They're not really going anywhere but they look mighty good doing it.
What's a period drama without a fake driving scene? Nearly all such sequences were shot in movie studios using two techniques—rear projection, which was standard for daytime driving, and both rear projection and lighting effects for simulating night driving. Many movie studios made production images of those scenes. For example, above you see Jane Greer and Lizabeth Scott, neither looking happy, going for a fake spin around Los Angeles in 1951's The Company She Keeps. We decided to make a collection of similar shots, so below we have more than twenty other examples (plus a couple of high quality screen grabs) with top stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Mitchum, and Raquel Welch. We've only scratched the surface of this theme, which means you can probably expect a second collection somewhere down the road. Incidentally, if you want to see Bogart at his coolest behind the wheel look here, and just because it's such a wonderful shot, look here for Elke Sommer as a passenger. Enjoy today's rides. Humphrey Bogart tries to fake drive with Ida Lupino in his ear in 1941's High Sierra. Dorothy Malone, Rock Hudson, and a rear projection of Long Beach, in 1956's Written on the Wind. Ann-Margret and John Forsythe in Kitten with a Whip. We think they were parked at this point, but that's fine. Two shots from 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice with John Garfield and Lana Turner, followed by of shot of them with soon-to-be murdered Cecil Kellaway.
Shelley Winters, looking quite lovely here, fawns over dapper William Powell during a night drive in 1949's Take One False Step. William Talman, James Flavin, and Adele Jergens share a tense ride in 1950's Armored Car Robbery. William Bendix rages in 1949's The Big Steal. Frank Sinatra drives contemplatively in Young at Heart, from 1954. George Sanders drives Ingrid Bergman through Italy, and she returns the favor, in 1954's Viaggio in Italia. Harold Huber, Lyle Talbot, Barbara Stanwyck and her little dog too, from 1933's Ladies They Talk About. Virginia Huston tells Robert Mitchum his profile should be cast in bronze in 1947's Out of the Past. Peggy Cummins and John Dall suddenly realize they're wearing each other's glasses in 1950's Gun Crazy, a film that famously featured a real driving sequence, though not the one above. John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge in 1951's The Scarf. James Mason drives an unconscious Henry O'Neill in 1949's The Reckless Moment. Hopefully they're headed to an emergency room. Marcello Mastroianni driving Walter Santesso, Mary Janes, and an unknown in 1960's La dolce vita. Tony Curtis thrills Piper Laurie with his convertible in 1954's Johnny Dark. Janet Leigh drives distracted by worries, with no idea she should be thinking less about traffic and cops than cross-dressing psychos in 1960's Psycho. We're not sure who the passengers are in this one (the shot is from 1960's On the Double, and deals with Danny Kaye impersonating Wilfrid Hyde-White) but the driver is Diana Dors. Kirk Douglas scares the bejesus out of Raquel Welch in 1962's Two Weeks in Another Town. We're familiar with her reaction, which is why we're glad the Pulp Intl. girlfriends don't need to drive here in Europe.
Robert Mitchum again, this time in the passenger seat, with Jane Greer driving (and William Bendix tailing them—already seen in panel ten), in 1949's The Big Steal. The film is notable for its many real driving scenes.
James Mason keeps cool as Jack Elam threatens him as Märta Torén watches from the passenger seat in 1950's One Way Street. And finally, to take a new perspective on the subject, here's Bogart and Lizabeth Scott in 1947's Dead Reckoning.
Yep, this is a robbery. Faked you out, right? Now pretend I'm asking for a back rub and empty the cash drawer.
Above, a great cover for W.R. Burnett's High Sierra from Avon Publications' series Murder Mystery Monthly, 1946, featuring a very slick robber painted by Paul Stahr. We shared another cover for this book you can see here.
Let's all Joan in the fun.
American actress Joan Leslie joins our procession of acrobatic femmes fatales with this shot of her pulling off a maneuver that would put most people in traction. Leslie was a well regarded star who appeared in High Sierra, Sergeant York, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Thieves Fall Out, and many other films. This image is purely awesome. If you look at her hair you see she's really in motion, possibly executing something more than a mere handstand. And holding a smile while doing it. It was probably the fifteenth attempt after fourteen screwfaces, but still, color us impressed. From 1940, this one.
Dammit, because of you all the girls started calling me “just barely average Stan.”
John Monahan was a pseudonym used by W.R. Burnett, the man behind Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, and other enduring novels. He also wrote or co-wrote such screenplays as This Gun for Hire and Scarface. In Big Stan he tells the story of a cop named Stanislaus who’s tasked with catching a masked criminal known as the Black Phantom. The Phantom proves elusive until he makes the mistake of targeting Stan’s wife. It’s a fairly well regarded book from an author who wrote some of the classics. The art on this 1953 Gold Medal paperback is by Barye Phillips.
He wasn’t very tall, but he cast a long shadow.
Above, Humphrey Bogart in a promo shot from 1941’s High Sierra, a movie that examines the futility of greed and violence (at least for those with no power or connections). It was more or less the fortieth film Bogart had made, and further cemented his bankability before he truly broke out as a leading man later the same year with The Maltese Falcon. Also, you can once again thank W.R. Burnett—he wrote the novel and collaborated on the screenplay.
Well, what if I don’t want to go to my corner?
Above you see a very interesting dust jacket for W.R. Burnett’s 1930 novel Iron Man, which is the story of a mechanic turned middleweight boxer turned world champion. Burnett had more than fifty films made of his fiction and screenplays, including Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, Scarface, and many more. But we’re focused on the cover art today. It’s by Edna Reindel, and it has both an art deco influence and a purely Reindel style that downplays outright aggression in favor of smoldering defiance, like Enrico del Debbio’s boxer in Rome’s Foro Italico. Alternatively, it could look like something more prosaic, like a male model’s runway pose (it’s okay to think of Zoolander—we did too). Anyway, we find this an incredibly beautiful piece of art, certainly wallworthy, and doubtless a contributing factor why first editions of this book go for between $75 and $200. We will definitely find more of Reindel’s work and share it later.
The Asphalt Jungle remains one of the top crime thrillers ever filmed.
The Asphalt Jungle is half a century old, but remains one of the best procedural heist films ever made. The men who commit the robbery at the center of this movie come from all walks of life—some are perennial losers, others are opportunists, and others are just having a hard time and need a way out. All of them long for better lives. All of them desperately need the money to get there. These footmen, facilitators, and financial backers plan every aspect of a lucrative heist, but the caper begins falling apart almost immediately, due to back luck, mistrust, and greed.
Sterling Hayden, who we’ve mentioned before, is incendiary in the lead, exuding extreme menace but with a hint of recognizable humanity behind the eyes. One of his best moments comes in a brief but exquisitely choreographed shooting involving a thrown valise.
All of this takes place under the sure hand of director John Huston, working from a 1949 book by William Riley Burnett. Burnett was a bit of a legend himself. He was a prolific crime novelist who wrote the source material for Little Caesar, Scarface, and High Sierra, and whose screenplays include This Gun for Hire, I Died a Thousand Times, and Nobody Lives Forever.
Put Burnett, Huston and Hayden together (not to mention James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, and a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role as a rich man's plaything) and you get exactly what you’d expect—a genre classic that transcends its boundaries and becomes instead a piece of high art.
The film was a major hit that wowed audiences worldwide. At top you see the Italian promo art, and below that we have both the hardback and paperback cover art. The Asphalt Jungle opened as Giungla di asfalto in Italy today in 1951.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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