I hate teaching. My dad always told me, “Gandalf, being a magician will never pay the bills.” But I wonder if I missed my calling.
Above, a curious cover for Ralph Corbedane's 1947 thriller Enquete policiere dans la 4th dimension, which as you might guess, means, “police investigation in the 4th dimension.” No, we have no idea what this is about, but anything with Gandalf in it has to be pretty good. Plus we think the villain is a Balrog.
Bardot joins the Pulp Intl. gymnastics team.
You may remember we've been keeping our eyes open for shots like this one. Here you see Brigitte Bardot hanging from a pair of rings in Louveciennes, a northern suburb of Paris, in 1952. We have eight more examples of vintage actresses getting bendy with their bodies. If we'd suspected we'd eventually find so many we'd have made them a group post. But as it is, you have to visit them individually: Danielle Darrieux, Ellen Drew, Constance Dowling, Sophie Hardy, Joey Heatherton, Gitte Haenning, Rosemary LaPalnche, and Betty Compson. We will surely find more down the line.
What do you get the pulp fan who has everything?
We were poking around online and came across these two nude figurines by the French artist Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan. He's well known today as an advertising illustrator, paperback and magazine illustrator, and pin-up artist. He also modeled a hedonistic lifestyle, a sort of mini-Hefner existence (example here, and below)—which like Hugh Hefner's may have been partially staged for publicity purposes. But what is less known about Aslan, outside France, anyway, is his sculpture. However he was a heavy hitter in this area too, and had been since before he became famous as a pin-up artist. Way back in 1952, when he was only twenty-two, he won a prize for his sculpture. Later he sculpted a famous bronze bust of Brigitte Bardot as Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, and he also sculpted a funerary statue for famed actress Dalida's tomb, as well as a bronze bust of her that was erected on the Place Dalida in 1997. So these figurines come as no surprise to us. We'd let these live on our desks, keeping our stray papers under control, but the prices are too rich for our blood. On the other hand, since it's Christmas, maybe we can receive them as gifts. Hmm... Okay, gotta run. We're going to talk to our girlfriends about these.
Gentlemen prefer blondes. So do elderly billionaires, used car salesmen, and pornographers, but let's leave all that aside for now.
We said we'd get back to Anita Loos and here we are. We said that eleven years ago, but what can you do? Above you see a French edition of her classic comedy Les hommes préfèrent les blondes, better known as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Marilyn Monroe—who starred in the movie version—front and center on the cover. We read the book a while back—its full title is actually Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady—but haven't talked about it, so we'll just tell you that it's simply ingenious, taking the form of the diary of a somewhat vacuous and entitled socialite flapper named Lorelei, who is to gentlemen what sugar is to flies. Lorelei is a material girl obsessed with wealth and status, who expects adoration and basically plies most of these guys for gifts. But of course she does choose someone in the end.
The novel is built from short stories Loos wrote for Harper's Bazaar in the early 1920s. It was originally published in book form in 1925, with this edition coming in 1959, a few years after film version's French run. Loos' masterpiece wasn't loved by critics, but it was a runaway success anyway and ended up being printed in thirteen languages. Little known factoid—unlike the film version, which takes place on a cruise ship, a chunk of the novel occurs aboard the Orient Express, with Lorelei displaying herself to the crème of European gentlemen from Paris to Budapest. She even meets Sigmund “Froid.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes obviously isn't pulp style at all, but Monroe had a pulp-worthy life, so that's connection enough for us. If you want a mental break from gunplay and mayhem, this is a good option.
I won! I knew I would once they restricted track and field to beautiful French actresses! Eat my dust Anouk Aimée!
Catherine Deneuve absolutely flew in this race. It wasn't nearly as close as the art makes it look. Espions!.. à vos marques was written by Paul S. Nouvel, aka Jean-Michel Sorel, and published in 1964 by Éditions de l'Araesque. The cover is unsigned, but it's probably by Jef de Wulf. If we get more info we'll update this. We can't wait for the triple jump. Hopefully, Catherine will win that too.
Songs of sadness, loneliness, and forgetting.
Above is a poster for the French crime drama Tirez sur le pianiste, known in English as Shoot the Piano Player, and based upon the David Goodis novel Down There. We raved about the book. The movie? Well, you're supposed to love it. Make no mistake there. Though it received mixed reviews when released, most critics rhapsodize it now. This isn't unusual. Opinion will shift over time. Since director François Truffaut said he intended to make a film mainly for cinephiles, it makes sense that it eventually won critics over. The question is will it win you over?
Truffaut took a quintessentially American novel and converted it into something quintessentially French. This wasn't his initial intention. He wanted to pay tribute to American films. There are certainly American references, but he couldn't help but let his French nature come through. For example, where the book conjures torch songs and jazz, Truffaut cast singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour in the lead, and the music he plays is mostly folk songs and ditties. It's a major shift in mood. Truffaut also elected to leaven the terminal darkness of the novel with humor.
But you have to judge the product on its own merits, so if you pretend you never opened the book, Tirez sur le pianiste is certainly interesting. Truffaut either wasn't aiming for or didn't have the budget to seek technical perfection. The shadow of his camera pops up. The physical action is disjointed and unconvincing. But the film is also kinetic and beautifully shot. There's a kind of guerrilla style to it, a feel of a director doing anything that comes to mind and the story following along. We were aware of watching something uniquely artful, but not uniquely successful. So again, the question is, will it win you over? We can't say. Try it and see for yourself. Tirez sur le pianiste premiered in France today in 1960.
She knows the best way to a man's heart—ballistically speaking.
It's been a couple of years since we had a cover by French illustrator Jean Salvetti, so here's one for Dorothy ouvre le bal, or “Dorothy opens the ball,” published in 1952 by Paris based Éditions le Trotteur and written by Oscar Montgomery, aka José del Valle. There were three books in the Dorothy series, with this one coming second. Short synopsis: Dorothy goes to Egypt, hurts a bunch of bad men. As you can see, Salvetti signed his work Salva. More Salva here, here and here.
Italian star takes a bite out of Paris.
Italian actress Elsa Martinelli is dressed like a vampire to attend a costume party being thrown by Gunter Sachs in Paris on Rue de Ponthieu today in 1972. The party was Count Dracula themed, which means Martinelli wasn't the only one dressed this way. Acquaintance Roman Polanski also rocks count couture. But Martinelli probably looked the best of all the guests, and we imagine many necks were offered to her before the festivities ended.
The FBI stretches its jurisdiction all the way to Morocco in 1953 thriller.
Above, two beautiful Italian posters for F.B.I. divisione criminale, originally titled La môme vert de gris, but known in the U.S. as Poison Ivy. The film was based on a Peter Cheyney novel also named Poison Ivy, and starred Eddie Constantine as an American G-man in Morocco, and Dominique Wilms as a femme fatale known as—you guessed it—Poison Ivy. We talked about the movie at length in May, so if you're curious have a look here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
1946—CIA Forerunner Created
U.S. president Harry S. Truman establishes the Central Intelligence Group or CIG, an interim authority that lasts until the Central Intelligence Agency is established in September of 1947.
1957—George Metesky Is Arrested
The New York City "Mad Bomber," a man named George P. Metesky, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut and charged with planting more than 30 bombs. Metesky was angry about events surrounding a workplace injury suffered years earlier. Of the thirty-three known bombs he planted, twenty-two exploded, injuring fifteen people. He was apprehended based on an early use of offender profiling and because of clues given in letters he wrote to a newspaper. At trial he was found legally insane and committed to a state mental hospital.
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