Romance between two musical geniuses hits a few unexpected sour notes.
Classical musicians separated during the chaos of World War II are reunited in New York City, but the woman neglects to mention to her fiancée that she's acquired a lover and sugar daddy who happens to be a world renowned composer. Bette Davis gives a confident turn as a gifted and successful pianist, while Paul Henreid as her cellist fiancée and Claude Rains as the jilter lover are both excellent. The latter two actors also featured in Casablanca, and Deception bears some similarities to that earlier film in two ways—Henreid is lost during war and presumed dead, leading his love to turn to another; Rains is a caustic smartass, something he does really well.
Another aspect of Deception we enjoyed was how much work went into making Davis and Henried perform like master musicians. In Davis’s case, she fakes it on piano just long enough to pass the eye test, while Henreid had a hidden cellist insert his arms through a modified jacket and play the parts blind. It’s an, um, deceptively simple solution that worked perfectly. Deception didn’t perform well at the box office when released in 1946, but time has been kind to it, and criticisms have waned. At the very least you may want to watch it to get a gander at Davis’s spectacular loft apartment.
You know what? I know we’re supposed to be disaffected and rebellious and all that, but I’m actually quite satisfied at this moment.
Two hard-luck juvenile delinquents find each other and fall in love in the slums of New York City, but can they keep it together when their surroundings threaten to destroy them? That's the basic idea of Yield to the Night. Author Jack Karney specialized in this, writing about East Side gangs in many novels, including Work of Darkness, Cry Brother Cry, Cop, and Tough Town. 1960 copyright on the above, with Rafael DeSoto cover art.
How far would you go to get the perfect shot?
A freelance photographer who has spent his career documenting the mean streets of New York City, always arriving in the aftermath of terrible events, finds himself presented with the opportunity to photograph a gangland massacre at the instant it occurs. One crime family has decided to wipe out another and Joe Pesci's Leon Bernstein, aka the Great Bernzini, knows where and when it will happen. He wants up close photos and the only way he can get them is to be in the restaurant where the killings will happen. After two decades of seeing his photography ignored by the art world, he thinks pulling off this feat will make everyone take notice of him. Bernzini is reckless the same way Jimmy Stewart is in Rear Window, but in less cartoonish fashion because we’re taken inside his thought process and made to understand it.
There's more here of course—love, loneliness, social status, musings about art—but the shootout and whether Bernzini is crazy enough to shut himself in a room where one stray bullet could end his life is what the film is really about. The Public Eye, which appeared in 1992, was a clear influence (along with the French film Man Bites Dog), on the acclaimed 2014 thriller Nightcrawler, but this one is a period piece, set during 1942. While the historical details are convincing, director Howard Franklin and cinematographer Peter Suschitztky don't aim for a true noir look. The filmscape is dark, but not technically stylish. Still it's good, and it benefits from Pesci, who has a way of inhabiting roles to the extent that you can't imagine anyone else playing them. He makes the movie work.
Sensational crimes with a side order of sex.
This issue of Best True Fact Detective which hit newsstands this month in 1950 came from Newsbook Publishing Corp. out of New York City. The magazine had some fantastic covers, but most were uncredited. Some of the artists that worked for the magazine around 1950 include greats like George Gross and Fred Rodewald, but this is the work of Howell Dodd, a fact we discovered with a bit of research. This is great work from him, and you can see more of his output here and here.
Inside the magazine you get various procedural stories sexualized by the editors with blurbs like, "Sex-Starved Women are Coffin-Bait!" and photo captions like, "Officers saw the body of a young girl who in life had been a raving, desirable beauty!" Beyond morbid, if you ask us, but the actual stories are professionally written and informative, with art consisting of photo-illustrations posed by professional models. Has anybody written anything substantive about this bizarre subset of the modeling industry? If not they should, because it's fascinating.
Going nowhere fast in Harlem.
Hell Up in Harlem premiered in the U.S. today in 1973. It was the sequel to Black Caesar, which had been a surprise hit in cinemas a mere ten months earlier. The rush to make a follow-up shows. Hell Up in Harlem is eleven different kinds of inept, a tableau of repellent characters, bad scripting, and poorly staged action. It's not as if ambitions were low here. The movie tells the story of a Harlem crime kingpin who becomes pitted against his devious and ambitious father, imparting the lesson that family relationships come apart like tissue paper if the profit motive is strong enough. Yes, there was a good movie in here somewhere, but it never quite gelled. However Hell Up in Harlem does feature some of the best promo photos we've seen from the blaxploitation genre, and we've posted a few just below. The time it will take you to look at these four photos ismore than the amount of time the fight scene lasts—another flaw of Hell Up in Harlem. The shots show star Fred Williamson in mortal combat with Mindi Miller, who appeared in many films, including Westworld, Body Double, and Amazons. You can find these images around the internet, and she's misidentified on every single one of those websites—even Getty Images—as Gloria Hendry, who she clearly isn't. We also have, below, a great nude promo of Williamson. About time we featured a naked guy, right? Well, don't blame us for the lack. They just didn't make much in the way of nude male promos back then—especially ones like this. And speaking of unexpected, what's that dark shape between Williamson's thighs? We bet he didn't plan on showing that. But don't let it entice into you watching the movie. You'll regret it. New York City
, Hell Up in Harlem
, Black Caesar
, Body Double
, Fred Williamson
, Mindi Miller
, Gloria Hendry
, poster art
, movie review
He lives in a fetid swamp, has terrible grooming habits, and zero career prospects. But at least he listens to me.
David V. Reed’s, aka David Vern’s The Thing That Made Love was originally published in Mammoth Detective in 1943 as The Metal Monster Murders. The first paperback version appeared in 1946 as I Thought I’d Die, and the above version from New York City’s Universal Publishing and Distributing Corporation, which marketed digest sized paperbacks under the imprint Uni-Book, hit stores in 1951 with Robert Stanley cover art. What you get here is a man blamed for murder, but who claims the slayings were the work of a metal swamp monster. The women die battered, but with ecstatic facial expressions. Which raises the question—what exactly is happening to them? You can read a review of the book here.
Update: We learned that Stanley's cover art also appeared in 1952 on Florenz Branch's Whipping Room, for Intimate Novels. Often these cover reworks are clumsy, but we think this makeover is actually pretty good. Not as good as the original, but close.
New York City
, Mammoth Detective
, The Thing That Made Love
, The Metal Monster Murders
, I Thought I’d Die
, David V. Reed
, David Vern
, Robert Stanley
, Florenz Branch
, cover art
Chaos and carnage from coast to coast.
Fotocrime is another offering from Digest Publications, Inc., the NYC outfit that gave the world Exclusive, He, and other newsstand treats. The above magazine appeared this month in 1954, was the premier issue, and is exactly what its title says—a compendium of crime photography and the stories behind them, spiced with a bit of celebrity content. Because it's digest sized the text scans at a readable size, so we don't have to explain much. You can have a look and see what it's all about yourself. Of special note are the crime movie reviews, the anti-handgun article, and the True Detective-style feature entitled “Fotoclue” that challenges readers to solve a hypothetical murder. Forty scans below. New York City
, Digest Publications
, The Long Wait
, Witness To Murder
, Eugene Wiedman
, Jean Laget
, Lucky Luciano
, Roy Schinagle
, Jack Webb
, Ben Alexander
, Mark Stevens
, Ralph Bellamy
, Gloria McGhee
, Leonard Bishop
, true crime magazine
You’re nobody ’til somebody arrests you.
Some items fall into the our-website-is-not-complete-without-them category, so here are Frank Sinatra’s mugshots after being arrested in Bergen County, New Jersey today in 1938 and charged with seduction, which involved having sexual intercourse with a “single female of good repute.” He was locally famous at this point—he had performed with a group called The Hoboken Four, and had sung live on Dance Parade, a show broadcast on New York City’s WNEW radio station. The woman in question was Antoinette Della Penta Francke, better known as Toni Francke. Sinatra had trysted with Francke at least twice, then stopped calling her after his mother Dolly decided she was “cheap trash.” Spurned, Francke went to the police, claimed she had been tricked into intercourse, and was pregnant as a result. But when the authorities later determined that Francke was married they dismissed the charge, since seduction involved staining the reputations of single women.
Francke was persistent, however, and filed a new complaint, this time for adultery, which was basically the same as seduction, but with even more serious implications because it made the cuckolded husband a complainant. Sinatra’s response: “She’s got some nerve, that one. She was the one committing adultery. I didn’t even know she was married.” The Hudson Dispatch reported the second arrest under the headline: Songbird Held on Morals Charge. According to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, Sinatra called the newspaper in a rage. “I’m comin’ down there and I’m gonna beat your brains out, you hear me? I’m gonna kill you and anyone else who had anything to do with that article. And by the way, I ain’t no songbird, you idiot. A dame—that’s a songbird.” The adultery charge was also dropped, under circumstances that remain hazy, but we suspect it had to do with elements of falsehood in Francke’s account of what happened. When all was finally said and done Sinatra was free as a… um… bird, but the great shots above survive.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—Allende Meteorite Falls in Mexico
The Allende Meteorite, the largest object of its type ever found, falls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The original stone, traveling at more than ten miles per second and leaving a brilliant streak across the sky, is believed to have been approximately the size of an automobile. But by the time it hit the Earth it had broken into hundreds of fragments.
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
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