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.
Twentieth Century Fox chooses goofs over thrills for Blaise adaptation.
After writing about the first four Modesty Blaise novels over the last few years we figured it was time to talk about Twentieth Century Fox's cinematic pass at character. You see a brilliant poster for the movie adaptation above by Bob Peak, who seems to be reminding people that Robert McGinnis wasn't the only painter capable of working in this style. Two more versions of the poster appear below, and you can another example of his work here.
We'd heard for years that Modesty Blaise is a terrible movie, but it isn't—lightweight might be a better description. It's based on the debut novel, and while author Peter O'Donnell plays it straight apart from the affable relationship between Blaise and her partner Willie Garvin, here in the movie Blaise has a space age apartment, a sentient computer, a huge lobster tattoo on her thigh, an adoptive father, and a referential theme song. The villain, meanwhile, drinks goldfish water, wears a chauffeur's cap, and uses a Japanese pai pai fan. At a couple of points Blaise and Garvin burst into song together. All these touches must have baffled fans of the book, and indeed the additions are pointless in our opinion, but that's cinema. Filmmakers are not transcribers—they're translators, and if you know anything about translation you know it's not done literally.
The main question is whether star Monica Vitti does the legendary main character justice. It was a lot to ask, after Modesty became popular thanks to three years of popular daily comic strips followed by a well received novel. We think she manages fine with the material she's given, but there's the rub. While the screenplay follows the basic thread of the novel, the flow is clunky and the dialogue is cluttered with non-sequitur asides and attempts to be cute that make Vitti resemble Emma Peel from The Avengers rather than the lethal woman O'Donnell created. In terms of the actual story, Modesty is tasked with stopping a master criminal from stealing a cache of diamonds meant for her father (we know, we know—she's an orphan in the books, and it defines her character). She's had dealings with this quirky crook before and would like to settle matters between them permanently. That means traveling from London to Amsterdam to his rocky stronghold on Sicily for a final showdown—in good pumps and a diaphanous haute couture a-line dress.
The action, which is central to the books and written with deadly seriousness, is mostly played for laughs. We mean even to the extent of villains crashing into each other to the accompaniment of circus music. We think this is probably the movie's only unforgivable sin. O'Donnell took pride in his action sequences, underpinning them with ingenious forethought by Blaise and Garvin and violent precision in execution. All the humor and cuteness would have been fine if the movie had thrilled where it most needed to, but no such luck. So in the end what you get is a cutesy spy caper of a type that was all too commonplace during the 1960s, but even goofier than most. We think the movie should have been something fresh and surprising, and in ways that go beyond its glossy high fashion aesthetic. Unfortunately, the final result is no better than watchable, though it becomes progressively more enjoyable the more booze that's ingested. Hit the liquor store before screening it and you'll find out for yourself. Modesty Blaise premiered in London today in 1966.
Ocean temperatures rose sharply on a random day in 1974. Scientific explanation finally found.
Andrea Rau joins the Pulp Intl. swim team with this nice photo that appeared in the British magazine Cinema X in 1974. Rau, whose hotness we've already documented and who probably sent up a cloud of steam whenever she jumped into water, is also a member of the Pulp Intl. soap foam team, which means she's doing double duty. But she's German, so her work ethic is off the charts. You'll be seeing more of her later.
The next few rounds are on her.
It's always fun until someone sprays gunfire around the bar. Above you see a promo image of British actress Virginia Field made for her 1950 film noir Dial 1119. This would be a controversial photo for an actress today, and understandably so, for reasons that regularly make headlines. We shared another promo of Field from Dial 1119 a long while back, which you can see here.
From moment to moment everything can change.
Donald MacKenzie's Moment of Danger, also known as Scent of Danger, appeared in 1959 as a Dell paperback with a front painted by the busy Robert McGinnis, always the man to employ for elevated cover art. In this case, his pistol packing, sarong clad femme fatale lounging behind a spider plant stands as a top effort. And by the way, we only know what a spider plant is because we have six large ones busily propagating around palatial Pulp Intl. HQ.
The tale follows a double-crossed jewel thief named Macbeth Bain (you gotta love that) who vows revenge on the partner who ditched him after a big heist and put the cops onto him. The double-cross is only half successful. The partner gets away with the loot, but through a stroke of luck, the evidence that was supposed to put Bain behind bars never materializes. Now he's free, furious, and tracking his missing partner from London to Gibraltar, Tangier, and Malaga, seeking to even the score. Along for the adventure is the partner's wife, also intent upon revenge after being ditched for another woman.
This is a densely written tale, heavy on narrative and light on dialogue, told from Bain's point of view as he struggles with fear of his uber-competent partner, and attraction toward his beautiful sidekick. He's a curious character, hard to like at first because his emotions range from anger at his betrayal to resentment that a woman is tugging at his heart, but you eventually root for him. The book ends almost anti-climactically, mid-scene at a crucial moment, but it remains a decent whirlwind thriller that passes through several exotic cities, and is worth the reading time, imperfections and all.
Hollywood agreed. The big brains out in Tinseltown liked Moment of Danger enough to option it and make it into a 1960 movie titled Malaga, starring Trevor Howard and Dorothy Dandridge. We'll definitely watch it because it's a noteworthy film, representing a rare leading role for an African American actress, and in fact was Dandridge's last movie. Our film watching résumé is a bit thin on the Dandridge front anyway, so we now have a good reason to address that. We'll of course report back.
She's a one woman market disruption.
This photo shows British actress Lilian Bond, sometimes Lillian Bond, made when she was filming the 1933 romance When Strangers Marry—and when strangers marry they sometimes want to shoot each other. Other films of hers include Scotland Yard, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Old Dark House. We have some nice art for the latter here and here. Bond was not a big star, but she worked steadily from 1929 to 1958, which means we may run into her again.
Alan Ladd plays white knight in India.
Above: a really nice paperback cover featuring U.S. actor Alan Ladd, made for the novelization of his 1946 film noir Calcutta. If a Hollywood movie is set in any warm foreign land you can count on the white suit making an appearance. Ladd certainly looks nice in his. Sadly, with only the front cover scanned, no author listed, and the internet absolutely packed with Calcutta references, there's no chance to find out who wrote this unless we were to recognize the publisher's logo—which we don't. We generally don't share covers without complete information, but this cool item? We made an exception. Eventually someone will sell a copy of it and we'll update this post with author and publisher info. Until then, if you're interested in our musings about the film Calcutta, you can find those here.
Update: Well, we are amazed and pleased. Thirty minutes? That's the fastest ever, thanks to Rhea. She even found it on Ebay for us. The author here is Alex Morrison, the publisher is London based Hollywood Publications Limited (what is that WFP logo on the cover?—no idea), and it came out in 1947. The movie premiered in England in 1946, and novelizations usually coincide, but because the premiere was 20 December, the book can carry a 1947 copyright and still have been more or less simultaneously relesased with the film. Should we buy it? We're very tempted.
I've been working on some fresh runway poses. I call this one: sociopathicool.
Above: a cover for Australian author Neville Jackson's, aka Gerald Glaskin's 1965 novel No End to the Way. What you see here is a 1967 edition from the British publisher Corgi. This is a significant book, one of the first novels with gay themes to be widely available in Australia. It wasn't legal to mail into the country, so Corgi, the legend goes, flew it in aboard chartered planes to skirt the law.
Plotwise what you get here is a drama about Ray and Cor, two men who meet in a bar and form a relationship that becomes committed, and seems aimed toward permanence—which is exactly when their most serious challenge arises in the form of a bitter ex-lover. This ex is determined to ruin what Ray and Cor have built, up to and including slander, career damage, and more.
We were quite interested in the cover art because Corgi was a mainstream publisher, and with this bright yellow effort they gave this controversial book the full court press. The push, the art, and the quality of the story worked—it was reprinted at least twice, and in fact was Jackson's/Glaskin's best selling book. He was an eclectic and fairly prolific writer, so maybe we'll run across him again later. There's a good bio here. Now we're going to work on that pose.
Spillane's Mike Hammer finds beautiful trouble on a Deadly stretch of road.
Christmas is a holiday for most of you, and for us too, so in the spirit of giving, we're putting up several posts today. But don't worry about us being hunched over our desks—like you, we're with friends and loved ones, probably tipping back a tall glass of cava at this very moment. We pre-wrote everything last week. We'll cover the gamut of what we do here—fiction, movies, femmes fatales, crime, and whatnot. This hardback sleeve for Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me, Deadly was produced by British publisher Arthur Baker, Ltd. in 1952. We don't often feature hardback art but this one struck us, not only because of its semi-abstract style, but because the unknown artist chose to illustrate the first instant of the book. This is the first sentence: All I saw was the dame standing there in the glare of the headlights, waving her arms like a huge puppet and the curse I spit out filled the car and my own ears. After the narrator Mike Hammer avoids running her over, she ends up in his car—naked under that trench coat—and that's where the problems start. It's a top notch novel, as we discussed in detail almost a decade ago. Give yourself a gift and read it.
Everything is working perfectly—for the killer.
Above is a beautiful alternate poster in the elongated style known as a three-sheet for the thriller Green for Danger, which we talked about last year. We love this piece. The movie deals with medical mishaps—or is it murder?—in a London hospital during World War II, and stars Alistair Sim, Trevor Howard, Sally Gray, and Rosamund John. It premiered in England today in 1946. You can read more here. |
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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