|Vintage Pulp||Nov 18 2015|
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.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 25 2011|
Here’s a fascinating February 1960 issue of the mid-century tabloid Top Secret with a selection of dish on the celebs of the day. Of particular note is the item on Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor. Top Secret claims scandals made them the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. What were the scandals? Well, in 1958 Lana Turner’s teenaged daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato to death. The sensational murder trial that followed ended in Crane’s acquittal on the grounds of justifiable homicide, i.e., Stompanato had been beating Turner and Crane put a stop to it. As for Taylor, her scandal involved taking Eddie Fisher away from his wife, the incredibly popular and beloved singer/actress Debbie Reynolds. Later the same year Taylor agreed to star in Cleopatra for a million dollars—an astonishing sum at the time. But while Top Secret draws a direct line between this kind of pay and a messy personal life, there’s another possible consideration. In light of Lana Turner’s 1958 Academy Award nomination, and Elizabeth Taylor’s eventual five nominations and two wins, maybe the two were highly paid because of their talent. It’s just crazy enough to be true.
|Hollywoodland||Aug 5 2010|
Hush-Hush magazine goes for broke in this issue from August 1963, offering up a slate of tales narrated in their usual breathless style. First, they tell us how Roddy McDowall took nude photographs of Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra and tried to sell them, but was thwarted when she “erupted like Mount Vesuvius”. They then demonstrate the limits of their imaginations by telling us that Italian singer Silvana Blasi reacted like “an uncontrollable Mount Vesuvius” when an African-American dancer was hired at the Folies Bergère. Two volcano similes in one issue is bad enough, but the same mountain? For investigative journalism, Hush-Hush shows us photographs of a dead Carole Landis and an unconscious Susan Hayward, and concludes that sleeping pills are bad. And finally, the magazine stokes the fires of paranoia with two stories: in the first, they explain how Fidel Castro plans to conquer America with heroin, which he’s growing with the help of two-thousand Chinese advisors; in the second, they reveal that the second wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard is a Nazi who plans to revive the Third Reich, and that she’s being helped by—you guessed it—Fidel Castro, who is somehow a communist and a Nazi. Neat trick that. As we’ve mentioned before, though these stories are laughable, people actually believed them, and believed them by the millions, as evidenced by Hush-Hush’s sales figures. The lesson is clear: the choice between popularity and truth is really no choice at all.
|Femmes Fatales||Apr 27 2010|
American actress Brenda Sykes, who appeared in blaxploitation flicks such as Cleopatra Jones, Mandingo, and of course, the unforgettable Honky, seen here in a promo photo made for the 1971 movie Pretty Maids All in a Row.
|Femmes Fatales||Oct 27 2009|
Our newest femme fatale is American actress Tamara Dobson, a 6'2" former fashion model who made an unforgettable splash in early ’70s blaxploitation as Cleopatra Jones. She’d played a couple of bit parts before then, and played a few more roles after, but it’s the ass-kicking, karate-chopping Jones that film fans will always remember. Dobson died this month in 2006 of pneumonia related to multiple sclerosis.
|Hollywoodland||Sep 3 2009|
Founded in 1845 by George Wilkes, the National Police Gazette published through 1982, making it one of America’s longest running magazines. It began with a focus on police related matters, and over the years evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) into a pure tabloid that sometimes skirted the edge of obscenity. The issue above is from September 1963, the year Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met and began an affair while filming Cleopatra.
At the time Taylor was married to Eddie Fisher, who was one of the most popular singers in America. Taylor had already gotten bad press when Fisher fell for her and divorced American sweetheart Debbie Reynolds as a result. When news broke that she had cuckolded Fisher while filming in Italy, Taylor’s reputation was damaged yet again. She was a scarlet lady squared.
Paparazzi chased her and Burton all over Rome in one of the first examples of what today is a standard ordeal for even the least important movie stars. There’s a lot to the Cleopatra story—a runaway budget, an emergency tracheotomy, a strike by female extras, and more. We hope to get to it in the future, as well as post the stack of magazines we have that are devoted to the Taylor/Burton/Fisher triangle.