Tabloid offers pills, thrills, and various painful aches.
Above: assorted pages from an issue of National Close-Up published today in 1968, with sex pills called vitogen, sexual perversion, sex parties, and sex swingers, then conversely, mass suicides, a monster baby, an acid burn victim, car crash deaths, and all that is terrible and painful in the world. Somewhere between those extremes are celebrities, including Julie Christie, Bing Crosby, Donna Marlowe again (seems she was a tabloid staple in ’68), Playboy centerfold Sue Williams (in the advertisement for strip poker cards), and, just above, the lovely June Palmer.
Pack light and leave your inhibitions behind.
This poster was made in Liege, Belgium for the romantic drama Extase, starring Austro-Hungarian beauty Hedy Lamarr. Based on a novel by the Vienna born author and actor Robert Horký, the film opened in Belgium today in 1933, after having premiered in then-Czechoslovakia as Ekstase in January of that year. It isn't a pulp style film, but it's significant, which is why we had a look. It's about a young upper class woman in an unfulfilling marriage who solves that problem by acquiring a sidepiece in the form of a worker played by Aribert Mog. This results in some steamy moments and—some viewers say—the first orgasm ever depicted onscreen. “Some viewers” are right. There's no doubt. In the midst of a nocturnal tryst Mog's head and torso slide off-frame, as Lamarr breathes more and more heavily before finally grimacing in lovely fashion and snapping her string of pearls.
Yeah, this is hot stuff for 1933. And we thought everyone was having a great depression. Shows what we know. If the title Extase doesn't tell you what's going on, consider the fact that Hedy's character is named Eva, and Mog's is named Adam. It's that kind of movie. In a way, an orgasm was inevitable. Lamarr also captures moviegoers' attention with a nude swim and sprint through the fields that occurs about twenty-eight minutes in. Why's she running around starkers? Her mare Loni decides to get herself some equine action and abandons Hedy—taking her clothes along for the ride. Always make sure to tie your mount to something, especially when it's horny. Lamarr really is naked in the scene, too, which few modern performers would do in this age of new puritanism. It's thanks to this run through the wild that she meets Mog, the eventual master of her clitoris, if not her heart.
Extase isn't a silent film, but it's close. There's a lot of orchestral music and only a dozen or so sections of dialogue. Even so, it's very watchable. The visuals tend to be laden with meaning in films such as these, but some scenes require no interpretation at all, like the bit where a couple of horses mate (not Loni and her love, sadly). They don't show it of course, but the crash zoom of a mare's backside from the point-of-view of the stud horse gets the idea across with remarkable subtlety—not. It was hilarious, actually. But hey—even horses feel extase, because it's just a natural thing, see. On its own merits we'd call Extase more of a curio than a cinematic triumph, but it certainly achieves what it sets out to do, and that's success of a form, even if it would be forgotten without the orgasm. But that's often true, isn't it?
Loni! Come back, you stupid horse! That jumpsuit doesn't even fit you! Why hello, lovely naked creature. You rude beast! Try taking a picture. It'll last longer. Already done. With my mind. Deposited you right in the spank bank. Bank— What? Spank what? Oh, never mind. Give me my clothes. Objectify me, will you? Two can play that game. Duh... nice package! Duh... I'm an idiot! Thanks. And you're not an idiot—many women agree with you about my package. No, I'm objectifying you, like you did to me. Like a sex object. I understand. That's cool. I love sex. No, I mean I'm debasing you via the reduction of any unique and admirable qualities you might have down to the purely phy— Oh, forget it! You're too dumb to understand. Oh... oh... oh! It's true he lacks... formal education... But he sure knows how... to make a girl... SNAP HER PEARLS! *sigh*
Competition for mates gets vicious in the Hollywood jungle.
This poster really catches the eye. It was made for The Female Animal, Hedy Lamarr's last motion picture, filmed when she was forty-four. It's the story of an aging star who finds herself a younger man, but watches him immediately become the target of her sexpot daughter.
The age issues strain credulity a bit. The younger man is played by George Nader, who's only seven years Lamarr's junior, while twenty-nine year old Jane Powell plays Lamarr's adopted daughter. But okay, they were the ones cast, so we have to go with it. And really, who's going to complain? Nader is a muscular uberhunk who'd fill out a Marvel superhero costume no problem, and Powell is dangerously cute straining the seams of a form fitting swimsuit.
And incidentally, speaking of casting weirdness, Powell—yeah, that's her in the polka dots—had three children of her own by the time she played this troublesome stepdaughter role. Yes, three. There's no substitute for lucky genes, an adage doubly proved by the fact that Powell is still kicking around today at age 90.
Moving on to the performances, Lamarr does fine in a sort of detached way, and Nader is solid enough, but it's Powell who's asked to spark the movie as the daughter determined to steal her mom's man. She's required at turns to be blind drunk, violently angry, coquettish, sexually predatory, and disconsolate. She mostly hauls that heavy load, but in the end the movie is still pretty lightweight. Probably part of the problem is the scripting by Robert Hill. Some of his other screenplays include Sex Kittens Go to College and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, so his insights into the female animal are negligible. You may want to seek your own, though frankly, we personally have never figured them out and have abandoned any expectations that we ever will. To be fair, they probably feel the same way about us. The Female Animal premiered in New York City today in 1958.
Sugar and spice and everything nice.
Above is shot of cinematic girl-next-door Jane Powell, who rose to fame in Hollywood musicals such as Holiday in Mexico, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Royal Wedding. While Powell is fondly remembered for those and similar roles, she found it ridiculous that she played teenagers into her mid-twenties even though she had children of her own by that point. Under the studio system she had little choice, but later she did manage to expand her repertoire, co-starring in the Hedy Lamarr melodrama The Female Animal. Afterward she turned her attentions mainly to television, with guest slots on everything from Goodyear Theatre to Fantasy Island. She also had stage and singing careers, and scored a top 20 hit with 1956's “True Love.” The photo you see here was made to promote her 1957 musical The Girl Most Likely, and a shot from the same session appeared on the cover of the soundtrack album, which you see below. We don't generally do musicals here, but we will certainly check out her dramatic turn in The Female Animal. Meanwhile you may want to check out this rare photo we shared a couple of years ago.
She was more than just a movie star.
Smithsonian.com published an in-depth story yesterday about Austria-Hungary born Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr, and how her technical genius helped bring the world Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and cell phones. Hah! Get with it Smithsonian. We talked about this under-discussed aspect of her life years ago.
It's curious that no matter how many times people write about Lamarr's technological exploits it never seems to become a generally known aspect of her personality. Maybe people want to see her as a beautiful actress, and much of the interest stops there. The Smithsonian piece will probably help change that a bit, and it's well written also (though considering what digital technology has wrought we'd probably add the phrase "for better and worse").
Yesterday's piece comes in tandem with the Smithsonian's Washington D.C. based National Portrait Gallery acquiring a rare original Luigi Martinati poster painted to promote Lamarr's 1944 thriller The Conspirators. We have no idea what it cost, but certainly a pile of money, since Martinati was not just a great artist, but one who tended to focus more on portraiture in his promos. You can see what we mean just below, and by clicking here and scrolling. As for Lamarr, we'll doubtless get back to her—and all her interesting facets—later.
Hedy Lamarr finds the fashion industry intolerably cruel.
We can't think of Hedy Lamarr as any movie character except the native girl Tondeleyo from the cheeseball jungle classic White Cargo, but here she is in 1947's Dishonored Lady, which came five years after her famed tropical potboiler and presents a more mature Lamarr playing Madeleine Damien, take-no-shit Manhattan fashion editor by day, popular party girl by night. The movie presents a far less benign fashion industry than yesterday's Fashioned for Murder, as job pressures, difficult romances, and evil male colleagues drive Lamarr nearly out of her mind. She's finally pushed out of her job and leaves Manhattan to build a new life. Only her psychiatrist knows where she went. He tells a persistent interlocutor:
“Miss Damien is living under a different name in a different world. She told me to tell you, if you inquired, that she was busy growing a new soul. Now would you please keep off the grass?”
Lamarr is off in the country painting, relaxing, and finding true love. The past isn't that easy to avoid, though, and it finally catches up with her in the form of her awful ex-boyfriend, who ends up dead, leading to Lamarr being arrested for murder. Did she do it? Of course not. But she's too depressed to care what happens, so prison or worse looms. Madeleine Damien is no Tondeleyo, but Lamarr is good in the role. It's interesting how often we run across these meaty dramatic parts for women in mid-century cinema. Were high profile roles for serious actresses more common back then? Probably not, but sometimes it sure seems like it. Dishonored Lady premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
They say even bad publicity is good publicity.
In this March 1957 issue of the tabloid Behind the Scene editors take swipes at assorted Hollywood icons, among them Yul Brenner, John Wayne, and others. Highlights include the allegation that Elvis Presley's career is mob controlled, that camera clubs are just fronts for porn peddlers, that Hedy Lamarr used Linda Lombard as a body double for Samson & Delilah, and that Lucrezia Borgia is the sexiest movie ever made. Also Mamie Van Doren's “secret weapon” is that anywhere she goes she always wears the least clothing of any woman present.
The shocking tales about Brynner have mainly to do with his claims of being a real life man of action, born on the Russian island of Sakhalin to Mongol ancestors. The truth was more mundane, but the lies helped Brynner establish himself as a star. As far as Elvis goes, he was dogged by rumors of Mafia ties later in his career, but this mention of a connection as far back as 1957 was a surprise to us. As always, people on both sides of the issue are willing to shout their version of the facts to the mountaintops, but nobody really knows who’s telling the truth. We’ll check with Elvis himself on this, since he lives just over in the next town since faking his death in 1977.
The interesting story here is the one about Gail Russell and John Wayne. Their acquaintanceship began when they starred in Angel and the Badman together in 1947, and continued when they reunited for Wake of the Red Witch in 1949. Whether they were more than just friends, nobody really knows. At the time Wayne was married to Esperanza Baur Díaz, and the relationship was marred by drinking and fighting, including one incident when Baur shot at Wayne. When the divorce inevitably came, it turned into one of the nastiest splits in years, with Baur accusing Wayne of being a violent drunk who beat her and fucked around with various women, including Russell, and Wayne accusing Baur of hanging around sleazy dive bars in Mexico, hooking up with strange men, and spending his money to entertain them.
The divorce was in 1953, but Behind the Scene, with this cover, is offering its readership dirt from an event that was still fresh in the public’s minds because it had been such a knock-down-drag-out spectacle. Russell had never weathered the limelight well, and she used booze to cope. Her long term drinking problem was exacerbated by the turbulence surrounding the Wayne-Baur split. Two weeks after the divorce she was arrested for drunk driving. It caused Paramount to decline renewing her contract, and she kind of floated around for a few years, trying to hook on with a new studio but drinking steadily all the while. In 1955 she crashed her car and fled the scene, and in early 1957 she drove though the plate glass windows of Jan’s Restaurant in Hollywood.
With hindsight, it’s clear Russell was in a death spiral, but in the Tinseltown of that day the situation was perhaps not so obvious. In August 1957, Russell was found unconscious in her home, passed out after a drinking binge. Even in Hollywood, she had now crossed the line from being merely a party girl to having a problem. She was persuaded to join AA, but couldn't stop drinking, and in August 1961 was found in her L.A. apartment, having died from liver damage, aged 36, another beautiful star that flamed out. All that and more, in thirty-plus scans below.
If she tries to pressure you into getting a haircut there's an ulterior motive.
In 1933 Austro-Hungarian born actress Hedy Lamarr, née Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler starred in the Czech-Austrian silent film Ecstase, aka Ecstasy, a landmark production notable for its nude scenes. Lamarr was unhappy with the result, but it made her enormously famous and helped pave her way to Hollywood, where she made numerous films, including the cheesy but highly enjoyable swords and sandals epic Samson & Delilah, from which the above image comes. In the Biblical legend, Delilah cuts off Samson's magic hair to weaken him. In real life Lamarr weakened plenty of male fans and didn't have to do anything but appear on a movie screen. This photo shows her circa 1949.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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