Verne does a great impersonation of a woman putting her own interests first.
It's a femme shoot dog world out there, but German actress Kaaren Verne seems ready for whatever comes. We last saw her taking care of Humphrey Bogart in All Through the Night, and in this photo made as a promo for her 1942 war drama The Great Impersonation, she's ready to take care of herself. Verne did another great impersonation, that of someone with a beautiful name, a role required by the fact that she was born Ingeborg Klinkerfuss. Owwwwwch, that's a bad one. No offense to any Klinkerfusses out there, but that name sounds like it belongs to the sadistic head nurse of a lunatic asylum, the one who whacks patients on the pee-pee with a yardstick. It gives us an idea, though—maybe we'll put together a post of all-time worst real names of actors. That should kill some quarantine time.
Bogart finds himself stuck on Key Largo when hurricane Edward blows into town.
Above is a West German poster for Hafen des Lasters, which translates as “port of vice,” but is better known as Key Largo. We love this piece of art. It's imitative of earlier posters, particularly a Belgian promo from 1949. But that one is by Wik. This one is signed by a different artist, but illegibly, so we can't tell you who painted it. We'll work on that. We've uploaded the signature in case you have an idea what this scrawl says. This is simply a great film, a crime drama set in a hurricane. Many books using the same idea were written later, such as Theodore Pratt's Tropical Disturbance and Russell Trainer's No Way Back. Whether they were inspired by Key Largo or earlier works like W. Somerset Maugham's Rain we can't say, but any writer will tell you never let a good gimmick go to waste. In any case, Key Largo premiered in the U.S. in 1948 and reached West Germany today in 1950.
Gestapo goes to extraordinary lengths to cancel a Czech.
This striking poster for Hangmen Also Die might make you think you're dealing with a death row film noir, but it's actually a war drama about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. When a Czech assassin played by Brian Donlevy shoots the country's cruel German administrator Reinhard Heydrich and escapes into Prague's urban maze, the Nazis start executing people to force the population to turn over the shooter. As people die Donlevy struggles over whether to turn himself in. This was made in 1943 and qualifies as war propaganda, complete with flourishes such as discordant brass when Hitler's portrait appears onscreen, and a cheeseball closing song with a chorus of, “No surrender!” And to just bang the war drum even more, the movie premiered in, of all places, Prague, Oklahoma today in 1943, and the showing featured hanged effigies of Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini, while regional politicians made a point of attending. That must have been some night.
But while Hangmen Also Die may qualify as propaganda, it certainly isn't untrue in any major sense. The film's two architects, German director Fritz Lang and German writer Bertolt Brecht, both left their homeland to avoid the Nazis, and we can only imagine that their personal experiences made this project deeply important to them. But even people working from personal experience need help, and they get a major boost from co-star Walter Brennan. You'll sometimes read about him being a great character actor and this movie proves it. Watch him in this, then as the drunkard Eddie in To Have and Have Not, and you'll find him physically unrecognizable. Only his distinctive voice identifies him as the same person. Meanwhile it's Donlevy who's asked to personify the classic moral dilemma of sacrifice for the greater good, and he's mostly successful at portraying it as a heavy burden. While we wouldn't call Hangmen Also Die a great movie, there's no doubt it occupies its niche comfortably.
Pram, girl, that thing is the bomb!
Once upon a time in England, some industrious genius came up with the idea of poison gas resistant baby prams. This photo was shot in Kent in 1938, when the threat of war with Germany loomed large and the fear of bombs—gas bearing and otherwise—was in everyone's minds. This pram is not just a historical oddity—it's a sociological statement. Think about it. How many parents could afford one of these things? Certainly not the countless coal miners and haddock fishermen who made up so much of the British workforce, we'd wager. So it's also a symbol of capitalism at its finest—that part where the rich always have better survival odds.
Some websites caption this photo things like, “Mother in gas mask with infant in gas proof carriage.” Are they kidding? It would be the nanny who gets sent out to risk a poison gas attack. Upper crust mommy stays home for tea and scones in the drawing room, and maybe tops that off with a little medicinal scotch for her nerves. If the baby never makes it back she'll just make dirty spoons with the lord of the manor and give motherhood another go in nine months. As for the pram, it would probably be reusable after a gas attack. In fact, it's more than just durable—it's versatile too. Assuming it survives a long, ugly war of keeping German gas out, it can be used during peace time to keep baby gas in.
Star light, star bright, first star that really, really wants it tonight.
German actress and glamour model Christiane Schmidtmer claims on the cover of this Midnight published today in 1965 that she'll do anything to be a star. Back then, that was music to unscrupulous producers' ears. Today, producers that cross the professional line would run a serious risk of going to jail. Did Schmidtmer ever actually say this? There's no way to know for sure, but with Midnight you can reasonably suspect that its quotes are fabricated to thrill its preponderantly male readership. As we've mentioned numerous times before, this was its m.o.—the provocative cover quote paired with a slinky handout photo, and an interior article bought cheap off a freelance writer who had managed to carve out ten minutes with an actress during a film junket.
So how did Schmidtmer's career go? The quote requires we ask. Well, she appeared in about a dozen motion pictures and about the same number of parts on television, and she played, among other roles, a passenger in 1963's Stop Train 349, a flight attendant in 1965's Boeing, Boeing, a passenger (named Lizzi Spoekenkieker) in 1965's Ship of Fools, and another passenger in Airport ’75—which weirdly came out in 1974. Unlike in astronomy, in cinema you sometimes have to define the term star for yourself, and we judge that she didn't quite make it, though it's an accomplishment of sorts to play roles in or on all the major forms of commercial conveyance—trains, planes and boats. But even if she never attained real stardom, she dazzles below, and we'll probably see her again a little later because: Lizzi Spoekenkieker. How can we resist?
McGinnis sells sea tale with a seashore.
West German publishing company Heyne Bücher makes good use of art by Robert McGinnis on the cover of Der Flamingo Mörder, which was a translation of Charles Williams' 1958 novel The Concrete Flamingo, aka All the Way. This beachy painting originally appeared in Argosy in April 1961 as an illustration for Ed Lacy's story "The Naked Blanco,” but it's a perfect match for Williams, who became a gifted crafter of oceangoing thrillers, among them Dead Calm, And the Deep Blue Sea, Scorpion Reef, and Aground. And yes, we know, by the way, that technically (not even technically, but actually) a fowl is a bird domesticated for its eggs, which flamingos aren't, but you try thinking up headers for these posts for eleven straight years. Anyway, the entire McGinnis painting from which the cover art was borrowed is below. And as always you can learn more about everyone involved by clicking their keywords at bottom.
Looking back at one of the solar system's hottest celestial bodies.
Anita Ekberg's film noir Screaming Mimi opened in West Germany today in 1960. We've had a look at one West German poster, but today we've decided to share another one. This version is similar to the U.S. promo, but the unusual color palette makes it seem like a completely different design. We think's it's really beautiful.
I can see forever from up here. Man, the smog over London is really bad.
Raquel Welch stands tall in this pin-up poster made for her prehistoric adventure One Million Years B.C. This was sold in West Germany, where the movie premiered today in 1966. In fact, it was the film's world premiere. It was made by Associated British-Pathé and Hammer Studios, and partly shot on British sound stages (as well as in the Canary Islands), but for some reason the filmmakers chose West Germany for a testing ground. They needn't have been so cautious—thanks to Welch an otherwise ridiculous b-flick became a worldwide smash.
Strangely calm on the eastern front too. Let me try the western front one more time.
Even the most serious and important books of all time can be given the genre treatment. German author Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front is a towering literary achievement, a masterpiece of war fiction with deep pacifist themes, but it could still be sexed up a little, thanks to Lion Books. This edition is from 1950, and the artist is uncredited.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1968—Martin Luther King Buried
American clergyman and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is buried five days after being shot dead on a Memphis, Tennessee motel balcony. April 7th had been declared a national day of mourning by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and King's funeral on the 9th is attended by thousands of supporters, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
1922—Teapot Dome Scandal Begins
In the U.S., Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases the Teapot Dome petroleum reserves in Wyoming to an oil company. When Fall's standard of living suddenly improves, it becomes clear he has accepted bribes in exchange for the lease. The subsequent investigation leads to his imprisonment, making him the first member of a presidential cabinet to serve jail time.
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