For some men divorce is not a tragedy—it's an opportunity.
If you've never seen one, this is what an AP wire photo looked like back in 1966. The text at the bottom gives newspaper editors the identity of the subject and some basic facts. No identity needed here—this is Ursula Andress, and the photo is the one widely used when newspapers reported that her husband John Derek was filing for divorce in Tijuana, Mexico. This made us smile because the basic idea here was to show that Derek was out of his mind. Perhaps, however he had already established a pattern of moving on to younger, equally beautiful women. He was first married to Pati Behrs, but divorced her when he met nineteen-year-old Andress. She was thirty when they divorced and he moved on to twenty-three-year-old Linda Evans. And Evans was thirty-two when Derek tossed her over for sixteen-year-old Mary Collins, who you know better as Bo Derek. Andress, Evans, and Collins could have been sisters, and in fact they looked quite a bit like John Derek too (see below). But in Bo he had found not just another doppleganger, but an ingénue willing to star in the poorly made sexually oriented films he liked to direct. These included Fantasies (when Bo was sixteen), the almost competent Bolero, Ghosts Can't Do It, and Tarzan, the Ape Man. Bo and John John Derek stayed together until John died, a span of twenty-two years, so it seems wife number four cured him of his habit of trading for younger models. Just an interesting Hollywood factoid to enliven your Monday.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife—unless he says it turns him on.
Here’s an interesting National Enquirer cover from today in 1966, with a scrunched Ursula Andress and a quote from her husband John Derek, who never actually had a problem sharing her, or for that matter any of his spouses—at least artistically. He shot and published nude series of second wife Andress, third wife Linda Evans, and fourth wife Bo Derek, and directed Derek in the softcore bomb Bolero, which contained a sex scene that had filmgoers asking at the time if maybe Bo and her partner went beyond mere acting. John Derek is actually worthy of a separate discussion sometime, so maybe we’ll get back to him. He was also eerily consistent—Andress, Evans and Derek are virtually clones of one another. See below.
She's a lover, not a fighter.
Above are the cover and several interior pages from Spain’s Triunfo, with Swiss actress Ursula Andress, who according to the magazine was the most beautiful woman in the world. Andress was starring opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in the French action adventure Les tribulations d’une Chinois in Chine, based on Jules Verne’s Tribulations of a Chinaman in China, and released in the U.S. as Up to His Ears. The article discusses among other things how Andress injured herself during the first week of the physically demanding shoot, and you can see a scab on her knee and calf, as well as a bandage on her thigh. While she perhaps didn’t have a gazelle’s grace, she did seem to possess a siren’s allure—her rumored affair with Belmondo supposedly ruined her marriage to John Derek, and this may not have been her first affair. However, it seems possible that the marriage failed for reasons other than fidelity, since John Derek did not seem to be a possessive husband (if his willingness to share his fourth wife Bo is any indication). Anyway, not be overlooked is Pamela Tiffin, who appears in the centerfold. We’ll have more on Tiffin later.
Who's gonna ride your wild horses?
Erotic fiction has always been a major subset of pulp literature, and for a while sex was likewise part of American cinema. Bo Derek personifies sexual nudity on film as much as any actress we can remember. She was originally presented to the world by her Svengali husband John Derek, who had also helped his second and third wives, Ursula Andress and Linda Evans, become stars. The difference was they could act. Bo couldn’t.
But Bolero isn’t godawful because Bo acted in it—it’s godawful because John Derek wrote it. Yet for all its flaws, Bolero is a landmark because it’s one of the last full-blown, joyful, erotic American films. From this point forward, nudity in American cinema seemed to consist of either breast-flashing slapstick, or result in severely negative consequences. Cinema sex as an expression of simple joy still existed, but actual nudity was becoming more and more political. Was it AIDS that did this? Was it simply an overdue cultural shift? We can’t say.
Fast forward to 2009 and we have American directors shooting clothed sex scenes, then explaining—as if every other director in town hadn't also shot a clothed sex scene—that not showing skin is much sexier than having actors parading around naked. We disagree, and the stills below prove our point, but we understand that times change. Bolero makes clear just how much. It was one of the worst films of that or any year, but it made sex a celebration. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1984.
Johnny Weissmuller brought Tarzan to life seventy-five years ago today.
This is one of the most beautiful posters we’ve ever seen. Based on the fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan the Ape Man was the first offering in a film and television franchise that has been sixty-plus years running. It has taken forms as diverse as Bo Derek’s teasingly awful 1981 softcore remake, Jock Mahoney’s 1962 potboiler Tarzan Goes to India, and Casper Van Diem’s 1998 career-killer Tarzan and the Lost City. None of these would have been possible without the original Tarzan, and that film worked for one reason—Romanian-born hunk Johnny Weissmuller. He was not an actor trying to fit the role of a superman, but a superman trying to fit the role of an actor. He was a six foot three inch Olympic swimmer who won 67 world and 52 national titles, and whose physicality radiated from the movie screen. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to ride his vine. Tarzan the Ape Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1934.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
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