Intl. Notebook Oct 4 2018
PERFECT QUEMISTRY
The women they talked about then.


It took us a while but we finally find out where the covers of O Século Ilustrado we've been sharing came from. They originate at a Wordpress blog called Ilustração Portugueza. It hasn't been active since January 2017, so it looks like we missed our chance to send them some traffic, but at least the images remain up for now. The above cover hit newsstands today in 1947 and features a triptych of Vera Zorina, Yvonne DeCarlo, and Lucille Ball labeled as “Tres mulheres de quem se fala,” which means “Three women we're talking about.” They were so good we're still talking about a couple of them. If you want to see the other covers we posted just click the magazine's keywords below.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 23 2016
TIGHT SPOT
No place to run, no place to hide.


Today the Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco will be screening The Dark Corner, a movie that starts fast and keeps up a quick pace throughout, telling the story of small-time detective who is tormented and eventually framed by an unknown enemy. The script, which is credited to five writers, is filled with fun jargon and treats viewers to one of the better quotes from film noir when Mark Stevens references the title with, “I feel all dead inside. I’m backed up in a dark corner and I don’t know who’s hitting me.”

Lucille Ball, top-billed, is pitch perfect as Stevens’ secretary, love interest, and driving force, and William Bendix, who made a career out of tough-and-volatile, nails his role even more solidly than usual here. You also get good work from Clifton Webb and femme fatale Cathy Downs. Atypically violent, and brilliantly wrapped in shadows and cut by black silhouettes by director Henry Hathaway and director of photography Joseph MacDonald, The Dark Corner is what watching film noir is all about. Favorite line: after a character is pushed thirty-one floors to his death a witness on the street gestures at a high window and remarks to a policeman, “Brother, he came out of there like a hot rivet. You know it’s a funny thing, I never yet seen one of those guys bounce.” A must-see. 

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Femmes Fatales Dec 31 2013
BALLIN' LIKE A PRO
Hah hah—if you tell one more person they should have a New Year’s Ball I’ll kill you.

We read an old book recently and the word “ball” was actually in there as a sexual verb. So Lucille Ball, who you see at right, probably had to deal with some pretty crass jokes in her day. But in this 1934 shot in which she’s sharing a cheers with Billie Seward she hasn’t a care in the world. And why would she? Each New Year—then and now—brings new hopes. Champagne wishes, everyone.

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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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Hollywoodland Mar 6 2012
HAIRY SITUATION
Lucy, you got some ’splainin’ to do.

Here’s a rare promo shot from the 1933 pre-Hays Code musical Roman Scandals, an interesting film about a guy from West Rome, Oklahoma who has a vivid dream that he lives in ancient Rome. If you can deal with the sight of Eddie Cantor cavorting in blackface, it’s probably worth a rental. The movie was produced by the Samuel Goldwyn Company, and starred Sam Goldwyn’s dance troupe the Goldwyn Girls, whose most famous ex-member is Lucille Ball. And in fact, that’s Lucille Ball above, on the right, though it may be hard to believe. Trust us, though. The Hays Code, by the way, was actually enacted in 1930 but ignored until 1934, which is why cinema historians consider Roman Scandals to be a pre-Code production. The Code was finally ditched in 1968, but unfortunately in favor of the almost equally arbitrary MPAA rating system. Below, just for the fun of it, we’ve posted the back of the photo because with its writing and tape marks it strikes us as a pretty nice piece of abstract art. And at bottom we’ve posted a much clearer shot of Miss Ball.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 3 2011
FULL THROTTLE
When she’s angry she’s a real pain in the neck.

Above, a great cover from Chaz Rubino for Official Detective Stories, August 1936. We’d tell you more about Rubino, but this is the only piece we’ve seen by him, and there’s no info on the internet at all. As for the magazine, Official Detective Stories ran for several decades beginning in the 1930s, and during the 1950s Desilu Productions—i.e. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball—even used the magazine as the basis for a  television series, but the show didn't catch on and ran for a mere forty episodes. The magazine lasted longer—into the 1990s. Visit our entire true crime magazine collection here. 

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Vintage Pulp May 27 2011
BEATING UP THE BEARD
The communist that couldn’t shoot straight.

Sexual slander is a time-honored propaganda technique, and today we have two examples, both aimed at Fidel Castro. Confidential, at top, suggests that Castro raped a teenaged girl, while Whisper goes a slightly different route and tells readers he’s afraid of women. Both offer up a version of Castro as less than a man, and during that time of communist hysteria it would have been quite pleasing for people to believe. The really clever element of fabrications like these is that if anyone had called bullshit on the writers it would have been seen as a de facto defense of Castro politically, and thus called into question their patriotism. We would suggest that the same dynamic holds true today. But just how influential were these magazines? Surely not very. Well, you’d be wrong. By 1957 Confidential was the biggest selling newsstand publication of any type in the U.S. Its circulation had reached 4 million per issue, but Confidential editors claimed—and there is reason to believe they were right—that every purchased issue of the magazine was actually read by an additional ten people. Confidential’s circulation had declined somewhat by 1960, but it was still a powerhouse, and Whisper wasn’t doing terribly either (though it's circulation too had been declining for a few years). These two issues, from May 1960 and May 1962, span a period of time when Castromania had reached a fever pitch—at least until the Cuban Missile Crisis came along. We have other tabloid covers with amusing Castro stories here and here, and we’ll compile an aggregate post of others a little later.

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Vintage Pulp May 26 2011
CLOUD ON THE HORIZON
From out of a clear blue sky.

Above is an unusual war-themed cover of The National Police Gazette from May 1953. In addition to stoking up a little Soviet fear with an A-bomb photo illustration, editors play the Hitler card, telling us at upper right that Der Führer is still alive. They made this claim scores of times after the end of World War II, and it never seemed to get old (we documented that phenomenon here). And since the U.S. was embroiled in a proxy war against China in Korea when this issue appeared, that conflict gets a mention too, in the banner at the bottom of the cover. All in all it's three enemies for the price of one—and a small insight into the nuclear fears that shaped the post-war generation. Do you ever wonder what fears shape us that they'll study in the future? We could take a guess, but then we might get real scared, so let's not think about it.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 19
1984—Britain Agrees to Cede Hong Kong
Great Britain signs over Hong Kong to China in an agreement stipulating that the colony be returned to the Chinese in 1997. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang, while political groups in Hong Kong push futilely for independence.
December 18
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
December 17
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.
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