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.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
1953—Watson and Crick Unravel DNA
American biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick tell their friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. The formal announcement takes place in April following publication in Nature magazine. In 1968, Watson writes The Double Helix, a non-fiction account of not only the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the work.
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