Vintage Pulp May 24 2024
TEA DURING WARTIME
She must be more of a coffee person.

This cover for The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which was came in 1949 from Popular Library, could have been painted by Rudolph Belarski. It's funny we're guessing, because we just said his art is instantly recognizable. Oh well. Usually he managed to place his signature where it wasn't easily covered by publishers, but not always. He was collaborating with Popular Library a lot during this period, and it looks like his work, but without his signature we can't say it's him—or really anyone else. But while the cover is officially by an unknown, it does fit into our collection of women being toted hither and yon on mid-century paperbacks. You can see those here.

The novel was first published long before the paperback—way back in 1931. The story is set in China, and follows Megan Davis, who has traveled there during a time of civil war to marry a medical missionary. Turbulent circumstances lead to her being assaulted by a crowd and presumed dead. But she's actually rescued and placed under the protection of the anti-communist General Yen Tso-Chong of the book's title. The general plans to take the utmost care of Megan because her safe return will be a propaganda coup. But while in his villa he and Megan discuss their different cultures, religions, politics, and views of current events:

“In capturing the city of Nanking the troops of General Chen Chien got a little out of hand. War, you know, does not bring out the best qualities of tolerance and self-control; that is one reason why we Chinese are so unfitted for it.”

“But what was the incident?”

“A number of people were shot and some were killed, missionaries largely, Doctor Williams of the Nanking College, some ladies, the British Consul too, I believe.”

“Shot by Chinese?”

“By troops, yes.”

“But that is an outrage!” cried Megan, overwhelmed with anger. “We are not at war with you!”

“No? Well, at any rate your gunboats, in retaliation, fired on the unarmed, civilian population of Nanking, killing hundreds. But after all, why should you and I talk about it?”

“I don’t believe they fired on the civilian population, or if they did, they must have been forced into it.”

The General shrugged his shoulders.

That's a very appropriate exchange for our current times, but Megan and Yen's verbal jousting is interesting only to a point. In the end Zaring Stone is restrained enough to leave the politics unresolved, and brings the book to perhaps the only conclusion that fits. Now that you know the plot, you may be pondering the cover and asking yourself, "Who's the studly Anglo carrying the damsel in distress?" He doesn't exist in the narrative. It's General Yen who saves Megan. But Popular Library, we suppose, didn't want a Chinese man to star in that role on newsstands. Welcome to 1949.

In any case, Hollywood liked the 1931 hardback enough to adapt it into a 1933 film directed by Frank Capra, with the always amazing Barbara Stanwyck in the lead. We'd normally be leery of any
movie made during that time depicting Chinese people (the title role is played by Danish actor Nils Asther), but you gotta give Stanwyck and Capra a shot, right? Like, it'd be neglectful of any cinephile not to watch it. So we'll let you know when/if we circle back to it.

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Intl. Notebook Nov 15 2015
LET'S REVUE
Ciné-Revue's clever mix made it one of Europe's longest running celeb magazines.

This issue of the Belgian magazine Ciné-Revue was one of our treasures from last year's trip to the Saint-Ouen flea market in Paris. Inside you get too many stars to name (and too many pages to scan), but the highlights are Marlon Brando, Susan Denberg, Marilyn Monroe, and Nadja Tiller. On the cover is British actress and pop singer Minnie Minoprio, who during the early 1970s starred in several films, all considered obscure today. But that was Ciné-Revue's m.o.—giving equal exposure to both lesser lights and the biggest stars. And of course the obscurities were usually required to get naked, justifying their positioning on the covers and in the centerfolds. Monika Käser, who you see below, is a perfect example. We can find nothing about her. Her only moment in the spotlight—insofar as we can determine using the internet to research her—seems to have been the photo below. But Ciné-Revue's formula worked—it began publishing in 1944 and is still around today (though the days of centerfolds are gone). This issue hit newsstands today in 1973.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
July 23
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
July 22
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
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