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*
When I'm a really big star there'll be a photo retoucher to make sure I have perfect armpits.
This scan made from a 35-millimeter slide shows Hungary born actress Ava Norring, who had exactly one credited role—that of Beatrice in 1952's The Snows of Kilimajaro, in which she appeared with her more famous namesake Ava Gardner. She later was featured in an eight page Esquire photo essay published in July 1955, but stardom was not to be. We love this shot, underarm razor burn and all. We haven't seen The Snows of Kilimajaro, but we're curious about it. The 1936 Ernest Hemingway work upon which it's loosely based is a short story (touching on standard Hemingway themes we discussed a while back), and it's always interesting to see how filmmakers flesh out something so slight. We'll get to the movie at some point, see both Avas in action, and probably report back.
Why so serious, darlings? I'm on my third divorce, and if I can laugh so can you.
The above photo from the mid-1950s shows Hungarian star Zsa Zsa Gabor, whose films included Moulin Rouge, Death of a Scoundrel, Drop Dead Darling, Touch of Evil, and of course, Queen of Outer Space, which we talked about here. What was really funny about Gabor is that she would eventually total seven divorces. It could be a Hollywood record.
Nope. Lana Turner beat her with eight, and Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney both tied her with seven. Well, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream, and considering Gabor reached age ninety-nine, maybe she knew more about living than all of us. You see her below from the same shoot, contemplating another marriage proposal.
The artist is almost as mysterious as his posters.
You can see immediately that this Universal Pictures teaser poster for 1933's The Invisible Man is special. You'll find out how special in a minute. It was painted by Hungarian born artist Karoly Grosz, whose work is highly sought after. With this dark portrait he captured the essence of the film's insane central character Dr. Jack Griffin, who accidentally discovers invisibility and decides, what the hell, he'll use it to take over the world. An original of this poster went up for auction a few years back and pulled in $275,000. That's about as special as vintage art gets.
Halloween is today, so we thought we'd share more horror posters. Since Grosz specialized in that genre, we were able to focus solely on him and his work for Universal. Though he's a collectible legend, his bio is a bit sketchy. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1901 as a child, was naturalized as a citizen, and grew up to live and work in New York City. His output came mainly between 1920 and 1938, and he died young sometime after that (nobody is sure when, but most sources say he was in his early forties). At least he left behind these beautiful gifts to cinematic art. You can see another piece from him in this post from a while back, the one with the green-eyed cat.
Don't mess with the man upstairs.
Stranger on the Third Floor is sometimes cited as a proto film noir, coming a year before the first official noir, 1941's The Maltese Falcon. In this day and age, any vintage crime film is called a film noir on crowdsourced websites like IMDB, so depending on where you look film noir isn't as pure a cycle as it used to be. But in this case the debate is fair. The film is about newspaper journalist John McGuire, who serves as a witness at a sensational murder trial, while his fiancée Margaret Tallichet frets about the impact of recognition on their lives. The two of them are planning to move out of their boarding houses and find a place together, but McGuire's building has lately been haunted by a mysterious stranger played by Hungarian actor Peter Lorre. Who is he? Why is he hanging around? Is he somehow connected to the murder?
Gene D. Phillips, in his book Out of the Shadows: Expanding the Canon of Film Noir, cites Stranger on the Third Floor as a film that “codified the visual conventions of film noir.” It has flashbacks, a brilliant nightmare sequence, a sense of growing dread, a false accusation (or possibly two), a narration (though not of the hard-boiled variety), and a usage of angles and shadows that is extravagant. Where it differs from film noir is in its general lack of cynicism and world weariness. In fact, it's the opposite. McGuire ponders whether doing his civic duty by testifying will have consequences, but at no point does he feel like a sucker for doing so. He believes in society and its basic functions. The Maltese Falcon, by contrast, offers civic duty as an option, but Sam Spade acts as he does because of his personal code. Duty is secondary, and ultimately, so is love.
Despite these differences between Stranger on the Third Floor and canonical film noir, casting the net wide enough to include this movie makes sense. It definitely gets its influences from the same places as film noir, particularly in German Expressionist cinema of the early 1900s. Interestingly, Lorre would feature prominently in The Maltese Falcon, as would Elisha Cook, Jr., who plays the defendant at the trial. So the connection between Stranger on the Third Floor and film noir is concrete on that level at least. All that said, does our opinion matter? Watch Stranger on the Third Floor and debate whether it's a film noir yourself. You'll see a visual masterwork regardless of which cinematic bin you stick it in. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.
Sun, sand, and an unusually high homicide rate.
Of all the covers we've posted on Pulp Intl., these two—the first from U.S. publisher Dell, and the second from British publisher Consul—are among the most interesting. Both illustrate books called Murder in Majorca, both feature a female figure partly obscured by foreground blinds, and both have in the background the lower legs of a man walking into the room. But Michael Bryan and Paul Tabori are different authors, and these are different tales. Is that not weird as hell? We've always wanted to read these books because Majorca, aka Mallorca, is one of the great garden spots on Earth. We've been several times and it always recalibrates us perfectly. Also, there isn't much murder there, despite the titles of these books, which is a nice add-on to the sun, sand, food, bars, architecture and beautiful people.
Michael Bryan was in reality Brian Moore, and also wrote as Bernard Mara. His Murder in Majorca appeared in 1957. Paul Tabori was in reality Hungarian author Pál Tábori, and his Murder in Majorca came in 1961. How did these two uncredited covers get to be virtually identical? No idea. Sometimes when a book was reprinted overseas a second artist was commissioned to do a riff on the original cover, such as here. So maybe the second piece was for a re-issue, but it fell through, and the art was lying around when Tabori wrote his book. That's a wild-ass guess that has very little chance of being correct, but we just know these two fronts can't be similar by coincidence, so that's all we've got by way of explanation. Maybe you have a better deduction, or even the facts. If so, we'd love to know.
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.
We decided our immigration procedures weren't cruel enough, so we've made a few changes.
Robert Stanley does his usual expert job on the cover action and Robert Parker—not Robert B. Parker, but a different author who wrote only three novels—provides the narrative for Passport to Peril. The art here depicts the impending torture of a character named Countess Orlovska, and things get pretty uncomfortable for her. They get even worse for the protagonist John Stoddard. He'd merely intended to travel from A to B for personal reasons. Instead he gets tangled up in espionage when he purchases a false passport he assumes bears a made-up identity, but which actually belonged to a missing-presumed-dead spy. The spy's associates soon come calling. Considering the increased focus on immigration in many western nations, we saw this not only as a spy story but also as a saga about a privileged westerner ironically caught in a migratory wringer. Set in Budapest with all the Cold War intrigue the background suggests, this is pretty entertaining stuff from Parker. It originally appeared in 1951, with this Dell edition coming in 1952.
A textbook case of pianist envy leads to serious trouble.
This poster was made for Strange Fascination, a film put together by triple threat Hugo Haas, who wrote the screenplay, directed, and starred. It premiered this month in 1952. Plotwise a rich widow traveling in Europe meets a brilliant pianist who wants to leave the continent to get away from its “recent misfortunes.” She sponsors him and brings him to New York City, where he has immediate success, but his head is soon turned by platinum blonde showgirl Cleo Moore. She's got show business ambitions but no avenues, so she hitches herself to the rising pianist and proceeds to make his career go limp.
Hugo Haas headlined scores of movies and accumulated more than forty credits directing and writing, so Strange Fascination was no vanity project. In fact we suspect it was uniquely important to him because of its autobiographical elements. For instance, like the pianist he plays Haas left eastern Europe—Brno, Austria-Hungary, which is now part of the Czech Republic—and became respected in his chosen industry. And his given name was Pavel Haas, while his lead character here is named Paul, the Anglicization of Pavel.
In Strange Fascination Haas crafted a solid movie but don't let the online reviews fool you—it isn't film noir. These days any movie that's mid-century, black and white, and dramatic gets the noir stamp on crowd sourced websites like IMDB and Wikipedia. Strange Fascination contains bits of noir iconography, but films of the period have no choice about that—after all, rain falls even in musicals and neon signs occur even in comedies. Strange Fascination is really a straight melodrama. Go into this little b-movie with that expectation and it may prove satisfying.
So when I sign this I'm giving you permission to turn my life into an unrelenting hell?
The statue was for the public. The photos were strictly private.
Hungarian artist Sepy Dobronyi puts the finsihing touches on what was for a while possibly the most famous statue in the world—his stylized sculpture of Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg. Dobronyi made it by using nude reference photos he'd shot of his subject, and it was those photos, more than the statue, that interested the public. Ekberg was one of the world's biggest stars at the time and the idea that nude shots existed was flogged by the tabloids and helped burnish Dobronyi's reputation as a sort of jetsetting artist. His depiction of her became known as the Ekberg Bronze. He went on to sculpt Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner, Beverly Aadland, and Jayne Mansfield, though as far as we know no nude photographs were involved in those efforts.
Dobronyi sold and collected many works and used his fame and fortune to become a traveller and adventurer, visiting nearly ninety countries and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Actually, he's probably worthy of a book or movie at some point, but then so are dozens of nearly forgotten Hollywood figures. He died in 2010 and as far as we know his Ekberg reference nudes never turned up, though we imagine they'd be worth plenty. But Dobronyi was a gentleman—other Ekberg nudes appeared over the years but he never revealed his and may have destroyed them at some point. We talked a bit about the Ekberg Bronze previously, which means you can learn a few more details of the story by clicking this link.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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