Hollywoodland Feb 6 2023
THE LIVING IS EASY
Sommer photos paint a portrait of relaxation.

These photos show German actress Elke Sommer painting in the yard of her Los Angeles home. They're obviously staged, because we don't think she'd choose a hard tile surface to sit on while doing her work, but the shots are nice. We don't have a date on them, but if we had to guess we'd say they're from the late 1960s. Sommer began painting when she was young, and continued throughout her film career and afterward. She once told an interviewer, “I am really closest to me being myself with paint. I paint anyplace. When I am at home I paint outside, in the nude, for up to eight hours at a stretch. I paint with acrylics, so when I'm finished I just jump in the pool.” In 1984 Sommer published a book titled Painting with Elke Sommer, and had a television show of the same title during the 1980s, on which she wore clothes, sadly. So, what does Elke paint? See an example below.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 1 2023
NEW GREEN DEALIE
Not quite a jacket, but not quite a dress.

We were thinking shirt-dress when we first saw this promo image of German actress Marlies Draeger (or Dräger if you prefer), but it isn't really a shirt. It's more like a jacket. So we looked up shirt-jacket and were surprised to learn they exist, but they're called jacket-dresses, and they prove that there's no niche of women's fashion that hasn't been filled. Draeger/Dräger is wearing hers in a shot made for her 1968 thriller Dynamit in grüner Seide, known in English as Death and Diamonds, and she looks amazing. 

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Femmes Fatales Jan 28 2023
FINAL HOUR
You never know when your time is up. Usually.


Above: Veronica Lake stars in a menacing promo photo made for her 1944 spy movie The Hour Before Dawn. She plays a pure femme fatale, a bad woman living in London as a double agent in the employ of the Third Reich. The movie was poorly reviewed, but we give this image five stars. 

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Intl. Notebook Jan 2 2023
INFORMER IN COLOR, BLACK, AND WHITE
America's worst tabloid pops the bubbly and starts the year strong.


Above is a cover of the tabloid National Informer that hit newsstands today in 1972 featuring an unidentified Champagne toasting model. We love how the editors emphasize the word “truthful” in the second banner, beneath the name of the paper. That's a bold claim from one of the ultimate bottom shelf tabloids of the era, one that traffics in faux news and sensationalism more than actual journalism. But we won't argue the point. Whenever one's reputation is less than stellar don't leave it to chance: tell people what opinion to have of you. National Informer says it's truthful, fine.

There are a couple of stories of note in this issue. According to Informer, German high wire artist Karl Traber died when he lost his balance during a walk between the towers of two Munich churches and fell two-hundred feet onto a spiked fence. We couldn't find a single reference to anyone named Karl Traber online, though we did to a Traber family who remain famous today as aerialists. We did a Boolean search within German websites and still found no Karl Traber who suffered this grisly death. It's no surprise. Cheap tabloids often leave you with more questions than answers. We'll blame it on sloppy journalism (maybe they got a name wrong?) rather than false reporting. But since we don't want to spend our Monday searching the internet, we'll just move on.

Later in the issue Informer's resident seer Mark Travis produces a slate of predictions, and one of them qualifies as his wildest ever: I predict the invention of a serum which is injected into the bloodstream to create more pigmentation of the skin and turn a white person black. It will be very popular among the young college students. This serum [snip] will enable white youngsters from affluent homes to really see what life in the ghetto is like. Since the results will wear off in a few weeks if the injections are discontinued, it will be quite an adventure to “go black” for a short period of time. Only a wig will be necessary to complete the disguise. And since another drug which works in reverse—lightens the skin—will enable any Negro who desires to do so to pass for white, it will soon be impossible to tell who is white, who is black, and who is one in the disguise of the other.

We think we know how that would turn out: the caste-destroying serum would be banned in all fifty states, plus overseas U.S. territories, and bring penalties for usage ranging up to execution. We're only half kidding. Imagining the possible fallout from such a form of recreation makes us want to pitch the idea to some of our Hollywood friends. Can you imagine the television show that could be produced? Travis has made some blah predictions over the years, but we bet this one hit a nerve among Informer's readership. Unfortunately, we don't have the next few issues to check the infuriated responses in reader mail. Maybe it's better that way. As a side note, this is the thirtieth issue of Informer we've shared.
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Femmes Fatales Nov 9 2022
ISO METRICS
100 pounds of trigger pull weight.


Above is reedy Iso Yban, here pictured with a toy machine gun and not much else. Her various bios say she was born in Essen, Germany, but moved to Paris, where she became a dancer at Le Crazy Horse, and as a model posed under the aforementioned name, as well as Yso Iban, Isi Yban, Marlène Funch, Christina Madison, Belinda, et al. This bold shot was made by French lensman Serge Jacques and it dates from the late 1960s. 

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Femmes Fatales Sep 17 2022
PURE SEX ON THE BEACH
Go in the water? That's the freaking North Sea you're talking about.


It's been a few years, so we're returning to subject of German actress Karin Schubert today with this brilliant shot that first appeared as a centerfold in the West German magazine Sexy, a publication that did this sort of thing often. Schubert is a unique figure. She was born in Hamburg during wartime in 1944, debuted in cinema during the late ’60s, then, after establishing herself as a mainstream actress, went into porn. We talked about that in detail here, and we also mused on the relationship between mainstream erotic films and xxx movies, with her as an example, at this post. The latter link contains some of our ponderings concerning nudity on our website, so you may be interested in that, and if so, we go into more detail on that subject here, and talk about the entire purpose behind the site here. The above shot dates from 1971. And by the way, Germany does have some nice beaches—when they aren't covered by snow.

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Intl. Notebook Sep 2 2022
CANADA AFTER DARK
Minuit puts the country's hospitable reputation to the test.


Ever since we discovered a while back that the U.S. tabloid Midnight was actually a spin-off of Montreal based Minuit we've been looking around for issues. We finally had some luck. This example hit Canadian newsstands today in 1968, and on the cover is British actress Mollie Peters, or Molly Peters. Inside, various Hollywood stars are spotlighted in unflattering ways. Edy Williams was allegedly attacked by a lesbian; Paul Newman resorted to transcendental meditation to cut down on his drinking; Jason Robards, Jr. broke everything Humphrey Bogart related in Lauren Bacall's house; Robert Vaughn paid off his extensive gambling debts and cancelled his credit cards; Janet Margolin allegedly ate a pound of ground beef every day for health reasons; and Ursula Andress attacked Anita Ekberg in a Paris restaurant for making eyes at Andress's boyfriend Jean-Paul Belmondo.

There's also a note on Babsi Zimmermann, who Minuit claims just refused a nude role in a French film. We noticed the blurb because of her name, which seems too good to be true, and familiar too. We looked her up and she did exist. It turns out she was better known as Barbara Zimmermann. She changed her stage name after the release of her first film, a counter-culture sexploitation romp called Heißer Sand auf Sylt, aka The New Life Style (Just to Be Love). Maybe she wanted a fresh start because the movie was such a stinker. We know it was bad because we wrote about it, which is why her name sounded familiar. She's naked as a donskoy cat in it, so Minuit's claim that she refused the French movie makes sense if she wanted to rebrand herself. The change still has people confused. Currently IMDB has separate entries for Babsi and Barbara.

Minuit reserves special attention for U.S. actor George Hamilton, who had been generally targeted by tabloids for avoiding military service in Vietnam. Why him? We wrote about the reason a long while back, and if you're curious you can check. Minuit wryly informs readers that, “George Hamilton somehow managed to break his toe the day after he received a notice to report to the U.S. Army recruiting center. This gives him an interesting three-month [deferral]. It's clever, isn't it?” Obviously, toes heal. Hamilton eventually received a full deferral for other reasons.

Also in this issue, Minuit editors treat readers to a story about a man cut in half by a train. We feel like it's urban folklore, but there are photos—for any who might be convinced by those—and a long story explaining how a man named Regerio Estrada caught his wife Lucia in bed with another man, beat him unconscious, and tied him to a train track to await the next express. Do we buy it? Not really. The internet contains only a fraction of all knowledge and history, but we think this tawdry tale is so bizarre that it would have found its way online. There's nothing. Or maybe we're just the first to upload it. Anything is possible. We have additional colorful Canadian tabloids we'll be sharing in the months ahead. You'll find eighteen scans below.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2022
A RUBY IN THE ROUGH
Evelyn Berckman's treasure hunting mystery is a real gem dandy.


The cover art on this paperback edition of Evelyn Berckman's 1956 novel The Strange Bedfellow was painted by James Hill, and we'll go ahead and call it a masterpiece. We saw brilliant work from him recently on the cover of Thomas Sterling's Murder in Venice, and here his evocative effort gets right to the heart of a story about a museum researcher named Martha Haven beseeched by two older scholars to go on a quest for a priceless ruby called Kali's Eye. The jewel vanished more than two centuries ago in Germany, lost in the aftermath of a crime of passion. While Berckman doesn't necesarily bring anything new to the sub-genre of historical puzzlers, she's an excellent writer:

Incredible that from this passing association—a few words, a kiss or two—she could have become so obsessed with him. At first she had waited, with entire confidence, for the sick longing to lessen, fade away of itself. Far from lessening, it became worse. He was lodged in her like an incurable malady, like a lethal arrow. However she twisted and struggled she could not work it free. So they did happen, those instant, violent attractions of which one read with half-amused skepticism. By a damnable fluke, it had happened to her. She began leading two separate lives. Outwardly she continued doing what she had always done; inwardly she kept walking round and round without ceasing inside a circle of pain.

Love and heartbreak are the key ingredients of romance novels, and as the above passage indicates, there are plenty of love yearnings in Berckman's story, but in addition you get the ingredients of a pulp style treasure hunt: dusty bookstores, old churches, forgotten crypts, desiccated corpses, and the rest. The tale also delves into Jewish history in Europe, which is a harrowing story far beyond the parts most people know casually. Berckman handles all that well, slipping in a few historical lessons, writing from the point of view of a protagonist whose knowledge of what happened back then is spotty. And as a bonus she gets her plot rolling right away with murder on page four.

The book is good, but in our opinion there are two flaws. First, the treasure hunt is too linear—Martha speeds directly to the crumbling medieval hamlet where she thinks Kali's Eye rests, and turns out to be correct. A wrong turn or two would have been nice. And second, Berckman cheats at the climax a bit, relying upon a mechanism rather than Martha's wits to settle matters. An experienced thriller or mystery writer would have dropped Martha in even deeper soup, and invented a cleverer method for her to extricate herself. But neither problem is a dealbreaker. We'd read Berckman again because, simply, good literary skills make up for an awful lot.
 
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Intl. Notebook Aug 26 2022
BRAVO ENCORE
Back by popular demand.

Earlier this year we shared an issue of one of the prettiest mid-century celebrity magazines—West Germany's Bravo. We have pages from another issue, published today in 1956. We'll return to this publication a bit later.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 6 2022
INSURANCE FRAU
Murder most premeditated.


Above is a poster painted by German artist Heinz Bonne for the U.S. film noir classic Double Indemnity, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray as lovers who try to pull off a murder and daring insurance fraud but may not be quite as smart or lucky as needed. We'll hopefully get back to Bonne a little later. Double Indemnity premiered in the U.S. in 1944, but made it to Germany—West Germany actually—as Frau ohne Gewissen, or “woman without a conscience,” six years later, today in 1950.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 08
1969—Allende Meteorite Falls in Mexico
The Allende Meteorite, the largest object of its type ever found, falls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The original stone, traveling at more than ten miles per second and leaving a brilliant streak across the sky, is believed to have been approximately the size of an automobile. But by the time it hit the Earth it had broken into hundreds of fragments.
February 07
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
February 06
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
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