Fatal confrontation leaves world a sadder place.
Here's a colorful little something from our house hunting raid last week, a pocket paperback entitled Diablo Rubio, or “blonde devil,” written by Jim Bravo for Madrid based Publicaciones Crucero. The narrative is set in Arizona and concerns a famed gunman and the rivals that dog his heels. We haven't actually read it yet. We can read Spanish but we're too lazy to do it right now, even though we're dying to know why the clown got shot. Ever been to a rodeo? Cowboys and clowns are natural allies, so there must be a complex story behind this tragedy. The art is uncredited, of course, but seems to be signed “M Leal” or “N Leal.” We get no hits on either name. Nor do we get hits on writer Jim Bravo, an obvious pseudonym. But we'll dig, and if we find anything we'll report back.
Like Shakespeare wrote, what's past is prologue.
This unusual poster was made to promote the Spanish run of Retorno al pasado, a movie better known as Out of the Past. The title says it all. A man who thinks he's left his sordid past behind sees it rear its ugly head and threaten to ruin the good future he's planned for himself. Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas, this is one of the top noir thrillers, in our opinion. Certainly it's one of the most beautifully shot, thanks to director Jacques Tourneur and cinematographer Nicholas Mesuraca. Like the poster art by Macario Gomez, the film is richly textured and lushly black, which makes for a nice sense of gathering danger, especially in the pivotal fight sequence about forty minutes in. Plus it has the always compelling Mexico connection used by many excellent noirs, as well as nice location shooting around Lake Tahoe and Reno. Highly recommended, this one. After opening in the U.S. in November 1947 it had its Spanish premiere in Madrid today in 1948.
For a little while at least, sports can bring a nation together.
The art deco influenced fútbol poster above, which is signed in its lower right corner by an artist whose identity is unknown to us, advertises a match between top flight Spanish sides Valencia F.C. and Real Madrid at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestalla. Months earlier Spain had become a republic after years of dictatorship under Miguel Primo de Rivera, and was about to enter into a period of unrest and rising fascism, leading to civil war and decades more dictatorship under Francisco Franco. But on this particular winter Sunday in Valencia the sole battle took place on the pitch at Mestalla. The star player on the field was Manuel Olivares Lapeña, who you see at right, but it was Jaime Lazcano Escolá and Juan Costa Font who netted goals that day. The game ended in a 1-1 draw—a triumph for a Valencia squad languishing at the bottom third of the table. But Real Madrid won the league.
It's one of the best uses of sixty minutes we can imagine (that doesn't involve taking off our clothes).
We have quite a bit of Spanish pulp we’ve been lazy about sharing, but today we’re remedying that at least a little. We snagged this little item entitled El Piño y la Palmera (The Pine and the Palm) in Spain several years ago. It’s one of Madrid-based Editores Reunidos’ novelas de una hora, or one-hour novels, so-named because it’s about 60 pages long (more like 50, after masthead credits, illustrations, and rear advertising). This one appeared all the way back in 1936 and has fiction from Francisco Camba and art credited to Bocquet y Longoria. The way Spanish surnames function, this could be one person, but in this case it’s two—cover artist José Longoria and interior artist José P. Bocquet. We got this for two euros, which we think is a pretty nice price for an hour’s entertainment.
The pain in Spain stays mainly in the brain.
The cover of this December 1956 issue of the American tabloid Exposed offers teasers on Kim Novak, Laurence Olivier, and Hollywood bad boy William Holden, but it's Ava Gardner who's front and center as readers learn about her mingling with Spanish bullfighters. Gardner had been introduced to the spectacle of the plaza de toros several years earlier by Ernest Hemingway, and she became a fixture at both the fights and on the Madrid social circuit. Since she was married to Frank Sinatra, this was of great interest to U.S. readers, not to mention Sinatra himself, and all the tabloids were reporting on it. The publicity didn’t help what was already a stormy marriage. Gardner eventually pursued and bedded matador Luis Miguel Dominguín, and not very discreetly. Everyone knew. Sinatra knew, and it tortured him. His buddy Humphrey Bogart rebuked Gardner, telling her, “Half the world’s female population would throw themselves at Frank’s feet and you are flouncing around with guys who wear capes and ballerina slippers.” Sinatra knew he was losing the love of his life, and he wasn't about to let it happen without a fight. He flew to Spain in a desperate bid to win his wife back, but it was no use—seven months after this Exposed hit newsstands, he and Gardner were divorced.
The National Police Gazette picks on an aging Ava Gardner.
This January 1974 issue of The National Police Gazette gives shape to every actress’s worst fear—natural aging. Editors slapped the header: “Oh my God! What’s happened to Ava?” above a photo of fifty-four year-old Ava Gardner, and the collective shiver that ran through Hollywood women probably resulted in a 4.5 Richter Scale earth temblor. Interestingly, Gazette editors don’t actually slam Gardner in the accompanying article, but they don’t have to because the message is clear in that header and the accompanying photo—Holy shit, look at this hag that just fell out of the ugly tree! There’s no doubt show business was and is a brutal field for women, but at least in Ava’s case you don’t have to feel too bad. She had become a millionaire thanks to cinema and was living in comfort in her favorite country Spain, sipping rioja and perfecting the siesta. The presumed gasps of horror from fans that remembered her as an ingénue would have been the flipside of a Devil’s bargain that allowed her to achieve that life. We doubt she gave a toss what the Gazette thought anyway. Elsewhere in this issue editors treat you to Raquel Welch, Muhammad Ali, UFOs, test tube babies, bikini bombshells of 1974, and much more. Okay, see you tomorrow—we’re off for our Botox injections. Hey, we never said we were as strong as Ava.
We got some serious Spaining to do.
Yes, it’s that time again—we’re going to take some days off and go traveling. As always, part of the agenda will be finding more material to post, but there will also be some earthly pleasures mixed in. At least we hope so. Not sure when we’ll be back, but wherever we are we’ll start posting again regardless on Monday. If we don’t, call the authorities. Oh, and pop by and water the ficus. Thanks.
We’re off to run a few important errands, visit some old friends, and look for yet more pulp. This time it’s Madrid and, with any luck, we'll get tossed from another nightclub. Anyway, we’ll be back in a few days. Meanwhile, these posts located here, here, here, here, and here, are pretty cool, and they’re old, which means you probably haven’t seen them. So enjoy.
Publicity still from Siempre hay una primera vez, featuring Mexican actress Helena Rojo, aka María Elena Lamadrid Ruiz, circa 1971. Rojo was most recently seen on an episode of the U.S. television series Ugly Betty.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
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.
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.
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