Film noir with an Irish accent.
Odd Man Out, for which you see the promo poster above, is a beautifully shot thriller about a group of Irish political separatists who rob a mill in order to help finance their organization. The group is obviously based on the Irish Republican Army, whose actions helped fuel the Troubles—that period of violence that engulfed Ireland mainly during the 1960s The film takes no sides, at least not overtly, while presenting the separatists as fully realized, complex human beings. Needless to say, a movie of this depth and thoughtfulness would never be made today on the subject of terrorists. James Mason is the titular odd man out, the leader of the gang who's left behind after the robbery and must somehow survive alone, wounded and sick, as the police close in. The bad luck, deceptions and palpable sense of doom are standard for film noir, but what isn't is the location work in the backstreets of Belfast. The screen grabs below are all from around the forty minute mark, and their deep shadows, angular light, and inky blacks show how much planning and effort director Carol Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker put into making the film visually perfect. We doubt it's the most exciting motion picture ever made, as claimed on the poster, but we recommend it. Odd Man Out premiered in the UK in January 1947 and opened in the U.S. today the same year.
They say the truth sets you free, but a Jaguar roadster helps quite a bit too.
A great title cannot go unborrowed forever. The Fast and the Furious would be a good name for a film noir, a war movie, or even a romantic melodrama (young and restless, anyone?). So it was a good fit for the action franchise starring Vin Diesel. But it was first used for a little crime drama released today in 1955 starring John Ireland and Dorothy Malone. In the film, Ireland, who's been framed for murder, breaks out of jail, takes Malone hostage in her convertible Jaguar XK 120 roadster, and enters a cross-border road race hoping to get into Mexico. That's a killer concept for an action movie, but this is American International Pictures, which means it's done low budget, with lots of projection efx and stock footage in the action scenes, and minimal work on the script. But while the movie isn't great, it's certainly suitable as a Saturday night popcorn muncher. Invite witty friends, enjoy the cars, laugh at the repartee, and marvel over Dorothy Malone.
Peggy Cummins hit Hollywood with guns blazing.
According to a story yesterday in The Hollywood Reporter, Wales born Irish actress Peggy Cummins died in a London hospital December 29 after suffering a stroke. She was ninety-two years old. Cummins, who was born Augusta Fuller, played the morality challenged Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy, a low budget film noir that rose above its humble station over the decades to eventually be included in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. While the film is often characterized as a breakthrough fro Cummins, it was actually her eleventh screen role, and did not lead to a career of top notch offers. However, she ultimately appeared in more than twenty-five productions, with her last coming in 1965. The above photo was made a promo for Gun Crazy and dates from 1950. You can read more about the film here.
Wait, wait, wait! Why don't we settle this like real men? By blaming the woman!
Howard Baker, born Arthur William Baker, is an Irish author sometimes referred to as W. Howard Baker, and who also wrote as Peter Saxon, William Arthur, W.A. Ballinger, and Richard Williams. The Big Steal involves a typical cast of misfit thieves trying to make off with a cache of gold bullion from Heathrow Airport, mixed with a plot thread about a killer on the loose. Baker also wrote war fiction, sci-fi and supernatural tales. The great cover art for the 1964 Mayflower Dell paperback you see here was painted by Peff, aka Sam Peffer.
How I got here is a long story. It starts with me not knowing how “penile” is spelled.
Above, the cover of Penal Colony, written for Ace Books by Robert S. Close, 1957. The story was inspired by real life Irish convict Elizabeth Callaghan, who in the 1820s was sentenced to the incredibly harsh sentence of death for forgery, then had the sentence commuted and was shipped off to colonize Australia along with one hundred other criminals. She stayed in trouble most of her life and was finally stomped to death in a barroom brawl in 1852 in Geelong. This “lusty” novel is, of course, only loosely based on fact, which is good, because what a downer that'd be. Cover art by uncredited.
She may not be a champion of the ring, but she’s a winner just the same.
This photo of Elsie Connor looked to us as if it had been Photoshopped in a very interesting way but it wasn’t—we found a version on Getty Images and it was identical to what you see above. The image and the fact that she’s identified as an Irish boxing champion on various websites made us curious about her career, but after a bit of digging we discovered that she was actually a dancer and chorus girl, and appeared in the 1930 musical Earl Carroll's Sketch Book, the 1929 shows Fioretta and Earl Carroll’s Vanities, and the 1928 production Here’s Howe. That’s a pretty short career, and one that lacked any starring roles, but thanks to the internet she’s famous again, looking like a real world beater. The only thing is, we doubt she was ever a boxer. We can’t be 100% sure, but with no evidence that she ever stepped into a ring, as well as a very clear understanding of how often the world wide web is world wide wrong, we suspect this is just a very, er, striking publicity photo. It dates from 1931.
Some decisions don’t need explaining.
Top Secret packs several top celebs onto the cover of this issue published today in 1958, but gives center position to the relatively unknown Elsa Sorensen, the 1955 Miss Denmark referred to here as “that nude model.” Sorensen was indeed a nude model—she was a 1956 Playboy centerfold under her own name, and afterward continued to model nude as Dane Arden. Top Secret editors claim to know why multi-million-selling pop singer Guy Mitchell married her, but we don’t need their help to figure that out. See below:
The magazine also spins the tale of how the calypso/caribbean themed NYC club the African Room sued Eartha Kitt for more than $200,000. Allegedly, one night while Kitt and some friends were in attendance to see house act Johnny Barracuda, aka the King of Calypso, she flew into a rage, poured Champagne on patrons, shattered glassware, and kneed one of the owners—an ex-homicide dick named Harold Kanter—in the gonads. The lawsuit claimed Kitt shouted, “This is nothing but a clip joint! You are nothing but thieves!” Supposedly, this was all over a $137.00 bar bill. In case you’re wondering, that’s about $1,100 in today’s money.
Kitt’s side of the story was simply that her group ordered three or four splits (mini-bottles) of champagne—though none for her, as she never drank alcohol—and when presented with an exorbitant tab asked for an itemized bill, only to be met with major static. We’re siding with Kitt on this one, since Kanter, who somehow had enough money to leave the police force and buy a share of the African Room three years earlier at age twenty-five, had already been busted for watering down his liquor, then trying to bribe his way out of trouble. Kitt said succinctly of the episode, “To me a $137 bill was preposterous. I asked for the bill so I could have it sent to my office. They would not give it to me. That’s all there is to the whole story.”
And that’s all there is from Top Secret today, except to say that for us the most interesting part of the Kitt saga—aside from the tantalizing allegation by Kanter that she “disported herself onstage in a lewd and suggestive manner”—is the fact that she’s pasted-up on the mag’s cover with Sidney Poitier, when in fact her date at the African Room that night was Canadian actor John Ireland. Poitier was nowhere in sight. We'd love to know why Top Secret tried to drag him in, however obliquely, but we're not counting on ever getting the answer. When you dig through the past, unanswered questions are not the exception, but rather the rule.
Her infrastructure needs no upgrade whatsoever.
Above, Irish born actress Angela Greene, who appeared in movies but really made her career as a television actress during the 1950s and 1960s. This image is most likely from around 1947 or 1948.
Irish rock formation believed by some to be image of Jesus.
Every few weeks like clockwork, someone claims they’ve seen an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, and if it’s a slow press day and the art is good enough, the sighting goes viral. Our favorite examples of these, by far, are the astounding Griddle Virgin™ of May 2009, which narrowly edges the miraculous Connecticut Calf born in December of the same year. And what the hell, as long as we’re dispensing kudos, let’s not forget the uncanny, two-headed El-ganzoury calf born in Egypt in 2010. However, yesterday’s sighting of Jesus on the side of the Cliffs of Moher in Clare County, Ireland, has all the hallmarks of a frontrunner. After American tourist Sandra Clifford snapped the above image during an aerial sightseeing tour, she declared, “To me it was Jesus Christ straightaway.” Which leads us to ask, rather inconveniently we suspect, “How do you know what he looked like?” In every other Jesus sighting of which we’ve heard, identification was helped by the fact that the image wore robes, or a cowl, or maybe even a crown of thorns. But to declare that the vaguely simian rock formation above is Jesus strikes us as overreaching a bit. And if it is him, we’re worried that he manifested in a place where only people who can afford sightseeing flights can see him. That doesn’t seem like a very Christ-like move. But then we breathed a sigh of relief, because we finally realized the image in the Moher rocks isn’t Jesus—it’s Jesus Christ Superstar, as played by actor Ted Neeley in the 1973 blockbuster musical. It’s all just a run-of-the-mill case of mistaken identity.
Vadim explores the dark in his gothic vampire flick.
If this looks like a poster for some sort of gothic lesbian vampire romance, well, you should start up your own psychic friends network, because you’re right. Alternatively, maybe you aren’t psychic, and this is just extremely successful promo art. Directed by Roger Vadim, Il sangue e la rosa is loosely based upon Irish author Sheridan LeFanu’s classic tale Carmilla, which appeared in his 1872 anthology In a Glass Darkly. Vadim’s adaptation was originally released in France under the title Et mourir de plaisir, but later renamed and paired with the fantastic art you see above. It premiered in Italy in… well, if you’re psychic you already know.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
In Detective Comics #27, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero, Batman, who becomes one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and then a popular camp television series starring Adam West, and lastly a multi-million dollar movie franchise starring Michael Keaton, then George Clooney, and finally Christian Bale.
1953—Crick and Watson Publish DNA Results
British scientists James D Watson and Francis Crick publish an article detailing their discovery of the existence and structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in Nature magazine. Their findings answer one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of biology, that of how living things reproduce themselves.
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
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.
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