Harder! Harder! Hit it like you're beating a refund out of that barber you went to!
First published in 1930, the above paperback edition of Poor Fool appeared in 1953 from New York City based Novel Selections. It was Erskine Caldwell's second novel, and bears the Caldwell hallmarks—southern milieu, senseless violence, crime, betrayal, prostitution, etc. The poor fool of the title is Blondy Niles, a mediocre boxer who gets involved in a moneymaking scam that goes terribly wrong. Probably the most notable aspect of the book is the character Mrs. Boxx, who's one of Caldwell's most vicious villains—and that's really saying something. The entire story is packed with grim stuff, but of course literature isn't always supposed to be pleasant. We love the cover art on this edition, with its foppish Blondy Niles pounding—well, more like nudging—the heavy bag, but sadly it's uncredited.
End of the line—Brando's place.
Above, a striking West German poster for Endstation Sehnsucht, which you know better as A Streetcar Named Desire. Admit it. You've heard of it, you know who Tennessee Williams is, but you haven't seen it (or seen or read the much racier Pulitzer Prize winning play it's based on). A famous critic once explained that a good book teaches you how to read it. The same can apply to movies. You have to let yourself be immersed in A Streetcar Named Desire. The first twenty minutes you might be tempted to give up. But once the dubious southern accents and style of the production settle into your head, you'll find a movie well worth watching, with a nice performance by Marlon Brando, who was comfortable in his role of the beefcakey Stanley Kowalski after having played it on Broadway. A Streetcar Named Desire is over the top—and over the needed running time, in the opinions of many—but it's an involving experience. After its U.S. premiere in September 1951 it rolled into West Germany as Endstation Sehnsucht today the same year.
This ought to really blow your skirt up.
Above is an epic Italian poster for the film The Seven Year Itch, which in Italy was called Quando la moglie è in vacanza, or “when the wife is on vacation.” They probably changed the title because Italians don't understand the concept of a seven year itch. They have a seven week itch—it happens about seven weeks before the wedding. The art here is by P. Franco, aka Franco Picchioni, whose work you can find more of by clicking his keywords below. There's also a very interesting West German poster for the film here.
Swedish goddess Christina Lindberg explodes onto the international cinema scene.
The movie Rötmånad premiered in Sweden today in 1970, and since a good scan of its promotional poster is almost impossible to find, here you go—a nice clean version featuring star Christina Lindberg walking across a dock in all her glory. We can't imagine where this poster was displayed, unless it was in adult cinemas. Or maybe we're just prudes. Maybe it actually hung in the lobbies of every Swedish movie house and people from Sundsvall to Malmö got a nice look at Lindberg's little fur coat while going into showings of Darling Lili and The Aristocats.
Rötmånad's Swedish title would translate as “dog days,” but when it arrived in English speaking countries it was called What Are You Doing After the Orgy? And funny thing, the film features no orgies, although sex is central to the story. What happens is a man and his seventeen-year-old daughter Anna-Bella's tranquil lives in a lakeside house are turned upside down when mom comes back home after five years away. Surprised at how beautiful her daughter has become, she concocts a scheme to open a brothel in the family boathouse and make Anna-Bella the star attraction. She's for sure not going to win mother of the year for this move, but in her favor, at least she plans to do some of the hard (sex) work herself.
When Anna-Bella meets a nice boy his presence threatens to ruin mom's plan to turn her daughter into a tourist attraction. The situation looks like it will necessitate a drastic solution, but what exactly can you hope to get away with on an idyllic Swedish lakeshore? Rötmånad is billed as a comedy, but if so it's a dark one. No surprise there, since Nordic humor is generally thought of as challenging for other cultures. But whether comic, tragic-comic, or just plain tragic, in the end Rötmånad is still little more than a vehicle for Lindberg to introduce her ample gifts to the world. She does exactly that—explosively. Watch the film and you'll see what we mean. She was nineteen—not seventeen—when the movie was made, she was gorgeous, and after this debut her stardom was assured.
That isn't the place where kisses make me go crazy. Think lower. A lot lower.
In The Place protagonist Bill Martin is a novelist whose sexual adventures have earned him the nicknames the Goat of Gotham and the Monster of Manhattan. He's separated from his wife Betty, but they're happy to get together for sex. Enter Rika Balsemis, founder of STAIS, which stands for the Society to Abolish Instant Sex. Bill sees her as another conquest, but try as he might he can't get in her pants. He even resorts to force at one point and gets judoed for his efforts. Rika explains, “I realized that in certain situations our members might encounter violence such as yours, so I took a course in judo. It's admirably suited for female use. Karate is too violent. I might have kicked you and ruined you for life. I know how.”
At this point thought we had Rika Aoki on our hands. We thought we had a character that was going to unleash martial arts madness across the storyline. We were looking forward to it. But there are no more ass whippings. Rika instead gives in to Bill, but sex is just a prelude to hypnotizing him into being totally unresponsive to further sexual stimuli. Yes—she eunuchs him with the power of her mind. It's hilarious, though not to Bill. You know this state of affairs won't last, though, and indeed Rika can cancel the spell when she wants to make use of Bill's goatly talents. But the point of the wider narrative becomes getting him back together with his wife Betty. Written in 1966, The Place is a middling effort by Arthur Adlon, aka Keith Ayling, written with some style but virtually no sex. With sleaze, we recommend you prioritize the latter over the former.
The pieces of treasure are worth a fortune. The nuggets of wisdom—not so much.
Barbara Walton art graces the dust sleeve of John D. MacDonald's A Deadly Shade of Gold. It was published in 1967 by Robert Hale, Ltd. two years after the book's U.S. debut. MacDonald's franchise character Travis McGee kicks ass and dispenses unsolicited wisdom, and while the action is fun, the philosophizing is less so. The latter is sometimes insightful when directed at civilization, but is often sweeping and incorrect when directed at civilians. Vacationers are this way. College boys are that way. Lesbians are this way. We've had plenty of experiences with all the categories of humans McGee thinks of as tedious and banal, and we found them to be as varied and interesting as any other group.
The book, though, is engrossing, built around our favorite film noir and crime fiction device—a trip to Mexico, with the action set in the fictional coastal town of Puerto Altamura. There McGee seeks to uncover the killers of a close friend and determine the whereabouts of a set of golden pre-Colombian statuettes. Five entries into the series and MacDonald seems to have hit his stride. McGee is going to keep making dubious pronouncements (we sent a passage about “negroes” from the seventh entry Darker than Amber to a black friend, who said: “What idiot wrote that?”), but we liked this caper. If you're curious about the character or author you can learn more at thetrapofsolidgold.blogspot.com, pretty much the last word on all things Travis McGee and John D.
Sure, you can get a hot coffee—right in your lap if you don't get your meathooks off me
Rudolph Belarski once again shows his unique painterly skill on this cover for Mamie Brandon by Jack Sheridan. The book, which first appeared in 1949 in England, deals with Mamie Thomas, who runs a roadhouse in desolate central California. She becomes Mamie Brandon when she marries an older man for security, but quickly finds when an old flame reappears in town that money doesn't satisfy all her needs. You know the drill—attraction, infidelity, death. This Popular Library edition has two copyrights. The first date is listed as 1950 “by arrangement with the author,” but a second date specifies January, 1951. Since the book is slightly abridged, according to the editors, maybe the two copyrights make sense somehow.
Brando and Niven break hearts and bank accounts on the French Riviera.
Les séducteurs had its French premiere today in 1964, with the above promo art by Russian born illustrator Boris Grinsson paving the way for a U.S. production featuring Marlon Brando, Shirley Jones, and David Niven. Séducteurs translates to “deceivers,” but the original title was Bedtime Story. What you have is a couple of con men who fleece women out of jewels, cash, and more. When they cross paths on the French Riviera their egos bring about a clash of wills and a high stakes wager to see which of them can scam ripe target Shirley Jones out of $25,000. Later the bet shifts to which of them can scam her out of her clothes. File the movie with set-in-France caper comedies like To Catch a Thief, Charade, and Beg, Borrow or Steal. For that matter file it with 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is actually a quasi-remake of this flick. For most watchers Bedtime Story won't be up to the standards of those other films—even the one based upon it—but we thought it was pretty damned good.
So much for French chivalry.
This cover for Quatre pas dans la nuit fits right into our collection from earlier this year featuring ruthless men using women as human shields. In fact, it's the same painting by Barye Phillips used on Ben Benson's Broken Shield, which we included in that previous group. Quatre pas dans la nuit appeared in 1958 and is the French edition of the Ed Lacy novel Be Careful How You Live, which is in turn an expansion of his story "Time Wounds All Heels." We talked about Lacy a bit earlier this year, so if you want to know more check here.
I know it's high. It used to be lower, but I spent a summer in D.C., and lemme tell ya, those guys taught me a lot about whoring.
We featured a Charles Rodewald cover last year and loved it, so we're bringing him back today, this time on the front of Ecstasy Novel Magazine, which is showcasing Paula Has a Price!, written by Perry Lindsay, aka prolific pulp author Peggy Gaddis. There's confusion online about the copyright on this, but it was published in January 1949. Top effort from Rodewald, and you can see another here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl
Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
1962—Canada Has Last Execution
The last executions in Canada occur when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, both of whom are Americans who had been extradited north after committing separate murders in Canada, are hanged at Don Jail in Toronto. When Turpin is told that he and Lucas will probably be the last people hanged in Canada, he replies, “Some consolation.”
1964—Guevara Speaks at U.N.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, representing the nation of Cuba, speaks at the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. His speech calls for wholesale changes in policies between rich nations and poor ones, as well as five demands of the United States, none of which are met.
2008—Legendary Pin-Up Bettie Page Dies
After suffering a heart attack several days before, erotic model Bettie Page, who in the 1950s became known as the Queen of Pin-ups, dies when she is removed from life support machinery. Thanks to the unique style she displayed in thousands of photos
and film loops, Page is considered one of the most influential beauties who ever lived.
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
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