They say even bad publicity is good publicity.
In this March 1957 issue of the tabloid Behind the Scene editors take swipes at assorted Hollywood icons, among them Yul Brenner, John Wayne, and others. Highlights include the allegation that Elvis Presley's career is mob controlled, that camera clubs are just fronts for porn peddlers, that Hedy Lamarr used Linda Lombard as a body double for Samson & Delilah, and that Lucrezia Borgia is the sexiest movie ever made. Also Mamie Van Doren's “secret weapon” is that anywhere she goes she always wears the least clothing of any woman present.
The shocking tales about Brynner have mainly to do with his claims of being a real life man of action, born on the Russian island of Sakhalin to Mongol ancestors. The truth was more mundane, but the lies helped Brynner establish himself as a star. As far as Elvis goes, he was dogged by rumors of Mafia ties later in his career, but this mention of a connection as far back as 1957 was a surprise to us. As always, people on both sides of the issue are willing to shout their version of the facts to the mountaintops, but nobody really knows who’s telling the truth. We’ll check with Elvis himself on this, since he lives just over in the next town since faking his death in 1977.
The interesting story here is the one about Gail Russell and John Wayne. Their acquaintanceship began when they starred in Angel and the Badman together in 1947, and continued when they reunited for Wake of the Red Witch in 1949. Whether they were more than just friends, nobody really knows. At the time Wayne was married to Esperanza Baur Díaz, and the relationship was marred by drinking and fighting, including one incident when Baur shot at Wayne. When the divorce inevitably came, it turned into one of the nastiest splits in years, with Baur accusing Wayne of being a violent drunk who beat her and fucked around with various women, including Russell, and Wayne accusing Baur of hanging around sleazy dive bars in Mexico, hooking up with strange men, and spending his money to entertain them.
The divorce was in 1953, but Behind the Scene, with this cover, is offering its readership dirt from an event that was still fresh in the public’s minds because it had been such a knock-down-drag-out spectacle. Russell had never weathered the limelight well, and she used booze to cope. Her long term drinking problem was exacerbated by the turbulence surrounding the Wayne-Baur split. Two weeks after the divorce she was arrested for drunk driving. It caused Paramount to decline renewing her contract, and she kind of floated around for a few years, trying to hook on with a new studio but drinking steadily all the while. In 1955 she crashed her car and fled the scene, and in early 1957 she drove though the plate glass windows of Jan’s Restaurant in Hollywood.
With hindsight, it’s clear Russell was in a death spiral, but in the Tinseltown of that day the situation was perhaps not so obvious. In August 1957, Russell was found unconscious in her home, passed out after a drinking binge. Even in Hollywood, she had now crossed the line from being merely a party girl to having a problem. She was persuaded to join AA, but couldn't stop drinking, and in August 1961 was found in her L.A. apartment, having died from liver damage, aged 36, another beautiful star that flamed out. All that and more, in thirty-plus scans below.
It’s got tough spies, fast cars, big boats, dangerous women and great scenery. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s amazing how awful and ineffectual 1960s anti-drug movies were. Massimo Mida’s spy caper LSD—Una atomica nel cervello, aka LSD—Inferno per pochi dollari, aka LSD—Flesh of the Devil, falls into that category. It isn’t quite Reefer Madness silly, but it comes close, with an unintentionally hilarious opener featuring a child blowing up two men with a toy car, then using a blowgun to take down a third who runs so slowly he might as well have canoes for feet. That bit is followed later in the film by giggly, spastic, tearful acid trip sequences put together by someone who maybe listened to Surrealistic Pillow but never actually tried drugs. Mida created the moniker Mike Middleton for his directorial credit, and we have to wonder if he was afraid having his real name attached to the film would shame his family. What saves the movie is that it’s got a touch of that ineffable Italian style, numerous location set-ups along the Lake Como shoreline, and plenty of the beautiful Franca Polesello, who you see below. There are worse ways to spend ninety minutes, but this feature is mainly for Italophiles and those with Mystery Science Theater 3000 wit. Others may want to steer clear. At least the poster art, by Moroni (first), and Diovano (second) is great. LSD—Una atomica nel cervello premiered in Italy today in 1967.