Don't be scared—I just want you to be absolutely still for the next five hours while I curl up on your lap.
Above, another promo poster for the classic comedy mystery The Cat and the Canary, with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. We showed you a Swedish promo last year but didn't talk about the film. It's based on a 1922 play by John Willard, which makes it old enough that even the cleverest jokes are probably too recognizable for modern viewers to generate legit laughs. A century is a long time in the evolution of humor. Well, except for your embarrassing country grandpa who thinks it's funny to spit chaw on his arthritic old smellin' hound. Time has stopped for him. Did a while ago. Point is, you've seen these gags reused hundreds of times. But here's what matters. Hope and Goddard have great chemistry and emanate a lot of charm. As films of this sort go, this one has everything: creepy old house in a swamp, a contested inheritance, secret passages, misty gardens, disappearing bodies, a painting with peephole eyes, confounding clues, a love story, and a bang-up climax. It's a great flick. The first version was made in 1927 with Laura La Plante and Creighton Hale, and the latest version was made in 1978 with Honor Blackman and Michael Callan, but this version—the best of the lot we think—premiered in the U.S. today in 1939.
All she needed was for someone to believe.
Paulette Goddard had more false starts to her career than most Hollywood legends. During the late 1920s and early-to-mid 1930s she worked—without making much impact—for Selznick International Pictures, George Fitzmaurice Productions, 20th Century Pictures, Hal Roach Studios, and both Goldwyn Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She turned some heads in Modern Times, co-starring with Charlie Chaplain, who was her boyfriend at the time, but her major break came with Paramount when she starred opposite Bob Hope in The Cat and The Canary. She never looked back, appearing in seventeen films in the next five years, and more than fifty over the course of her career. One of those was Northwest Mounted Police, which is where the above promo photo comes. It dates from 1940.
What do the mice do if the cat's never away?
This was an unexpectedly awesome find. It's a Swedish poster for En fasansfull natt, better known as The Cat and the Canary. This promo gave us a laugh, because if you translate the Swedish title it's “a horrible night.” That's so Swedish, so no-nonsense, so to the point. You'd think a direct translation Katten och kanariefågan would have worked, but maybe not—we once chatted with someone from Sweden who said they didn't get bananas until the ’80s, so maybe the title was changed because nobody knew what a canary was. After premiering in the U.S. En fasansfull natt opened in Sweden today in 1939.
Jeanne Carmen shows off her golf form. Her playing partners get fairway wood.
These items show Jeanne Carmen, model and b-movie actress, fronting The Reluctant Golf Pupil and Par Golf in 8 Steps, albums of golf instruction by Joe Novak punctuated with comic interjections from Reginald Owen. Though these seem like different albums, they're the same, just issued a year apart. Inside both you get liner notes written (allegedly) by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who were known to spend time on the links.
Carmen spent time on the fairways as well. She was nationally known as a trick-shot golfer, a skill she had picked up starting a decade earlier. She toured the U.S. pulling stunts such as using rubber shafted clubs and nailing drives off tees clenched between the teeth of supine (and terrified) male volunteers. So while these images appear often online, we've rarely seen it noted that Carmen was an appropriate choice for a cover star.
There's more to her story, including chapters involving gangster Johnny Roselli, friendships with the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe, and hook-ups with Elvis Presley and (of course) Frank Sinatra. We may get back to her later. In the meantime, if you want to see a really nice swing check out Ana Berthe Lethe on the course here.
The Lowdown has the scoop on a fantastic plastic.
Today we're back to tabloids with an issue of The Lowdown published this month in 1962. The cover features Bob Hope goofing around, Elizabeth Taylor looking serious, Kim Novak nuzzling, and a random naked party girl randomly partying naked. Inside the issue are stories on Hope getting the hots for trans star Coccinelle in a French nightclub, Novak raking a series of suitors over the coals, and baseball players succumbing to greed. So much material in these tabloids, and so little time to highlight a story or two. But forced to make a choice, we're opting to discuss a piece on something called Scoobeedoo. How can we not? We all remember the cartoon, and now this story seemed guaranteed to tell us where the name of the legendary dog came from. We never knew we wanted to know that. But when we saw the word Scoobeedoo we realized, yes, we want to know.
Lowdown describes Scoobeedoo as a craze and a do-it-yourself gimmick. Apparently, it was popularized when French singer Sacha Distel wrote a 1958 song of the same name. But he didn't invent it—he just sang about it. The actual thing was invented by a French plastics company and called Scoubidou. It was basically a spool of brightly colored plastic cord that could be woven or tied to make—well, whatever you wanted. Youcould make lampshades, baskets, placemats, keychains. A California man famously used it to make bikinis. We imagine it would work for household repairs, light sexual bondage, whatever you needed it for. The stuff was as popular as the hula hoop for a while. Apparently figures in the electrical industry even complained that a shortage of wiring insulation was due to Scoubidou because it used the same type of plastic.
Readers above a certain age will already know about all this, of course, but we had no idea. We weren't around back then. And that, succinctly, is why we maintain this website—because we learn about a past we never experienced. But surprisingly Scoubidou isn't just the past. It apparently still exists. It even has a Wikipedia entry with examples of the many things you can make (but no bikinis). So this was a very informative issue of The Lowdown, all things considered. The only thing we're bummed about is that our Scoubidou research provided no actual confirmation that the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo got his name from the toy. But he had to, right? Maybe a reader has the answer to that. In the meantime we have more than twenty scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of The Lowdown you can access by clicking the magazine's keywords at bottom.
Update: a reader does have the answer. One of you always does. J. Talley wrote this:
The series was originally rejected by CBS executives, who thought the presentation artwork was too frightening for children and that the show must be the same. CBS Executive Fred Silverman was listening to Frank Sinatra's “Strangers In The Night” (with the scatted lyric “dooby-dooby-doo”) on the flight to that ill-fated meeting. After the show was rejected, a number of changes were made: the Hanna-Barbera staff decided that the dog should be the star of the series instead of the four kids, and renamed him Scooby-Doo after that Sinatra lyric. The spooky aspects of the show were toned down slightly, and the comedy aspects tuned up. The show was re-presented, accepted, and premiered as the centerpiece for CBS's 1969-1970 Saturday Morning season.
Thanks, J. That's another hole in our historical knowledge successfully filled in. Is it any surprise Sinatra was involved somehow? That guy really got around.
Who, this jerk? I just work with him.
This awesome August 1953 National Police Gazette featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby cut-and-pasted into baseball uniforms came from the website Ephemera Forever, which we had no idea existed until today. It’s a nice spot, and claims to have more than 22,000 rare items. The prices? Well, those are high. But you can always browse, at least. As far as the Hope/Crosby feud mentioned on the cover, different sources make claims of everything from full blown mutual hatred to the two using rumors of discord as a publicity stunt. However Hope did once reveal that Crosby never once invited him and his wife over for dinner, which seems like a pretty strong clue. See much more from Police Gazette in our tabloid index.
Sommer isn’t over quite yet.
In June we shared a Japanese poster for Elke Sommer’s 1966 comedy Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number and talked about the movie a bit. Today we have an even better Italian promo for the same film. In Italy it was succinctly retitled Un bikini per Didi, and the art is by yet another Italian talent, this time Tino Avelli, who we haven’t featured before. Another version of the poster appears below, and we’ll have more from Avelli later.
Whisper dishes dirt from Sukarno to Lollobrigida.
Whisper features a political figure on this cover from March 1964, namely Indonesian ruler Kusno Sosrodihardjo, later known as Sukarno, who we’re told was offered twenty prostitutes while visiting his country’s embassy in Copenhagen in 1961. In fact, the magazine goes on to claim that the embassy housed a brothel. Though it sounds like a typical tabloid tall tale, it’s actually true. Time magazine had written about it in its October 1963 issue, stating: A diplomat may be only a cookie pusher, but the kind of cookies pushed by Indonesia’s charge d’affaires in Copenhagen tumbled, not crumbled. Last week Danish police announced that Gustin Santawirja not only ran his country’s embassy, [snip] but was also a procurer on the side. Santawirja got into the tart tradein 1961 when Indonesia's President Sukarno showed up in Copenhagen on an unofficial visit. Amiably, he rounded up some girls for the visiting entourage. So successful was the venture that he decided to supplement his entertainment allowance by running a fulltime poule hall. “Poule” is French for “hen,” by the way, and Whisper was correct, but it was also late to the party. We give no credit for publishing what was already widely known.
The magazine moves on to the subject of sexual shenanigans at Harvard University, Carol Lynley’s divorce, Sonny Liston’s world, Roland Gilbert’s bed hopping, and George Bernard Shaw’s love child. The latter is a curious story, since Shaw had died in 1950. But the woman in question, whose name was Patricia Joudry, claimed to have conceived spiritually. In addition to Shaw apparently transmitting his seed from the netherworld, Joudry claimed he transmitted a treasure trove of written material to her, explaining, “There are eighteen full length stage plays, a dozen TV plays, two full length novels and essays. At first George and I worked out an alphabet so we could speak, but now I am a clairvoyant and clairaudient. Now I can see him and hear him.” We actually believe this story because our entire website is transmitted to us by Rodney Dangerfield.
Lastly, Whisper offers up an exposé of Gina Lollobrigida’s complicated personal life. For years she had been protesting that she was not a sex symbol (as if she’s the one who actually gets to decide that), but rather a nice girl. She tells an interesting story from her early career about Howard Hughes’ efforts to romance her, which were fruitless but led to her being stuck in a hotel “for six weeks like a prisoner.” In the end,
she fled back to Italy and, because Hughes owned her American contract, she was unable to make movies in the U.S. She became an international star just the same, acting exclusively in Europe, but having attained celebrity claimed it was difficult for her. She complained: “When I am with people I am constantly watched, and I can’t get used to this sort of thing—that they look at me as a chimpanzee in a zoo.” Sounds bad, but she eventually learned to enjoy it. In 2000 she commented to Parade magazine, “I’ve had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled.” So it seems even the worst parts of celebrities’ lives aren’t really all that bad. Assorted scans below.
We don’t know art, but we know what we like.
A few of the contributors to the Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963 have been anonymous. This week we have another mystery photog (or perhaps the same single person who shot all the anonymous photos), and an image of an unknown model paired with a winged statuette. The anonymity of the photo dovetails with the provenance of the sculpture, which is a miniature of the Greek statue Winged Victory of Samothrace, a representation of the goddess Nike carved by an unknown artisan sometime in the second century B.C. But deities inevitably lose their power, and at some point someone looked at the goddess of victory, sneered, “Loser,” and pushed her over, rendering her armless and headless. But you’re just looking at the boobs behind the statue, aren’t you? Fair enough. So are we. Like the Greeks, we’re sensual that way.
Jan 27: “No photographer of pretty women ever completely covers the subject.”—Joe Hamilton
Jan 28: Venus of Milo: gal who used a harsh detergent!—“Stump the Stars.”
Jan 29: “Virus is a Latin word used by doctors to mean ‘your guess is as good as mine.’”—Bob Hope
Jan 30: “Beatniks Anonymous: When a ‘beat’ takes a bath, he calls up and members rush over to turn off the water.”—Irv Kupcinet
Jan 31: “I am a wonderful housekeeper. Every time I get a divorce I keep the house.”—Zsa Zsa Gabor
Feb 1: “Imagine Sinatra owning a record company. In any other country he’d be the needle.”—Bob Hope
Feb 2: “It used to be tired and run down; now it’s tired and twisted.”—He-who Who-he
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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