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.
1920—Negro National Baseball League Debuts
The first game of Negro National League baseball
is played in Indianapolis, Indiana. The league, one of several that would be formed, was composed of The Chicago American Giants, The Detroit Stars, The Kansas City Monarchs, The Indianapolis ABCs, The St. Louis Giants, The Cuban Stars, The Dayton Marcos, and The Chicago Giants.
1955—Williams Wins Pulitzer
American playwright Tennessee Williams wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his controversial play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which tells the story of a southern family in crisis, explicitly deals with alcoholism, and contains a veiled subtext concerning homosexuality in southern society. In 1958 the play becomes a motion picture starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.
1945—Germany Announces Hitler's Death
German radio in Hamburg announces that Adolf Hitler was killed in Berlin, stating specifically that he had fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany. But in truth Hitler had committed suicide along with his mistress Eva Braun, and both bodies were immediately thereafter burned.
1960—Powers Is Shot Down over U.S.S.R.
Francis Gary Powers, flying in a Lockheed U-2 spy plane, is shot down over the Soviet Union. The U.S. denies the plane's purpose and mission, but is later forced to admit its role as a covert surveillance aircraft when the Soviet government produces its remains and reveals Powers, who had survived the shoot down. The incident triggers a major diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
1927—First Prints Are Left at Grauman's
Hollywood power couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who co-founded the movie studio United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, become the first celebrities to leave their impressions in concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, located along the stretch where the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame would later be established.
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