The gun is mightier than the pen.
Above: a shot of British actress Angela Lansbury made when she filming 1956's Please Murder Me, in which she starred with Raymond Burr and Dick Foran. Lansbury's first movie was 1944's classic version of Gaslight. In total she had more than fifty cinema roles, but it was on television that she became a major star, beginning with 1950's Robert Montgomery Presents, and continuing through more than two-hundred and fifty episodes of her smash hit series Murder, She Wrote. Personally, if we had to choose a favorite Lansbury role it was as Granny in 1984's gothic horror movie The Company of Wolves. She gets eaten, but not before dispensing wisdom like, “The worst kind of wolves are hairy on the inside,” and, “Never trust a man whose eyebrows meet.” Well, you can generally trust Lansbury. She was an excellent actress and improved almost everything in which she appeared.
It's a marriage that goes from bad to worse.
Ever since the term “gaslighting” became an accepted part of the American lexicon we've been meaning to watch the original version of Gaslight. Finding this Spanish promo poster spurred us to finally screen the film. There are those who think any old black and white mystery or thriller is a film noir, which is why you'll occasionally see Gaslight referred to as part of that genre. But it's actually a melodrama falling into an unofficial category of mid-century films we like to call, “Don't Trust Your Husband.” Other entries in the genre include Rebecca, Dial M for Murder, and Sorry, Wrong Number. Based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight tells the story of Bella, a woman living in early 1900s London who, because small items in her house are constantly missing or misplaced, thinks she's losing her mind. But it's her creepy spouse Paul who's orchestrating all of this. He intends to have her declared insane, which is part of a larger scheme having to do with—of course—money.
On one level Gaslight is a drama about paranoia and the betrayal of marital trust. On another it's an unintentionally humorous examination of Edwardian values. Humorous because we doubt most women—either when the film was first released or today—would have been successfully manipulated in this way. If it were the Pulp Intl. girlfriends they'd both be like, “Do you think I'm stupid? Stop moving shit around the house.” But poor Bella is little more than a possession during the time in which she lives, and lacking the agency to question her husband she mostly swoons. But help eventually arrives from an unlikely quarter. Gaslight was remade in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman, and the original compares poorly to that excellent version, but it's still a quality film well worth viewing. It premiered in the UK in June 1940, and in Barcelona, Spain as Luz de gas today in 1942.
Nudetown—come for the free love, stay for the free jazz.
The pairing of music and sex is natural. Many names for genres of music are actually just euphemisms for sex. Bop? Sex, obviously. Rock and roll? Of course. Funk. Definitely. And even jazz, which according to music historians was just a mutation of the word jism. So Bob Tralin's Jazzman in Nudetown makes perfect sense, conceptually. This is about a sax player named Jock Midnight who's fleeing murder charges and somehow manages to get involved with a series of strange women along the way, including a pair hunting for buried treasure and a 6'5” dynamo named Lily Mae. 1964 on this, from Gaslight Books. Consider it an addition to this collection, and check out more from Tralins here.
Sleaze imprint offers illuminating cover art.
Several days ago we said we'd revisit whoever painted this cover with an eye toward determining if they were really any good. At a glance these fronts from sleaze imprint Gaslight Books don't compare to the many beautiful efforts from Midwood or Gold Medal, but only at a glance. There's a distinctive style here, a certain beauty of form and color, an ease of execution like sketches brought to life. All are uncredited, but all are by the same artist, who hasn't gotten their due, in our opinion, for taking cover art in this unusual direction. Alternatively, we could simply be high. But give these a close look, revisit last week's cover, check the example we shared several years ago, and see what you think.
Mirror mirror on the paperback, is whoever painted this really a hack?
This cover for Tom Haunt's Deadly Love is uncredited, and at a glance it looks like something splashed on canvas without much regard for the final result. But we'll be returning to this unknown artist for an extended look in a bit, and we may change your mind about him/her. It wouldn't be the first time a presumed hack got a reconsideration in the realm of paperback covers. Remember sleaze illustrator Gene Bilbrew, once ignored, now celebrated? If not, look here.
Some cover art isn't easy to stylistically appreciate at first glance, but it's useful to remember that it serves dual purposes. The artists and most art aficionados would say it must show proficiency. But a publisher would say it must catch the eye on a newsstand or bookstore shelf. Making those ingredients mix isn't easy, and the final result will sometimes have more of one flavor than the other. The above art is eye-catching but probably not proficient. Or is it? Stay tuned.
Moving on to the actual fiction, author Tom Haunt is a pseudonym, we're guessing, though for whom we don't know. Whoever he/she really was wrote numerous books. This one is the story of a young Coney Island hustler named Joe Brody who tries to turn a woman of thirty-one into his sugar mama. His plan is to use her money to ditch grimy New York for the white sands and endless sunshine of Florida.
Everything goes swimmingly for a while. Joe plies his benefactress for cash, gets her to buy him a car, and the two run off to the sunny south. But of course Joe is a heel and eventually his straying ways lead to serious troubles, and—as the cover blurb reveals—death! Actually several people die, including Joe, who we weren't sad to see go. There's nothing special in this story, but at least it was a quick read. Will we check out more from Tom Haunt? Doubtful.
She's not just another brick in the wall.
Above, Los Angeles born actress Helen Luella Kofor, known professionally as Terry Moore, who first appeared on a movie screen in 1940 and has been active ever since, most recently in Merrily, slated to open in late 2017. She also appeared in 1944's Gaslight, 1949's Mighty Joe Young, and dozens of other films. Along the way she was nominated for an Academy Award, became secret spouse to Howard Hughes, and posed for Playboy at age fifty-five, looking just fine, too. All in all, Moore is a unique character. The above shot of her is from around 1955.
And… finished! This is the masterpiece that will finally earn me recognition outside the bondage/S&M circuit.
Author Dorine Clark was a sleaze vet who penned many racy titles during the ’50s and ’60s, including Bachelor Boy, Continental Affair, Passion in the Sun, Gutter Star, and this—1964’s Sex Swindler. Was Clark a pseudonym used by a better known author? No idea. We can only say it was often the case with sleaze lit. Looking at this cover, we can’t help but think the woman here is saying to herself, “Perfect! Next I think I’ll restore that old Jesus fresco in Zaragoza.” If you’re one of perhaps a dozen people on the planet who has not heard that story, just look up “Ecce Mono.” It’s well worth your time.
Regarding the art, the illustrator here had a difficult assignment, we think. He or she had to paint a cover-worthy piece, inside of which would be another painting that justified the blurb: “She had two talents—art and love!” We’d have to say the artist succeeded. For instance, he/she painted the black clad dominatrix and her creation in different styles, which is kind of cool. Somebody like Robert McGinnis could have knocked this concept completely out of the park, but is it really fair to compare anyone to that guy? We’d tell you this artist’s name, but Gaslight Books couldn’t be bothered to credit him/her. Since they got no recognition, here’s hoping they at least got paid.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
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