Bogart and Bacall arrive in Italy in Grande style.
Above, a beautiful poster for Il grande sonno, better known as The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Was Bacall a redhead? Well, she was in Italy. At the top of the poster you see that this played at the Politeama cinema. Rome? Naples? Palermo? Genoa? Cinemas with that name abounded, so we have no way of knowing exactly where the poster was displayed. You'll see the art attributed to Luigi Martinati on various websites, but we don't think so. It doesn't look like his work, and it's actually signed “Nico” near Bacall's right thigh. Martinati did paint a couple of posters for this movie, though, which we may upload later. We've talked about The Big Sleep—as has every other film noir related site on the internet. We don't have any special insights, but if you're curious what we said anyway, check here. After opening in the U.S. in 1946, The Big Sleep arrived in Italy today in 1947, which the poster tells us was martedì—a Tuesday.
I've got a handful of sleeping pills for you.
Since we brought up The Big Sleep we might as well share this nice image of Martha Vickers armed and dangerous. Though this was made for the film, it isn't a still frame, but rather a promo image unrelated to the action. She actually does brandish a gun at one point, but it's a 1930s Iver Johnson revolver rather than the automatic you see here. We've shared several other images of Vickers, all rare, all beautiful. See the top three here, here, and here.
O Século Ilustrado showcases a top Hollywood beauty.
The Portuguese magazine O Século Ilustrado was the weekly supplement of Lisbon's daily newspaper O Século, which was published between 1880 and 1978. There's some pop culture and cinema content in the magazine, but it wasn't filled with thrilling visuals. The covers were sometimes an exception, though, such as this one that hit newsstands today in 1947 featuring an amazing shot of U.S. actress Martha Vickers—billed as “a star of cinema and radio.” During her short life she made a lasting impression in movies like The Big Sleep and Ruthless. The promo photo O Século Ilustrado editors used to create their cover appears below, and you can see that Vickers was a rare beauty. She died of cancer in 1971 aged forty-six.
You know what they say about men with big hats.
In this production still from 1946's The Big Sleep featuring a bizarrely large hat in the foreground, Martha Vickers falls into Humphrey Bogart's arms. Bogart, under normal circumstances, would have been smart to likewise fall for Miss Vickers, but his other choice in the movie was Lauren Bacall. Which means it was she who got hat, head, and all the rest.
Raymond Chandler's most memorable hits.
Women were hit often in pulp literature. This cover for Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep depicts just such a moment, as detective Philip Marlowe decides to slap Carmen Sternwood to bring her out of a drug induced stupor. He feels it's for her own good, as he's found her naked in a house where's she's been the subject of pronographic photos. The goal is to get her up and out of the place. Later he hits her again and this time it's more out of annoyance. We could go into our whole thing about how this sort of behavior reflects an assumption on the part of men that they have ownership of women's bodies, but you already know what we're going to say, so let's just give artist Harvey Kidder credit for painting an eye-catching cover. The Big Sleep was originally published in 1939, and this edition appeared in 1950.
Slipping into darkness.
Lauren Bacall appears here in what may be her most famous publicity image, gazing from the darkness with a knowing, mischievous, heavy-lidded look she made her trademark in The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and To Have and Have Not, three films that were a sort of informal trifecta of film noir. She also appeared in Key Largo, less a noir than a melodrama, but still excellent. All co-starred Humphrey Bogart, who she married in the middle of this run of films and remained married to until his death in 1957. Bacall joins him more than half a century later, aged eighty-nine.
Even cowgirls get the blues you say? Hmmph. Never happened to me.
Whenever a very old actor dies you inevitably read that he or she had been one of the last surviving remnants of Hollywood’s golden age. In reality, there are many actors and actresses still living from that period and above you see a good example in Dorothy Malone, who began her cinema career in 1943 and appeared in films such as Artists and Models, 1955’s The Fast and The Furious, and of course The Big Sleep, in which she played the world’s hottest bookstore clerk. Not sure of the year on the cowgirl shot, but we think 1947 is a very good guess.
Even southern girls get the blues.
You know we like to share these pulp style covers certain publishing houses cooked up for reprints of serious pieces of literature. Today, it’s William Faulkner’s turn, and the subject is his 1931 novel Sanctuary, which Signet released in 1950 with this cover. Sanctuary was Faulkner’s fifth book and first success, but he wasn’t particularly fond of it, dismissing it as commercial claptrap written purely for financial reasons. If that was truly his intention, it seems like leaving out all the depravity and violence would have been a better way to go about it. In any case, critics did not consider the book lightweight in the least, and a central rape scene involving a corncob understandably generated quite a bit of controversy. When the book was adapted into a 1933 movie entitled The Story of Temple Drake starring Miriam Hopkins, the corncob was removed, but the film still caused a stir and helped bring about the introduction of the Hays Code—the censorship doctrine that predated the establishment of the MPAA. In 1961 Sanctuary was adapted again, and this time not only was the corncob removed, but a sizeable chunk of Faulkner’s original plot. Despite his professed distaste for commercialism, Faulkner had by then worked on dozens of movie projects. He wrote screenplays for To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, and also became a sought after script doctor, massaging projects like Mildred Pierce, The Southerner and Gunga Din. We have a collection of posters from some of his projects below. If you’ve neglected to see any of these films, we highly recommend them and, of course, his novels are well worth a read.
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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