Pair arrested in payoff scheme profess shock. “We were incredibly subtle about it,” claim jailbirds.
This cover for Ira Wolfert's The Underworld is uncredited, which is a shame considering it's wonderfully executed and wraps cleverly around to the rear of the book. Wolfert won a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, aka the Battle of the Solomons, then the same year wrote Tucker's People, which was the original title of The Underworld. The Bantam paperback edition above was published in 1950. The book details the numbers rackets of New York City, which were executed far more subtly than the not very casual depiction in the art. The story captured Hollywood's attention and was produced as 1948's Force of Evil, starring John Garfield. We'll get around to talking about that movie a bit later.
If you think it looks funny in a photo you she should see when I walk into a restaurant this way.
Above, hottie Adele Mara strikes some limber poses in two promos from the Republic Pictures b-feature Call of the South Seas. She plays a Polynesian dancer named Aritana, which must mean “lily white” in her language. But of course, in 1944 when the film was released, dark skinned performers were rarely part of Hollywood calculus. Mara loses points for authenticity, but the shots are still amazing.
James Stewart sees the sights without ever leaving his apartment.
Belgian movie posters are often quite beautiful. We've already shared frameworthy examples for Vanessa and A Thousand and One Nights, as well as a few others, and above you see a promo for Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window. The movie premiered in 1954 and first played in Belgium today in 1955, where it was titled Fenêtre sur cour, which means “window on the courtyard.” The poster was printed by S.P.R.L. Belgique and the artist is Wik, someone who is simultaneously well represented in vintage poster circles while being a total mystery. We plan to dig around, see if we can find more info on this person.
Everyone has a favorite Hitchcock movie. Rear Window is ours. The story, the stars, and the look of the film are all great, and the idea of everyone's lives under a microscope foreshadows the world in which we live in today. Raised shades aren't needed, though—metadata tells corporations and governments more than a glance in a window ever could. In Rear Window, once Jimmy Stewart realizes he is able to spy, he does it even though he knows it's wrong, and once he suspects a crime has been committed, any sense of guilt disappears—instead he feels entitled to intrude. Maybe that's why today's digital spies always claim to be ferreting out crime—because they know most people will accept that as an excuse.
But you don't need us to analyze Rear Window. More qualified writers than us have gone over every frame of the film. Instead we've decided to show you below what Stewart was looking at, thanks to series of promo images we managed to locate. Thus you see, from top to bottom, the rear courtyard which encompasses the story, the newlyweds Rand Harper and Havis Davenport, the murder suspect Raymond Burr, Miss Torso played by Georgine Darcy, Miss Lonely Hearts played by Judith Evelyn, and Grace Kelly with sidekick Thelma Ritter digging for body parts in the garden. If you haven't seen the film, definitely watch it. You'll have fun.
Work hard, play hard, die young, live forever.
Dorothy Baker's hit 1938 novel Young Man with a Horn tells a story inspired by jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, who, along with Louis Armstrong, was one of the most important early jazz soloists, but who drank himself to death in 1931, when he was only twenty-eight. Baker's protagonist is Rick Martin, who gets to live a couple of years longer than Beiderbecke before she knocks him off. Hope that didn't give too much away. The book was optioned by Hollywood and became a 1950 movie starring Kirk Douglas, which we talked about last year. The great cover, our primary interest today, was painted by British artist Josh Kirby, a legendary illustrator who during his long career did fronts for westerns, crime thrillers, James Bond novels, and non-fiction books, as well as creating many fronts and interior illustrations for sci-fi magazines. As you can see, he had a bold vision and a very confident hand. We'll keep an eye out for more of his work. This one is from 1962, for Corgi Books.
Nothing is harder to wipe off than otherness.
If you're in the mood for a movie built around a martyr complex Tarnished is just the ticket. In this one a man from a shunned smalltown family returns to his home after seven years to find everyone has heard he's been in prison. He's mistreated by nearly every resident in this backwater burg, but the thing is, he was never in prison. He was actually in the marines, was wounded on Tarawa, and spent a long period in a military hospital. But he won't tell anyone this. Even though all sorts of trouble results, not only for him, but for anyone who dares to treat him kindly, he still maintains silence about his past. Was this character wounded in the brain? No—he's just infected by a 1950s morality that existed mainly in the movies.
American morals changed due to the human slaughterhouse of World One I, the degradation of the Great Depression, and a return to the slaughterhouse during World War II. These shocks weakened previous social strictures. For example, by 1950 most women were having sex before marriage, though less so in small towns. That's why Tarnished is such an interesting film. People watching in New York City or Chicago in 1950 were probably almost as annoyed by these Podunkville values as viewers are today. And that's really the point. The movie creates a retrograde, antagonistic community, adds to this a protagonist stained by otherness but who has true integrity, and pits town against hero to show how self-destructive small-mindedness can be.
If there's a serious flaw in Tarnished, it's is that the internal logic falters somewhat when the protagonist actually does, in fact, admit that he was in the marines to one of his antagonists by way of explaining why he's about to commit a heroic act. If he'd left the man with no explanation for the subsequent heroism, the movie's point would have been even sharper. The screenplay was adapted from a novel by a twenty-five year old author named Eleanor Mayo, and we have a suspicion she had more interesting things to say in her narrative. Maybe we'll try to track it down. Tarnished, with Arthur Franz as the strong but silent hero and Dorothy Patrick as his love interest, premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Jack the Ripper, with an Italian twist.
Above, the original Italian poster for Dario Argento's horror thriller L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which premiered in Rome today in 1970 and has since become an iconic example of the giallo genre. We talked about the film, and shared the Spanish posters back in 2010. You can see those here.
This is not a homicidal glare. This is a homicidal glare.
Above, two borderline scary promo photos of Joan Crawford made when she was shooting the film noir Mildred Pierce, a movie that, embarrassingly, represents a gaping hole in our film watching résumé. We'll take care of that soon. These images are from 1945.
When they say love hurts they aren't kidding.
This wintry poster for Hakkinbon bijin ranbu yori: semeru!, aka Beauty's Exotic Dance: Torture! shows star Junko Miyashita looking miserable and cold. Which actually happens in the movie. It tells the story of an artist who engages a prostitute to satiate his need for sadistic sex, which he uses to fuel his art. The prostitute, Miyashita, is a consensual partner in all this, wanting to please the artist and out-do his dearly departed wife. You gets lots of drawn out sadism involving rope bondage, asphyxiation, ice baths, scaldings with candle wax, and more. And if that isn't dark and weird enough already, matters take a really nasty turn when Miyashita turns out to have inherited something unusual from her mother. If you watch the movie, don't say we didn't warn you. Hakkinbon bijin ranbu yori: semeru! premiered in Japan today in 1977.
They're hoping for a Cinemiracle.
The above photo shows two hopefuls backstage about to compete for the title of Miss Cinemiracle, which was bestowed by the Los Angeles Press Photographer's Association in a pageant held at the National Theatre. We have no idea who the two women are or what they did once taking the stage, but we do know what Cinemiracle was—a film projection system designed to compete with Cinerama. The winner of the Miss Cinemiracle title, who ended up being Merlene Marrow, gained a measure of recognition—always invaluable for those hoping to break into show business—and in return helped publicize the projection process at public appearances. You see Marrow doing exactly that below, standing next to other pageant winners and actor James Garner. Eventually, Cinerama bought the patents for Cinemiracle and brought the competing format to an end. Anyway, these images struck us and we wanted to share them. The one above was made today in 1958, and the one below was made later the same year.
She had a torso like no other.
And here's a photo to soothe any frayed nerves after our commentary in the previous post. You're looking at Georgine Darcy. She had a mildly successful career in show business, but only one role of hers really matters—Miss Torso from Alfred Hitchcock's top notch thriller Rear Window. If you haven't seen it don't be scared. Darcy is not nicknamed Miss Torso because she ends up dismembered or anything like that (no, that's a different character in the movie). Darcy is so named because James Stewart watches her dance, dress, flirt, and do other fun things with her perfect body. Yes, he's a voyeur, but he's wheelchair bound and bored. If it were us, we'd have no excuse at all.
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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