Hollywoodland Aug 27 2016
WATER DANCE
Ice is nice, but harder than water.


British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir.

In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
 
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.

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Hollywoodland Jul 14 2016
BUNKER MENTALITY
And they say nobody walks in L.A.


Ingrid Bergman takes a stroll near downtown Los Angeles in this promo photo made in 1967 for a Life magazine feature titledIngrid Bergman: A Day on Bunker Hill.” At this point Bergman wasn't acting much, but she was featured in Life several times that year and, as one of the transcendent movie stars of the 1940s, was never out of mind, even when she was out of sight.

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Hollywoodland Jul 13 2016
TICKLED PINK
The queen in her castle.


Jayne Mansfield lounges with one of her dogs and a teddy bear in a very pink promo photo made in 1966. Actually, there are two dogs here—look in the mirror and you'll see her famed chihuahua reflected there. Mansfield had a thing for pink. When she bought her 40-room mansion on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.'s Holmby Hills enclave she had the entire residence decorated in that color, with pink fluorescent lights, pink furs in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain that cascaded pink champagne, and a pink heart-shaped swimming pool. All class, right? She dubbed the place the Pink Palace and it was one of Tinseltown's most famous landmarks. Mansfield died a year after the above photo was made, and the house changed hands several times before the wrecking ball came calling. Conservationists made efforts to save it, but of course this is L.A. we're talking about—change is the city's default setting. The house was razed in 2002

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Intl. Notebook Jul 11 2016
CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC
Acme semaphores and intersections of history.

A couple of days ago we shared a photo of Martha Vickers sitting atop an old-fashioned traffic signal. Such devices—with flags that popped up bearing the words “stop” and “go” as a bell rang—were known as semaphores. The particular type seen with Vickers was manufactured by the Acme Traffic Signal Company and used primarily in the Los Angeles area. Other cities had different types of signals. For instance San Francisco primarily had Wiley traffic signals. Acme semaphores were general around L.A. during the 1920s and 1930s, but due to the tendency of birds to set up house inside the flag mechanism, the signals were soon deemed inadequate. They were eventually replaced by standard three-light traffic signals, with the last semaphores coming down during the mid-1950s. Like us, you may be aware of Acme semaphores thanks to their appearances in Warner Brothers or Loonie Tunes cartoons, or perhaps you even remember them from personal experience. Well, today you get to ride down memory lane, because above and below we have a collection of photos of these elegant inventions, with mid-century L.A. providing the backdrop.

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Hollywoodland Jul 8 2016
FREE LILI
It's the single life for St. Cyr... again.


This photo shows burlesque icon Lili St. Cyr today in 1964, leaving the Los Angeles courthouse where she had just divorced her sixth and final husband, Joseph Zomar, a special effects technician who had worked on such films as Space Probe Taurus and The Addams Family. The grounds for the split? St. Cyr said her man was drunk every night and always angry. Once knowledge leaked out to American women that drunkenness and anger were legit grounds for a split, the divorce rate shot up 50%. It's totally true—look it up.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 12 2016
FINDING HIMSELF
You're always in the last place you look.


The war, a grenade, a head wound, and a case of amnesia bring a vet to Los Angeles in search of his identity. The only clue he has is the name of a presumed associate, not a nice guy, which makes the hero fearful, because who associates with not-nice guys but other not-nice guys? The main problem with Somewhere in the Night isn't that the amnesiac soon learns, as even a casual viewer would suspect from the beginning, that he and the not-nice associate are one and the same. The problem is that the script never provides for another possibility. This makes for minimal suspense, a sin compounded by dialogue that crosses the line from hard boiled into ridiculous—like in this exchange:

Friend: “Something smells bad, believe me. It's in the air—like an earthquake. Don't stand too close. Don't get hurt.”

Heroine: “I'm the girl with the cauliflower heart.”

Friend: "You think. You're as tough as a love song. You've got your face turned up and your eyes closed, waiting to be kissed.”
 
This is a little out there even by the standards of 1940s melodramas. Classics like Casablanca and Gilda didn't get too hip with the lingo, and that's a big reason why those movies remain scintillating today. Somewhere in the Night wears its age poorly. Blame not only its overly slangy dialogue, but the lame plot, wooden performances from the supporting cast, and an uninspiring John Hodiak in the lead. But the poster is an absolute killer. 
 


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The Naked City Apr 24 2016
SIXPACK GRANNY
Yeah, I'm drunk. And I'm just old enough not to give a fuck.


You plan to weave your car quietly home from the bar and not only do you get stopped and arrested, but immortalized by the press. This image, another from the University of Southern California archive, was shot by a Los Angeles Herald photographer and shows motorist Edna Benton failing a field sobriety test administered by highway patrolman M.G. Gaskell. Herald photographers were often on the scene after murders and suicides, but this image shows just how quickly they could be on the scene to shame even the most unimportant of people. We're curious when this type of photo-journalism went out of style. In this case the shame aspect didn't work, as Benton's smile in image two shows. These date from today in 1951. 

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The Naked City Apr 9 2016
YOUNG AND RESTLESS
Don't worry, baby. What we have'll last forever.


The above image from the University of Southern California collection of Los Angeles Herald photos dates from 1952 and shows sixteen-year-old Marlene Eason visiting her jailbird boyfriend, nineteen-year-old Eddie Christianelli, who was under arrest for robbery. In response to Christianelli's marriage proposal Eason agreed to wed him in jail. At that moment somewhere across town Eason's father swooned, and when his wife asked what was wrong he said, “I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if all our daughter's hopes and dreams were suddenly ruined.” Young love. Whaddaya gonna do?

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Vintage Pulp Mar 21 2016
WELCH'S JUICE
She's by far the best ingredient in Flareup but the cocktail still goes flat.

Raquel Welch’s 1969 thriller Flareup might be worth watching for the amazing opening credit sequence, which is good, because you certainly don’t want to watch it for the actual film. Don't get us wrong—anything with Welch in it is worth a glance but this one is really bad. First clue? The theme song, in which Les Baxter backs a cheeseball singer intoning, “Gonna be a flare up… flare up!” Since the intro sequence seems visually inspired by James Bond movies, maybe the idea of using the actual title in the theme song à la Shirley Bassey's “Goldfinger,” or Lulu's “The Man with the Golden Gun,” seemed like a logical next step. Bad idea, though, because the song is laughably terrible.

Immediately after the credits the story opens with that most American of events—an attempted mass killing—as a Vegas go-go dancer is shot in a restaurant by her estranged husband. Welch plays Michele, the victim's friend whose advice helped spawn divorce proceedings. Because of this the husband tries to perforate her as well, never quite managing to get a clear shot as she dodges amongst the restaurant's ferns and potted palms. The husband escapes the scene of the crime and when the police arrive they agree that vengeance will continue to be on his mind and Michele should be extremely careful.
 
But a girl has to earn a living even if she's the target of a maniac. Even if she's refused police protection for reasons that aren't clear. Even if she works into the wee hours and parks her car in the Plutonian nether reaches of the public lot. So that night she goes to the club and gyratesonstage to the groovy strains of a song called—care to guess?—“Micheeeeele… I like the way you move... I like the way you dance … I like the way you groove… Oh! Micheeeeele… Call your mama… Michele call your papa… I got something to say…. Hey hey hey… hey hey hey…. Heeeeeeeey hey hey hey hey hey hey…” You get the idea.
 
Welch suffers a near miss from her stalker and at that point skips town for Los Angeles, where she falls into bed with the first guy she meets—the valet at her new go-go club, because valets are well known for pulling the hottest women on the planet. In between enjoying copious helpings of Welch's passionfruit juice the new boyfriend promises to act as bodyguard, but it's Welch herself who must take matters into her own hands and dispatch her tormentor in brutal fashion when he shows up in town.
 
Everything with this movie is off—script, direction, action, everything. The acting is uniformly horrific too, including from Welch, though she's orders of magnitude better than her co-stars. Put Flareup on around even your dullest friends and they’ll all be shining comedic geniuses by the second act. The script lobs up softball after softball, serious MST3K level material. In fact, hang on, let us check—nope, looks like Mystery Science Theater never spoofed Flareup. Well, they should have.
 
There are too many great lines and ridiculous moments to enumerate but the one that really got us came at about a hundred minutes when a character asks Welch if she works at the hospital down the road. Welch giggles and says, “Yeah sure—I’m a brain surgeon.” Flareup premiered in New York City in November 1969 and hit Japan today in 1970, where it was called Denjâ, which means "Danger."
 


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Femmes Fatales Mar 7 2016
BONNIE LASS
She paints a memorable picture.


Bonnie Logan, née Bonnie Bakken, was a glamour model of the 1950s and 1960s who as of last year was still making public appearances in her late 80s. She starred inside and on the covers of scores of magazines, including Adam (the U.S. version), Man, Photo-Rama, Knight and many others. When you hear people say women were curvier back in the day, they’re thinking of women like Logan, who had 40-24-37 measurements and had to wear custom bras. During her heyday she also sang, appearing regularly at the Floating Island Lounge in Los Angeles. She moved into burlesque and in that capacity once traveled all the way to Japan, where, strangely, she was once clobbered on the head by a bat-wielding American hater. Of that incident she said, “I wore an elaborate blond wig at the time, and I used to tuck my real hair underneath it. That happened to be where the bat hit me. It probably saved my life.” The sultry shot of her at top comes from a session that provided the cover for the issue of Rapture you see above and right. The magazine is from 1962, which helps us date the photo somewhat, but we're thinking the session occurred a bit earlier, say around 1960.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 27
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled by the official account of the assassination.
September 26
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.

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