Hollywoodland Aug 25 2017
SPARRING PARTNERS
Ryan and Totter punch out of their weight class.


Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter playfight in this series of promo shots made for the 1949 film noir The Set-Up. Totter plays an up and coming boxer while Ryan plays her much older trainer. No wait—that was Million Dollar Baby. Actually, Ryan plays the boxer, an aging one, while Totter plays his wife. She wants him to retire but he thinks he can still win. He doesn't even seem to be winning in these photos, so you probably have doubts how well he does in the film. We may talk about it in more detail later.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 29 2017
PRIMATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Must be the tropical weather that brings out the beast in them.

Affair in Trinidad, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1952, brought Gilda co-stars Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford together for another go round as star crossed lovers in a foreign land. Hayworth is a nightclub singer, and Ford is the brother of her dead husband, who's first thought to be a suicide, then suspected to have been murdered. There's no mystery who's responsible—it's the oily one percenter who wants Hayworth for himself. Ford wants this fella to hang from Trinidad's highest coconut palm, but Hayworth stands in his way for reasons you'll have to watch the movie to discover.

Overall, as an attempt to rekindle that ole Gilda magic, Affair in Trinidad fails, mainly because Ford is not as appealing as in the former movie. But the problem could lie with us—we don't buy anger, jealousy, and brutal face slaps as aphrodisiacs. We know, we know—things were different in 1952. But puhleeeze—that different? Just because she was kind of nice to him, it means he owns her? We just can't get behind slappy Glenn and his primitive behavior. Affair in Trinidad isn't bad—it just isn't good, exactly. But at least Hayworth works some singing and dancing magic. It isn't as fun as watching her deliver a swift kick to the nutsack would have been, but at least she makes the best of her situation.

Wow, that's one slappable babe. Appearing nightly? I better come back and see if I can slap her.

SLAP!

Slow motion replay. Slaaaaaaaap!

Christ, does my face hurt. You must really love me.

I can slap you too. Lemme slap you too. Look, my hand is ready to slap. I'll slap so good you won't believe how good I slap. I do the best slaps.

I just can't get that slap out of my head. Focus, girl! Spying to do.

I usually slap, but you I'll choke. Because I dig you too, in a different way.

A one, a two, a one, two, three, four: Though my face is swollen I'm so thrilled my man's controllin' in the moooooor-nin!

Every time he hurts me I just have to swirl my skirts because he waaaaarned me!

It ain't a man's fault he hits me! I shouldn't... re-sist!

It's just a man being manly! He can't... de-sist!

Ladies let me warn you too! These guys... are... rude!

But hey, it's the 1950s! There's nothing... I can... do!*

*Please don't send us any obtuse e-mails. We obviously abhor violence against women.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 24 2017
PICKUP LUCK
First rule of plotting a murder: make sure the victim isn't listening in.

Above you see a poster for Pickup, one of the nastier little noirs we've run across our years maintaining this website. Beverly Michaels tries to worm her way into a retired man's affections in order to have the life of leisure she thinks she deserves. But her target, in addition to being old fashioned and a bit obtuse, has some sort of chronic or psychosomatic brain injury that results in confusion and hearing loss. Even so, she manages to marry the poor slob, then sets about figuring how to kill him to obtain his savings of $7,300. When he's hit by a car one afternoon his hearing returns, but Michaels has no idea it's happened and openly plots to murder him, assuming he's still deaf while the entire time he listens in horror. This isn't supposed to be funny, but it is, uproariously. Michaels says the most vicious things about the guy, behind his back and right to his face, day after day, with no idea he can hear every word. These crazy sequences are a big reason why this cheap little b-flick has survived the decades. Plus Michaels knocks her first starring turn over the center field bleachers, playing shrill, wall-eyed evil to the hilt. She was rewarded with more work, including similar gold digger parts in 1953's Wicked Woman and 1956's Blonde Bait. The latter was her last role, making for a short career, but a memorable one. We recommend Pickup, morbid plot, shoestring production values, and all. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1951.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2017
ICE ESCAPADES
Proceed carefully—ice may occur at major plot points.


The thriller Suspense featured the unusual promo poster you see above, which we think really captures the visual feel of film noir in a way posters more typical of the genre do not. Those posters are amazing, but this one is a nice change of pace. The movie stars Olympic ice skater and sometime magazine model Belita, alongside Barry Sullivan, an incredibly prolific actor who appeared in scores of films. Sullivan plays a hustler who weasels his way up from lowly peanut vendor to fast living impresario at a wildly popular Los Angeles ice skating extravaganza. The catalyst for his ascent is his radical suggestion that Belita leap through a circle of swords. Only in old movies, right? “Hey, that circle of swords gag was a great idea! How'd you like to manage the joint!”

Belita's ice skater is a riff on the standard film noir chanteuse, except instead of doing a few a nightclub numbers she does a few skate routines. She's as good as advertised, too. But the success of any film romance hinges on the chemistry between the boy and girl and here it feels contrived. Both Belita and Sullivan are decent actors, but he's a little too charisma challenged, in our view, to attract someone whose life is going as skatingly as Belita's. But it's in the script, so okay, she likes the schlub. What Suspense does well, though, is visuals. Check out what director Frank Tuttle does late in the film when the shadow of the aforementioned sword contraption appears outside Sullivan's office. Beautiful work, suggesting that karma may indeed be a circle.

On the whole, Suspense uses ice the same way Die Hard uses a skyscraper. The entire film is improved by the freshness of the setting. Add expensive production values and visuals worthy of study in a film school and you have a noir whose many plusses cancel out its few minuses. We recommend it.
 
As a side note, the ice show is staged in the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, one of the most breathtaking art deco structures ever built, which was of course eventually demolished because that's what they do in Los Angeles. Actually, a fire destroyed it, but only after seventeen years of abandonment which would not have happened if anyone important in the city cared about historically significant architecture. Suspense brings the Pan-Pacific, just above, back to life, and that's another reason to watch it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.

I'm going to stand right here in your personal space and repeat myself until you say yes.

We're supposed to do a screen kiss, but I'm totally gonna slip you some tongue.

Wow, these are razor sharp, but you'll be fine. Unrelated question—how's your insurance coverage?

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Vintage Pulp May 28 2017
THE GILDA AGE
Some women are trouble. But some trouble is worth it.


Above you see a poster for the game changing film noir Gilda, which opened today in 1946 with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in the starring roles as a casino owner's wife and a gambling drifter. This promo is different from the three we showed you some years back, so we thought we'd upload it just to further bolster our visual documentation of this classic. The piece was painted by the storied Russian born artist Boris Grinsson, who we've discussed only briefly but will certainly get back to. As for Gilda, it's been exhaustively covered by virtually every film writer far and wide, so we've got nothing to add. Watch it. 

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Vintage Pulp May 27 2017
1,000 TO 1 SHOT
You ever feel like you're going to lose no matter what?

This awesome cover art is by Tommy Shoemaker, a new talent to us, but not to more experienced paperback illustration aficionados, and his work fronts William Irish's The Night Has 1000 Eyes. The cover alone got us into this one. It tells the story a woman who has been burdened with very dark—and very real—predictions about the future, forecasts far too specific to be lucky guesses. For example, she's told she'll meet a woman who wears a diamond watch around her knee, and it comes true when one of her friends asks to borrow a garter, then raises her skirt to show how she's dealt with her broken one by fastening her watch around her stocking. Given that these predictions are so specific, the crucial announcement that the woman's father will be killed by a lion seems utterly unavoidable, even though they live in the middle of a metropolis.

The cover may seem to remove the need to read the novel, but don't worry—it actually depicts not the climax or any point in the middle, but the first several pages, in which a beat cop comes across a woman determined to leap from a bridge. It's after he rescues her that we learn the bizarre story of why she's there. Irish, aka George Hopley, aka Cornell Woolrich, is perhaps a bit too reiterative with his prose in this one, tending to belabor his points after they've been fully made, to the extent that the novel feels a bit like it's been padded out to reach a word threshold. Minor flaw. Even if you're periodically tempted to skip some of the existentialism 101 musings, Irish/Hopley/Woolrich weaves a compelling tale here—one later made into a film noir starring Edward G. Robinson—and it's well worth the time spent.  

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Vintage Pulp May 4 2017
POSTAGE DUE
There's no way to avoid paying what's owed.


We just talked about the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, so why not take a moment to focus on the movie, since it premiered today in 1946? Even if it weren't a widely known classic of lust and murder, when John Garfield fetches up at a rural gas station and sees a sign that reads “man wanted,” you suspect where the movie is going. Such a sign, if posted by Nick, the owner, could say “help wanted” or “job available,” but as worded it cleverly establishes the subtext that it's his platinum blonde wife Lana Turner that really wants a man. Garfield and Turner's mutual attraction is immediate and obsessive. The affair starts shortly thereafter, leads to a failed scheme to run off together, then finally devolves into a murder plot. But murder in film noir is never easy. Character-wise, some edges were rounded off James M. Cain's novel, which was a good decision—those two lovers are throughly reprehensible; Garfield and Turner at least generate some sympathy. But not too much—murderers are murderers and just desserts are just for a reason. Highly recommended flick.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 24 2017
MOMMY DEAREST
Spare the rod, spoil the child.

We ran across this West German poster for Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce, and realized we had a substantial gap in our film noir résumé. So we watched the movie, and what struck us about it immediately is that it opens with a shooting. Not a lead-in to a shooting, but the shooting itself—fade in, bang bang, guy falls dead. These days most thrillers bludgeon audiences with big openings like that, but back in the day such action beats typically came mid- and late-film. So we were surprised by that. What we weren't surprised by was that Mildred Pierce is good. It's based on a James M. Cain novel, is directed by Michael Curtiz, and is headlined by Joan Crawford. These were top talents in writing, directing, and acting, which means the acclaim associated with the movie is deserved.

While Mildred Pierce is a mystery thriller it's also a family drama revolving around a twice-married woman's dysfunctional relationship with her gold-digging elder daughter, whose desperation to escape her working class roots leads her to make some very bad decisions. Her mother, trying to make her daughter happy, makes even worse decisions. The movie isn't perfect—for one, the daughter's feverish obsession with money seems extreme considering family financial circumstances continuously improve; and as in many movies of the period, the only black character is used as cringingly unkind comic relief. But those blemishes aside, this one is enjoyable, even if the central mystery isn't really much of a mystery. Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce opened in West Germany today in 1950.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 29 2017
FINAL EDIT
Nothing's harder to rewrite than a lie.

This simple but effective poster was made to promote the simple but effective film noir Night Editor, starring William Gargan, Janis Carter, and Jeff Donnell. A group of grizzled reporters arrayed around a poker game reminisce over past scoops, with one of the group eventually telling the story of Tony Cochrane, a cop who got himself in too deep with a dame. A dissolve to the past takes viewers to the cop's world, and the narrative is broken up by occasional returns to the smoky poker game, where the storyteller punctuates his tale with a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking.

The story is that Cochrane the cop, who was cheating on his wife with a beautiful society woman, was parked one night at a secluded beach when he and his lover witnessed a murder. But fearing exposure of their affair, he neither stops the killing, nor pursues the killer, and later actively tampers with evidence to hide his own presence at the murder scene. You know this is going nowhere good, but just how complicated the mess becomes is where the fun lies. Low budget, but reasonably entertaining, Night Editor premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 16 2017
HOSTAGE HOUSE
Bogart counts down to zero hour.

This striking Roger Soubie promo poster for La maison des otages, aka The Desperate Hours, doesn't leave much doubt about what happens to Humphrey Bogart, but even without the poster there wouldn't be any doubt. Bogart stars, in his last villain role, as an ex-con who takes a family hostage in order to use their home as a hideout. During the Leave It To Beaver 1950s there was no way his character was going to go unpunished for pointing a gun at a kid. Even seeing it in the promo image below makes you cringe a little, doesn't it? But the inevitable consequences of Bogart's actions aren't the point—how he struggles to maintain the constantly evolving hostage scenario is what generates the drama, and the imprisoned family aren't his only problem. La maison des otages is a later noir, but a better one. It opened in France today in 1956.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 15
1944—Bandleader Glenn Miller Disappears
World famous big band leader Glenn Miller, who was flying from England to Paris in a small plane, disappears over the English Channel. One theory holds that his plane was knocked down by bombs jettisoned from bombers passing high above after an aborted raid on Germany, but no cause of his disappearance is officially listed, and no trace of Miller, the crew, or the plane is ever found.
1973—Getty Heir Found Alive
John Paul Getty III, grandson of American billionaire J. Paul Getty, is found alive near Naples, Italy, after being kidnapped by an Italian gang on July 10, 1973. The gang members had cut off his ear and mailed it to Getty III, but he otherwise is in good health.
December 14
1911—Team Reaches South Pole
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, along with his team Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting, becomes the first person to reach the South Pole. After a celebrated career, Amundsen eventually disappears in 1928 while returning from a search and rescue flight at the North Pole. His body is never found.
December 13
1944—Velez Commits Suicide
Mexican actress Lupe Velez, who was considered one of the great beauties of her day, commits suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In her note, Velez says she did it to avoid bringing shame on her unborn child by giving birth to him out of wedlock, but many Hollywood historians believe bipolar disorder was the actual cause. The event inspired a 1965 Andy Warhol film entitled Lupe.
1958—Gordo the Monkey Lost After Space Flight
After a fifteen minute flight into space on a Jupiter AM-13 rocket, a monkey named Gordo splashes down in the South Pacific but is lost after his capsule sinks. The incident sparks angry protests from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but NASA says animals are needed for such tests.
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