Femmes Fatales May 24 2020
REMAIN PERFECTLY STELLA
Don't change a thing for anybody.


You know we're Stella Stevens fans here. Though we prefer the thirty-plus version of her, she first turned heads as a model in her early twenties, posing for a Playboy centerfold published in 1960, sessions from which the above shot originates. Stevens had begun acting before then, appearing in three films released in 1959. The next year she won a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year, and eventually appeared in dozens of films and television shows. She was always a good actress, but never scored prestige roles. She did, however, grace some low budget classics, foremost among them the blaxploitation flicks Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. Mixed in were cheeseball hits like The Poseidon Adventure and The Silencers, and an occasional good movie, such as The Ballad of Cable Hogue. All in all she's had an amazing career, on pause since 2010. But she'll never be on pause on this website. More Stella here and here.

Edit: We recieved an e-mail from Herman, a man who knows a thing or two about mid-century celebs and has helped us with corrections, and he wanted to remind us:

I certainly appreciate that image of Stella. Although I have been a fan of PB since the mid 50s as a boy, I don't believe I have seen this particular photo. Of course, I have to say I believe you left some important points out of your commentary about her.  I believe you said once you are not a particular fan of Elvis Presley (that may have been someone else) but without the 1962 Girls, Girl, Girls appearance I don't think she would have caught on so quick. Don't forget that the reason PB recognized her in the first place was because of her appearance in Li'l Abner in 1959. I know you didn't set out to do a biography on her, but these were points I think are important in her chronology.
 
Agreed, H, Stevens has a long and interesting story. We didn't set out to write a biography, as you said, but we may need to spend a little more time on her to give her proper due. She's not a subject we'll tire of easily.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 14 2019
CIAO STELLA!
Dobson welcomes a guest to her poster but there's still only one queen.


Above are two gorgeous Italian posters for the blaxploitation classics Cleopatra Jones: licenza di uccidere and Operazione casinò d'oro, better known as Cleopatra Jones and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. The first poster is obviously a photo-illustration, but the second was painted by Robert Tanenbaum. It's an iteration of his original U.S. poster, which you see here as well, just below.
 
On the U.S. version star Tamara Dobson stands alone, but for the Italian promo a second figure appears to her right, representing we know not whom. You'll notice the Italy Dobson figure has lighter skin than on the U.S. poster, and lighter skin than her new sidekick. Was this a deliberate switcheroo? Were Italian moviegoers supposed to think the figure on the left, who was Dobson in the U.S., now represented co-star Stella Stevens? They probably did, even though Stella's face is present on both posters at about thigh level to the main figures. But we don't think Tannenbaum had any of that in mind. We think the second figure represents nobody and came out of his fertile imagination.

Something else interesting about these—Tannenbaum had no trouble reproducing Stella's face, but you'll notice none of the figures look like Tamara Dobson. Not unless you squint. Hmm. Well, even if he had trouble with Dobson's likeness, he did an amazing job on these pieces, which is no surprise considering he's a major
contributor to cinematic art who painted promos for The Sting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other big budget releases. There are no known Italian release dates on these Cleopatra movies, but ballpark, figure summer 1974 and winter 1975. Read about them here and here

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Femmes Fatales Jan 19 2019
VENUS IN FURS
Prepare yourself for a Sykes-a-delic experience.


Above is a rare image of U.S. actress Brenda Sykes, who appeared in cinema and on television during a relatively brief ten year acting career from 1968 to 1978. She's pretty well remembered for someone who had such a short run. Some of this is due to her being one of the era's most beautiful performers, but she was also in cult classics like Cleopatra Jones and Mandingo, as well as on television shows like Police Woman. This shot is from a 1975 issue of Playboy Japan. We've cropped it above, and uploaded the full image below.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 29 2018
ORIGINAL SIMS
It's unorthodox for the beach, but in case you haven't noticed, I can wear anything and look good.


Above is a photo of U.S. model Naomi Sims, a pioneering figure in the world of fashion who achieved global recognition in the 1960s while still a teenager. She was the first black model to front publications as diverse as Life and Ladies' Home Journal. Hollywood of course came calling. She was offered the lead in Cleopatra Jones but turned it down because she saw it as racist. She had a point. Blaxploitation movies are culturally significant and most are fun, but they hinge on crime stereotypes. In a country where so many are willing to see the stereotypes as encompassing of an entire people the argument could be made that the films were harmful. Sims wasn't the first or last to say so. In any case, that was the end of her flirtation with Hollywood, but she went on to author books on health, beauty, and the modeling industry. This photo dates from 1971. 

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Femmes Fatales Jul 11 2018
VICIOUS CYCLE
Tamara Dobson is hell on wheels.


Tamara Dobson straddles a dirt bike in this promo photo from her blaxploitation thriller Cleopatra Jones. In the film she commandeers the bike at a race to chase a bad guy, and manages to catch him and whip his lame ass without so much as disturbing her queenly hair wrap. In a genre marked by cheap failures and ambitious disasters Cleopatra Jones stands as one of the most successful entries. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1973.

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Hollywoodland Mar 14 2018
COLD CASEY
2nd Amendment, motherfucker. If you say it's your right, then it's my right too.


Bernie Casey exercises his right to bear a chrome plated Colt Super .38 automatic in this cool promo photo made for his 1972 blaxploitation flick Hit Man. We love Casey. He died just last year, and was pretty much unheralded, but he appeared in a lot of fun movies, including Sharky's Machine, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Cleopatra Jones, Boxcar Bertha, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also had the good fortune to get naked with both Pam Grier and Claudia Jennings. The Jennings scene is flat amazing, but the Grier scene, which is actually from Hit Man, is hilarious. As Grier climbs atop him and presses her naked body full length onto his the expression on his face reads something like: “Oh. My. Freaking. God.” That's probably the only time in his life he wasn't 100% cool.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 8 2017
STELLAR STEVENS
Brown is the new blonde.


Above, a promo image of U.S. actress Stella Stevens, who we love for her stalwart presence in numerous lightweight but highly entertaining films such as Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones & The Casino of Gold. We don't have a date on this rare shot showing her with brown hair (blonde has always been her primary color), but 1973 seems a reasonable guess.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 11 2017
QUEEN CLEOPATRA
Tall, dark, and dangerous.

We don't share many photo covers, but this novelization caught our eye because it's one of the better images we've seen of Cleopatra Jones star Tamara Dobson. As we've mentioned before, promo images for blaxploitation performers, with a few exceptions, tend to be rare. Dobson was one of the first we ever featured, way back in 2009, and we're sharing this image because Cleopatra Jones opened in the U.S. today in 1973. The screenplay for the film, by the way, was co-written by Max Julien, who was the star of the blaxploitation classic The Mack. The guy was multi-talented. So was Dobson—the 6' 2” former model could look both lethal and deadly. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 11 2015
WARRIOR QUEEN
Nobody can keep up with this Jones.


We talked about Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold a few weeks ago. The above poster was made for the Japanese run of its progenitor Cleopatra Jones, which is superior to the fairly decent sequel in every aspect except budget. Tamara Dobson was a globetrotting James Bond type in Casino of Gold, but here she stars in a somewhat grittier story centered around an attack on a Los Angeles halfway house she owns, which occurred in retaliation for her burning a drug lord's poppy field in far away Turkey. Shelley Winters grandiosely overacts as the villain, but she's fun in a role that requires her to dominate lots of tough henchmen, only to be inevitably slapped around and killed by Dobson in the climax. Other players include Bernie Casey, Esther Rolle, and the lovely Brenda Sykes. Dobson had appeared in two previous films, but Cleopatra Jones made the ex-model a star. There were not many lead roles at the time for heroic women, and few roles of any sort for Dobson once the blaxploitation wave passed. As a result she graced the silver screen too few times. But Cleopatra Jones is a nice showcase of her ability as an action icon. Its Japanese premiere was today in 1973.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 18 2015
DEVIL IN MISS JONES
You don’t want to get on her bad side.

She’s six-one-plus without heels, works as a special agent to the president, will go chopsocky on fools in a split second, and never loses her cool—or even her swanky red hat. The first Cleopatra Jones movie thrilled audiences in 1973, and the sequel Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold ups the ante by piling on production value and a big Hong Kong backdrop. Other blaxploitation films did more with less, but then a lot of them did less with less. This one is visually powerful and well worth a viewing, especially to see Tamara Dobson as the devilish dervish Jones, Ni Tien as the smart alecky but lethal sidekick Mi Ling Fong, and ex-centerfold Stella Stevens as the evil Bianca Javin the Dragon Lady. The nice double-sided poster above was made to promote the movie’s run in Japan, which began today in 1975. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 12
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
July 11
1960—To Kill a Mockingbird Appears
Harper Lee's racially charged novel To Kill a Mockingbird is published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. The book is hailed as a classic, becomes an international bestseller, and spawns a movie starring Gregory Peck, but is the only novel Lee would ever publish.
1962—Nuke Test on Xmas Island
As part of the nuclear tests codenamed Operation Dominic, the United States detonates a one megaton bomb on Australian controlled Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. The island was a location for a series of American and British nuclear tests, and years later lawsuits claiming radiation damage to military personnel were filed, but none were settled in favor in the soldiers.
July 10
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
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