Hollywoodland Jun 19 2013
CIRO HOUR
Everybody who was anybody was there.

This photo made today in 1954 shows American singer/actress Abbe Lane posing outside Ciro’s nightclub in West Hollywood, California. Lane had begun in show business as a child actress, but became world famous after she married bandleader Xavier Cugat and began fronting his group as a singer. Although this is a famous photo, one you can find elsewhere on the internet, we thought it was worth posting anyway, not just because of Lane, but because supper clubs like Ciro’s really don’t exist anymore. Ciro’s, which by the way was unrelated to the many famous Ciro’s that existed in Europe during the Jazz Age, from its opening in 1940 to its closing in 1957 was a favorite spot of screen personalities, singers, producers, and writers, a place where the night’s meet-ups and trysts were reported in the next day’s gossip columns. Below you see Lane and Cugat, Charlie Chaplin with Paulette Goddard, Lane onstage fronting Cugat’s rumba band, Cary Grant with Betsy Drake, Lucille Ball with Desi Arnaz, Jr., and others. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 9 2013
CHAMBRE DU SECRETS
Everybody loves Raymond’s art.

We’ve mentioned artist and fashion designer Raymond Brenot, aka Pierre-Laurent Brenot a couple of times before in relation to the French magazine V. This is the first time we’ve seen his work on a book cover. It’s a copy of Journal d'une chambre de femme by Jean-Albert Foëx, and it was published by E.D.I.C.A. in 1958 as part of their Collection Le Mauvais Oeil, or Evil Eye Collection. Brenot’s cool cover also wraps onto the rear of the book, as you can see below.

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Hollywoodland Apr 22 2013
BACALLING ARGENTINA
Reports of her retirement were greatly exaggerated.

Here’s an interesting little item we found on an auction site. It’s a copy of the Argentine film magazine Mundo Argentino with Lauren Bacall, née Betty Joan Perske on the cover. The inset text reads, “Lauren Bacall says goodbye forever to Hollywood,” and while she did disappear from films for four years, she returned in 1963 and has continued acting all the way up until 2012 so far. This cover appeared today in 1959. 

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Femmes Fatales Jan 19 2013
LAUREN'Z CURVES
For a good time, Bacall.

Above, a 1945 promo shot of a midriff baring Lauren Bacall looking ready to make some mischief. The photo was made for the film To Have and Have Not, from the same sessions that produced these images. Lorenz curves, by the way, describe inequality in wealth or size. We think Bacall is inequitably beautiful here.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 16 2013
ANNIE GET YOUR PANTS
One fashion that never goes out of style is Belle bottom.

Above, an exceedingly rare Japanese poster of French actress Annie Belle, née Annie Brilland, promoting her role in the 1976 Italian erotic drama Laure. Belle made about thirty films, mostly in Italy, and today is a social worker. We have another poster of similar style we’ll try to get up later. 

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Hollywoodland Nov 27 2012
TO HAVE AND HAVE MORE
Sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss.

The above promo shot was made for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s 1944 thriller To Have and Have Not, in which he played a cynical boat captain and she played a tough girl with a heart ready to be given to the right man. It was set in French Martinique, and it’s one of our favorite old movies. Certainly not in the same league as Casablanca, which is the phenomenon it was trying to recreate, yet it was faster, funnier, and far less grandiose, all of which work in its favor. Haven’t seen it? Rent it. Or better yet—in the spirit of Bogart’s rum running character Capt. Harry Morgan—pirate it. Arrr.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 13 2012
V, VOIR, VOILA
Whatever it was called, we love it.

More from France today with V magazine of winter 1965. This particular issue, in the masthead in extremely small print, reveals that V is short for Voilà. Other issues we have do not mention that, so it’s news to us, and probably to many other people as well, especially because we shared an issue a while back that clearly says on the cover “Supplement au No. 445 de Voir Magazine.” So it is Voilà, Voir, or just V? To tell the truth, we wondered in the past if the 1950s V was the same as the earlier magazine that published through the ’40s, but it was. The publisher, editor, and even the street address changed, but we’ve seen an issue from 1949 that shows an unmistakable visual transition between the two versions. If indeed the magazine was ever actually called Voilà, or Voir, the full name never appeared on the cover, as far as we know. Speaking of covers, this one was painted by Raymond Brenot, aka Pierre-Laurent Brenot, who was both an artist and a successful fashion designer, and he joined a special fraternity of brilliant V cover artists such as René Caille, Jean David, and Georges Pichard. The interior illustrations are from Brenot, Pichard, Le Gano, Renoir and others. Plus there are photos of Margaret Lee, Catherine Frank, Mara Berni, Liten Østern, dancer Sonia Vareuil, et.al. Generally, the more a magazine costs us the more pages we scan, just so we can feel like we got our money’s worth. This one was ten euros, so below are more than thirty images for your enjoyment.

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Vintage Pulp May 29 2012
REVOLUTIONARY NOIR
Only the good go to sleep at night.


The French coined the term film noir, so it seems only fitting to feature a collection of French posters celebrating the genre. Above and below are fifteen examples promoting films noir from France, Britain, and the U.S., representing some of the best ever produced within the art form, as well as some less celebrated examples that we happen to love. Of those, we highly recommend seeing Le salaire de la peur, for which you see the poster above, and Ride the Pink Horse, below, which played as Et tournent les chevaux de bois in France. Just a word about those films (and feel free to skip ahead to the art, because really, who has time these days to listen to a couple of anonymous internet scribes ramble on about old movies?).
 
1953’s Le salaire de la peur is about a group of men stranded in an oil company town in the mountains of South America. In order to earn the wages to get out, four of them agree to drive two trucks filled with nitroglycerine over many miles of dangerous terrain. The idea is to use the chemicals to put out a raging oil well fire that is consuming company profits by the second, but of course the film is really about whether the men can even get there alive. Le salaire de la peur was critically praised when released in Europe, but in the U.S., political factions raised their ugly heads and got censors to crudely re-edit the prints so as to reduce the movie’s anti-capitalist (and by extension anti-American) subtext. The movie was later remade by Hollywood twice—once in 1958 as Hell’s Highway, and again in 1977 as Sorcerer. The original is by far the best.

1947’s Ride the Pink Horse is an obscure noir, but a quintessential one, in our opinion. If many noirs feature embittered World War II vets as their anti-heroes, Robert Montgomery’s Lucky Gagin is the bitterest of them all. He arrives in a New Mexico border town on a quest to avenge the death of a friend. The plot is thin—or perhaps stripped down would be a better description—but Robert Montgomery’s atmospheric direction makes up for that. Like a lot of mid-century films featuring ethnic characters, the most important one is played by a white actor (Wanda Hendrix, in a coating of what looks like brown shoe polish). It's racist, for sure, but within the universe of the film Lucky Gagin sees everyone around him only as obstacles or allies—i.e., equals within his own distinct worldview. So that makes up for it. Or maybe not. In any case, we think Ride the Pink Horse is worth a look. Fourteen more posters below. 
 

 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 7 2011
STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO
Dark Passage is the least thrilling of Bogie and Bacall’s three collaborations, but it’s still a worthy film noir.

Humphrey Bogart rose to unparalleled heights as a mid-century movie star, but even he has a few films that could be considered underappreciated. 1947’s Dark Passage probably fits the bill. It’s a polarizing movie, long admired by critics and noir aficionados, but off-putting to casual cinema fans. The first hour is shot from first person perspective, which means we don’t see Bogart at all except when he happens to pass by a mirror. What we glimpse when he does is a head wrapped in bandages, for he has gone under the plastic surgeon’s knife in an effort to change his identity and elude the law. Assisting him in his desperate plan is Lauren Bacall, who dazzled with Bogie in To Have and Have Not and Key Largo. Unfortunately, the romantic sparks don’t quite fly between the real life spouses here the way they did in those collaborations but, as constructed, perhaps that was never the intention. Just the same, we recommend Dark Passage for its taut atmosphere and clever camera work. Plus, for the historically oriented, a bonus is a detailed look at post-WWII San Francisco, beautifully shot by director Delmer Daves and cinematographer Sidney Hickox. Above you see the movie’s French promo art, created for its release as Les passagers de la nuit today in 1948. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 1 2011
SO VERY V
V employed three of the most talented but least-known pin-up artists of the pulp era.

The French magazine V is probably one of the most visually pleasing and collectible periodicals ever published. The early issues featured photo-illustrations of movie stars, but starting in the 1950s V began to showcase provocative pin-up style cover paintings from a succession of three artists—Georges Pichard, René Caille and Jean David. All were geniuses; none are well known outside collectors circles and France, where they lived and worked. But popularity is never a true measure of value—Pichard, Caille and David Vs can go at auction for thirty, forty, or even fifty dollars. We've seen them listed for even more, though those went unsold as far as we can tell. Vs with Pierre-Laurent Brenot covers are also highly regarded. This one, V Sélections 57, with a Pichard cover and Brigitte Bardot, Christine Carère and Marilyn Monroe inside, dates from winter 1957. We have a couple more of these we’ll share in their entirety as soon as we get in the mood to do the scanning. Meantime see some 1940s V covers here and here

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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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