You brute! Why don't you enslave someone your own size!
Above, more Down Under goodness from Australia's Adam magazine, with a cover from this month in 1969 depicting a scene from Mark Bannerman's “Murder in Marseilles.” It's a tale of kidnapping and slavery, or as the author constantly puts it, “white slavery.” This is a term you run into often mid-century and pulp literature, and of course the idea is that enslaving white people must be specially pointed out, as it's presumed to be orders of magnitude more evil than just plain slavery. In this case, a “swarthy Algerian” is the villain, and a Marseillaise beauty is the target. Do we need to tell you this plot is foiled? Of course not.
Adam offers another interesting feature—a piece of factual journalism entitled “Wild Girls of the American Suburbs.” It's about apartment complexes for singles, which are described as if they're twenty-four hour sex parties. All of this being well before our time, we weren't sure if such places actually existed, but it seems they did, in locales all over the U.S., particularly San Francisco, the Jersey Shore, Myrtle Beach, and Fire Island. Apparently Los Angeles had a famous one called Villa Dionysus, which we can't help noticing would be initialed V.D. Hopefully a walk-in-clinic was somewhere in the same zip code. Twenty-seven scans below.
Passage to Marseille has plenty of message but not enough movie.
We’ve seen nearly every Humphrey Bogart movie but had been warned away from Passage to Marseille. We finally watched it last night and the haters were right—it’s substantially below standard. You have Casablanca director Michael Curtiz at the helm and Casablanca alumni Bogart, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet in front of the camera, along with the lovely Michèle Morgan in the female lead, but all their combined efforts cannot elevate this clumsily written propaganda piece. Curtiz is not to blame—his direction is functional and James Wong Howe photographs everything beautifully. Likewise, Bogart manages his role adequately, Lorre and his emotive brow are put to ample use, and Rains dons an eyepatch and permafrown to bring some gravity to matters.
But Passage to Marseille is just a badly written film. Where Casablanca used patriotic sentiments adroitly (who can forget the way the singing of the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” both roused the audience and advanced the plot?), Passage to Marseille flounders under the weight of cheap nationalism and sticky sentiment. It enjoys a decent rating on many review websites but we daresay that’s mainly due to Bogart bias (wherein even his bad flicks like Chain Lightning and Battle Circus have good ratings). We love the guy too, but no actor in history has batted 1.000, and this movie was a clean whiff. As propaganda it doubtless got the job done, but as a film we suggest consigning it to a dusty, unreachable shelf. Passage to Marseille premiered in Sweden as På väg mot Marseille today in 1944.
It was getting about time for a scar wash.
Above, acclaimed French actress Catherine Rouvel, née Catherine Vitale, who appeared in the French television series Allô Police, as well as the movies Les assassins de l'ordre, The Marseille Contract, and Borsalino & Co., seen here joyously frolicking, proud appendix scar and all, in the south of France around 1975.
I know why the caged Ladybug sings.
This golden issue of Confidential from August 1961 contains an article about the one and only Coccinelle, who was a French transsexual performer, almost forgotten outside her home country, but who set the world on fire fifty years ago. Born as Jacques Charles Dufresnoy, he adopted the stage name Coccinelle—Ladybug—in 1953 when he debuted at the nightclub Chez Madame Arthur. At the outset of his career, Coccinelle was a male cross-dresser, but in 1958 he underwent sex change surgery in Morocco with spectacular results, and her re-emergence onto the stage as a woman made her world famous. Adopting the persona of blonde bombshells like Mansfield and Monroe, she was able to parlay her status into film roles, and was also featured in a few shockumentaries, but it was on the stage that she shone, performing at some of France’s most exclusive clubs, including Le Carrousel and Paris Olympia.
Her fame was a controversial subject of course, if not a public obsession, and her marriages caused epic scandals, but also prompted the French government to legalize unions between transgendered participants. By 1989 Coccinelle had moved to Marseilles, where she headlined at the Cabaret Spitz. She was still performing there in April 2006 when she had a stroke. She died after three months of hospitalization, but over forty years she had carved out a successful career, made a difference politically and, at the forefront of her own small sexual revolution, helped scores of people in her exact circumstances. We’ll look for more information on the fascinating Coccinelle at our usual French sources and perhaps report back on her later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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