A stranger in strange lands comes to know pure evil.
Because Eric Ambler's 1939 thriller The Mask of Dimitrios is the source of the classic 1944 film noir of the same name starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, we should have read it long ago, but better late than never. The book tells the story of a writer in Istanbul who becomes interested in a killer, smuggler, slaver, and political agitator known as Dimitrios Makropoulos. In hopes of finding inspiration the writer begins to piece together the life of this mystery man.
The investigation carries him from Istanbul to Sofia to Geneva and beyond. That sounds exotic, but the story is almost entirely driven by external and internal dialogues, with little effort spent bringing alive its far flung locales. While we see that as a missed opportunity, and the book could be shorter considering so much of the aforementioned dialogue fails to further illuminate matters, it's fascinating how Dimitrios is slowly pieced together. Here's a line to remember, as the main character Latimer reflects upon the modern age and what the world is becoming:
“The logic of Michelangelo's David and Beethoven's quartets and Einstein's physics had been replaced by that of The Stock Exchange Yearbook and Hitler's Mein Kampf.”
That isn't one you'd soon forget. Ambler sees casino capitalism and Nazism as twin signposts on a road to perdition built by people like Dimitrios. We can't even imagine that being written by a popular author today without controversy, but Ambler, writing in England during the late 1930s, had zero trouble identifying exactly what he was looking at. This Great Pan edition of The Mask of Dimitrios appeared many years later in 1961, and it has unusual but effective cover art from S. R. Boldero.
Aussie publisher beats the life out of a classic Howell Dodd cover.
Didn't we just share a cover for Whip Hand? We did, but that was a totally different book. That was Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders, 1961, and this one is Whip Hand! by Hodge Evens, 1952. And as you can see below, this is yet another book for which the art was copied by a foreign publishing company—Sydney, Australia based Star Books, in 1953. It may seem impossible that Dodd didn't know of this, but back then it was indeed likely he had no clue. And even if he did know, there's little he could have done. Whoever painted this was not credited, and why would they be? Compared to Dodd's original it's pretty limp.
Horwitz uses its best known cover star to date.
American actress and dancer Debra Paget appears, quite strikingly, on the front of Carter Brown's Stripper You've Sinned, which was published in 1956. We've been speculating for a while whether Horwitz, headquartered 7,500 miles away from Hollywood in Sydney, Australia, licensed its celebrity covers. Our assumption has always been no. The idea of celebrity covers would be, ostensibly, to generate extra interest in the book. But if that's the case, why such obscure stars? There's really no extra publicity to gain, and a licensing fee to lose. So we've always suspected the celebs were chosen merely because they were beautiful and the shots were available as handout photos.
But now we aren't sure about that, because Paget breaks the pattern—she was pretty well known in 1956, having appeared in more than a dozen films, and in highly billed roles in a few of those productions. So now we're thinking Horwitz actually did license these images. The fees must have been tiny, though, otherwise it wouldn't make any sense fiscally. Horwitz could have put an equally beautiful Aussie model on the book covers and gotten the same result with less hassle. In any case, this is great imagery. If you want to know what the book is actually about, check the review here. And if you click the keywords “Horwitz Publications” below you'll see all our previous posts on this matter.
Phantom actress puts men in their place.
We're back to National Spotlite with a cover published today in 1968. The photo is of actress Carolyn Haynes, and a headline goes to actress Caroline Lee, who says she makes men crawl for her sexual favors. The money quote: “If women use their bodies the right way they can be the most powerful people on Earth.” A quote like that sounds suspiciously like it was fabricated by a man, and in fact while several Caroline Lees appear on IMDB, none fit the profile required to have done this interview—i.e. born sometime in the 1940s or possibly in 1950. National Spotlite is busted again. The editors simply could never have imagined a globally accessible actor database. We also did a search on Haynes and likewise learned she never existed
But some of the celebs are real. In Spotlite's “Dateline: The World” feature readers are treated to a photo of Chris Noel. It's been a long time since we've seen her—eight years to be exact. Spotlite tells us she smashed a vase over the head of a nightclub employee when he tried to force his way into her dressing room in Sydney one night. “The man attempted to romance her but she spurned every overture he made. When he tried to use violence to get his way she spilt open his skull.” We found no mention of the incident in any other source, but we like the story for how it turns out. If her assailant had known anything at all about Chris Noel he'd have rememberd her publicity tours of Vietnam and realized she was one tough celeb.
“Dateline: The World” next regales readers with a tale out of Africa. "Cary Grant arrived in Nairobi to join a hunting safari and has been escorting two six-foot dark-skinned native girls to whatever cafes in town they can get into, and has caused quite a bit of controversy by doing so. Grant traded punches with a man in one spot when the gent took offense at Cary's dates. Cary flattened the man, but the stranger rose to his feet flashing a knife and only the quick efforts of the bartender and cafe owner averted further trouble for the star. Cary and the girls fled while the others were subduing the knife wielder."
Paris: "Juliette Prowse was detained the other night after she threw a make-up case through the window of a drug store. She had purchased some cosmetics at the American Drug on the Champs-Élysées, but brought the order back the same night. She claimed that she'd made a mistake and didn't need the cosmetics. The salesman explained that he would exchange the merchandise or give Prowse credit, but no cash refund. Juliette roared out of the place. Outside she hurled her make-up case through the store's front window. Two policemen saw her smash the window and nabbed her on the spot."
Beirut: "David Niven and wife Hjordis ran into an embarrassing situation in a night spot while making the cafe rounds in this Lebanese city. A belly dancer took such a fancy to David that she did her act for him alone. She even sat on his lap. The patrons objected to her performing for just one man and began to throw things at her and at Niven. David and Hjordis ran for the exits after he pushed the girl off his lap."
Capri: "Noel Coward is nursing bruises on his face. He says he was attacked by two young men while he was out strolling one night. The muggers made off with a pair of cuff links given to him by Raquel Welch and a watch from Greta Garbo. Coward was found half-conscious and bleeding."
You get the gist—celebs in trouble. Back during the heyday of tabloids Confidential had bellhops, bartenders, chauffeurs, maîtres d'hôtel, and cops by the hundreds phoning in hot tips, but Spotlite was never more than a second tier rag and could not have had the resources to uncover the above stories. Therefore the editors either made them up or lifted them from other tabloids. We suspect the latter—with the stories ginned up for entertainment value. Cary Grant in Nairobi with two Kenyan escorts? We'll buy it. Grant risking his million dollar mug in a fistfight? Improbable. But the stories sure are fun. See more from National Spotlite by clicking here.
Times may change but sex always sells.
Above is the front of a copy of Uncensored magazine that appeared today in 1965 with cover stars Jackie O., Blaze Starr, and—in a sign of changing times—the Beatles. Inside the magazine you get sin and skin in the form of East German sex camps, nudity in international cinema, exotic dancer Marlene MacLane, transgender entertainer Christine Jorgensen, and call girl Christine Keeler, who, Uncensored reminds readers yet again, had lovers with skin darker than hers. And according to journalist Bill Jeffree, so did thousands of other British women. What had the world come to? These old tabloids often contain photos that haven’t made it online yet, and from this one we’re happy to upload a cool shot of Keeler, a snap of John F. Kennedy, Jr. as a toddler, and a rare vision of Elizabeth Taylor strolling a Mediterranean boardwalk in her bikini. We have about twenty scans below and more from Uncensored to come.
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.
Bungle in the jungle.
During the 1960s the Cleveland Publishing Company, which was based in Sydney, Australia, printed quite a lot of books like the one above—i.e., World War II adventures that in retrospect are subtly racist. Well, actually, who are we kidding? Retrospect and subtlety have nothing to do with it. Even in the context of the 1960s these were overtly racist books featuring depraved and heinous Japanese adversaries putting Aussie soldiers through hell, often in jungle prison camps. We have other examples we’ll share later, but this is probably the most interesting of them, art-wise, with its devilish villain painted camouflage green. Mack Kenton, the author here, wrote many war books for Cleveland, including Beachhead, Operation Solo, Ordeal of the Damned, Fight or Die, et. al., but despite his extensive bibliography there isn’t much info on him. Uncredited artist as well. It’s amusing to imagine that both author and illustrator disavowed themselves from this dubious work, but that probably isn’t what happened. The book is just obscure. As always we’ll dig for more.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
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