You oughta be in pictures.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's famed lion mascot, who roared at the beginning of every MGM picture, was known as Leo. But like an actor playing a role, the lions used in those famed openings had real names. The first lion was used by MGM's predecessor Goldwyn Pictures. He was named Slats, and you see him above in this profile shot made at Gay's Lion Farm in El Monte, California. Slats played Leo for Goldwyn and MGM from 1916 to 1928, to be followed by such luminaries as Jackie, Teller, Tanner, George, etc. Slats was the only lion that didn't roar, because he got the gig before sound was introduced into film. While he's immortal as a logo, he died in 1936. For his faithful service he was skinned and his hide was put on display. It's still around, at the moment residing at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, Kansas.
If clothes make the man, then clothes make the woman fabulous.
Above is a beautiful soft focus photo of U.S. actress Gwen Lee, née Gwendolyn Lepinski, wearing a striking dress made of a metallic looking fabric and decorated with fur and what seem to be diamond shaped mirrors. There's also a diamond shaped cut-out on her torso. So all-in-all this is a pretty amazing garment. She started as a model, moved into acting as a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player, and appeared in several dozen films between 1925 and 1938. She was considered an archetypal flapper and that's exactly what she looks like in this photo. It's from around 1928.
So this robot and the doctor have kind of a co-dependent thing going on, don't they?
Above, an Italian promo poster for Il pianeta proibito, aka Forbidden Planet, which premiered in Italy today in 1956 with future comedy icon Leslie Nielsen in the lead role. There are a few Italian promos. On this poster you see an unconscious Walter Pidgeon being carried by Robby the Robot. This is what happens in the movie, but on most other posters, including the U.S., Spanish, and French iterations, the robot carries a female figure—which doesn't happen at any point in the film. All the posters are great, but the fact that only the Italian version showed what actually happened in the film instead of going for the damsel in distress motif is interesting. Check out the Spanish and French promos here.
No I won't turn to the left. This is my good side.
Above you see the legendary Jean Harlow in an awesome MGM promo shot made for the pre-code gangster film The Beast of the City, a movie often (but mistakenly) called a film noir. Harlow plays a gun moll who gets involved in an affair with a cop. The movie came out in 1932, which dates the photo as from that year or the end of the previous year.
Never try to copy the uncopyable.
U.S. born actress Barbara Lang was one of many actresses promoted as a Marilyn Monroe type, but it was wishful thinking. She only looked like Monroe in shots like this upnose angle from a 1957 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer promo. However, Lang was beautiful and talented in her own right and went on to star mainly on television, including on series such as 77 Sunset Strip and The Thin Man. After a short career and a turbulent personal life she died in Los Angeles in 1982 aged fifty-four.
Here's your bourbon. You can add your own water.
You can consider this cover for The High Cost of Loving, which is unattributed, an addendum to our April showers collection from last year. Written by Bonnie Golightly, it's a novelization of the 1958 MGM film starring José Ferrer and Gena Rowlands, in the latter's cinematic debut. The story deals with a devoted corporate drone whose company is sold. Clues indicate he's going to be fired, and his name is even scraped off his office door, but the twist is he's really going to be promoted but hasn't been informed because of an oversight. He decides to confront the company president over his unfair treatment. Will his anger cost him the opportunity he's been looking for? What do you think—it's a Sidney Lumet movie or something? Everything ends up just fine.
Interesting side note on author Bonnie Golightly: that's her real name and she even sued Truman Capote for $800,000 over Breakfast at Tiffany's, which you'll remember starred a Holly Golightly. She claimed the similarities between Holly and she were obvious—both lived in Upper East Side brownstones with bars around the corner, both were amateur singers, and both were crazy about cats. The suit eventually died, and Capote always claimed his character was actually based on a German immigrant he knew in NYC at the beginning of World War II who later conveniently disappeared in East Africa—a place from which lawsuits rarely spring. You can see that April showers collection here.
Ure definitely not messing around.
Above, a nice femme fatale style shot of Scottish actress Mary Ure, seen here brandishing a silenced pistol in an MGM promo from Where Eagles Dare, 1968. Sadly, her career was hampered by alcohol and mental illness until she fatally overdosed in 1975 aged forty-two.
It's a different Mame you want to put the blame on—I swear!
This unusual promo photo featuring American sex symbol Mamie Van Doren was made for the MGM crime thriller The Beat Generation, which may not sound like a nail-biter, but tells the story of cop's hunt for a serial rapist who happens to be a groovy beatnik. We gather it's pretty bad, which means we should probably screen a copy at some point. The image dates from 1959, and the Mame reference in our subhead—if you don't know it—comes from a bit earlier.
She’s like an onion—every layer you peel gets you closer to the tender parts.
American actress Gwen Verdon was born in Culver City, California. That’s a little like being born in Hollywood—Culver City was home to Triangle Studios, The Culver Studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and other production houses, and it remains home to Sony Pictures Entertainment. Verdon entered the studio system at age eleven and eventually appeared in such films as Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, The Blonde from Brooklyn, and Damn Yankees! This photo is a promo from the latter film, and dates from 1958.
This trip sucks! Next time let’s just pay extra for first class!
The Mercenaries, aka Dark of the Sun isn’t a movie many remember, but we’re going to remember it, because this is a great pre-CGI action film—not perfect, but well above average. Based on Wilbur Smith’s novel Train from Katanga, and starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Peter Carsten, and Yvette Mimieux, it tells the story of two mercenaries in the civil war-torn Congo hired to ride a military train upcountry, rescue a group of stranded people, and retrieve $50 million in uncut diamonds languishing in a time-locked safe. They have to do it within three days, which means making rushed preparations—notably, enlisting the aid of a dodgy ex-Nazi who commands the Congolese mercs needed to round out the mission. This Nazi is a really bad human, so it’s no surprise he gets into a chainsaw fight with the protagonist shortly after they meet. You’d think the hero would expect the unexpected from the guy after that—but no. The Japanese poster above, while not perfectly descriptive of the action, gets the mood of The Mercenaries across effectively, and it opened in Japan today in 1968.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—Goldwyn Pictures Formed
In the U.S.A., Samuel Goldfish and Edgar Selwyn establish Goldwyn Pictures, which becomes one of the most successful independent film studios in Hollywood. Goldfish also takes the opportunity to legally change his last name to Goldwyn.
1916—First Battle of the Somme Ends
In France, British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig calls off a battle against entrenched German troops which had begun on July 1, 1916. Known as the Battle of the Somme, this action resulted in one of the greatest losses of life in modern history—over three-hundred thousand dead for a net gain of about seven miles of land.
1978—Jonestown Cult Commits Mass Suicide
In the South American country of Guyana, Jim Jones leads his Peoples Temple cult in a mass suicide that claims 918 lives, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan, who had been visiting the makeshift cult complex known as Jonestown to investigate claims of abuse, is shot by members of the Peoples Temple as he tries to escape from a nearby airfield with several cult members who asked for his protection.
1973—Nixon Proclaims His Innocence
While in Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells four-hundred Associated Press managing editors, "I am not a crook." The false statement comes to symbolize Nixon's presidency when facts are uncovered that prove he is, indeed, a crook.
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