958 and features a pose that you see quite a bit on vintage crime magazines—the man standing above a terrorized woman, often with a phallic symbol in hand. We’ve been gathering up some covers in this style and we’ll share what we’ve found pretty soon. This cover is also noteworthy because it reports at bottom left on the last of six murders that occurred in the Chicago area between October 1955 and August 1957. Three boys and three girls ranging from ages eleven to fifteen were stripped, battered, strangled, and in the cases of two of the girls, raped.

But it was the sixth murder that truly horrified already shaken Chicago residents. The killer—and if it was the same killer his violent tendencies were growing—dismembered Judith Anderson and set the body parts afloat in Montrose Harbor in two metal drums. The smaller drum contained the girl’s head, right arm and left hand, the second the rest of her. The head had four bullets in it. Police followed many leads—according to at least one account they investigated 109,000 homes, 40,000 to 50,000 garages and basements, 900 businesses, and 200 boats. They heard countless confessions, all of which turned out to be false—save for possibly one.

Some local fishermen told police that several nights before Anderson’s remains turned up they saw a car on the opposite shore of the harbor. They knew it had backed up to the water because they could see its brake lights. A person they described as well-built got out, opened the trunk of the car and threw something—or several somethings—into the water. When he drove away they noticed that one of his brake lights was out. The detail of the broken light helped generate a suspect, someone with a criminal record and a history of sexual violence, but police were never able to pin the killing on him even though at least one investigator claimed he had confessed. Ultimately police never solved Anderson's murder, or the other five.


Mondo Bizarro Jan 2 2013
They were the cure for whatever ailed you.

The above photos show an interesting looking model circa 1920 demonstrating the usage of a violet ray machine, which was a personal electrotherapy device first invented by Nikola Tesla around 1890. Tesla was way ahead of his time, and some of his electrical applications were simply amazing. For instance, he successfully generated wireless power—i.e., he lit phosphorescent lamps by sending electricity through the air. Think about that next time you trip over one of the twenty power cords you have snaking around your place. Of course, genius occasionally comes wrapped in a bit of lunacy, so in the interests of full disclosure we should probably note that Tesla also spent many years trying to build a teleforce weapon, which he claimed would “bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 200 miles from a defending nation’s border and cause armies to drop dead in their tracks.”

Tesla’s violet ray device became a major fad during the Great Depression. The contraption consisted of a portable box encasing a discharge coil that produced a high frequency, ozone-generating electrical current. That current was channeled into a bakelite-handled, glass-tipped wand, the business end of which was applied to the recipient’s skin. One company that manufactured these devices was called Renulife, and their pitch went like this: Electricity from your light socket is transformed into health and beauty-giving Violet Ray—powerfully effective, yet gentle, soothing, perfectly safe. Voltage is raised from ordinary lighting current to thousands of volts, giving tremendous penetrative force. The irresistible revitalizing powers of Renulife Violet Ray are carried at once to every nerve, cell, fibre and part of the body.

Violet rays were touted as the cure for a long list of ailments, including fatigue, congestion, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, catarrh, brain fog, aging, and so forth, but by the 1950s Tesla’s device had fallen out of usage in the U.S. While it would be easy to dismiss violet rays as quackery, something physical was clearly happening. Consider this: the Chicago Police Department used a violet ray device to torture suspects between 1973 and 1984. Also, it’s worth noting that similar devices are still used today, most notably the High Frequency aesthetic machine you find in beauty salons, and the violet wand, used in BDSM. And modern medical research has shown that electricity can speed the healing of wounds, slow muscle atrophy, and modify brain impulses. So give Tesla his props—looks like he was right yet again. Good thing he never wrote down how his teleforce weapon worked.


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 01
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
November 30
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
November 29
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.

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