Hollywoodland Mar 13 2015
SPECTRE OF CASH
They say money talks. It also writes.


Where would we be without leaked documents in this day and age? There’s an interesting story hitting the wires today about how the Mexican government pressured Sony Pictures and MGM to change the script of the upcoming James Bond film Spectre in exchange for $14 million dollars. The money took the form of tax incentives, but in the real world it’s no different than bagloads of cash. The information comes from hacked e-mails provided by an unknown North Korean person or group. According to the e-mails, the Mexican government wanted an assassin’s identity changed from Mexican to some other nationality, an assassination target likewise changed from Mexican to other, and insisted upon the casting of a Mexican Bond girl. The last demand was met with the hiring of Sonora-born Stephanie Sigman.

All of this is pretty much business as usual in moviemaking—hardly even a story, really. But we always write about Bond here, so this item seemed worth sharing. The last aspect of the e-mails that interested us was a demand that the film include aerial shots of Mexico City’s skyline, with an emphasis on the modern buildings. Tens of millions of travelers from every part of the globe visit Mexico each year because of its native ruins, beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, indigenous food, historically authentic festivals, thousands of miles of beaches, and warmwaters, yet Mexican officials wanted its few glass skyscrapers to appear onscreen to emphasize to shallow businessmen that, yes, we too can offer the type of cookie-cutter modernity you love. It’s fascinating to us. The world won’t know how much of the Mexican government’s wish list was granted until Spectre’s November 2015 release, but if we had to guess we’d say all of it.

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Modern Pulp Feb 13 2015
FOLLOW THE LIDER
Why thank you. I’ll put this right into my secret account at HSBC.

It’s been a while since we shared any Mexican pulp art, so here’s a nice example—it’s entitled “Líderes aprovechado,” which means “exploited leaders,” and it depicts the buying off of a politician. How unsophisticated—don’t they know if they follow certain procedures this becomes a perfectly legal campaign donation? They need to look north for inspiration. Anyway, this painting and others we’ve shared were made for Mexico’s cheapie paperback market during the seventies and eighties. You can see a few other examples here, here, and here. 

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Modern Pulp Nov 18 2014
SUICIDE CLUB
Drinking over the limit.

Above, exceedingly rare Mexican cover art for a pulp-style book about the mass suicide/mass murder of more than 900 people at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project of Rev. Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. That event, from which the current U.S. English phrase “drank the Kool-Aid” is derived (though group members actually drank Flavor Aid), occurred today in 1978. 

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Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Oct 30 2014
SECRET AGENDA
The mission statement was simple—take cheap shots at every star in the firmament.


Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.

For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?
 
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
 
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
 
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
 
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
 
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."

This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.


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Vintage Pulp Jun 10 2014
HOT SHOT
It’s gonna be the death of you.

The interest in Mexican pulp art continues to pick up steam. This heroin themed piece was created for a book or comic called Rock Candentes y Mortal, which translates as something like “red-hot and deadly rock.” It was painted, quite skillfully we think, by Jaime S., or alternatively Jaimes. The artists who worked in this market typically signed their work with single names, with the result that today info on most of them is impossible to find. At least for now. Let that be a lesson to you to always sign your work properly. This coming from a couple of anonymous website guys.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 26 2013
STRENGTH AND SKULL
First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman.

Today we’re back to Mexican pulp art with a piece from an artist who has signed his work R. Rojas Ordonez, someone we’ve never heard of before. A bit of text on the back of the painting suggests that the skull is somehow controlling the action here, maybe causing one of the characters to act while under a trance. Mexican art has used skulls as a major motif since at least the time of the Aztecs, and it has since been explored by everyone from Diego Rivera to contemporary graffiti artists, so we particularly like how this painting fits into that tradition. As we mentioned back in July when we shared five pieces from Dinorin, this style of art blossomed in the 1970s as covers for Mexican comic books, which makes it post-pulp rather than pure pulp. But the feel is certainly right, and collectors are responding, snapping up examples like this for hundreds of dollars. We’ll share a few more of these later. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 25 2013
MEXICAN GOLD
Collectors discover treasure south of the border.
 
Mexican pulp art is something to which collectors have been paying increased attention in recent years. However, it isn’t really pulp art in the traditional sense because it post-dates the era. That said, the pieces are very interesting. This particular artist signed his work Dinorin and he's gotten so popular that some pieces of his sell for five-hundred dollars or more. But here you get to see them for free. We have five for your enjoyment, and we’ll have more from this genre later.
 

 
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Hollywoodland Jul 15 2013
MEXICO GETS JINXED
Tourist board taps gringa to lure gringos across the border.

The above photos of American actress Jinx Falkenberg show her posing in costume for her film Tahiti Nights, and she’s holding a Mexican tourist poster for which she had modeled around the same time. This isn’t as a much of a mismatch as you might think. Falkenberg was actually born Eugenia Lincoln Falkenberg in Barcelona, Spain. Being Spanish-born (her parents were American) is of course not remotely the same as being Mexican, but it’s worth mentioning. The truth is she was probably chosen for the poster simply because she was the most famous young Hollywood star associated with Mexico in the consciousness of the American public. She spoke Spanish, of course, and had gotten her start in Spanish films like El carnaval del Diablo, but we doubt average Americans had a clue about that at the time. But once she reached Hollywood she continued to act in films with ethnic themes. For instance, in 1943 she starred in Two Señoritas from Chicago, in 1944 she played an islander in the aforementioned Tahiti Nights, and the next year she played a Mexican girl in The Gay Señorita. So when you add together her birthplace, language skills, and movie roles, she isn’t just some random gabacha the tourist board dug up. While it’s possible it might have been more authentic to use Delores del Rio or Lupe Velez, both of them were much older than Falkenberg, and in any case, maybe they were asked and said no. Below you’ll notice that we managed to find that travel poster, and whatever the reasoning behind its creation, it sure came out looking good. The photos date from 1944, and the poster was used for the years 1944 and 1945.  


 
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Hollywoodland May 27 2013
CHARLIE'S ANGEL
There but for the grace of Goddard.

We scanned these photos from Sidney Skolsky’s This Was Hollywood, a magazine we began raiding for images a couple of months back and which was first published in 1955. The brief story here tells about Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard’s relationship. This Was Hollywood makes it sounds like a fairy tale love, and that may be true—how many Western couples marry spontaneously while traveling in China? Unfortunately, after six years they were divorced in Mexico. But the young starlet had lifted Chaplin out of a dark depression and helped refocus his creative energies at a time when he was so unsure of where his career stood that he was considering retiring and moving permanently to China. And of course their film collaborations are timeless. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 25 2013
BUFF VAMPIRE SLAYERS
The makers of Los Vampiros de Coyoacán should have spent more time wrestling with the script.

Okay, so don’t rush out and rent this one. Los Vamipros de Coyoacán is a lucha libre themed movie, but we didn’t expect twenty of the first twenty-two minutes to be devoted exclusively to wrestling. In the first match tag team studs Mil Mascaras and Superzan dispatch their rivals, and in the second some nameless chump is choked to death. Then in the dressing room a bat (on a string) appears, transforms into a vampire, and drinks the corpse’s blood. The spindly finger of suspicion points toward a certain Count Braddock, who lives in a castle with some dwarves. This is a clear-cut case of racial profiling, since anyone could actually have drained the wrestler, but Mil Mascaras and Superzan happen to be right this time, so we’ll let it pass. Anyway, the plot here involves Braddock’s lust for the female lead Nora, played by Sasha Montenegro. Eventually he kidnaps her and the heroes have to venture to Braddock’s castle to try and retrieve her. Do they succeed? Well, there’s those dwarves. The nasty little guys squeak like mice, can turn into bats (on strings), and just love to jump on unsuspecting victims’ backs. But Mil Mascaras and Superzan aren’t the top tag team wrestlers in Mexico City for nothing. Dwarf toss much? Apparently they do. As to whether they rescue Nora you’ll just have to watch. If it helps entice you at all, there are some prostitutes who don’t seem to understand the concept of fleeing from danger. Pretty funny, that bit. Is there anything else to recommend to movie? Not really. But at least you don’t really have to rent it—you can watch the entire thing on YouTube starting with the first segment here. This turkey premiered in Mexico today in 1974. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 30
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
March 28
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.

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