Will His Majesty be cleaning the bathroom today? Because His Majesty's wife will not.
We've spent some time in tropic countries, which makes it hard for us to resist books with tropical settings. The above, His Majesty O'Keefe, is amazingly obscure considering it was made into a 1954 film by Warner Bros. starring Burt Lancaster. What you get here is a fictionalized account of actual Irish American roustabout as David Dean O'Keefe, who in 1870 flees a murder charge in Georgia by sailing away to the other side of the world. He ends up on the island of Yap, then part of Spanish East India, today part of Micronesia, and establishes himself as a respected copra trader. Other South Seas books tend toward irony and tragedy, but here O'Keefe achieves amazing success. From Yap he expands his trade to other islands, and becomes known as the King of Yap, the Monarch of Mapia, and the Sovereign of Sonsorol.
In addition, he's an enlightened type. We don't know if that part is true, considering the book was written nearly a lifetime after the real O'Keefe's death, and considering the authors Lawrence Klingman and Gerald Green seem to have a bone to pick with Germans, who are portrayed as racist brutes. We can understand that. It was published only five years after World War II, but weren't all colonials racist brutes? We suspect O'Keefe is portrayed better than he really was in order to create contrast with the hated Germans. The real O'Keefe ran Confederate cargos through Union naval blockades during the U.S. Civil War, so how enlightened could he have been? But it's possible he was opportunistic more than he was political. Or the blockade busting could have been pure fabrication. O'Keefe said so when investigated in 1867, but then what would he say?
But whatever—we're talking about the book, and we'll take the respectful and equality-minded character here over the bigoted heroes that tend to dominate novels set around this period. We're still reeling over Slave Ship. We won't go into how Klingman and Green conclude their story. We'll just say the result is pretty entertaining. We suspect the movie version is g-rated by comparison, and for sure it will be a whitewash historically, but we're going to look for it and have a watch. It has Lancaster, after all, and he's one of the reliable indicators of quality in vintage cinema—he's no Bogart or Cary Grant, mind you, but his movies tend to be good. We'll report back. His Majesty O'Keefe was originally published in 1950, and this Universal Giant edition came in 1952 with cover art by Warren King.
To billions of people I'm a superstar but you have the nerve ask who I am? You are so dead.
Above, an awesome image of Indian actress Rekha—née Bhanurekha Ganesan—from her hit fantasy adventure film Nagin, which is the fantastic tale of a magical snake that takes human form in order to revenge-kill some hunters. Rekha wasn't the snake in the movie, but she looks ready to kill too. Obviously, the fact that she's a one-name star indicates her level of fame, and though that recognition never quite took hold outside Asia, several billion people recognize her as one of the cinematic greats. Our loss, their gain. Nagin premiered in India today in 1976, so this photo would have been made sometime in 1975.
Go ahead. Try putting yourself in her position.
Let's face it. None of us have toes strong enough to support our weight for longer than it takes to get the pancake syrup off a high kitchen shelf. Just looking at this photo causes us sympathetic pain. The image shows Sujata, who was an Indian dancer who rose to fame in golden age Bollywood before crossing the sea and appearing in numerous U.S. movies beginning in the early 1950s. In addition to her film work she toured the U.S. as half of the duo Sujata and Asoka, performing Indian, Tibetan, and other Eastern dances for amazed audiences. This shot is from the heyday of her touring period, when her toes were at their very strongest, probably around 1955.
Ursula the friendly witch.
Witches are supposed to be scary but Ursula Jeans didn't get the memo, seemingly, as she prepares to take her broom out for a spin while wearing a rather enticing nightgown. On the other hand, maybe the nightgown is just a lure and the basket is to transport your corpse once she kills you and crushes you like an egg carton. You never know when it comes to witches. Jeans was born in 1906 in British India and launched her showbiz career on the London stage in 1922. She naturally made the transition to cinema and her films include The Barton Mystery, Dark Journey, and The Weaker Sex. This shot is identified all over the internet as being from 1965, which would be amazing if true, because she'd be fifty-nine years old in it. So, barring the evil practice of black magic to stay young, and assuming Jeans' broom doesn't have a flux capacitor built into it, let's say this shot is actually from around 1935.
America's oldest tabloid continues its appointed rounds.
Today we have the cover and some interior scans from an October 1971 issue of the National Police Gazette, which dutifully explores its usual realms of sports, crime, and Hollywood. The magazine was founded in 1845, which is always astounding to consider. We bought a pile of these ages ago. In fact, they were the first bulk purchase of tabloids we ever made for the website. These ’70s issues of Gazette tend to be very cheap, but, as late stage editions, don't hold much intrigue, which is why we hadn't scanned one since 2014.
But we have to clear some space in our Pulp cave, so we scanned this one and immediately sailed it into the recycling bin. On the cover you have Samantha Marsh, and inside you get Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, Australian model Deanne Soutar, speculations on how old men can be and still have sex, hashish smugglers from India, and a story on the mysterious death of actress Thelma Todd. More from Police Gazette coming soon.
John Dillinger's body—most of it anyway—to be exhumed in September.
At the request of his family, Great Depression-era gangster John Dillinger will be exhumed from the Indianapolis grave where he was buried in 1934 after being shot down by FBI agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. There's been no official explanation for the request, however the dig should resolve a couple of pieces of Dillinger folklore. The first would be whether it's him in the grave at all—an urban legend that the FBI shot the wrong man has simmered since his death. And the second would be whether there's a cock attached to the corpse—a particularly odd legend suggests that Dillinger had a monster member that was somehow snipped before burial and whisked away by a morbid collector.
The rumor of body part theft is no surprise. Grave robberies had been a problem in the U.S. throughout the 1800s, and while these had waned by 1934, as a precaution Dillinger was buried under scrap iron and slabs of concrete covered by a layer of poured cement. The bit about him being hung like a mule is harder to trace. Some say it was caused by a morgue photo which appeared (if you really used your imagination) to show him with an erection, but being the subject of at least one Tijuana bible certainly didn't hurt either. In the dirty comic “A Hasty Exit,” which we think was published in mid-1934 before his death, Dillinger uses a massive unit to pleasure his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette and her pal Nellie. Of course, everyone in Tijuana bibles had dinosaur dicks, but we're speculating here.
It's possible the public won't find out why Dillinger is being brought back above ground (though DNA testing to prove ancestry seems like a good bet), or whether all the famed gangster's parts are intact. We doubt most people actually care. But for us pulp followers the story is somewhat interesting, because Dillinger is an icon of the pulp era.
As a bonus, the story has also served as a reminder that we have many more filthy Tijuana bibles we need to upload. We'll get to that as soon as we can. In the meantime, while we all wait for that September exhumation to finally settle longstanding urban legends, you can satisfy your historical interest in John Dillinger by exhuming his Tijuana bible here.
Cheapie tabloid shows the way to enriched health.
Above is the cover and below are some interior scans from National Informer Reader, an offshoot of the tabloid National Informer. It hit newsstands today in 1971. Generally the publication featured photographed models on its cover, but we've run across a few like this one with illustrations. There's another one in the same vein inside the paper, and of course both are uncredited, though they look like the work of Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan. Needless to say, if these drawings are the work of the famed French illustrator, the editors of Informer Reader are unlikely to have paid for them.
The centerpiece of this issue is the spread on Swami Sarasvati, a famous yoga teacher who was born in India but moved to Australia and in 1969 became the host of a yoga television show that aired five mornings a week. Informer Reader shares her “sexercises,” but this turns out to be the editors' salacious take on things—the Swami is merely offering relaxation and better health. It's interesting, though, that she posed in a bikini. Clearly she wasn't so zen a little self promotional skin was out of the question. You'll notice her Siamese cat makes an appearance. There's a video online of the Swami being interviewed, which you can see here, and amusingly, the cat makes an appearance there too.
Elsewhere in the issue readers get another installment of “I Predict” by seer Mark Travis. Never timid, this time around he warns that the U.S. and Soviet Union will develop lightning weapons to blast each other, that a member of the British parliament will be revealed as a modern Jack the Ripper, and that a famous Hollywood producer will be exposed as a drug kingpin. As a prognosticator you only have to be right one in ten times to impress people, but Travis isn't even giving himself a chance with these crackpot predictions. We have more Readers to upload, so we'll see if his anemic percentage improves. Scans below.
Unwelcome messenger of God encounters major difficulties converting islanders.
It sounds exactly like a story from a 1950s men's adventure magazine, except this story is true. A Christian missionary decided he wanted to convert the tribespeople of remote North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean. The island had been declared off-limits years ago by the Indian government due to the inhabitants' occasionally violent reluctance to be contacted by outsiders, but the missionary, named John Chau, refused to be deterred.
He located a fishing boat and several fishermen, and on November 15 they clandestinely and illegally traveled to the island. Being knowledgeable locals, the fishermen wouldn't get too close, so Chau covered the final 500 meters in a canoe while the hirelings awaited his return. Later that day Chau returned indeed—in a big hurry after having had arrows shot at him. At this point we would have called it a day, and you too, no doubt. But that's why we aren't missionaries. We tend to give up. Chau didn't.
The next day, looking to build on his progress, he went back. This time the natives smashed his canoe—obviously considering this a significant hint as to their receptivity to Christian conversion. Chau, doubtless chagrinned, was forced to swim back to the fishingboat. But missionaries, as we noted, are persistent. So, driven by his duty to convert the islanders, he went back—amazingly—a third time. And how did that trip work out? According to the fishermen the last they saw of Chau the natives were dragging his corpse around the island.
Well. There's not much to say here. Who you feel is to blame in this scenario, if anyone, is a litmus test of your basic values. The fishermen have been arrested, but Chau's body hasn't been recovered yet due to obvious difficulties. The Indian government seems to want to let matters lie, but because Chau is American, the Sentinelese, as they've been dubbed, may yet pay a heavy price. One thing is certain—North Sentinel Island has dropped off our list of tropical paradises to visit. Now we're looking at maybe going to South Sentinel Island.
North Sentinel Island: stay away.
South Sentinel Island: worth a look.
I'm not usually a quitter! But right now! I'm considering! Going back! To delivering pizzas!
And speaking of trains, above you see the cover of Lawrence G. Blochman's novel of foreign intrigue Bombay Mail, a murder mystery set in India and staged on a Calcutta to Bombay mail train. The lead character isn't actually a postal worker, but rather an investigator, Leonidas Prike of the British C.I.D., also known as the Criminal Investigation Department. This was Blochman's debut, originally appearing in hardback in 1934, which was the same year another celebrated trainbound mystery—Murder on the Orient Express—was published.
About that copyright date, by the way. Nearly every place you look will have Bombay Mail listed as arriving in 1934, but it may have appeared, at least in limited form, in 1933. We deduced this because the movie Bombay Mail, which was based on the novel, premiered in the U.S. in January 1934. We have a hard time imagining a debut novelist selling his book to movies before it hit the stores, so 1933 might be the actual publication date. One thing we're sure about, though, is this Dell mapback edition arrived in 1943, and the art is by Robert Stanley.
There's nothing harder than facing your worst fear.
The poster for Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller Vertigo, designed by Saul Bass, is one of the most famous and influential promos ever made. Bass actually can't take full credit for it—he oversaw its creation, but the unique spiral pattern was made by John Whitney and the figures were drawn by Art Goodman. Bass and Co. made a couple of similar versions of the poster for the film's U.S. run. We showed you one a while back, and now the above version completes the pair. If you haven't seen Vertigo, we can't tell you much that hasn't already been written. Four years after starring in Rear Window Jimmy Stewart plays another damaged man for Hitchcock, a San Francisco detective who has of fear of heights, the result of a rooftop chase gone wrong. He later gets involved in a mystery that puts his acrophobia to the ultimate test. Many say this is Hitchcock's best movie. We don't think so, but it's definitely a landmark, particularly as it relates to co-star Kim Novak's role, its opening action sequence, and its reliance upon San Francisco locations to help tell its story. In fact, the latter aspect was why the film's world premiere took place in San Francisco today in 1958. Below you see some screen grabs, along with a beautiful promo poster that was made for the movie's run in India. Put Vertigo in your queue. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
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