The brightest light in Hollywood.
Elke Sommer speeds through Hollywood during the late hours in this promotional photo from 1963. She was famous at this point, having appeared in films in Europe, but she wasn’t yet the global icon she would become. In less than a year the hit comedy A Shot in the Dark would make her one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
The National Police Gazette really knew how to beat a dead Hitler.
Police Gazette sometimes faced a need for Adolf Hitler to star on their covers that surpassed available supplies of art. The February 1956 cover you see above was the first time that particular image was used, but they dug it out again for their January 1977 issue, which you see below, and which we showed you in larger size here. By now you know the Gazette’s mission post-World War II was to prove Hitler didn’t die in Berlin. In this issue George McGrath—the same writer who usually penned these stories—offers a list of reasons why Hitler was still alive as of 1956. Among them:
• The only eyewitness to Hitler’s suicide—his valet Heinz Linge—later recanted his testimony and admitted he never saw the Führer shoot himself.
• Hitler’s body was burned to unrecognizable ashes, but there’s no possibility that setting fire to human biomass with petrol could burn it to ashes. Most of it would remain.
• Despite the fact that every inch of the Reich Chancellery was searched and sifted, not a single trace of Hitler’s blood was ever found.
And so forth. For a thorough debunking of McGrath’s theories, you can go just about anywhere on the internet. We’ll just point out again that those who believe Americans’ receptivity to alternate theories of historical or current events is a new phenomenon haven’t read enough old tabloids. The Gazette enjoyed a quite decent readership, and during the 1950s it and other tabloids like Confidential—also a haven for occasional crackpot speculations—were among the most circulated magazines in the country.
In short—and this seems especially appropriate to point out with American news anchor Brian Williams in hot water for alleged on-air lies, and Fox News being laughed at for echoing an obviously fake story about the King of Jordan flying combat missions against ISIS—sloppy or false reporting in America’s most popular media outlets has always been a problem. The old tabloids fashioned themselves as maverick truthtellers, and that label, along with some flashy visuals, was enough to attract eyeballs. For today's cable news, the same self-labeling and eye candy visuals work the same way. We will have plenty more from the Police Gazette later.
They don’t show mercy. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They don’t care.
Kampf der Welten is, we’re sure you can guess from the art, the West German title for War of the Worlds. This cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ famous 1897 serial starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, and if you haven’t seen it we suggest it’s worth the time, though it’s quite different from the novel. Actually, we recommend the novel too. It’s grimmer than the film, and has a distinct, rationalist point-of-view that was whitewashed for cinema audiences. Actually, not whitewashed—more like inverted to portray the clergy heroically, where in the novel it is characterized by cowardice. Spielberg and Cruise left that out, too, in their 2005 interation, but in other respects their movie is very close to the book. In addition to the German promo, we also have the three English language posters below. War of the Worlds premiered in the U.S. during the summer of 1953, and reached West Germany today in 1954.
, Kampf der Welten
, War of the Worlds
, H.G. Wells
, Gene Barry
, Ann Robinson
, Stephen Spielberg
, Tom Cruise
, poster art
Good day sunshine.
So, did you notice that server switch yesterday? The one where our site went down for about twelve hours? Well, we’re making it up to you with this 1971 photo of German actress Doris Arden. She falls squarely into the b-movie category, having appeared in such amusing efforts as Graf Porno und seine Mädchen, Der Sex-Agent, and Eros Center Hamburg. Hopefully she appeals to your Eros center, as well. We also hope our new server arrangement ends our problem with periodic website outages. That’ll mean fewer posts like the one above where we try to ingratiate ourselves with you, but hey, with the good always comes some bad.
Mandy Rice-Davies dies of cancer.
Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the central figures in the John Profumo Affair of 1963, died of cancer early this morning. Most accounts of the scandal describe Rice-Davies as a prostitute, and indeed Stephen Ward, one of the principals in the fiasco, was imprisoned for living off the earnings of Rice-Davies and other women—another way of saying he pimped. But Rice-Davies spent a good portion of her final years denying she was a call girl, saying she didn’t want her grandchildren to remember her that way.
Whatever her means of support during the Profumo Affair, what is certainly true is that she was young and beautiful and somehow found herself at the nexus where rich, entitled men and beautiful women always seem to meet. The Profumo Affair's world of secret parties, middle-aged male egos, and a lurking Soviet spy came into being during the most paranoid years of the Cold War, and John Profumo’s role in it cost him his position as Secretary of State for War in the British government.
After the scandal Rice-Davies sang in a cabaret in Germany, lived in Spain, moved to Israel where she opened nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv, released music and books, appeared on television and in film, including the The Seven Magnificent Gladiators and Absolute Beginners, and was involved in the development of a Stephen Ward-based Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. She accomplished plenty. But as long as she is remembered it will be for Profumo, Christine Keeler, the parties and scandalous revelations, and the near-collapse of the British government in 1963. If you’re interested in reading more, we talked about Rice-Davies in a bit more detail here and here.
, Soviet Union
, Tel Aviv
, The Seven Magnificent Gladiators
, Absolute Beginners Mandy Rice-Davies
, John Profumo
, Christine Keeler
, Andrew Lloyd Webber
, Stephen Ward
On the first day of Christmas the Gazette gave to me—a Hitler.
Just in time to ruin everyone’s Christmas shopping, this National Police Gazette from December 1960 splashed Adolf Hitler’s face on its cover along with an inset of Swedish actress May Britt (who could hardly have appreciated the inclusion). George McGrath’s story minces no words, opening with this: Indisputable evidence that Adolf Hitler is alive and living in the Argentine has has been uncovered by the Police Gazette. Although this new information is in the hands of government intelligence chiefs, the United States and its allies are not lifting a finger to catch the runaway Nazi dictator.
By now you’re familiar with the basics: Hitler sent his possessions ahead to Mar del Plata, Argentina eighteen months before World War II’s end, later escaped Europe by u-boat, and set up shop with some of his top brass to begin plotting a return to the global stage. This particular version of the story managed to cleverly sneak in a shot at the Soviet Union, claiming Nikita Khrushchev didn’t want Hitler found. Considering the many millions of soldiers and civilians the Russians lost defeating the guy, that makes zero sense, but hey, this Gazette was published during the Cold War—Russia had to be blamed for everything.
This makes the twenty-second Hitler Gazette cover we’ve posted of twenty-nine we’ve found so far. Each story adds a little bit more to the labryrinthine tale of his daring dash to South America, but this is the first story we’ve seen claim that his capture would divide the Allied nations. Why? Because some would want him executed (obviously), while others would want him forgotten (not so obviously). The only rationale given for the latter position is that Hitler’s capture would open old war wounds. That’s pretty hard to swallow, but also beside the point. The point was magazine sales and the editors undoubtedly achieved that. We’ll have more from the Gazette later.
, Soviet Union
, World War II
, Mar del Plata
, Police Gazette
, Adolf Hitler
, Martin Bormann
, May Britt
, Nikita Khrushchev
Only in Italian film can hard labor make you better looking.
If you’re thinking this West German poster for Sophia Loren’s 1954 drama Die Frau vom Fluss, aka La donna del fiume, aka The River Girl looks a bit like this promo for Riso Amaro, you're right—and the actual films are quite similar too. During the 1950s Italian filmmakers produced at least a few movies with identical blueprints—i.e. improbably hot peasant girls performing hard labor somewhere in the Po Valley while wearing bodyhugging clothing. Generally, the girls dream of better circumstances but possess little means to achieve such an end—until into their lives tumble dudes with big plans.
Sounds like light fare, but sultry summer settings and sexy attire notwithstanding, these were serious films—usually tragedies. Where the staple food in Riso Amaro (and Elsa Martinelli’s 1956 drama La risaia) was rice, here it’s eels. Loren works in an eel cannery by day, dances a mean mambo during her spare hours and, like Silvana Mangano in Riso Amaro, finds herself torn between a decent bore and a thrilling criminal. The choice she makes opens up a whole different can of eels and she spends the rest of the film having to manage the consequences. That’s about all we’ll say, except that we watched the flick last night and more or less enjoyed it. As for Loren, she’s 100% more and 0% less, a big personality whose stardom was a matter of destiny. The movie is worth seeing just because of her.
, West Germany
, Die Frau vom Fluß
, Die Frau vom Fluss
, La donna del fiume
, The River Girl
, La risaia
, Sophia Loren
, Elsa Martinelli
, Silvana Mangano
, poster art
, movie review
Goliath Books exposes Third Reich porn to the light of day.
Of all the books Berlin-based publishing company Goliath has produced, perhaps none is more essentially pulp in nature than Private Pornography in the Third Reich. 1950s and 1960s men’s adventure magazines were obsessed with Nazis, and Third Reich spies littered post-war pulp fiction. The stories and art were often sexual in nature, such as here and here, sometimes hinting at or portraying depravity behind closed doors. With Private Pornography in the Third Reich the doors are closed no more. Stepping into forbidden salons, we’re presented not only with challenging images, but the social questions pornography raises, plus the specter of Third Reich authoritarianism and eventual war.
According to Hitler’s formulation, the perfect Aryan female was a mother. His Nazi state gave medals to women who had eight children or more, as long as mother, father and offspring were of perfect Aryan stock. It bears mentioning at this point that increasing numbers of modern day scientists have done away with race because it seems less and less to exist biologically. It is, evidence suggests more each day, an entirely social construct into which humans willingly and unwillingly self-organize. Hence there was never a master race. The theory makes as much sense scientifically as the theory of a master wizard.
But racial purity was Hitler’s obsession, and to force procreative sex on a country he felt needed to replace millions of military age men killed in the Great War his regime repressed the idea of recreational sex, driving sexual freedom and sexual expression underground. Prostitution was banned,sending an estimated 100,000 women and 35,000 men into the shadows. But as always, the rich, powerful, and connected could obtain whatever they wished. Secret dens of sexual performance and prostitution sprang up, and a black market in pornography blossomed, gaining momentum once it became clear that selling it outside Germany was an efficient means of accessing foreign currency.
Private Pornography in the Third Reich is sliced into ten sections: postcards/portraits, nudism, petting, oral sex, heterosexual intercourse, lesbian couples, lesbianism with toys, sado-masochism, and threesomes. If that sounds like a lot of photos, it is—200 images in digest size from a collection originally put together by Hans von Bockhain. The book contains only a brief introduction then presents its photos without captions or explanations. But none are needed—if pornography is the sexual id of a society then what we see is a pornographic subculture in a bread-and-circuses moment, indulging in wild diversions as the grip of an authoritarian state tightens.
In another few years the Reich would have near total control of life in Germany, and operate a chain of concentration camps in which those deemed sexual deviants could be imprisoned. As a historical document of the sex industry during the anti-lust years leading up to that period, PrivatePornography in the Third Reich is fascinating. The subject is taboo, the photos perhaps more so. They range from artful salon compositions to raunchy reverse cowgirl penetration shots, which means it may not be coffee table material for everyone, but for the adventurous it’s certain to live up to aesthetic expectations, and provoke vigorous debates as well. Read more at Goliath Books.
The divide between fact and propaganda is never so clear as in hindsight.
Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied landings in Northern France—and since most observances take the same form, we thought it would be a good opportunity to look at the event from a different angle by sharing something you might not see anywhere else. So above and below are some front and back covers of Signal, a German propaganda magazine printed from 1940 to 1945 and distributed in neutral, friendly, and occupied countries. These are from Yugoslavia, and their text is Croatian. Glancing at the images is to marvel at the always yawning chasm between propaganda and reality, for though Signal showed Hitler’s soldiers defeating foes while winning hearts and minds, when most of these were printed his army was not only the most hated entity in the Western world, but was already in the process of being fatally smashed in the crucible of a bitter Russian winter against a hardened foe that had always considered ice, snow, wind and frostbite its most important allies.
Once the other allies, led by the U.S., dragged the Germans into a two-front war, defeat was assured. That outcome could have been forestalled perhaps by the development of advanced technology, particularly a German atomic bomb, but it never quite happened. And yet under the direction of the Wehrmacht and Hasso von Wedel, winning imagery kept spinning from the web of German presses, depicting beautiful frauen cavorting in the homeland and smiling soldiers abroad doing the tough but necessary work of unifying Europe. But the intended recipients of these messages had begun to understand the truth—the Germans were finished, and the devastation they had wrought on foreign lands was coming home to roost. When bombs finally fell like rain on Berlin and enemy soldiers stormed the ramparts east and west, Hitler’s imagined 1,000-year Reich was over. It had lasted barely five years.
, World War II
, Adolf Hitler
, Hasso von Wedel
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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