Desire is easy. It's fulfillment that's hard.
This unusual promo pamphlet was made for the Australian release of May Britt's romantic drama The Blue Angel, which opened Down Under today in 1959. 20th Century Fox's publicity department was calling it “one of the great classic films of all times,” though it had only been out a few months. The lesson here is never believe the publicity department. In the film, which is a remake of Marlene Dietrich's 1930 classic of the same name, Swedish bombshell May Britt plays a burlesque performer named Lola-Lola who dances and sings nightly at a smalltown cabaret called the Blue Angel. She draws the romantic attention of a prudish, perhaps even virginal, high school professor, and all kinds of complications follow, ranging from the good (love and romance) to the bad (scorn and unemployment).
It's been said that Britt was chosen over Marilyn Monroe for this role, but if that's true, we're looking at a remarkably different movie than Monroe would have made. For one thing, while financed by 20th Century Fox, the movie is set in Germany and everyone in it hails from somewhere in Europe. We can't imagine that was the plan if Monroe had starred, but as a remake of a German classic, we suppose it's possible. Anotherbig difference is that Britt is not in any way Monroesque. While both are blonde and beautiful, Britt has a knowing, grown-up, real-woman demeanor, her voice a throaty contralto, while Monroe played wiggly-hipped high-pitched kittenish to the hilt. We can only assume the role was intended as a departure for Monroe, and a major departure it would have been.
But this is Britt's film and one thing is sure—she has talent. This isn't a surprise. She had already been in thirteen movies by this point. The Blue Angel came out the year before she met and married Sammy Davis, Jr. She made one more movie then was out of show business until after she and Davis divorced eight years later. These would have been her prime moviemaking years, but she chose to be a wife and mother,and has commented of that period that she chose correctly. Yet The Blue Angel gives a strong indication what sort of star she might have been. 20th Century Fox may have jumped the gun calling the film one of the great classics of all times, but now that it's actually an old film, and it's undoubtedly good thanks to May Britt and the very capable Curd Jürgens, maybe that description isn't so far off after all.
What's good for the hair is good for the derrière.
We're sure everyone remembers the folk wisdom that women needed to brush their hair one hundred times each night to make it shine, right? Well, once the prone woman on the punishment themed cover of 1957's Burlesque Jungle gets one hundred brush strokes of a different kind her butt will be shining too, bright red presumably. This is a republication of 1956's hardback Blonde Flames, about a Miami Beach burlesque queen known as Silver Venus and her rivalry with an upstart dancer. Considering Boyer got both a hardback and a republication out of this, we're surprised it's her only output. A sequel where Silver Venus bobby pins her rival's nipples seems like a no-brainer.
Sometimes in show business you need to make sure to cover your ass.
This lovely photo shows Doris Mitchell, a New York City showgirl and singer who was a member of Nils Thor Granlund's NTG Revue, a chorus line that was the first of its kind in Las Vegas, originating in 1943 at the El Rancho Hotel and Casino. The NTG Revue eventually came to New York City, where Mitchell presumably joined. But reviews were mixed, with some critics liking it, but a Variety scribe noting Granlund's habit of slapping the chorus girls on their asses, to which they rolled their eyes and drawled scripted quips like, “Ain't he a card?” Granlund was uncouth, but he was also famous and wealthy, so he got away with it. Sound like anyone you know? As far as Mitchell herself, this photo seems to be the only evidence of her career that exists.
Who needs an entire bouquet when you already have a Lili?
We've talked before about Horwitz Publications' habit of using celebrities on its Carter Brown paperback covers. Previous examples include Elke Sommer, Joan Collins, and Senta Berger. Above you see another borrowed celeb—none other than Lili St. Cyr—fronting Brown's 1965 thriller Homicide Harem in a cone bra outfit that brings to mind the fashion of Jean Paul Gaultier. There's no doubt it's her. We've spent a lot of time on her and recognized her high arching eyebrows and cleft chin immediately. But just to assuage any doubts you may have, we found a photo of her wearing the same outfit (though with different shoes), which you see below. We think Horwitz used unlicensed handout photos of moderately famous stars to create their covers. Lili was pretty famous by 1955, but perhaps not in Australia, since she wasn't really in movies to the extent that anything she'd done would have played there. Possibly 1955's Son of Sinbad made it there, but we have no data on that. Anyway, we're still a bit baffled why Horwitz didn't just use local models. It isn't as if there has ever been a shortage of beautiful women down under. This will remain a mystery, we suspect.
Yes, I’d like to order a pair of curtains, immediately please.
The French had a wide array of nudie—er, we mean, art—magazines during the mid-century period, including Paris-Hollywood and Folies de Paris et de Hollywood, which are the two we’ve focused on up to now. Regal was another popular publication—digest sized, light on text, and put together by Éditions Extentia, an outfit based out of 38 Rue du Monte-Thabor in Paris that also published Sensations, Chi-Chis, Paris-Broadway, and Paris-Tabou. It was a far-flung enterprise, even distributing issues in distant French Indochina via the loftily named Société Franco-Asiatique located in Saigon. Or if one preferred, issues could be obtained direct from France through the use of “envoi discret,” or discreet shipping, by which we expect they mean in a plain brown wrapper. This issue of Regal, with its voyeur themed cover photo suggesting a woman spied through an open window, was published in 1952. We have twenty-five scans below.
It's the single life for St. Cyr... again.
This photo shows burlesque icon Lili St. Cyr today in 1964, leaving the Los Angeles courthouse where she had just divorced her sixth and final husband, Joseph Zomar, a special effects technician who had worked on such films as Space Probe Taurus and The Addams Family. The grounds for the split? St. Cyr said her man was drunk every night and always angry. Once knowledge leaked out to American women that drunkenness and anger were legit grounds for a split, the divorce rate shot up 50%. It's totally true—look it up.
French musical comedy looks at the follies, foibles and failures of a terminally chaotic burlesque production.
This beautiful and rare Japanese poster was made to promote the French burlesque comedy Ah! Les belles bacchantes, which was known in English by the titles Peek-a-Boo and Femmes de Paris. We managed to locate a copy and basically you get a musical about a local cop who decides to look into reports of sexual dancing at a local cabaret. The movie stars Louis de Funès as the cop, Colette Brosset as an aspiring dancer, and Les Bluebell Girls du Lido. The image on the poster features one of those Bluebell Girls personifying La nuit, or the Night, and as impressive as she looks on paper, you should see her in the movie. Other dancers portray the Sun, the Moon, and so forth. We'd go so far as to say that sequence alone was worth the time spent watching Ah! Les belles bacchantes. But is it actually a good movie? Sure—if you like ventriloquists, leopards, pratfalls, brawls, and sputtering doubletakes. In other words, it's very silly, and very likeable. It opened in France in 1954 and reached Japan yesterday in 1955.
Bal Tabarin is a movie that's a real kick.
We've been doing a lot on exotic dance of late, so keeping with that theme, above are two posters for Bal Tabarin, an American crime drama from Republic Pictures revolving around the Bal Tabarin cabaret in Paris. A Los Angeles secretary witnesses her boss's murder and flees to Paris to hide with a close friend. She's an aspiring singer, so naturally she soon receives a job offer from the owner of the cabaret. Add in a bit of romance and her Paris idyll is going better than expected, but the bad guys soon catch up to her, clued in by the many Paris postcards mailed to her apartment over the years. Standard ’50s drama with a good location gimmick and nice dance scenes, Bal Tabarin premiered today in 1952. But anyone going to Paris after that to visit the cabaret might have been disappointed. It closed in 1953.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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