He hasn’t taken revenge for his friend the leopard yet, but soon… very soon…
Back in the day, one sure ticket into the movie business was to be a star athlete, which is exactly how Anita Lhoest was noticed by Hollywood. After she became the U.S. national 100 meter and 400 meter freestyle champion the producers came knocking. But in the end she made only one movie—Captive Girl—in which she played opposite another former champion athlete Johnny Weissmuller. The photo above is a promo for Captive Girl, with Lhoest aged nineteen. It dates from 1950.
The Goddess of Fire goes to Hollywood.
Some treasures are more valuable than others, and for us this issue of the African-American tabloid Sepia published this month in 1954 is one of the better jewels we’ve unearthed. The word “sepia” was used back then as a supposedly hip alternative to "negro," and you may have noticed it in some of the mid-century tabloid pages we’ve posted. The cover star, actress Vera Francis, is referred to as the Goddess of Fire because of her popular calypso act. Francis had become famous first as a Boston model, then made the leap to Hollywood actress, scoring a bit role in 1953’s The President’s Lady (though she's not cited in its IMDB entry, we noticed). She later scored a larger role opposite Johnny Weissmuller in 1955’s Devil Goddess. The Sepia interview discusses her decision to focus on her singing career because film work—which by the way, she reveals paid $125 a day—was very difficult to come by. In the most circumspect fashion, the profile does not hint at the embedded racism of Hollywood that severely limited roles for black women. That isn’t a surprise. The power and allure of Hollywood was such that few would dare to point out its shortcomings—at least if they hoped to work again. Besides the stunning cover (which we’d definitely consider framing if we had a hi-rez canvas print of it) we have four more pages of Vera Francis, plus a centerfold featuring model Maria Piñeda, and as a bonus we even uncovered a promo photo from Devil Goddess. All below.
His casa es su casa.
Above, a 1939 program for legendary Broadway showman Billy Rose’s extravaganza Aquacade, and four late-1930s programs from Casa Mañana. The Aquacade was a music, dance and swimming show that began in 1937 at the Great Lakes Exposition, later moved to New York City, and featured notables like Duke Ellington, Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams. Casa Mañana was a club Rose opened in Fort Worth, Texas in 1936. Built specifically to host his aquatic productions, the venue contained a revolving stage surrounded by a moat. So many landmark mid-century clubs have met the wrecking ball, but Casa Mañana still exists today, though the original stage is gone.
Me Tarzan, you lame.
Cover of the French tele-novel Jungle Film, with Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan demonstrating to an acquaintance how his new anti-perspirant keeps him dry and odor-free even in the fierce jungle heat.
Johnny Weissmuller brought Tarzan to life seventy-five years ago today.
This is one of the most beautiful posters we’ve ever seen. Based on the fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan the Ape Man was the first offering in a film and television franchise that has been sixty-plus years running. It has taken forms as diverse as Bo Derek’s teasingly awful 1981 softcore remake, Jock Mahoney’s 1962 potboiler Tarzan Goes to India, and Casper Van Diem’s 1998 career-killer Tarzan and the Lost City. None of these would have been possible without the original Tarzan, and that film worked for one reason—Romanian-born hunk Johnny Weissmuller. He was not an actor trying to fit the role of a superman, but a superman trying to fit the role of an actor. He was a six foot three inch Olympic swimmer who won 67 world and 52 national titles, and whose physicality radiated from the movie screen. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to ride his vine. Tarzan the Ape Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1934.
, Tarzan the Ape Man
, Edgar Rice Burroughs
, Johnny Weissmuller
, Maureen O’Sullivan
, Neil Hamilton
, Bo Derek
, Casper Van Diem
, poster art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1949—Soviet Union Joins Nuclear Club
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon at a test site in Kazakhstan. American experts are shocked and dismayed because they had thought the Soviets were still years away from having a workable bomb. The resultant fear helps trigger an arms race that would see the Americans and Soviets stockpile approximately 32,000 and 45,000 nuclear devices.
1963—King Gives Famous Speech
In the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., at the culmination of his march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gives his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," advocating racial harmony and equality.
1981—Scientists Announce Existence of New Disease
The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi's sarcoma in gay men. These illnesses are later recognized as symptoms of a blood-borne immune disorder, which they name AIDS. The disease is initially thought to have developed in the late 1970s among gay populations, but scientists now know it developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s in Africa during the height of European conquest of the continent.
1975—Haile Selassie I Dies
Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of the Kingdom of Ethiopia, dies of respiratory failure. Selassie was most famous for his landmark speech before the League of Nations in 1936, in which he pleaded for help against an Italian invasion, but to no avail. He warned that fascist aggression would not end with Ethiopia. His words, "It is us today; it will be you tomorrow," turn out to be prophetic when Germany's fascists later spark World War II.
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