Intl. Notebook | Politique Diabolique Dec 19 2014
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
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 principles 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. This world of secret parties, middle-aged male egos—and in this case a 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.


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Vintage Pulp Dec 19 2014
HITLER FOR THE HOLIDAYS
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. 
 

 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 11 2014
AMONG FRIENDS
Amis du Soleil makes nudism look like paradise on Earth. Now just wait until the guys show up to ruin it all.

Is it pulp? Of course it is, nos amis. There are countless mid-century novels about nudism. So, we couldn’t pass this up. It’s a special issue of the French nudist magazine Amis du soleil. This appeared around 1950, but the magazine went on for a long while, publishing hundreds of issues well into the late 1960s, so we’re told. We’re also told it was actually a satellite publication of Sonnenfreunde, which was the official publication of the German, Swiss and Austrian Nudist Federations. We’ve talked once or twice about how the Germans feel about this stuff, remember?

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Vintage Pulp Nov 5 2014
EEL FEELINGS
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.


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Sex Files Oct 25 2014
THE REICH APPROACH
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.

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Intl. Notebook Jun 6 2014
MIXED SIGNALS
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.

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Musiquarium May 27 2014
EASY BREEZY
Music for a Sommer day.

It’s pretty much a bylaw around here to occasionally feature Elke Sommer on the site, so above we have a collection of German record sleeves featuring one of that country’s greatest exports. While her beauty is timeless, her music isn’t, but it certainly is on trend for the period—i.e. a bit cheesy, a bit camp, such as her 1962 western ballad “Georgie.” Not our cup of tea, but if you want to hear it for yourself follow this link.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 13 2014
CRAZY KIND OF LOVE
A change of title helped turn an overlooked film into a revered classic.

Above, a West German promo pamphlet for Gefährliche Leidenschaft, which was the American thriller Gun Crazy. If you read German, then you know the German title means “Deadly Is the Female,” and that’s in fact what the film was called in the States upon its initial release. But after lackluster box office, King Brothers Productions changed the title and marketing campaign, and success followed. Today the movie is in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, an honor reserved for movies of special cultural, historic, or aesthetic significance. This pamphlet was made by Illustrierte Film-Bühne, and you can see more examples of that company’s work here and here. Gun Crazy premiered in the U.S. in 1950, and in West Germany today in 1951. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 12 2014
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
When it comes to suicide there’s nothing like the real thing.


It’s been a few months, so we’re bringing Hitler back on The National Police Gazette. This example from March 1951 is the twenty-first Hitler cover we’ve located, all of them from the 1950s and 1960s, which means he starred for the Gazette at least yearly for two decades. But of course, that’s just an average based on the issues we’ve found so far. We know for certain there were others, and ultimately we’ll probably determine that he was featured closer to twice a year. As you can see yourself, this time Gazette is concerned with Hitler’s fake suicide, which journo Harvey Wilson says was propaganda put out by the Soviets to cover for their failure to capture him as Berlin burned.

Leaving aside the question of who’s really doing the propagandizing here, it’s a clever little pivot by the Gazette, which went from merely claiming Hitler had escaped to blaming the escape on Moscow, resulting in a nifty mash-up of two of post-War America’s biggest boogeymen—Hitler and Khrushchev. Later the Gazette would claim Hitler or his henchmen were tight with other enemies of the American power elite, including Abdel Nasser and Juan Peron. One year after the above issue came out, Gazette turned around and in its May 1952 issue, at right, blamed Hitler’s escape on the Allies. And let's not forget the infamous Hitler-in-Antarctica story, truly one of the all-time creative highlights of mid-century tabloid journalism. Well, wherever Hitler fled, the Gazette’ll straighten it out for us in due time. We just have to keep digging up issues. Meanwhile, a couple of scans below, and more from the Gazette to come.


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Vintage Pulp Feb 18 2014
A HARD DAY'S NIGHTMARE
Have you ever had a terrible dream and couldn’t wake up?


This West German poster for Der Scharlatan, aka Nightmare Alley shows Twentieth Century Fox pretty boy Tyrone Power in his role as The Great Stanton, a conniving psychic. Power felt constricted by the romance and adventure parts he’d played up to that point, so he bought the rights to William Lindsay Gresham’s novel and dirtied himself up. He plays a lowly carnival barker who realizes that an ingenious verbal code is the key to reaching the heights of fame. The code allows a seer to work in tandem with an assistant to correctly answer the questions of spectators. You know the drill: “I’m sensing that there’s a Mr. Abernathy here and he’s... wait… it’s coming… Sir, you’re concerned about your wife’s health. Isn’t that right? Well let me tell you, she’s already on the mend. You’ll get good news from the doctor tomorrow!” Though the code’s owners aren’t using it, they plan to sell it to fund their retirement, and that looks to be some years off. This forces Power to either to steal it or sweet talk his way into it. As it turns out, he doesn’t have to do either, but once he has the code and has built an act around it, the fame and riches it brings fail to quench his greed.
 
Nightmare Alley was not warmly reviewed upon release, but many of those reviews simply found the movie too gritty. Such criticisms tend to make their authors look out of touch. For example, Bosley Crowther was demoted from his position as the New York Times’ main critic in large part for slamming Bonnie and Clyde in three separate articles, despite the film’s obvious quality. Nightmare Alley had similar detractors—it was just too downbeat for some, even for a film noir. But within its fictional milieu it's highly successful. Our world has every kind of depravityand cruelty, and movies that depict them must be judged on their own terms. So ignore the haters—Nightmare Alley is excellent. Power puts on an award-worthy performance, and Joan Blondell and Colleen Gray are great in support. There’s a pivotal moment in the film when it seems possible Power’s character has some actual psychic ability. Too bad he can’t see his own future. Nightmare Alley premiered in 1947, and finally made its way to West Germany today in 1954.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 19
1984—Britain Agrees to Cede Hong Kong
Great Britain signs over Hong Kong to China in an agreement stipulating that the colony be returned to the Chinese in 1997. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang, while political groups in Hong Kong push futilely for independence.
December 18
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
December 17
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.

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