Hey ho! Hey ho! Huston and Ferrer must go!
Today in 1952 protestors comprising members of the 17th District American Legion Un-American Activities Committee demonstrate outside the Fox Wilshire Theater in Los Angeles against director John Huston and actor José Ferrer, whose new film Moulin Rouge was premiering that night. Why was the American Legion pissed? Basically because in 1947 Huston helped form the Committee for the First Amendment to protest the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings (HUAC), and because Ferrer was a liberal. The anti-communist hysteria was in full swing at this point, and more than five-hundred names had been added to anti-communist blacklists.
Today there are numerous HUAC apologists, and their arguments boil down to nothing more than: “But there were communists in Hollywood!” Certainly that was true, but U.S. government incompetence and opportunism destroyed many more innocent people than communist spies were ever caught. A moral effort in crime fighting never hurts more innocent people than criminals. When it does, history laterlabels such periods tyranny. HUAC has been labeled exactly thus, an assessment that is extremely unlikely to change. And of course, it’s worth pointing out that being a communist was not equivalent to being a spy, nor was it a criminal offense. At least not yet—two years later President Dwight D. Eisenhower made communism illegal in the U.S. with the Communist Control Act.
, Fox Wilshire Theatre
, Committee for the First Amendment
, Communist Control Act
, American Legion
, Moulin Rouge
, John Huston
, José Ferrer
, Dwight D. Eisenhower
Too bad the character’s good fortune didn’t extend into the CBS executive suite.
Mr. Lucky by Albert Conroy, aka Marvin H. Albert, has nice wraparound art, and the back cover, featuring an unlucky black cat, completes an excellent illustration by Mort Engle. This was actually the novelization of a 1959 Blake Edwards television series of the same name about a gambler who runs a casino on his yacht the Fortuna II, which is anchored off Los Angeles, but beyond the three-mile limit in international waters. In the book he’s framed for murder; in the series he and his sidekick Andamo have assorted wacky adventures, both on the boat and on land, often involving mobsters. The show starred John Vinyan and Ross Martin, and ran for thirty-four episodes—just one season. It was actually quite popular with viewers, but CBS cancelled it anyway. Vinyan said he thought it was done as a favor to Jack Benny to free the time slot for Checkmate, which was made by Benny’s production company. After the axe fell Blake Edwards tried to develop Mr. Lucky as a movie, and it’s possible Conroy’s 1960 novel had something to do with that. That part of the story is murky, but we’ll see if we can dig up a bit more. Los Angeles
, Albert Conroy
, Marvin H. Albert
, Mort Engle
, John Vinyan
, Ross Martin
, Blake Edwards
, Jack Benny
, cover art
But a good photo for Ferdie.
A police lieutenant named R.W. Lauritzen and a cop named Reggie Floyd eye L.L. Hardwick, found murdered in a littered vacant lot in Los Angeles. Hardwicke's car sits in the background, with its passenger door open. Note also the bystanders behind the cop. On the whole it's an unusually interesting candid shot, an instant of time from a day long past, but which remains vivid thanks to the skill of Los Angeles Examiner photographer Ferdie Olmo. That was today in 1960.
Lili shows L.A. County who's boss.
We decided to come full circle with Lili St. Cyr. We talked about her famed court case here, showed her on the witness stand here, and mentioned that she beat the rap. You see her above celebrating the not-guilty verdict at the courthouse along with husband Orlando Orsini and mouthpiece Jerry Giesler. Lili walked today in 1951.
Nobody can keep up with this Jones.
We talked about Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold a few weeks ago. The above poster was made for the Japanese run of its progenitor Cleopatra Jones, which is superior to the fairly decent sequel in every aspect except budget. Tamara Dobson was a globetrotting James Bond type in Casino of Gold, but here she stars in a somewhat grittier story centered around an attack on a Los Angeles halfway house she owns, which occurred in retaliation for her burning a drug lord's poppy field in far away Turkey. Shelley Winters grandiosely overacts as the villain, but she's fun in a role that requires her to dominate lots of tough henchmen, only to be inevitably slapped around and killed by Dobson in the climax. Other players include Bernie Casey, Esther Rolle, and the lovely Brenda Sykes. Dobson had appeared in two previous films, but Cleopatra Jones made the ex-model a star. There were not many lead roles at the time for heroic women, and few roles of any sort for Dobson once the blaxploitation wave passed. As a result she graced the silver screen too few times. But Cleopatra Jones is a nice showcase of her ability as an action icon. Its Japanese premiere was today in 1973. Japan
, Los Angeles
, Cleopatra Jones
, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold
, Tamara Dobson
, Shelley Winters
, Brenda Sykes
, Bernie Casey
, Esther Rolle
, poster art
, movie review
This is what I was wearing. Actually, I'm wearing it under my suit right now, if you want a better look.
The Lili St. Cyr saga continued today in 1951, as her trial/media circus for obscenity began at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. You already know the details. Today we just thought we'd share a couple more rare photos. These show St. Cyr on the witness stand displaying a defense exhibit—a photo showing her standard costume when performing “An Interlude Before Evening,” not really a négligée, but more of a bra and skirt combo. Of course, it wasn't what St. Cyr wore at the beginning of the dance that got her in hot water, but what she allegedly wore at the end—i.e. nothing.
All I want for Christmas is a clean slate with the county.
This photo shows actress and Playboy centerfold Sally Todd in L.A. County Court, where she was answering for drunk driving charges. Todd had triggered an August 1958 traffic accident, a five-car smash-up so violent that she was ejected from the passenger window of her sports car, but survived with minor injuries. A miracle? Perhaps, if you believe in such things. What may be even more miraculous is that charges against her were dropped, though she admitted having had drinks. Most accounts say that happened in September, but this photo, which is from the digital archive of the Los Angeles Examiner, is dated December 1, suggesting either charges were not dropped until later in the year than most sources say, or that Todd made a return trip to court for a second driving offense. We're going with option one—the photo, which we have no doubt is correctly dated, was made when she appeared in court and learned that August's drunk driving charges against her had been dropped. That was today in 1958.
Screenland was one of the earliest and biggest cinema magazines.
Actress Claire Windsor appears on the front of this October 1923 issue of Screenland magazine, one of the U.S.’s most venerable celeb publications, launched in Los Angeles in 1920 and surviving, under the control of several owners, until finally folding in 1971. The beautiful cover was painted by Rolf Armstrong, and within the magazine’s sprawling 108 pages are Gloria Swanson, Rodolph (aka Rudolph) Valentino, Phyllis Havers, and many other personalities, plus art from John Held, Jr. and writing from Delight Evans and Robert E. Sherwood. You can download your own copy of this here. Los Angeles
, Claire Windsor
, Alma Rubens
, Nita Naldi
, Phyllis Haver
, John Held Jr.
, Robert E. Sherwood
, Gloria Swanson
, Rudolph Valentino
, Natacha Valentino
, Winifred Shaughnessy
, Mae Murray
, Rex Ingram
, Alice Terry
, Martha Mansfield
, Rolf Armstrong
, Delight Evans
, magazine art
Did she or didn’t she?
These two photos showing burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr were shot today in 1951 for a Los Angeles Examiner story about St. Cyr’s legal difficulties. On 23 February of that year she had begun performing at Ciro’s supper club in Hollywood. It was a different type of club for her—it lacked the intimacy of her normal venues, and would sap some of the heat from her act, but the place was world famous and considered by the smart set to be classy. It had hosted Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington. Of late it was facing stiff competition from Macambo’s, a Brazilian themed joint across the street, and owner Herman Hover wanted to make a splash with St. Cyr. He spent thousands refurbishing the stage just for her, and she would be the first burlesque dancer to transition from men’s clubs to L.A.’s most famous supper club.
On premier night celebs such as Ronald Reagan, Nancy Davis, Franchot Tone, Barbara Payton, Lex Barker, Mickey Rooney, and Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron watched her strip down to toned perfection as they ate dinner and sipped drinks. Other celebs that visited that summer included Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. During St. Cyr’s residency she varied her act, but a standard bit was entitled “An InterludeBefore Evening," and involved being helped from her clothing by her maid Sadie before slipping nude into a bathtub. But the nudity was an illusion, the cleverest part of her act, achieved through a combination of lighting, positioning, flesh-colored underwear, and sheer athleticism as she slipped quickly from behind a towel and into the sudsy tub.
On 18 October a group of Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, who were trying to enforce a countywide ban against stripping, arrested St. Cyr and Herman Hover. The charges were the usual slate. St. Cyr called upon celebrity lawyer Jerry Giesler—an event the two Examiner photos at top are supposed to be illustrating—and Giesler proceeded to help turn what was already a media boon for St. Cyr into a full bonanza. Giesler was a showman, and he loved cases that had the potential to increase his fame. He made assorted sensational statements to the press, including one in which he promised to have his client perform her bath routine in the courtroom, and another in which he opined that putting together a jury of peers required empaneling a dozen strippers. He described St. Cyr as merely trying to improve her station in life, just an industrious woman trying to carve herself a piece of American pie. The press ate it up.
The trial was scheduled for early December in the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Giesler kept the jury—which wasn’t all strippers, but at least was mostly female—laughing with his continual antics. He introduced St. Cyr’s rhinestone encrusted bra and g-string as people’s exhibits A and B. He drew diagrams on a blackboard illustrating how different observers' vantage points toward the stage were blocked by St. Cyr's maid. He flustered police officials by making them discuss in detail such such terms as “bump,” “grind,” and “half-bump,” and followed that up by putting Herman Hover on the witness stand and having him demonstrate those moves. The sight of the portly Hover attempting burlesque sent ripples of laughter through the courtroom. Years later Giesler wrote: “I can honestly say I succeeded in having her case laughed into a not-guilty verdict.”
That may have been true, but St Cyr’s icy demeanor was also an important factor. The women found her elegant and remote—the opposite of what they had expected. And the cops did their part for St. Cyr's defense by being terrible witnesses. One claimed that she emerged from the tub completely nude (the normal conclusion to her Interlude, and just as illusory). Another said she wore undies but that he could "see the outline"of her “private parts,” which he discerned in enough detail to determine “were shaven.” The inconsistencies were epic. Some said she caressed herself, others weren’t sure. Another described her towel as “about twenty, twenty-four inches.” In reality it was three times that size. It was as if St. Cyr's dance had dumbfounded the cops.
The confusion has extended even to the present day. For a performance that lasted barely fifteen minutes, it has had an amazing amount of conflicting information attached to it. Columnist Army Archerd claimed St. Cyr was indeed nude that night (clearly wrong, according to multiple testimonies); Sheila Weller’s book Dancing at Ciro’s claims an “all-male” jury (it was mostly female) was taken to Ciro’s to see the act (Giesler tried, but the judge said no); some sources claim St. Cyr performed a reverse strip, beginning nude in the tub and emerging to be slowly dressed by her maid (indeed, that was an oft-performed variation, so it is certainly possible it happened that night). Who's right, and who's wrong? Short of using a time machine to return to October 1951 there's no way to tell.
At the end of the six-day trial the jury acquitted St. Cyr following a mere seventy-eight minutes of deliberations. There had been no indecent exposure. At least not that night. All St. Cyr’s biographers agree on this much—she was shy and regal offstage, but her performances freed her toinhabit different characters. Despite her assertions that she always wore at least a g-string and bra, she definitely performed topless on occasion, as shown by the above photo taken at Ciro’s during early 1951.
Sheriff’s deputies had gone to the club already intent upon arresting her based on what they had heard about the act, which may have influenced their testimony—i.e., they didn’t see her nude, but knew she had done it before. St. Cyr admitted in court she knew police were in the audience, thus she was especially careful that night. But what of other nights? Maybe Army Archerd did what columnists do—took an event he witnessed on one night and pretended it happened on a more useful one. Maybe St. Cyr, on occasions when she knew the cops were far away, flashed her audience to generate buzz. It’s likely we’ll never know what really happened, but that merely adds to the St. Cyr mystique. Did she or didn’t she? Only her maid knew for sure. Los Angeles
, Beverly Hills
, Los Angeles Examiner
, Dancing at Ciro’s
, Lili St. Cyr
, Bette Davis
, Ronald Reagan
, Nancy Davis
, Franchot Tone
, Barbara Payton
, Lex Barker
, Mickey Rooney
, Fletcher Bowron
, Herman Hover
, Humphrey Bogart
, Clark Gable
, Sheila Weller
, Army Archerd
The boys of summer headline autumn’s biggest event.
The Los Angeles Dodgers board a United Airlines DC-7 charter plane headed to Chicago, where they would battle the Chicago White Sox in the 1959 World Series. Pictured are Sandy Koufax, Don Zimmer, Pee Wee Reese, and other stars. The Dodgers won the series four games to two. The three games played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum drew huge crowds, with game five’s attendance of 92,706 remaining a World Series record to this day. The photo was made today in 1959.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
1919—United Artists Is Launched
Actors Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, along with director D.W. Griffith, launch United Artists. Each holds a twenty percent stake, with the remaining percentage held by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo. The company struggles for years, with Griffith soon dropping out, but eventually more partners are brought in and UA becomes a Hollywood powerhouse.
1958—U.S. Loses H-Bomb
A 7,600 pound nuclear weapon that comes to be known as the Tybee Bomb is lost by the U.S. Air Force off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, near Tybee Island. The bomb was jettisoned to save the aircrew during a practice exercise after the B-47 bomber carrying it collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost, and remains so today.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.