Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Dec 13 2010
YACHT IN THE ACT
You better be ready when your ship comes in.

This December 1955 cover of Inside asks why Hollywood fears Louella Parsons. And the answer is because Parsons was at the time arguably the most important tastemaker in the world. Louella Parsons, née Luella Rose Oettinger, was the first person to write a true gossip column, beginning in 1914 when she worked for the Chicago Record Herald. Later, publisher William Randolph Hearst gave her a column in the Los Angeles Examiner that was eventually syndicated to 600 papers worldwide, which amounted to a readership of about twenty million people. She considered herself Hollywood’s moral watchdog and didn’t think twice about damaging the careers of celebrities she believed had behaved badly. She was also the gatekeeper of success for aspiring starlets—a few negative words in her column and a lifetime’s dream was shattered. The irony of all this self-righteousness is that she may have earned her column as a reward for helping cover up a killing.

The story goes that powerful publisher William Randolph Hearst either accidentally or intentionally shot producer Thomas Ince in the head while cruising with Ince, Hopper, and other guests on his 200-foot yacht the Oneida. While it’s impossible to say if this is true, it’s interesting that the guests on Hearst’s boat all had wildly different stories about what happened. Several, including Charlie Chaplin, denied ever being on the cruise, a claim that was contradicted by other guests. Hearst’s papers went the opposite route, reporting in unison that it was Ince who had never been on the boat. Instead, they claimed he died of a heart attack on Hearst’s ranch in San Simeon. Later the story was revised—he had been on the boat, but had taken ill, left for Los Angeles by train, and died en route. By legal standards, it would be impossible to prove a cover-up took place. But by the lesser standards of plain logic, there’s no doubt that when a guy gets sick and has to leave a boat, people don’t fall over themselves making up conflicting stories about what happened.

The aftermath of the incident was just as curious. Ince’s widow refused to allow an autopsy and had her husband immediately cremated. Hearst then set her up with a trust fund and she left for Europe, never to return. It was also around then that Hearst gave Parsons was a contract to be a columnist for his influential Examiner newspaper. All these gifts were, at the very least, cases of extremely suspicious timing, but Ince’s death was never seriously investigated. A token police inquiry predictably turned up nothing, and all the lies were papered over. Louella Parsons didn’t squander her Devil’s bargain—if indeed that’s what it was. From her post at the Examiner she ruled Hollywood for thirty years, a moral arbiter who in all likelihood had a secret in her past that dwarfed any of those she revealed in her column. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 2 2010
RENO 911
Don’t let the sun go down on me.

Above, a Japanese poster for the 1966 western Johnny Reno, starring Dana Andrews, Jane Russell, and Lon Chaney, Jr. 

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Sportswire Jul 26 2010
FIGHT CLUB
Keep their heads ringing.

Above is another boxing-themed issue of The National Police Gazette, from July 1950, with cover stars Jack Dempsey, Joey Maxim, Eddie Cantor, Jane Russell, and Ralph Kiner, along with calendar girl Patty Fredericks. For the record, Joey Maxim was a good fighter, but his manager Jack Kearns was never able to make him into a new version of Jack Dempsey, as he promised. And Ralph Kiner, who had hit 50-plus homers in 1947 and 1949, did not break babe Ruth’s single season home run record, though he was not shy about discussing the possibility. 

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Hollywoodland Jun 5 2010
PRIVATE EYES
The lives of others.

Today we have a new entry for our collection of mid-century tabloids—Private Lives, published forty-five years ago this month, with a strikingly bright cover starring Jane Russell, and an accompanying article about aquatic sex timed to take advantage of her role in Underwater. Every tabloid had its visual gimmicks, and Private Lives began with the motif you see here of a black and white face floating on a Technicolor background. By the end of 1955 it had abandoned this look for a fuller color palette, but this older design is much more appealing, in our view. We’ll keep hunting for more of these.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 20 2010
DAS KAPITAL
Maybe we’d understand the principal if we spoke the language.

We have no idea what’s going on in this 1950 issue of the West German magazine Das Ronke because German is not one of our languages. What are major stars doing paired with various automobile brands? Nein idea. Are they ads? Possibly. We’ve seen American stars used in foreign ads before. But ads imply legitimacy, so why are there naked women in the magazine? We ask because you would think, especially in 1950, no Hollywood actress would wish to be associated with a smut publication, especially one that has broken the magical pubic hair rule that at the time defined obscenity. It’s all destined to remain a mystery to us until we find ourselves a German somewhere. We’ll try the nearest pub and get back to you on this later. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 17 2010
CARIBBEAN QUEEN
Swimming the same deep water as you.

Every once in a while we come across a piece of art so amazing we have to post it rotated in order to ensure that it’s viewable at the largest possible size. In this case, it’s a Japanese promo poster for Jane Russell’s widescreen adventure Underwater!, in which Jane dives in the Caribbean for lost bars of gold, tries on a Cuban accent (which doesn’t fit at all), but wears a red one-piece swimsuit (that conversely, fits quite nicely). The film was the brainchild of Howard Hughes, who specialized in thinking of ways to show off Russell’s breasts. We can only assume he shot bolt upright in bed late one night and cried, “Eureka! I’ll make them float!” He succeeded wildly, but in terms of time and treasure he may have gotten in deeper than he planned, since the film took three years and cost three million dollars. And for all that effort what you get is mostly pretty dull. But if you happen to love Jane Russell, or are particularly adept at suspension of disbelief, then by all means give this one a go. For all its flaws, we must confess we liked it. In addition to the Japanese art, we have below a color 1955 magazine ad, borrowed from Ebay and also apparently exceedingly rare. Underwater! premiered in Japan today in 1955. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 15 2009
BLONDE AMBITION
Their eyes were watching bod.

We love this cover for Anita Loos’ 1925 novel of ambition and materialism Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Brilliantly rendered by Earle Bergey, the so-called gentlemen here are leering caricatures evincing monstrous thirst for the beautiful young blonde. The book became a bestseller, and twenty-three years later a film with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. The book’s cover image helped establish Bergey’s reputation as an illustrator without peer, and more than eighty years later it’s one of the most common pulp images on the internet. As a bonus we’ve posted one of his Gay Book Magazine covers below, and you can see it sports an identical motif. In addition, below that, we have the American poster for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, because the film opened in the U.S. today in 1958. We’ll post more Bergey art later, and also talk about Anita Loos, who lived a turbulent, thoroughly pulp-worthy life.

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Hollywoodland Jan 26 2009
FILM FESTIVAL
Every star who mattered made an appearance.

Assorted Festival magazines, published in France, circa 1940s, 1950s. Cover stars from top left are: Arlette Poirier, Susan Hayward, Yvonne de Carlo, Magali Noel, Jaqueline Brion, Alida Valli, Jane Russell, Victoria Shaw, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Bates, Marilyn Monroe, Micheline Francey, and Barbara Stanwyck.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
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