I was going to have a dry month, but instead I decided to have a dry white wine month.
Above is a killer photo of U.S. actress Barbara Nichols posing in an overcoat and little else. She made numerous memorable promo images, but this one may be tops. She's also posed next to a bottle of Dopff au Moulin riesling, which is a French wine from a family estate that's been active since 1574.
We didn't have a copyright on the photo, so we spent some time tracking down the same Dopff label thinking it would be dated, but the moment we saw that wasn't the case, it simultaneously occurred to us that the wine couldn't have helped us because Nichols could be posing with a bottle from years earlier. But since we did the work, and we like its cute little windmill, the label appears here too. If we had to guess on a copyright on the shot we'd say 1958.
My friend likes to knit. She really likes to knit. And you're gonna let her knit you a scarf or you're meat.
Above: a photo featuring Barbara Nichols, gun-toting Shirley Knight, and crafts-ready Constance Ford, made for the 1962 prison movie House of Women. Why does Ford have knitting needles? This probably comes as a surprise to most of you (or maybe we're underestimating knowledge of the prison system, considering one of every five prisoners on the planet are in jail in the U.S.), but in certain American jurisdictions, as well certain places internationally, very young children can live with their mothers in prison. House of Women deals with that strange reality, and makes for an unusual and interesting promo shot.
Money is always greener from a distance.
Sweet Smell of Success was a mandatory watch for us. It's considered by many to be a top film noir but we'd never seen it. Well, that's been rectified now, and what a good expenditure of time it was. Tony Curtis plays a New York City publicity agent whose business is falling apart because he's been blacklisted by the most important newspaper columnist in the country, played by Burt Lancaster. Why the rough treatment? Lancaster's sister is dating a jazz musician and he wants the relationship ended. He's trying to force Curtis to do the dirty work—smear the guy, frame him, whatever, just get him out of the picture. Curtis's desperation to climb to the top ranks of agents leads him to try breaking up the pair, but in film noir sleazy decisions have a way of pushing goals farther away rather than drawing them nearer.
Sweet Smell of Success, which had a special premiere in New York City in June 1957, and went into national release a week later, which was today, has a feel similar to another Big Apple drama—the excellent 2019 movie Uncut Gems. Both movies are very fast paced, even borderline chaotic, as desperate bottom-dwellers try to climb to the top of a dog-eat-dog industry while keeping one step ahead of karmic fate. Sweet Smell of Success is the better film largely thanks to Lancaster in one of the all-time heel roles. You'll want to punch his character J.J. Hunsecker—nice, right?—directly in the middle of his face. And you'll want to give Curtis a shaking fit to rattle his teeth. Anything to wake him up to the fact that in a cutthroat game, the most important thing isn't having a razor but lacking a conscience. Noir fans should push this one to the head of the queue.
She was a material girl living in a material world.
Above is a 1960 National Enquirer with Barbara Nichols on the cover, and editors claiming she said “men, money, and me” make a perfect triangle. Nichols was never a top star, mainly guest starring on dozens of television shows, but she was a staple in tabloids because she dated many rich and famous men but never married, which is why we suspect Enquirer editors came up with their cover quote. Some of her escorts included Jack Carter, Steve Cochran, Cesar Romero, and Elvis Presley. Nichols died in 1976 aged forty-seven due to liver dysfunction. It had initially been torn in an auto accident a decade earlier and gave her problem the rest of her life. We have a pair of nice femme fatale photos of her and you can see those here, and well as an awesome album sleeve here.
Barbara Nichols gets a leg up.
Berlin After Dark is an obscure record, but the sleeve caught our eye because the cover star boldly showing every millimeter of leg she possesses looked familiar. Turns out she’s American actress Barbara Nichols. She doesn’t sing on the record, but it was not uncommon during the period when this was released (1962) to use celebrity photos on record sleeves. Four years ago we put together a collection of sixty album covers featuring famous actresses (with the difference that they all actually sang on the records) and you can see those examples here. We also have two great promos of Barbara Nichols, once again showing a lot of leg, here.
We thought we’d better share two photos so you could appreciate her fully.
These two eye-catching shots feature American actress Barbara Nichols, née Barbara Marie Nickerauer, who did the usual round of pin-up modeling and beauty contests before earning a running part in the Broadway musical Pal Joey. She later appeared in the film version along with Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak and other notables, and during her show business career became known for playing strippers. Pretty easy to see why. We have no date for these photos, but if we had to guess we’d say 1955 or 1956.
The National Police Gazette was not so wild about Harry.
The National Police Gazette presents readers with an interesting array of hat wearing Harry Trumans on this February 1952 cover, offering up the president in a fedora, pith helmet, fez, and more. Truman collected hats, but the Gazette’s real purpose here is to call Truman a flip-flopper. Of course, that term didn’t exist in 1952, at least not with regard to politicians, but Gazette journo Tris Coffin claims Truman changes his mind quite a bit, issuing “conflicting orders, one after the other, with a cheerful smile.” Coffin goes on to cite Truman reversing his stance on price controls on meat, anti-trust controls on oil companies, security commissions keeping tabs on American citizens, and more. All very interesting, but what really caught our eye was Truman’s response to questions about nuclear proliferation. He said the U.S. was the only country with atomic bombs, and he’d keep it that way. Of course, that proved impossible, and it remains impossible today, because nuclear weapons are the only true national security. Many IAEA officials expect the number of nuclear states to double within twenty years. In addition, they expect the rise of at least ten virtual nuclear states—i.e., countries that develop the technology to the point where they can make the bombs, if needed, more quickly than an invasion against them can be mounted. We’ve uploaded some Gazette pages below, including a nice pin-up of Barbara Nichols, and a poster of old time boxer Peter Jackson. And since this is the Gazette, editors remind readers for the umpteenth time that Hitler lives.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
The newspaper Pravda is founded by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles living in Vienna. The name means "truth" and the paper serves as an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991.
1957—Ferlinghetti Wins Obscenity Case
An obscenity trial brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the counterculture City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, reaches its conclusion when Judge Clayton Horn rules that Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection Howl is not obscene.
After a long trial watched by millions of people worldwide, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson subsequently loses a civil suit and is ordered to pay millions in damages.
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics
in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
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