This club is boring. I think we should let a few criminals join.
Above: a cover for Le club des détectives from Librairie Hatchette, 1947. The author, credited here only as Berkeley, is British writer Anthony Berkeley and this is a translation of his 1929 novel The Poisioned Chocolates Case. Berkeley's franchise detective Roger Sheringham has an informal club called the Crimes Circle where he and several pals regularly examine cases unsolved by Scotland Yard and try to deduce a solution. It's all fun and games until Sheringham recieves a box of chocolates, but gives them away, leading to a club member's wife being poisoned to death. Sheringham also wrote as Francis Iles and A. Monmouth Platts, and published more than a dozen novels. Owing to the time period, those books don't generally have the type of art that attracts us, but this French cover caught our eye.
Pack light and leave your inhibitions behind.
This poster was made in Liege, Belgium for the romantic drama Extase, starring Austro-Hungarian beauty Hedy Lamarr. Based on a novel by the Vienna born author and actor Robert Horký, the film opened in Belgium today in 1933, after having premiered in then-Czechoslovakia as Ekstase in January of that year. It isn't a pulp style film, but it's significant, which is why we had a look. It's about a young upper class woman in an unfulfilling marriage who solves that problem by acquiring a sidepiece in the form of a worker played by Aribert Mog. This results in some steamy moments and—some viewers say—the first orgasm ever depicted onscreen. “Some viewers” are right. There's no doubt. In the midst of a nocturnal tryst Mog's head and torso slide off-frame, as Lamarr breathes more and more heavily before finally grimacing in lovely fashion and snapping her string of pearls.
Yeah, this is hot stuff for 1933. And we thought everyone was having a great depression. Shows what we know. If the title Extase doesn't tell you what's going on, consider the fact that Hedy's character is named Eva, and Mog's is named Adam. It's that kind of movie. In a way, an orgasm was inevitable. Lamarr also captures moviegoers' attention with a nude swim and sprint through the fields that occurs about twenty-eight minutes in. Why's she running around starkers? Her mare Loni decides to get herself some equine action and abandons Hedy—taking her clothes along for the ride. Always make sure to tie your mount to something, especially when it's horny. Lamarr really is naked in the scene, too, which few modern performers would do in this age of new puritanism. It's thanks to this run through the wild that she meets Mog, the eventual master of her clitoris, if not her heart.
Extase isn't a silent film, but it's close. There's a lot of orchestral music and only a dozen or so sections of dialogue. Even so, it's very watchable. The visuals tend to be laden with meaning in films such as these, but some scenes require no interpretation at all, like the bit where a couple of horses mate (not Loni and her love, sadly). They don't show it of course, but the crash zoom of a mare's backside from the point-of-view of the stud horse gets the idea across with remarkable subtlety—not. It was hilarious, actually. But hey—even horses feel extase, because it's just a natural thing, see. On its own merits we'd call Extase more of a curio than a cinematic triumph, but it certainly achieves what it sets out to do, and that's success of a form, even if it would be forgotten without the orgasm. But that's often true, isn't it?
Loni! Come back, you stupid horse! That jumpsuit doesn't even fit you! Why hello, lovely naked creature. You rude beast! Try taking a picture. It'll last longer. Already done. With my mind. Deposited you right in the spank bank. Bank— What? Spank what? Oh, never mind. Give me my clothes. Objectify me, will you? Two can play that game. Duh... nice package! Duh... I'm an idiot! Thanks. And you're not an idiot—many women agree with you about my package. No, I'm objectifying you, like you did to me. Like a sex object. I understand. That's cool. I love sex. No, I mean I'm debasing you via the reduction of any unique and admirable qualities you might have down to the purely phy— Oh, forget it! You're too dumb to understand. Oh... oh... oh! It's true he lacks... formal education... But he sure knows how... to make a girl... SNAP HER PEARLS! *sigh*
She's okay when she's good but she's better when she's bad.
How could we not buy a book called Gilda? Rea Michaels' 1964 novel, with its uncredited art of a woman who looks like a burlesque dancer, is obviously not related to the classic film noir, but we figured anyone who'd appropriate the title probably wrote something interesting. Well, it's that, alright. Basically, a film director named Marc Sanders who drank away his career locates a good script and attempts a comeback, but there are several problems: the only financial backing he can garner comes from a gangster, he can't get a distribution deal, and he has creative differences with the screenwriter.
Then there's Gilda Moore, who has also fallen on hard times and convinces him to let her star in the movie. She's a sex addict and is almost guaranteed to sink Sanders' chance for professional redemption, but she's also inexpensive and talented. Can he actually make a good movie with a star who consumes male crewmembers like oatmeal cookies? Though Michaels is no literary wiz, everything she does here works, particularly the way she writes the film's mounting problems. Those reach absurd proportions, even to the extent of a location shoot causing a riot. On the negative side, Gilda is tame for a book that bills itself as sleaze, but that's okay—we've read far worse.
I've got everything a growing boy needs.
This photo shows a favorite actress of ours—Yorkshire-born British beauty Kay Kendall, looking more than a bit come-hither here. She had a short career, owing to an unfortunate early death, however her movies are well worth watching, particularly the comedic romp Genevieve, the titular star of which is a 1904 Darracq. That's a car, and the movie is about an automobile rally, though it's Kendall who steals the show.
She was legendarily a central figure in one of those old school Hollywood dust-ups we love learning about. It involved one man slapping another. Sound familiar? It didn't happen during the Academy Awards ceremony, but still, it was one for the books, as it involved Rex Harrison and Frank Sinatra. We wrote about it here. Kendall is remembered today for being a brilliant comic actress, but this photo was made for her 1953 thriller Man in Hiding.
Ever wake up but feel like you're still having a nightmare?
In vintage crime fiction getting the hero laid—or at least having the opportunity arise—is almost a mandatory requirement. The main character of Evan Hunter's, aka Ed McBain's, 1952 novel The Evil Sleep is a heroin addict who, at a certain point, has had cold and hot sweats all day long, hasn't showered, shaved, or brushed his teeth, yet manages to get laid by a clean, beautiful woman. This was a dead giveaway that she was shady, and dead giveaways in mysteries are something authors should avoid. Even so, The Evil Sleep is an interesting book. It's about a junkie who wakes up with a corpse, and must dodge the police, find the real murderer, and get a fix, or somehow keep his shit together without one. It was later published as So Nude, So Dead. The cover you see here, which is unattributed, came from an auction site. Our copy, which came cheap as part of a lot, is basically coverless. By which we mean the femme fatale was cut completely out, probably to end up as part of some high-school art student's collage that has long since gone to a landfill. Very naughty. If you want to buy this in good condition the price might run $400. That's even naughtier.
It was a place filled with natural wonders.
We found this advertising flyer for Abe Weinstein's famed Dallas burlesque venue the Colony Club floating around online, and we think its lovely model and deliberately skewed text make it interesting enough to share. An image search doesn't reveal where online it originated, but its size (1,600 pixels wide) causes us to suspect it first appeared on someone's blog. Abe Weinstein, along with his brother Barney, was a big player in the Dallas nightclub scene, and dancers that passed through his clubs included Lili St. Cyr and Candy Barr.
As the line-up from May 10th to 23rd 1954 indicates, musical entertainment was part of the draw too, helping to attract not just men, but couples. The lingerie-clad woman, presumably a dancer, gracing the front of this flyer is not known to us. We figure she could be the Joan King mentioned, but there were no images of Joan King online when we searched. We'll keep an eye out. In the meantime, if any of you can identify this person, feel free to get in contact.
The infamous Jack Ruby owned a club called the Carousel on the same street as the Colony. While the Colony worked to cultivate an aura of reputability, Ruby's club was a dive that he opened above a delicatessen two doors away in hopes of capturing Colony's overflow. His musical entertainment was a bump and grind band, he sometimes showed porno reels before the dancers went onstage, and some of the girls were said to moonlight as prostitutes.
Ruby and Weinstein didn't get along. Weinstein even barred Ruby from the Colony for trying to hire away the staff, and, according to Weinstein, Ruby threatened to kill him a week before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Just another tidbit from the dark annals of American history. But back to the original subject of burlesque, we have dozens of entries about it. We can't find all of them right now because time is short today and there are more than 6,400 posts in the site, but we located some good ones here, here, here, here, here, and here. Abe Weinstein surrounded by some of his dancers.
In The Killers she's absolutely to die for.
We've shared Swedish, French, Australian, and U.S. promo art for The Killers over the years. But there was more than one U.S. poster, and you see an alternate version above, a nice crimson effort that has no artist credit. You already know the plot of this film, so we won't rehash it, but we wanted to single out something we love about film noir—the spectacular entrance of the femme fatale. Remember Rita Hayworth's first screen moment in Gilda? “Gilda, are you decent?” “Me?” That might be tops. Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, those white shorts and that weird headwrap. Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. “Got a light?” There are many others, and men sometimes get good entrances too, but Ava Gardner's first moment in The Killers, sitting at a piano in a swank Manhattan apartment, with that light—you know the light we mean—glowing on her face, is another great example. Then she gets a song. You gotta love it.
You should have started long before now to look good for June.
May is when the typical person really starts thinking about his or her beach body. Sadly, they should have started thinking about it in November or December to have a shot at a skinny summer, but who can pass up all that holiday food? Well, British pin-up June Wilkinson wanted to help. Fitness is a time honored niche for celebrities who can't quite sustain careers in more glamorous areas. Sometimes those who go into the field were never true stars. Other times they were top of the heap but fell off, like Jane Fonda when she became a fitness queen during the 1980s, or Miss Thighmaster of 1991, Suzanne Somers.
Wilkinson was in the never category. She wasn't a big star on screen or television, but was popular as a model—and people always want to know how models stay fit. Calendar Records was happy oblige the public by releasing a Wilkinson exercise record in 1962. Titled June Wilkinson and Her Physical Fitness Formula, the platter featured instrumental tunes along with exercise lessons narrated by Wilkinson, among them those classic old school calisthenics like swing kicks and leg raises. There's also a fitness guide, a calorie calendar, a chart of desirable weights for various heights, a sample menu, and of course, photos of Wilkinson demonstrating the exercises.
We have no sales figures for the record, but if it had been a runaway success she'd have made another—which she didn't. But it probably wasn't June's fault. Calendar Records was a fledgling imprint that went on to release a few obscure singles and a political spoken word record by Barry Goldwater. Need we say more? We have a bit more Wilkinson in the website. We recommend checking out her famous tongue here (maybe some tongue exercises would have helped the record's sales), and the famous rest of her here.
Bad news, I lost the key. But before I was a kidnapper I was an orthopedic surgeon, so foot reattachment is no problem.
Above is another vibrant cover for Adam magazine, this one from May 1968, uncredited as always but painted by Phil Belbin or Jack Waugh. The pair did the bulk of the illustrations for the magazine, but it's not possible—for us, at least—to determine who was responsible for which pieces, because they worked in a similar style. On the occasions Belbin bothered signed something it wasn't only as himself—sometimes he signed as Duke, Pittsburgh, Humph, or Fillini. Waugh, as far as we know, was always Waugh. We've now uploaded more than seventy issues of Adam (we haven't done an actual count for a couple of years) and we'd say signatures appear on maybe one of every ten illustrations. Waugh's scrawl pops up here in the art for the H.M. Tolcher story, “Prize Sucker.”
The cover illustrates the Joachim Heinrich Woos story, “The Danger Behind,” which is is about a man walking through the woods at the exact moment some rural cops and a heavily armed posse are looking for men who robbed a bank. The robbers shot the guards and several police. Blinded by a lust for revenge, the mob mistakes the innocent hiker for one of the killers and chases him over hill and dale with the intent to end his life. He escapes by rowboat only to drift downriver and run into one of the real crooks, who's chained up a hostage and has bad ideas as well as an evil temperament. It's a decent story from Woos, who also wrote for Pocket Man, Argosy, Off Beat Detective Stories, Adventure, and Manhunt. We have thirty-three scans below.
Part of me really loves nature and solitude. But then part of me wants a frappuccino and a cheese danish.
Frisco Dougherty is back, and as impressed with himself as ever, if we judge by how many times he refers to himself in the third person. Last seen in 1951's Jewel of the Java Sea, he's still knocking around Indonesia in 1960's The Half-Caste, eternally seeking the big score that will earn him enough money to escape the tropics for San Francisco. His newest chance comes in the form of a trio of Americans who have arrived in Java to repatriate the bones of an anthropologist who died in the jungle. Dougherty suspects the coffin they plan to recover contains not a body, but a treasure, and formulates a complicated plan to steal whatever is inside. He follows the group into deepest Borneo, funded by the Wuch'ang crime cartel, who he also plans to betray.
There are two main positives to The Half-Caste. First, the exotic setting mixed with deep background concerning the Dutch East Indies evolving into an indepedent Indonesia influenced by a rising China is interesting; and second, the contents of the coffin are a clever surprise. Overall, though, we considered the book an unworthy sequel to Jewel of the Java Sea. Dougherty always verged on caricature, but now he's fully up that river. While still calculating, bigoted, chauvinistic, and pervy, he's bereft of charm, which used to be his saving grace. We suspect Cushman wanted to show how the tropics had decayed Dougherty's psyche since the first book, but he comes across too unsympathetic. It feels as if Cushman returned to the character unwillingly.
As for the half-caste of the title—Annalee, aka Sangra Brueger—she's one of the trio of coffin seekers, but because Dougherty spends nearly the entire book tracking the group from afar, she's barely in the narrative physically until the last forty pages. Dell Publications used Annalee's meager presence, with an assist from Robert McGinnis cover art, to lure readers, but it's a slight misrepresentation. The book is basically all Dougherty, along with his two male partners. During the era of good girl art there were nearly always women on paperback covers, no matter how flimsy the rationale, so you have to expect this sort of thing. We can't really complain, because certainly, the art is brilliant. We're happy to have it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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