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.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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