A Dors of a different color.
Diana Dors is the star of the above Technicolor lithograph, which was tinted pink for fun by the vendors at Corp. A. Fox, an outfit that churned out thousands of similar prints during the mid-century period. They picked up the images wherever they were able, and this one was originally made as a promo for the 1957 film noir The Unholy Wife, without the garish pink tinge. Dors had already been in movies for ten years, so she wasn't actually a new box office figure, as the promo declares, but maybe she was newish to U.S. audiences. The photo was also sold as a horizontally oriented lithograph, again without the overdone blush, also below. You can see a couple dozen more prints featuring various known and unknown models from A. Fox and other litho companies by clicking the keywords at bottom. We also shared a Dors litho from 1964, which you can see here. And you can read about The Unholy Wife here.
Bailiff, can you please hand me Exhibit A so I can use it to get these people the hell out of my face?
In this photo made today in 1958 Hollywood super attorney Jerry Giesler sits next to Lana Turner at a coroner's inquest into the killing of Turner's boyfriend, alleged mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato. Turner's daughter, fourteen-year-old Cheryl Crane, had stabbed Stompanato in the abdomen with a knife during a confrontation in her and Turner's home. Among the throng seen around Giesler and Turner are Crane's father Stephen, assistant attorney Art Crowley, and various members of the press, who back then were given what today would be considered intrusive access to court proceedings.
As all Hollywood hung on Turner's words, the famed femme fatale, looking every bit the superstar she was, described to the court how an escalating argument between her and Stompanato led to him threatening to kill her. She related the fatal moment this way: “I was walking toward the bedroom door and he was right behind me, and I opened it and my daughter came in. I swear it was so fast I … I truthfully thought she had hit him in the stomach. The best I can remember they came together and they parted. I still never saw a blade.”
In most accounts the knife Crane used is described as a butcher knife, but it was actually a thin-bladed filleting knife. In any case it did the job nicely. And despite taking on a feared thug Crane came away physically unharmed. In the seconds after the stabbing Stompanato either chose not to retaliate, or more likely—because the knife had penetrated his liver, portal vein, and aorta—went into shock immediately and was unable either to strike back or go for aid. Police found him peacefully supine on the bedroom carpet. He had bled very little—at least on the outside.
Giesler got Crane off on the grounds of justifiable homicide, but conspiracy theories about the killing became rampant. Some said Crane killed Stompanato out of jealous desire; others claimed Turner did the deed and got her daughter to take the blame because she knew the court wouldn't imprison a minor. But in 1988 Crane, who never testified in 1958, gave her version of events. She said the attack was exactly as described, but that she also hated Stompanato because he was sexually abusing her. Many didn't believe her in 1988 but her words certainly have the ring of truth today.
Hi. I heard you serve tall boys here.
Our girlfriends didn't get it. A tall boy is a glass. They thought it was a chest of drawers. Yes, it's a chest a drawers. But it's a glass too. Mars, Venus, right? Anyway, back in December we watched the shlock jungle adventure Killer Ape with Johnny Weissmuller and Max Palmer, who you see above. Palmer was the tallest human on Earth, according to many sources. Here you see him entering a Hollywood bar called the Blue Palm Cafe, and needing to duck his head to get under the doorway. He was billed as 8' 2”. Some sources say he was probably more like 7' 6” or 7' 8”. Typical doorways in the U.S. were about 8 feet high, so decide on his height for yourself. Palmer made three films besides Killer Ape—Stone, Invaders from Mars, and The Sniper. The latter film was his debut role, in 1952, and the above photo was made that same year.
They say even bad publicity is good publicity.
In this March 1957 issue of the tabloid Behind the Scene editors take swipes at assorted Hollywood icons, among them Yul Brenner, John Wayne, and others. Highlights include the allegation that Elvis Presley's career is mob controlled, that camera clubs are just fronts for porn peddlers, that Hedy Lamarr used Linda Lombard as a body double for Samson & Delilah, and that Lucrezia Borgia is the sexiest movie ever made. Also Mamie Van Doren's “secret weapon” is that anywhere she goes she always wears the least clothing of any woman present.
The shocking tales about Brynner have mainly to do with his claims of being a real life man of action, born on the Russian island of Sakhalin to Mongol ancestors. The truth was more mundane, but the lies helped Brynner establish himself as a star. As far as Elvis goes, he was dogged by rumors of Mafia ties later in his career, but this mention of a connection as far back as 1957 was a surprise to us. As always, people on both sides of the issue are willing to shout their version of the facts to the mountaintops, but nobody really knows who’s telling the truth. We’ll check with Elvis himself on this, since he lives just over in the next town since faking his death in 1977.
The interesting story here is the one about Gail Russell and John Wayne. Their acquaintanceship began when they starred in Angel and the Badman together in 1947, and continued when they reunited for Wake of the Red Witch in 1949. Whether they were more than just friends, nobody really knows. At the time Wayne was married to Esperanza Baur Díaz, and the relationship was marred by drinking and fighting, including one incident when Baur shot at Wayne. When the divorce inevitably came, it turned into one of the nastiest splits in years, with Baur accusing Wayne of being a violent drunk who beat her and fucked around with various women, including Russell, and Wayne accusing Baur of hanging around sleazy dive bars in Mexico, hooking up with strange men, and spending his money to entertain them.
The divorce was in 1953, but Behind the Scene, with this cover, is offering its readership dirt from an event that was still fresh in the public’s minds because it had been such a knock-down-drag-out spectacle. Russell had never weathered the limelight well, and she used booze to cope. Her long term drinking problem was exacerbated by the turbulence surrounding the Wayne-Baur split. Two weeks after the divorce she was arrested for drunk driving. It caused Paramount to decline renewing her contract, and she kind of floated around for a few years, trying to hook on with a new studio but drinking steadily all the while. In 1955 she crashed her car and fled the scene, and in early 1957 she drove though the plate glass windows of Jan’s Restaurant in Hollywood.
With hindsight, it’s clear Russell was in a death spiral, but in the Tinseltown of that day the situation was perhaps not so obvious. In August 1957, Russell was found unconscious in her home, passed out after a drinking binge. Even in Hollywood, she had now crossed the line from being merely a party girl to having a problem. She was persuaded to join AA, but couldn't stop drinking, and in August 1961 was found in her L.A. apartment, having died from liver damage, aged 36, another beautiful star that flamed out. All that and more, in thirty-plus scans below.
2nd Amendment, motherfucker. If you say it's your right, then it's my right too.
Bernie Casey exercises his right to bear a chrome plated Colt Super .38 automatic in this cool promo photo made for his 1972 blaxploitation flick Hit Man. We love Casey. He died just last year, and was pretty much unheralded, but he appeared in a lot of fun movies, including Sharky's Machine, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Cleopatra Jones, Boxcar Bertha, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also had the good fortune to get naked with both Pam Grier and Claudia Jennings. The Jennings scene is flat amazing, but the Grier scene, which is actually from Hit Man, is hilarious. As Grier climbs atop him and presses her naked body full length onto his the expression on his face reads something like: “Oh. My. Freaking. God.” That's probably the only time in his life he wasn't 100% cool.
Abbe Lane wiggles it just a little bit.
When we saw this National Enquirer cover our first thought was: “She was famous for wiggling?” We did a search and found that famed singer Abbe Lane was indeed known for her shimmy, which inflamed imaginations to dangerous levels back in February 1962, when this Enquirer hit newsstands. Check out this bit from the Gil Brewer pulp thiller Wild:
She turned and walked into the house, through the doors. [snip] Her walk was lusciously lazy from behind, mindful of Abbe Lane crossing the platform for a bit of cha-cha-cha.
So yes, she was famous for her moves. And thanks to the magic of technology we found footage of her in action. It's pretty sedate by today's standards, but still worth watching. We have more nice Lane photos you can see, if you're interested. Full disclosure: they don't wiggle, but they still look nice.
Sometimes a great notion becomes a perfect photo op.
Above is an image of Paul Newman made while filming the 1970 drama Sometimes a Great Notion. The shot was placed atop a grid background and distributed as a gatefold poster in a 1976 issue of the Japanese pop culture magazine Roadshow. We love this thing. The magazine editors flipped the negative and colored in the dirt bike's number plate, which is why it looks like “EI” instead of 13, but whichever way you look at the shot, Newman seems to be staring off into the distance and thinking, “I wonder if there's anyone on this planet remotely as cool as I am?” Then he goes, “Naaah!” and sends up a rooster tail of loose dirt as he rockets away. He rode the bike for a scene in Great Notion, but if you plan to watch the movie be forewarned it's adapted from a Ken Kesey novel about loggers, and has little to do with racing. That said, it's a pretty good flick and the novel is killer. As is this promo. Japanese promos in magazines like Screen and Roadshow are often amazing and this one follows in the tradition. Wanna see what we mean? Look here and here.
Peggy Cummins hit Hollywood with guns blazing.
According to a story yesterday in The Hollywood Reporter, Wales born Irish actress Peggy Cummins died in a London hospital December 29 after suffering a stroke. She was ninety-two years old. Cummins, who was born Augusta Fuller, played the morality challenged Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy, a low budget film noir that rose above its humble station over the decades to eventually be included in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. While the film is often characterized as a breakthrough fro Cummins, it was actually her eleventh screen role, and did not lead to a career of top notch offers. However, she ultimately appeared in more than twenty-five productions, with her last coming in 1965. The above photo was made a promo for Gun Crazy and dates from 1950. You can read more about the film here.
Decades later the question is still being asked.
Did Yvonne De Carlo think Hollywood producers secretly hated women? Like most National Enquirer quotes we can't confirm this one, but if she said this it's a good example of how words out of context can take on unintended meaning. Today's actresses express similar thoughts and their comments are feminist in nature, but De Carlo was not feminist. In interviews she spoke about how she believed that “men should stay up there and be the boss and have women wait on them hand and foot and put their slippers on and hand them the pipe and serve seven course meals—as long as they open the door, support the woman, and do their duty in the bedroom.”
In reality De Carlo was making a comment about being offered a narrow range of roles, as well as fewer of them as she neared forty years of age. A need for variety might explain why she acted almost as much on television as in movies, even during her peak years. Most television was shot in Los Angeles, so we aren't sure if small screen work offered a respite from traditional Hollywood, but it's still a noteworthy aspect of her career. And in the end she achieved her greatest popularity on the 1960s television show The Munsters. As for the Enquirer query, whether De Carlo said it or not, it's a question that is still being asked all these decades later. We have plenty more National Enquirer in the website. Just click the keywords below.
Santa Claus, huh? Well, let's see some identification. And get those reindeer back or they'll be sorry.
Above, a nice promo shot for the Dick Powell film noir Cornered, which opened in the U.S. today in 1945. Powell is posing with co-star Micheline Cheirel. If you're interested we talked about the movie here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
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