How many secrets can one man keep?
Charade is one of the great romantic thrillers in cinema history, and is a movie you should definitely see if you haven't. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman whose husband is fatally thrown off a speeding train and Cary Grant is a charming but mysterious stranger willing to render aid in solving the murder. But Grant has ulterior motives, as well as multiple identities. Others are interested in the killing too, and it soon develops that they're after $250,000 worth of missing gold.
The movie is great, as legions of fans and critics have agreed, but in addition to its narrative, directorial, and acting brilliance, what we like about it is that the unlikeliness of the May-December attraction between Grant and Hepburn does not go unaddressed. At one point Grant, 59, quips to Hepburn, 30, that he's afraid he'll be arrested for transporting a minor. We love the tack taken in dealing with the romance because it gives the audience credit for being intelligent enough to appreciate the subtleties of life. That's increasingly rare in popular movies—as well as in popular culture.
For example, these days there's talk of such things as “age appropriate” relationships, the inference being that older men should not be with younger women (and possibly vice versa). Horseshit. We can think of little more sexist than assuming women aren't able to make their own life choices. Consenting adults—older/younger, male/male, female/female, other/other—trying to find love will tend to look anywhere they can, and internet tribunals can take a flying leap. We don't say that merely because neither Pulp Intl. girlfriend is age appropriate. We say it because nothing in this life is more important than finding the right partner.
Interestingly, numerous other mid-century films—among them classics like Sabrina and To Catch a Thief—also addressed the presumed incongruity of older men with younger women, and did it in an empathetic, humanistic way. Charade does it more amusingly than most. Grant is initially embarrassed by Hepburn's attentions, but of course she eventually wears him down. The film mixes comedy, romance, and thrills, plus it was made in beautiful locations around Paris, all of which makes it a total winner. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
Big screen Thief gets the job done but isn't quite the perfect crime.
This is a spectacular Italian poster for Caccia al ladro, aka To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The moviemakers opted for a photo-illustration rather than a painting, and it befits the star power of the movie. It was based on David Dodge's best seller of the same name, and in truth it's a pretty simple-minded adaptation of the book. You can just hear the studio execs saying: “We know it's in the novel, but we can't have the star in disguise half the movie, we can't have the romance go unacknowledged until the final reel, and we for damn sure can't have the secondary female lead be more beautiful than Grace Kelly.” Movies are a different medium than books, and changes always happen, but it's just interesting to observe what those changes are. The main change is this: Dodge's novel has suspense, while Hitchcock's adaptation does not. That probably wasn't intentional.
To Catch a Thief is a superstar vehicle, and with Grant and Kelly in the lead roles, and Hitchcock in the director's chair, it's pretty clear the studio considered the hard work done. Extensive French Riviera location shooting and VistaVision widescreen film processing are nice bonuses, but the honchos should have had screenwriter John Michael Hayes hammer the script out a little smoother. We're not being iconoclasts here. The movie received mixed reviews upon release, with some important critics calling it a failure. That's going too far—it isn't a failure. We don't think Grant, Kelly, and Hitchcock would have been capable of making anything but a good movie at this stage. But considering the source material it could have been a perfect movie. To Catch a Thief premiered in the U.S in early August 1955, and in Italy at the Venice Film Festival today the same year.
Which one liked to wallow in crap more? National Examiner or Adolf Hitler?
National Examiner offers up a provocative cover on this issue that hit newsstands today in 1973, with an unidentified blonde model and the promise of expert lovemaking tips. Nothing new there. What's different is this issue takes Adolf Hitler's corpse for a gallop around a well-traveled track. The article “Hitler's Strange Desires” digs into der Führer's toilet training, his family background, his private writings and public statements, and comes to the conclusion: sexual pervert! The piece discusses Hitler's “sexual inadequacy and impotence, frail body and softness that was almost effeminate,” and reveals how he doted on his mother but eventually felt betrayed by her, stating, “This sudden indignation with his mother could have been caused if he saw his parents having intercourse.” The ultimate conclusion is no surprise: “[Because of] his extreme form of masochism [he derived] sexual gratification from the act of having a woman urinate or defecate on him.”
As psychological disturbances go, you can take your pick here. Like beer in a Berlin rathskeller, Hitler allegedly had multiple flavors on tap, and they culminated in turning him into a shit freak. That's amusing to consider, but was it anything other than pure bullshit itself? Labeling Hitler a disturbed child-turned sexual deviant was a mini-industry in the decades after his death, and the rumors started by these reports are still prevalent today. We get it—by making him into a non-human it's easyto distance him from the rest of us, but as far as we know there's no evidence he was anything other than a heterosexual who had run-of-the-mill sex, or for that matter that he was anything other than a run-of-the-mill human. Many people would love for the stories to be true, but they're just too easy. We don't blame Examiner for beating that Hitler horse, though. Everybody did it—it sold piles of papers.
Examiner goes for lighter material elsewhere in the issue, with an update on the whereabouts of Canadian actress Ruby Keeler, a story about a wife who makes her husband take her to a swingers club so she can get some strange dick, and a pervy advertisement for instant peepholes we know would be illegal to use today, and which we suspect were illegal to use back then too. Other celebrities who make appearances include Maria LaTour and Monika Zinnenberg. In fact, on closer examination that unidentified cover model might be Zinnenberg. She made the usual slate of bad West German comedies and exploitation flicks during the ’60s and ’70s before leveraging her front-of-the-camera work into a directing career which she sustained all the way up until 2012. And finally there's a centerspread on the benefits of yoga, featuring stars like Cary Grant, Geraldine Chaplain, and Barbara Parkins touting its benefits. That's about it for this Examiner. Scans below, and more here and here.
An afternoon on the South Side.
The above photos show the Regal Cinema in Chicago one afternoon during the spring of 1941 as locals flock to see The Philadelphia Story, starring Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant. The shots were made by Farm Security Administration photographer Edwin Rosskam, who had been tasked with documenting life in Chicago's black belt, which is where racist housing practices forced African Americans to live. Most of Rosskam's photos made abundantly clear that the underclass status forced upon blacks by redlining—the utilization of mortgage and insurance practices to hem them into tightly packed areas—led to less than desirable conditions, but many of his shots showed joyous moments and bustling civic life. These images of people decked out for a matinee are examples. They're part of the Office of War Information Collection maintained by the Library of Congress.
Phantom actress puts men in their place.
We're back to National Spotlite with a cover published today in 1968. The photo is of actress Carolyn Haynes, and a headline goes to actress Caroline Lee, who says she makes men crawl for her sexual favors. The money quote: “If women use their bodies the right way they can be the most powerful people on Earth.” A quote like that sounds suspiciously like it was fabricated by a man, and in fact while several Caroline Lees appear on IMDB, none fit the profile required to have done this interview—i.e. born sometime in the 1940s or possibly in 1950. National Spotlite is busted again. The editors simply could never have imagined a globally accessible actor database. We also did a search on Haynes and likewise learned she never existed
But some of the celebs are real. In Spotlite's “Dateline: The World” feature readers are treated to a photo of Chris Noel. It's been a long time since we've seen her—eight years to be exact. Spotlite tells us she smashed a vase over the head of a nightclub employee when he tried to force his way into her dressing room in Sydney one night. “The man attempted to romance her but she spurned every overture he made. When he tried to use violence to get his way she spilt open his skull.” We found no mention of the incident in any other source, but we like the story for how it turns out. If her assailant had known anything at all about Chris Noel he'd have rememberd her publicity tours of Vietnam and realized she was one tough celeb.
“Dateline: The World” next regales readers with a tale out of Africa. "Cary Grant arrived in Nairobi to join a hunting safari and has been escorting two six-foot dark-skinned native girls to whatever cafes in town they can get into, and has caused quite a bit of controversy by doing so. Grant traded punches with a man in one spot when the gent took offense at Cary's dates. Cary flattened the man, but the stranger rose to his feet flashing a knife and only the quick efforts of the bartender and cafe owner averted further trouble for the star. Cary and the girls fled while the others were subduing the knife wielder."
Paris: "Juliette Prowse was detained the other night after she threw a make-up case through the window of a drug store. She had purchased some cosmetics at the American Drug on the Champs-Élysées, but brought the order back the same night. She claimed that she'd made a mistake and didn't need the cosmetics. The salesman explained that he would exchange the merchandise or give Prowse credit, but no cash refund. Juliette roared out of the place. Outside she hurled her make-up case through the store's front window. Two policemen saw her smash the window and nabbed her on the spot."
Beirut: "David Niven and wife Hjordis ran into an embarrassing situation in a night spot while making the cafe rounds in this Lebanese city. A belly dancer took such a fancy to David that she did her act for him alone. She even sat on his lap. The patrons objected to her performing for just one man and began to throw things at her and at Niven. David and Hjordis ran for the exits after he pushed the girl off his lap."
Capri: "Noel Coward is nursing bruises on his face. He says he was attacked by two young men while he was out strolling one night. The muggers made off with a pair of cuff links given to him by Raquel Welch and a watch from Greta Garbo. Coward was found half-conscious and bleeding."
You get the gist—celebs in trouble. Back during the heyday of tabloids Confidential had bellhops, bartenders, chauffeurs, maîtres d'hôtel, and cops by the hundreds phoning in hot tips, but Spotlite was never more than a second tier rag and could not have had the resources to uncover the above stories. Therefore the editors either made them up or lifted them from other tabloids. We suspect the latter—with the stories ginned up for entertainment value. Cary Grant in Nairobi with two Kenyan escorts? We'll buy it. Grant risking his million dollar mug in a fistfight? Improbable. But the stories sure are fun. See more from National Spotlite by clicking here.
Clothes encounters of the Hollywood kind.
We've been gathering rare wardrobe and hairdresser test shots from the golden era of Hollywood, and today seems like a good day to share some of what we've found. It was standard procedure for all the main performers in a movie to pose for such photos, but the negatives that survive tend to belong to the most popular stars, such as Cary Grant, who you see at right. You'll see Marilyn Monroe more than amply represented below. What can we do? She's possibly the most photographed Hollywood figure ever, and she was beautiful in every exposure. But we've also found shots of a few lesser known stars, such as Giorgia Moll and France Nuyen.
Some of the shots are worth special note. You'll see Doris Day as a mermaid for The Glass Bottom Boat, Liz Taylor as a kid for National Velvet and an adult for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Farrah Fawcett in lingerie, Sheree North in both front and rear poses, and Yul Brynner looking like an actual man by sporting a body that had to that point seemingly known neither razor nor wax (he ditched the fur for his actual onscreen appearances). Usually the photos feature a chalkboard or card with pertinent information about the production and star, but not always, as in the case of Brynner's photo, and in Audrey Hepburn's and Joan Collins' cases as well. If the names of the subjects don't appear on the chalkboards you can refer to the keywords at bottom, which are listed in order. We may put together another group of these wardrobe shots later.
May Britt is spotted in Triunfo magazine.
The Spanish magazine Triunfo wasn't the most graphically beautiful of magazines, but it did publish rare celeb photos, such as the colorful cover at top of an amazingly freckled May Britt, and the centerspread of Italian star Anna Karina. Elsewhere in the issue are shots from Marilyn Monroe's funeral, Paola de Bélgica's shopping spree, Ava Gardner's bullfight, and Catherine Deneuve's wedding, plus Betsy Drake, Cary Grant, James Dean, and current fashions. We've shared several of those rare Triunfo centerfolds in the past, and they're all worth a look. You can see them here, here, here, and here.
Before moving back to items from other countries, we thought we’d share a few more pieces related to Germany—this time vintage posters. Below are seven excellent examples of thriller and film noir promo art that appeared in that country from 1932 to 1955. They are, top to bottom, Highway 301, Night and the City, Thunder Road, Notorious twice, because both posters are great, Night of the Hunter and Blonde Venus.
Everybody who was anybody was there.
This photo made today in 1954 shows American singer/actress Abbe Lane posing outside Ciro’s nightclub in West Hollywood, California. Lane had begun in show business as a child actress, but became world famous after she married bandleader Xavier Cugat and began fronting his group as a singer. Although this is a famous photo, one you can find elsewhere on the internet, we thought it was worth posting anyway, not just because of Lane, but because supper clubs like Ciro’s really don’t exist anymore. Ciro’s, which by the way was unrelated to the many famous Ciro’s that existed in Europe during the Jazz Age, from its opening in 1940 to its closing in 1957 was a favorite spot of screen personalities, singers, producers, and writers, a place where the night’s meet-ups and trysts were reported in the next day’s gossip columns. Below you see Lane and Cugat, Charlie Chaplin with Paulette Goddard, Lane onstage fronting Cugat’s rumba band, Cary Grant with Betsy Drake, Lucille Ball with Desi Arnaz, Jr., and others.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
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