In Casablanca no other place compares.
We're back in the house today—Casablanca, that is. Several days ago, on the film's Italian premiere date, we showed you some Italian posters, and today, on its U.S. premiere date, we're taking a close look at possibly the most famous fictional bar in cinema history—Rick's Café Americain. Casablanca is one of the greatest films ever made, and it's fair to say Rick's was a supporting character. Filmgoers of 1942 found themselves steeped in its otherworldly Moroccan atmosphere, as scenes were staged in its courtyard, dining room, gambling room, at its lively bar, and in Rick's roomy upstairs office and personal living quarters. We've never confirmed this, but we suspect one third of the film occurs inside Rick's Café. We have photos of every area we could find of this iconic and exotic “gin joint”—as Bogart cynically describes it—and we even turned up a blueprint. You'd be tempted to think bars like Rick's exist only in film, but you'd be wrong. We've been to places that have exotic architecture, excellent food and drink, lively musical entertainment, well dressed internationalclientele, and the aura of being in the middle of a spy caper. The decadent colonial bar Abaco, located in Palma de Mallorca, comes immediately to mind, as does the supper club Meson Pansa Verde in Antigua, Guatemala, where they have live jazz in a converted wine cellar and a friend of ours once famously pushed his date into the pool. We've been to Rick's-like places in Mexico, the Caribbean, the Greek Islands, and, appropriately, Morocco, in both Fes and Marrakech (we're not fans of the Rick's that currently operates in Casablanca—same name, very diminished feel). But magical places do exist, which means even if Bogart's beloved café was never real, having those types of nights is possible. We recommend making it your mission to seek them out.
The doctor is out—of his freaking mind.
Above, a poster for Arzt und Dämon, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which premiered in West Germany today in 1949. The art here is by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm, whose most famous piece is the poster he designed for the expressionist sci-fi movie Metropolis. It once sold for $1.2 million, which made it the most valuable movie promo in existence at the time, but this Hyde effort shows Schulz-Neudamm's skills in a totally different light. We think it's top shelf work for a top shelf flick.
Spencer Tracy unleashes the beast on Bergman and Turner.
We don't feature a lot of material from Finland* but this poster for Tri Jekyll ja Mr. Hyde, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, caught our eye. The movie was based on the gothic horror novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, and was the third attempt Hollywood had made at the story, this time with Spencer Tracy as Jekyll/Hyde and Ingrid Bergman as Ivy Peterson. We gather Tracy thought his performance had ruined his career. Talk about being hard on yourself. He's perfectly decent in the role, even if he's a bit unconvincing as an English gentleman, and doesn't even bother tackling the accent. Bergman is decent too, and she does wrestle the accent, and loses, but since she's Swedish you have to forgive her. She'd soon be acknowledged as one of the greatest actresses in cinema. The film also features a pre-superstardom Lana Turner. She would develop a tendency to chew the scenery after she became a global celebrity, but here, in a supporting role under established stars, she's good, and hot as hell to boot—not that Bergman is anything other than dreamy herself.
Do we digress? Not in the least. Their beauty is pivotal to the plot. The two sides of Tracy's personality, the loving and lustful sides, posited as good and evil, are preoccupied by these basically opposite women. This is demonstrated during a nightmare sequence in which Tracy uses a whip to drive a pair of horses, a dark one and a light one, that transform into Bergman and Turner, side by side, windblown, sweaty, and implied as nude. It's a surprising sequence, hotly erotic, and all too brief if you ask us. We could have watched those two all wet and thrashing for a long while. But maybe that's our own Mr. Hyde speaking. In any case, the sequence serves to demonstrate that Dr. Jekyll's beastly Hyde is loose and isn't going back in his cage anytime soon. A career ruining performance from Tracy? On the contrary. His star continued to shine brightly after this highly effective piece of gaslamp horror, and his co-stars' ascents were just beginning. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde premiered in the U.S. in 1941 and reached Finland today in, apparently, 1943. How that happened in the middle of World War II is a mystery to us, but maybe it just shows how pushy Mr. Hyde was.
*While the poster is supposed to be Finnish, it actually seems to contain both Finnish and Swedish lettering. For example "Tri" in Finnish means "doctor," but "Dr.," which is common in Swedish, appears too, Likewise the word "and" is repreated. In Swedish it's "och" but in Finnish it's "ja." We guess the poster was used in both countries.
The fundamental things apply as time goes by.
Yes, we're back to Casablanca. Above you see a Spanish poster for this award winning war drama, which premiered in Madrid today in 1946. The movie was a smash hit everywhere because, simply put, it dealt with every important theme in the realm of human experience, which is why it's still fundamental viewing. And that would be true even if most of the characters weren't migrants—a type of person that's very prominent in the news these days.
The poster art is signed MCP, the designation applied to work produced by the Barcelona based design company owned by artists Ramón Martí, Josep Clavé, and Hernán Pico. We'll get back to this trio's output a bitlater. Casablanca generated some very nice promos, and MCP's effort is one of the best, in our opinion. We also recommend checking out the Japanese ones here.
The house that Bogart built.
The first time we watched Casablanca years ago we were impressed by so many aspects of the film, but perhaps most by its humor. There are laugh lines scattered throughout the first half of the script, but by far our favorite bit is:
Major Strasser: “What is your nationality?”
Rick Blaine: “I'm a drunkard.”
It's impossible to overrate the movie. Only iconoclasts don't like it. The above poster befits such a landmark film. It was painted by Bill Gold for the movie's U.S. run, which began in New York City today in 1942. You can see two more incredible Casablanca posters here.
U.S. magazine offers its vision of the world.
Model and singer Corky Crowley stars on this September 1948 cover of See magazine, a publication that came out of New York City and fell squarely into the Life and Look category. We picked this up years ago in the U.S. and never got around to posting it because its large format and the resultant necessity to scan pages in halves and join them in Photoshop deterred us. But we finally had a few spare hours we opted not to spend on a local terrace sipping white wine, and today you have the result.
Inside this monster mag you get photo features, celebs, politics, travel and more. Probably the most interesting feature is the one detailing the transformation of a French typist into a high society dame. It was done as a promotional feature by the magazine Point de Vue and they called it “Cinderella for a Day.” For this installment they chose a woman named Juliet Latifa, who they coiffed, dressed, sent to the swankiest Parisian nightspots, hooked up with the celeb set, then sent packing at the end of the night just like in the fairy tale.
The final photo caption sums it up: “Her 24 hour dream ended, drab normalcy not unexpectedly overtakes Cinderella, but unforgettable memories will serve to bolster her occasionally slipping morale.” Wow—belittle much, See editors? In any case, the photos of Latifa's night out are nice. We wish we could scan all the shots in the magazine but there are more than a hundred and we just don't have that kind of stamina. We managed about twenty pages divided into thirty plus panels featuring Latifa, Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Ingrid Bergman dressed in armor for her role in Joan of Arc, and more.
O Século Ilustrado gives readers its best shot.
It's the Portuguese magazine O Século Ilustrado again, with another hazy, portrait style cover. We love these things. This one features Swedish legend Ingrid Bergman looking quite pleased and dates from 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.
Clothes encounters of the Hollywood kind.
We've been gathering rare wardrobe and hairdresser test shots from the golden era of Hollywood, and today seems like a good day to share some of what we've found. It was standard procedure for all the main performers in a movie to pose for such photos, but the negatives that survive tend to belong to the most popular stars, such as Cary Grant, who you see at right. You'll see Marilyn Monroe more than amply represented below. What can we do? She's possibly the most photographed Hollywood figure ever, and she was beautiful in every exposure. But we've also found shots of a few lesser known stars, such as Giorgia Moll and France Nuyen.
Some of the shots are worth special note. You'll see Doris Day as a mermaid for The Glass Bottom Boat, Liz Taylor as a kid for National Velvet and an adult for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Farrah Fawcett in lingerie, Sheree North in both front and rear poses, and Yul Brynner looking like an actual man by sporting a body that had to that point seemingly known neither razor nor wax (he ditched the fur for his actual onscreen appearances). Usually the photos feature a chalkboard or card with pertinent information about the production and star, but not always, as in the case of Brynner's photo, and in Audrey Hepburn's and Joan Collins' cases as well. If the names of the subjects don't appear on the chalkboards you can refer to the keywords at bottom, which are listed in order. We may put together another group of these wardrobe shots later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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