It's always darkest just before the dawn.
Celia Fremlin's 1958 novel The Hours Before Dawn was lauded by the Mystery Writers of America. You can see that for yourself by looking at the cover of its 1961 Dell paperback edition. You would assume, then, that the book is a murder mystery or thriller. Yes and no—it's really more of a domestic drama about a British woman named Louise who's overwhelmed by her three kids and husband. She's tired, stressed, unhappy, unlaid, and unlikely to find space for a breather or a recharge. Into this mix comes a woman who rents the family's vacant upstairs room and adds to Louise's problems by proving to be one weird bird. Who is this woman, where did she come from, and why does it seem as though her presence is not a random event? Yes, there's a mystery, but the vast bulk of the narrative is about Louise's daily life, her struggles with child rearing, her nosy and obtuse neighbors, and the problems caused by her accumulating lack of sleep.
Even without the mysterious renter angle this would be a good book. We thought we understood, basically, what it meant to be a mid-century housewife, but we were wrong. Fremlin brings Louise to life by dissecting her challenging existence, baring every bit of it for the reader's increasingly sympathetic inspection. Love is not the issue. Nor is desire. The issue is simply time. And rest. And peace. No wonder then that her boarder is able to embark upon an insidious plot without very much worry of close observation, and of course when Louise begins to understand something is truly amiss—and is not just the imaginings of her weary brain—she finds it devilishly difficult to find an ally, within her household or without. A mystery novel? Well, yes, but not of the type that can be puzzled out by readers. A highly effective depiction of all the ways in which a woman can work so hard and so thanklessly? One of the better ones you'll read.
In this week's episode she uses two torpedoes to blow up Monroe and Mansfield.
We've seen our share of torpedo boobs but these take the prize. Norma Ann Sykes, better known as simply Sabrina, makes munitions couture look almost passable in this promo shot made in 1957. The bra gets most of the credit for this physics-defying image, of course, but her reported 41-inch bust had something to do with it too. We recently called Sabrina the one-name star time forgot, but that isn't true. Though she never became the British Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield she was touted as, and her film career was scant, she was an outsize celebrity and tabloid staple who received up to 1,000 fan letters a week.
She used the recognition to tour the world as a cabaret act and, according to reports, on one occasion an adoring crowd of 10,000 caused part of the roof to collapse at Maylands Airport near Perth, Australia. With these and other adventures to her credit, it's fair to say Sabrina is one of the most noteworthy celebrities of her era. There's an extensive website about her that you can access at this link. If you visit, make sure to check the section “Sabrina Incidents,” and you'll see what we mean by other adventures. One thing is clear—Sabrina hasn't been forgotten. Not on that website, not on this one, and probably not anywhere.
Ursula the friendly witch.
Witches are supposed to be scary but Ursula Jeans didn't get the memo, seemingly, as she prepares to take her broom out for a spin while wearing a rather enticing nightgown. On the other hand, maybe the nightgown is just a lure and the basket is to transport your corpse once she kills you and crushes you like an egg carton. You never know when it comes to witches. Jeans was born in 1906 in British India and launched her showbiz career on the London stage in 1922. She naturally made the transition to cinema and her films include The Barton Mystery, Dark Journey, and The Weaker Sex. This shot is identified all over the internet as being from 1965, which would be amazing if true, because she'd be fifty-nine years old in it. So, barring the evil practice of black magic to stay young, and assuming Jeans' broom doesn't have a flux capacitor built into it, let's say this shot is actually from around 1935.
For British movie lovers Continental Film Review was their ticket across the English Channel.
Continental Film Review was first published—as far as we can discern—in November 1952. We decided on that month because we saw a copy from February 1953 numbered Vol. 1 Issue 4, and the masthead said the magazine was published the first week of every month. CFR would go on to become one of Britain's most popular film magazines, exposing English language readers to the wide variety of foreign movies being made across continental Europe. The above issue appeared this month in 1966 with cover star Maria Pia Conte, and numerous film personalities inside, including Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates, Rossana Podesta, Evi Marandi, and more. We have other issues we'll get around to sharing at some point. In the meantime see more here, here, here, and here.
Everything you need for a perfect day at the seaside.
Above is British icon Joan Collins, making an outfit switch for two great beach photos from 1965. You can tell it's the same beach because of the distinctive wooden railing fronting the boardwalk behind her, but we couldn't hazard a guess where it might be. In any case, these are great shots.
He'll make you love him even if it kills you.
Patricia Highsmith's reputation demands that you read any book of hers you find, so when we ran across This Sweet Sickness we knew it would be good. Originally published in 1960 with this paperback coming from British publisher Great Pan in 1963, she tells the story of another troubled man à la her famous Tom Ripley novels. Here we have David Kelsey, in love with a woman who, inconveniently, is married. No problem, though, because obstacles mean nothing. He's determined to win his prospective love's affections, ignoring the fact that she's both unavailable and uninterested.
The book is told from the perspective of this dangerously deluded man, and his mental dissonance, deftly written by Highsmith, is cringe inducing. In Kelsey's head, everything is proof his love is returned. When the woman he desires is kind, it encourages him. When she's resistant, he assumes she isn't acting of her own accord, but instead is being pressured by her husband. There's nothing she can do—literally nothing—to dissuade Kelsey from the idea that his love for a woman obligates her to love him back. It all leads pretty much where you expect—to conflict, terror, death, and the high, lonely ledge of insanity.
It's fascinating to us that the U.S. born Highsmith was unappreciated in her own country, despite her breakthrough at age twenty-nine with Strangers on a Train. Well, considering she spent her life writing novels while residing mainly in France and Switzerland, we doubt she suffered much from the neglect. She's well remembered now, and deservedly so. This Sweet Sickness is an interesting and relevant book, and we highly recommend it.
She'll have you eating out of them in no time.
1960s nude photography in countries like England and the U.S. usually involved coming up with ways to hide pubic hair, which, if it appeared, merited a one-way ticket to jail for obscenity. Often the offending region was simply airbrushed away, making women resemble sexless aliens, but here British model and actress June Palmer keeps it simple—fingers steepled, hands placed just so, and only her palms know how thick the carpet is. This is a clever pose. Her hands make a triangle, and leave a triangle shaped space. Palmer, along with Pamela Green, was the most famous of the Harrison Marks models of the 1960s, and appeared often in his nudie magazines Kamera and Solo, as well as in nudie film loops. This great shot is from a Modern Man special edition called Modern Man Deluxe Quarterly, and was the centerfold shot for winter 1969.
She was mysterious in life but all her secrets came out in death.
This National Insider published today in 1964 highlights an event that was of global interest at the time, but which has since been forgotten. Julie Molley, pictured on the cover, led a double life. She worked in a dentist's office by day and was a party girl by night. Apparently this hidden life began with placing newspaper ads for a friend who wanted to hook up with men but needed to protect his reputation. The responses seemed almost innumerable, and exposed her to the world of clandestine sex in repressive 1960s Britain. This in turn eventually led to full-fledged participation in underground bdsm orgies. Wealthy men rewarded her with money and expensive gifts for whipping and humiliating them.
When she was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills in a Buckinghamshire mansion in November 1963, police labeled it suicide, but friends said it had to be murder. Found in her effects were 3,500 photos of her in compromising positions with various men. Two diaries she wrote contained the names of numerous high profile figures. Police believed Molley was involved not only in an underground sex ring, but may have been part of an extortion racket that took advantage of various well heeled Brits' kinky sex preferences. But as late as 1966—the last year we found articles about the case—police still had not found evidence of foul play.
This National Insider labels Molley the “High Priestess of Love” and "Pocket Venus," and compares her underground parties to those at the center of the Profumo Affair. But her death is today still officially a suicide. Police believed she was depressed, basically friendless, and they noted that her pill usage had been increasing for months before her untimely end. In the final analysis, authorities decided she ended it all because she was simply fed up with an unhappy existence. The general sentiment was summed up by her mother, who said, “I sent her to a convent school because I wanted her to be a good girl. But she wanted a good time—and it ended like this. It always does.”
I'm fine. It's all good. I'm calm. I said I'm calm!
Winston Churchill coordinated his share of bombing campaigns, and it looks as if his daughter Sarah Churchill learned a thing or two about bombs herself—f-bombs, that is. Check the time on the clock. Things started out okay, but over the course of several minutes it looks like she worked herself up to, “Fuck you! And fuck you! And fuck you! And fuck you too!” This is funnier than we can explain because we had a female acquaintance do this very thing to three cops a little while back.
Churchill, who is also known as Sarah Millicent Hermione Touchet-Jesson, Baroness Audley, opted for a show business career when she was young, and as Sarah Churchill appeared in films such as Royal Wedding and All Over the Town, as well as in dozens of television movies. In these images she's been arrested in Los Angeles for drunkenness, and after being conducted to the copshop had this little dust-up with the uniforms and a nurse.
This wasn't the only time Churchill drank herself into custody. In general, she lived a flamboyant life that overshadowed her acting career and annoyed her father. She wrote about these issues in her 1981 autobiography Keep On Dancing, the title of which refers to her early dance classes and subsequent desire to become a chorus girl. But on the above occasion we suspect Churchill probably learned that cops don't dance. That was today in 1958.
Screw it. My insurance is paid up. I'm going for a loop!
Above, a fun image of British actress Alexandra Bastedo, who was a television stalwart but did appear in such films as the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale. We don't have a date on this photo, but it was probably made around 1965.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated
In Dallas, Texas, U.S. President John F. Kennedy is killed and Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded as they ride in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald
, an employee of the schoolbook depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges of the murder of a local police officer and was subsequently charged with the Kennedy killing. He denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Today, Americans who believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy are routinely dismissed
in the press, yet the vast majority of them believe Oswald did not act alone.
1959—Max Baer Dies
Former heavyweight boxing champ Max Baer dies of a heart attack in Hollywood, California. Baer had a turbulent career. He lost to Joe Louis in 1935, but two years earlier, in his prime, he defeated German champ and Nazi hero Max Schmeling while wearing a Star of David on his trunks. The victory was his legacy, making him a symbol to Jews, and also to all who hated Nazis.
1945—Nuremberg Trials Begin
In Nuremberg, Germany, in the Palace of Justice, the trials of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany begin. Among the men tried were Martin Bormann (in absentia), Hermann Göring, Rudolph Hess, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
1984—SETI Institute Founded
The SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the habitability of the galaxy, is founded in California by Thomas Pierson and Dr. Jill Tarter.
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