For you this is just a light, but for me it's the beginning of a self-destructive sexual obsession and eventual restraining order.
We're going to do one more entry on France before we head to other countries. Once we have time to do some intensive scanning you'll see the bulk of our Paris treasures. Paris, by the way, is a city where strangers often ask you for a light, which is why we thought of the above subhead. If we actually smoked it would be a great way to meet people, but since we never have an actual light all interaction ends there. So while we learn how to smoke, above you see a cover for Elle ne perd pas son temps, by George Maxwell, aka Georges Esposito, for Presses Mondiales and its series Les grands romans dessinés, published in 1953. These were comic books adapted from the series La Môme Double-Shot, specifically 1952's La belle se joue à deux, which you can see here. Elle ne perd pas son temps translates to “She doesn't waste her time,” and neither did the artist Jacques Thibésart, aka Mik, when he painted this nice cover. If you're inclined you can see examples from him here, here, and here, and you can certainly expect more in the future.
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The Corpse Came C.O.D., as if you couldn't guess from its screwball title, is a comic murder mystery, and yes, it features a corpse sent through the mail—or more precisely by messenger. This stiff arrives in a crate to a famous actress's home, and when the body spills out she calls a well-connected newspaperman to help her with the problem. For him this involves not only solving the crime while staying ahead of the police, but fending off a rival who smells a juicy story. This rival happens to be his romantic interest, so the two fight and feud while trying to snatch the scoop from each other. This love-hate relationship is the core of the film, with the two hurling lines at each like, “I wouldn't trust you if I had an atomic bomb in each hand!”
This is a pretty fun flick. Think The Thin Man, but with less budget and a bit less panache. It stars George Brent, Joan Blondell, Adele Jergens, and Leslie Brooks, and has interesting cameos from actual Hollywood gossip columnists George Fisher, Hedda Hopper, Erskine Johnson, Louella Parsons, and others. The film was written by columnist Jimmy Starr, which accounts for the tabloid focus, and he has a cameo too. You pretty much can't lose with this one. It's good natured and well put together, and might even make you wonder why movies like this aren't made anymore. The Corpse Came C.O.D. premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
They said she needed a hobby and look what happened.
Each vintage book brings interesting discoveries. For instance, we recently learned that there was once a drink made with sherry and an egg yolk. Seriously. Reading Beast in View we learned that another name once used for scissors—at least by author Margaret Milar—was “paper knife.” Always have a really big paper knife around the house. Small ones are fine for cutting paper, but the huge ones are better for going through arteries. A terrible fate, surely, though no worse than drinking sherry with an egg yolk in it. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The villain in Beast in View begins as nothing more than a serial phone harasser who seems to know just enough about her victims to prey on their insecurities. The lies she tells her victims are terrible, and the language is ugly too. More direct forms of harassment soon commence, just about the time amateur sleuth Paul Blackshear steps in and is asked to find the caller. That seems easy enough at first, but he soon finds that identity is a more nebulous concept than he imagined.
Beast in View won the 1955 Edgar Award for best mystery of the year. Hmm... well we liked it. But is it really better than Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, which it beat? We don't know about that. Later Beast in View was voted one of the best mysteries of all time by the Mystery Writers of America. That's a broader accolade, in a way, and we can't find any fault there. It's a good book, written in classical mystery style, with a great ending, and this line:
[no spoiler] felt no pain, only a little surprise at how pretty the blood looked, like bright and endless ribbons that would never again be tied.
Well, that's certainly a nice piece of writing. This was our second Millar, and we have another lined up for a bit later. But first we may re-read The Talented Mr. Ripley, just to see if our memories are betraying us and Highsmith really isn't the better writer. But it isn't a competition anyway, is it? That defeats the entire point of reading for pleasure. Copyright on Beast in View is originally 1955, and this Bantam paperback edition came in '56 with Mitchell Hooks cover art.
There's only one way out and it isn't retirement.
Above is a poster for Gendai yakuza: yotamono jingi, aka Hoodlum Yakuza, which premiered in Japan today in 1969 and starred Bunta Sugawara as a yakuza footsoldier trying to escape the life. He wants to run away with his girlfriend, and with the help of his brother hatches a scheme he hopes will make his freedom possible. Fat chance.
We shared a standard promo of this at the bottom of a collection we put together five years ago, but this piece is an exceedingly rare, horizontally oriented, two-piece promo, a style known as bo-ekibari. We have the halves uploaded separately below, and we have another rare poster for the film we'll share later.
Jack Finney's alien invasion novel is filled with close encounters of the worst kind.
This paperback cover was painted by John McDermott, and it's iconic, as is Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers. You know the story. Aliens come from space in the form of pods that grow into exact duplicates of humans, who are replaced and dissolved into dust. Finney deftly blends sci-fi and horror, and the result is great—simply put. As with many macabre tales, the fear factor subsides somewhat once the monsters move from the shadows to center stage, but it's still very good even after that point.
The Body Snatchers became a movie in 1956, 1978, 1993, and 2007. The ’56 Don Siegel version is famously considered by many to be a direct Cold War allegory, and is the best of the quartet of adaptations, but the ’78 iteration is damned good too. In terms of metaphor, the book is less about the Cold War and more clearly about the overall loss of freedom in American society. Finney would probably be a bit dismayed about how—other than the freedom to buy things—that process continues to accelerate.
The novel originally appeared in 1955 as a serial in Colliers Magazine, with this Dell edition coming the same year. The cover artist McDermott is someone we've featured before, and if you're curious you can see more of his nice work here and here. Some book dealers actually try to sell this edition for $100, if you can believe that. Money snatchers is more like it. Buy a cheap new edition, read it, and enjoy it.
Mari Atsumi goes searching for her place in the sun.
Above, two beautiful posters for Taiyo wa mita, aka I Saw the Sun, with Mari Atsumi. We couldn't track this one down but we know it's a drama set in a seaside town and know it premiered in Japan today in 1970. We already shared a really nice promo image for the film here, and if we learn more we'll report back.
Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time?
Above is another Mexican promo poster, this time for the drama La loca, which starred Libertad Lamarque in an Ariel nominated performance as a woman who believes she's living in 1936. We feel that way sometimes ourselves. But in her case, her delusion is preventing her family from collecting an inheritance, which pits them against her, prompting a psychiatrist to take up her cause in order to defend her against being exploited. Speak Spanish? You can watch the movie online here while the link lasts. The poster was painted by Juan Antonio Vargas, and as we discussed earlier this beautiful style of illustration was popular among Mexican poster artists of the time. La loca premiered today in 1952.
So when you sang “You're So Vain,” the song really was about me, wasn't it?
This is top work from artist C.C. Beale on this cover for Van Wyck Mason's Saigon Singer, especially the small elements of the background writing on the wall and the Siamese cat in the foreground. The singer of the title—who never performs “You're So Vain,” sadly—is Pamela Saunders, a former prisoner in a Japanese internment camp who survives filth and near starvation to resurrect herself as singer in Saigon. Along the way she becomes known as Black Chrysanthemum before adopting the stage name Xenia Morel. Her transformation is interesting, but the star of the story is Major Hugh North, who turns up in Saigon looking for a dossier containing the names of British and American traitors who during the war sold secrets to a Japanese general. Saunders-Chrysanthemum-Morel survived the prison camp by becoming the mistress of the general, and it's due to this close association that she possesses the dossier. She'll give it to North, but only if he pays her enough money to get to Paris, where she wants to continue her singing career.
Mason knew this part of the world and uses his knowledge well in writing of Saigon social life, oppressive heat, scented baths, tiger hunts, French legionnaires, and other you-had-to-be-there aspects of post-World War II Vietnam. As number thirteen in a series of exotic Hugh North mysteries (others were set in Singapore, Burma, Manila, Bangkok, et al) we sense a formula here, but in the end we liked it despite the usual flaws of colonialist fiction, and we were envious of Mason for having travelled in that part of the world during that time, and having been lucky enough to make a career of writing about it. Well, maybe we can't complain too much—we've hit some good spots too. And we write, though we get fuck-all for it. In any case, this particular discovery makes us curious about earlier Mason books, so maybe we'll check out some of his Hugh North adventures. Saigon Singer was originally published in 1946, and the above edition is from 1948.
And long story short, that's why my senior class voted me most likely to be kidnapped. So really, this comes as no surprise.
Above is an uncredited 1961 cover from Corgi Books for Lucille Fletcher's Blindfold. If her name sounds familiar it may because she also wrote the classic Sorry, Wrong Number. Her main character here isn't kidnapped. He's a psychiatrist who's flown top secret to treat a patient whose identity and location he's not allowed to learn. It's actually the patient who may be the kidnapping victim, though the doc is in danger too, from mere association. When events force him to try locating his mystery patient again, despite having been blindfolded each time he was taken to see him, the doc's keen senses come into play—everything from his internal clock to the feel of the ground beneath his shoes to his sense of smell.
Is he able to locate a distant place he's never seen with his own eyes? Well, it wouldn't much of a thriller if he couldn't. We don't know if this is the first time this gimmick was used in a novel, but it's a pretty cool plot contrivance. Interestingly, despite the Cold War seriousness of the novel and the intense menace of the paperback's cover art, the story was transformed into one of those insouciant little thrillers peculiar to the 1960s, along the lines of Charade or Arabesque. It was also called Blindfold and it starred Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale. In fact, see below... |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—First Helicopter Flight
In Berlin, Germany, in a sports stadium, Ewald Rohlfs takes the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 on its first flight. It is the first fully-controllable helicopter, featuring two counter rotating rotors mounted on the chassis of a training aircraft. Only two are ever produced, and neither survive today.
1963—John F. Kennedy Visits Berlin
22 months after East Germany erects the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West Berlin, John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and speaks the famous words "Ich bin ein Berliner." Suggestions that Kennedy misspoke and in reality called himself a jelly donut are untrue.
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels
after a long battle with cancer.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
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