If only their taste in mates matched their taste in music.
The Noir City Film Festival continues its challenging 2016 slate when it screens another pair of classics tonight—Love Me or Leave Me and Young Man with a Horn. Both are musical dramas, and though neither is a noir, both take viewers to dark places. In the 1920s period piece Love Me or Leave Me velvety-voiced Doris Day stars as a struggling chanteuse given a break by gangster James Cagney. He quickly becomes her manager and uses force to launch a national career, blind to the fact that she has real talent and can succeed with no strongarm man to back her. But Cagney doesn't see her talent—show business is gangsterism for him, and bullying is how he operates. When he finally bullies his way into marriage with Day his constant rage transforms her into an indifferent and isolated woman.
This is one of those movies that will, especially in a full house in San Francisco, trigger groans of distaste as Cagney ticks all the worst boxes of reprehensible human beings—treating women like meat, slapping them around, trying to obtain sex by force, dispensing emotional abuse, and using violence as a tool in every situation, against both women and men. But the audience may be just as hard on Day by the final reel forpossessing a level of forgiveness that is alien to people circa 2016. Love Me or Leave Me is an excellent movie—cringe inducing in parts, but deeply involving, and perhaps destined to be the most discussed film of the festival.
Day stars in Young Man with a Horn as well, singing again, this time with Kirk Douglas, who plays a gifted child musician who grows up to be an ace trumpet player thanks to the tutelage of an elder jazzman. Unfortunately he has a congenital inability to conform, particularly when it means playing dance band music over improvisational jazz. The arrival of a femme fatale—in the person of the awesome Lauren Bacall—brings a whole new set of troubles. The gender roles are reversed from Love Me or Leave Me, but the films each explore how a bad relationship saps the joy from the soul of an artist, and Day is winningly sweet in both.
Perhaps by now you’ve noticed the theme that has emerged with this year’s Noir City offerings—they are all about artists or their artistic output. In Rear Window and The Public Eye it’s photographers, in The Two Mrs. Carrolls it’s a painter, In a Lonely Place and The Bitter Stems deal with a screenwriter and journalist, Deception and Humroresque look at classical musicians, and The Dark Corner and Crack Up deal with art ascommerce and contraband respectively. The theme is nice, but once again two films will be screening tonight that present yet another challenge to noir purists attending this year’s fest. Both films are great, but we’ll be surprised if organizers stray this far from the form next year.
Doris Day finds herself hunted around the clock by a demented killer.
In the thriller Julie Doris Day finds out her second husband is a murderer. Who did he murder? Her first husband. No spoiler there. Day learns this within the first fifteen minutes, leaving the plot to revolve around her efforts to escape being permanently silenced for her discovery. By the end of this romp set in and around the wilds of Carmel, Monterrey, and finishing in San Francisco, she’s probably developed a fear of flying, a fear of driving, a fear of piano music, a fear of the dark, and of course a fear of ever having a third husband. It’s psychological warfare at its cruelest, and Day, along with co-stars Louis Jourdan and Barry Sullivan, do a nice job of making it all work. We don’t have a Japanese premier date to match the nice Japanese poster above, but Julie opened in the U.S. today in 1956.
All celebrities great and small.
We’ve featured Pic magazine only once before, but not because it was an unimportant publication. Quite the opposite—we’ve seen issues as early as 1936 and as late as 1958, making it both a Depression and World War II survivor, presumably no easy feat and certainly a run indicative of sustained popularity. Early issues seemed focused on sports, but it soon broadened to include celebrities. It was launched by Wagner Publications of New York City, and this issue appeared in June 1952 with a cover featuring actress Suzan Ball placing a crown on the head of Akton Miller, a man Pic had chosen as its Hot Rod King. Inside you get a raft of Hollywood stars, including photos of Yvonne De Carlo in Uruguay, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, and Joan Vohs, shots of New York Giants manager Leo Durocher and his beautiful actress wife Laraine Day, and some nice boxing pictures. There’s also an interesting feature on the day’s top vocalists (with African-Americans notably excluded), and a profile of crooner Tony Bennett.
But it’s Suzan Ball’s story we’re interested in today. Her path to show business was so typical of the period as to be almost banal—she was spotted in a Santa Maria, California newspaper after winning a cake baking contest. Universal-International scouts thought she looked a bit like Jane Russell, so they swept her up, shuttled her down Highway 101, signed her to a contract and began selling her as a hot new Tinseltown commodity, proclaiming her the New Cinderella Girl of ’52. Soon the influential columnist Hedda Hopper took up the refrain, naming her one of the most important new stars of 1953, thus ensuring that year would belong to Ball.
It was then that her train to stardom jumped the tracks. She injured her leg performing a dance number in East of Sumatra, and later in the year had a car accident and hurt the leg again. Treatment for those two injuries led to the discovery of a cancerous tumor. Soon afterward she fell and broke the limb, and when doctors decided they couldn’t remove the tumor they instead took the entire the leg. That was in January 1954. Ball soldiered on in her show business career with an artificial leg, starring in Chief Crazy Horse, though she lost fifteen pounds during the production, and later playing nightclub dates and appearing on television shows. In July 1955 she collapsed while rehearsing for the show Climax, whereupon doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized and spread to her lungs. A month later she died at age twenty-one. We have about fifty scans below.
Below are the covers of some promotional brochures made by Illustrierte Film-Bühne for movies released in West Germany during the 1950s and 1960s. The examples here, some of which have killer designs, feature Elizabeth Taylor, Marisa Mell, Cary Grant, Virna Lisi, Sophia Loren, Doris Day, Tony Curtis, et.al. IFB was founded in 1946 in Munich by Paul Franke, and over the years produced thousands of these pamphlets. We’ll share more later.
You ever notice how certain people tend to call others exactly what they are themselves?
So many tabloids, so little time. This September 1955 issue of Hush-Hush has forgone the usual lurid photos in favor of a mostly-text presentation that makes the month’s scandalous offerings that much more glaring. So let’s take it from the top. Did Sammy Davis, Jr. marry his southern belle? Short answer—no. Though he had many down-low relationships with white women, including what must have been a heavenly fling with the angel Kim Novak, the southern belle faded into history and Sammy’s first marriage was to a woman of his own race in 1958. The whole thing was forcibly arranged by the Mafia, but hey, no marriage is 100% perfect. Moving on to Doris Day, yes, she did change her name, but mainly because her real last name was Kappelhoff, and that simply wasn’t going to play in the sticks back then. As for Brando, there’s no reportage required there. Just do a Google image search on “Brando” and “oral” and you’ll see that he wasn’t working extremely hard trying to keep his bisexuality a secret, even in 1950s America. In our opinion, that speaks well of him.
All very interesting, but then we come to this slightly more obscure reference to Yale and Pig Night parties. Intriguing, no? So, since we have a collegiate theme going today, let’s take a closer look at this. Yale during the 1950s had a thriving frat culture of rich young men sporting well-developed senses of entitlement along with a hair-trigger willingness to party like it was 1999. One house in particular, Delta Kappa Epsilon, was the jock frat. And we all know how sensitive jocks are. Pig Night was an annual ritual in which DKE pledges were sent into New Haven to invite townie girls to a fraternity dance. At midnight, the lucky ladies were gathered and an announcement was made in front of the entire frat. The girls had not been selected because they were beautiful, or interesting, or fun—but because they were the ugliest girls the pledges could find—i.e. “pigs.” Big laughs all around.
The girls invariably stormed out, angry, or humiliated, or tearful, and that made it all the more fun. All this from a frat claiming to seek candidates who “combined in the most equal proportions the gentleman, the scholar, and the jolly good fellow.” We don’t know exactly when DKE’s Pig Nights ended, but we did find references to them continuing while George W. Bush was president of the frat during the mid-’60s. We draw no conclusions from that, although you might. But remember—fucked up as it is, back then Pig Night would have fallen into the category of good clean fun. Not that it was truly harmless—just that the victims were unfairly expected to pretend it was. Today, nobody would tolerate such an event. Which is good, because though we’re vocal here at Pulp about the sad decline of movie, book, and magazine art, we’ve also said before that we think human beings are slowly getting better.
Have you checked the supplies in your fallout shelter lately?
The folks at atomicplatters.com explain on their website that every art form had to deal with the arrival of the atomic age. As pulp developed a quick preoccupation with mutants, the space race, and nukes, music did the same, and the collection Cold War Music shows just how much. Five packed discs contain enough rare tunes by Doris Day, Teresa Brewer, and the Commodores to keep you partying at ground zero for a long while—or at least until your eyeballs melt out of their sockets. Of special note: Tony Bennett’s public service announcement for civil defense entitled “Nuclear Attack”. Right then—duck and cover in three, two, one…
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder
, Carmen Jones
, The Man with the Golden Arm
, and Stalag 17
, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
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.
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