Hollywoodland Mar 14 2018
COLD CASEY
2nd Amendment, motherfucker. If you say it's your right, then it's my right too.


Bernie Casey exercises his right to bear a chrome plated Colt Super .38 automatic in this cool promo photo made for his 1972 blaxploitation flick Hit Man. We love Casey. He died just last year, and was pretty much unheralded, but he appeared in a lot of fun movies, including Sharky's Machine, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Cleopatra Jones, Boxcar Bertha, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also had the good fortune to get naked with both Pam Grier and Claudia Jennings. The Jennings scene is flat amazing, but the Grier scene, which is actually from Hit Man, is hilarious. As Grier climbs atop him and presses her naked body full length onto his the expression on his face reads something like: “Oh. My. Freaking. God.” That's probably the only time in his life he wasn't 100% cool.



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Femmes Fatales Nov 8 2017
STELLAR STEVENS
Brown is the new blonde.


Above, a promo image of U.S. actress Stella Stevens, who we love for her stalwart presence in numerous lightweight but highly entertaining films such as Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones & The Casino of Gold. We don't have a date on this rare shot showing her with brown hair (blonde has always been her primary color), but 1973 seems a reasonable guess.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 11 2017
QUEEN CLEOPATRA
Tall, dark, and dangerous.

We don't share many photo covers, but this novelization caught our eye because it's one of the better images we've seen of Cleopatra Jones star Tamara Dobson. As we've mentioned before, promo images for blaxploitation performers, with a few exceptions, tend to be rare. Dobson was one of the first we ever featured, way back in 2009, and we're sharing this image because Cleopatra Jones opened in the U.S. today in 1973. The screenplay for the film, by the way, was co-written by Max Julien, who was the star of the blaxploitation classic The Mack. The guy was multi-talented. So was Dobson—the 6' 2” former model could look both lethal and deadly. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 11 2015
WARRIOR QUEEN
Nobody can keep up with this Jones.


We talked about Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold a few weeks ago. The above poster was made for the Japanese run of its progenitor Cleopatra Jones, which is superior to the fairly decent sequel in every aspect except budget. Tamara Dobson was a globetrotting James Bond type in Casino of Gold, but here she stars in a somewhat grittier story centered around an attack on a Los Angeles halfway house she owns, which occurred in retaliation for her burning a drug lord's poppy field in far away Turkey. Shelley Winters grandiosely overacts as the villain, but she's fun in a role that requires her to dominate lots of tough henchmen, only to be inevitably slapped around and killed by Dobson in the climax. Other players include Bernie Casey, Esther Rolle, and the lovely Brenda Sykes. Dobson had appeared in two previous films, but Cleopatra Jones made the ex-model a star. There were not many lead roles at the time for heroic women, and few roles of any sort for Dobson once the blaxploitation wave passed. As a result she graced the silver screen too few times. But Cleopatra Jones is a nice showcase of her ability as an action icon. Its Japanese premiere was today in 1973.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 18 2015
DEVIL IN MISS JONES
You don’t want to get on her bad side.

She’s six-one-plus without heels, works as a special agent to the president, will go chopsocky on fools in a split second, and never loses her cool—or even her swanky red hat. The first Cleopatra Jones movie thrilled audiences in 1973, and the sequel Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold ups the ante by piling on production value and a big Hong Kong backdrop. Other blaxploitation films did more with less, but then a lot of them did less with less. This one is visually powerful and well worth a viewing, especially to see Tamara Dobson as the devilish dervish Jones, Ni Tien as the smart alecky but lethal sidekick Mi Ling Fong, and ex-centerfold Stella Stevens as the evil Bianca Javin the Dragon Lady. The nice double-sided poster above was made to promote the movie’s run in Japan, which began today in 1975. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 25 2011
THE SECRET OF THEIR SUCCESS
Top Secret says scandals are good for stars’ bank accounts, but what else would a scandal rag claim?

Here’s a fascinating February 1960 issue of the mid-century tabloid Top Secret with a selection of dish on the celebs of the day. Of particular note is the item on Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor. Top Secret claims scandals made them the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. What were the scandals? Well, in 1958 Lana Turner’s teenaged daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato to death. The sensational murder trial that followed ended in Crane’s acquittal on the grounds of justifiable homicide, i.e., Stompanato had been beating Turner and Crane put a stop to it. As for Taylor, her scandal involved taking Eddie Fisher away from his wife, the incredibly popular and beloved singer/actress Debbie Reynolds. Later the same year Taylor agreed to star in Cleopatra for a million dollars—an astonishing sum at the time. But while Top Secret draws a direct line between this kind of pay and a messy personal life, there’s another possible consideration. In light of Lana Turner’s 1958 Academy Award nomination, and Elizabeth Taylor’s eventual five nominations and two wins, maybe the two were highly paid because of their talent. It’s just crazy enough to be true. 

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Hollywoodland Aug 5 2010
HUSHED CONCLUSIONS
If you can’t be factual, at least be popular.

Hush-Hush magazine goes for broke in this issue from August 1963, offering up a slate of tales narrated in their usual breathless style. First, they tell us how Roddy McDowall took nude photographs of Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra and tried to sell them, but was thwarted when she “erupted like Mount Vesuvius”. They then demonstrate the limits of their imaginations by telling us that Italian singer Silvana Blasi reacted like “an uncontrollable Mount Vesuvius” when an African-American dancer was hired at the Folies Bergère. Two volcano similes in one issue is bad enough, but the same mountain? For investigative journalism, Hush-Hush shows us photographs of a dead Carole Landis and an unconscious Susan Hayward, and concludes that sleeping pills are bad. And finally, the magazine stokes the fires of paranoia with two stories: in the first, they explain how Fidel Castro plans to conquer America with heroin, which he’s growing with the help of two-thousand Chinese advisors; in the second, they reveal that the second wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard is a Nazi who plans to revive the Third Reich, and that she’s being helped by—you guessed it—Fidel Castro, who is somehow a communist and a Nazi. Neat trick that. As we’ve mentioned before, though these stories are laughable, people actually believed them, and believed them by the millions, as evidenced by Hush-Hush’s sales figures. The lesson is clear: the choice between popularity and truth is really no choice at all. 

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Femmes Fatales Apr 27 2010
SYKED OUT
An alpha female in b-movies.

American actress Brenda Sykes, who appeared in blaxploitation flicks such as Cleopatra Jones, Mandingo, and of course, the unforgettable Honky, seen here in a promo photo made for the 1971 movie Pretty Maids All in a Row. 

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Femmes Fatales Oct 27 2009
AFRO SAMURAI
Along came Jones.

Our newest femme fatale is American actress Tamara Dobson, a 6'2" former fashion model who made an unforgettable splash in early ’70s blaxploitation as Cleopatra Jones. She’d played a couple of bit parts before then, and played a few more roles after, but it’s the ass-kicking, karate-chopping Jones that film fans will always remember. Dobson died this month in 2006 of pneumonia related to multiple sclerosis.     

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Hollywoodland Sep 3 2009
SCARLET LADY
The Roman fling of Mrs. Taylor.

Founded in 1845 by George Wilkes, the National Police Gazette published through 1982, making it one of America’s longest running magazines. It began with a focus on police related matters, and over the years evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) into a pure tabloid that sometimes skirted the edge of obscenity. The issue above is from September 1963, the year Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met and began an affair while filming Cleopatra.

At the time Taylor was married to Eddie Fisher, who was one of the most popular singers in America. Taylor had already gotten bad press when Fisher fell for her and divorced American sweetheart Debbie Reynolds as a result. When news broke that she had cuckolded Fisher while filming in Italy, Taylor’s reputation was damaged yet again. She was a scarlet lady squared.

Paparazzi chased her and Burton all over Rome in one of the first examples of what today is a standard ordeal for even the least important movie stars. There’s a lot to the Cleopatra story—a runaway budget, an emergency tracheotomy, a strike by female extras, and more. We hope to get to it in the future, as well as post the stack of magazines we have that are devoted to the Taylor/Burton/Fisher triangle.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
May 21
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
May 20
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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