Vintage Pulp Mar 14 2020
DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
Big shot attorney finds his defense strategy in tatters.


Above is a poster for The Tattered Dress, an unexpectedly entertaining flick about a craven New York City lawyer who ventures to smalltown Nevada to defend a local big shot against murder charges, only to find that the acquittal breeds a dangerous new enemy. The film stars Jeff Chandler, and amazingly this was the first thing we've seen him in. We were thinking, “Why wasn't this guy a huge star?” He could act, he had presence, and he was great looking. And then we internetted him and learned that died at age forty-two after complications from back surgery. Apparently his surgeon botched the job, cut an artery, and Chandler only survived the operation with the help of 55 pints of infused blood. But he never made it out of the hospital, as subsequent side effects laid him low. What a way to go.

You'd almost think Chandler originally hurt his back carrying The Tattered Dress, because the movie rides almost entirely on him. He gets a nice assist from Jack Carson, and co-stars Jeanne Crain, Gail Russell and super-hottie Elaine Stewart certainly don't hurt, but it's Chandler who's asked to handle all the toughest elements of this heavy courtroom drama, including two long cross-examinations and an emotional closing argument. And it's no wonder he's emotional—thanks to his new enemy that closing argument comes as he's serving as his own counsel, defending himself in court against bribery charges. They say the man who serves as his own counsel has a fool for a client. Chandler has to prove that adage wrong or he's prison toast.

The Tattered Dress goes the route of portraying defense lawyers as devoid of morals, when in the real world it's often prosecutors that are the dodgy ones, but it's still fun to see Chandler progress from pure mercenary to a man with newfound respect for his profession. The “tattered dress” of the title at first seems to refer to a torn dress worn by co-star Elaine Stewart that becomes crucial in the opening case, but we later learn it really refers to dress worn by Lady Justice. Chandler finally understands that the law needs to be protected above all. Too bad it doesn't seem to work that way anywhere except on the silver screen. The Tattered Dress premiered in the U.S. today in 1957.
Don't worry, baby. We have a stand-your-ground law in this state, so theoretically my stalking and murdering this guy shouldn't be a big deal.

Hypothetically speaking, if I botched your husband's defense, would that increase or decrease the odds of the two us having hot filthy sex?

So, long story short, banging guys in this convertible has become sort of a way of life.

Objection! Melodramatic!

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client is extremely rich. Defense rests.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 24 2017
MOMMY DEAREST
Spare the rod, spoil the child.

We ran across this West German poster for Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce, and realized we had a substantial gap in our film noir résumé. So we watched the movie, and what struck us about it immediately is that it opens with a shooting. Not a lead-in to a shooting, but the shooting itself—fade in, bang bang, guy falls dead. These days most thrillers bludgeon audiences with big openings like that, but back in the day such action beats typically came mid- and late-film. So we were surprised by that. What we weren't surprised by was that Mildred Pierce is good. It's based on a James M. Cain novel, is directed by Michael Curtiz, and is headlined by Joan Crawford. These were top talents in writing, directing, and acting, which means the acclaim associated with the movie is deserved.

While Mildred Pierce is a mystery thriller it's also a family drama revolving around a twice-married woman's dysfunctional relationship with her gold-digging elder daughter, whose desperation to escape her working class roots leads her to make some very bad decisions. Her mother, trying to make her daughter happy, makes even worse decisions. The movie isn't perfect—for one, the daughter's feverish obsession with money seems extreme considering family financial circumstances continuously improve; and as in many movies of the period, the only black character is used as cringingly unkind comic relief. But those blemishes aside, this one is enjoyable, even if the central mystery isn't really much of a mystery. Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce opened in West Germany today in 1950.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 08
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
April 07
1922—Teapot Dome Scandal Begins
In the U.S., Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases the Teapot Dome petroleum reserves in Wyoming to an oil company. When Fall's standard of living suddenly improves, it becomes clear he has accepted bribes in exchange for the lease. The subsequent investigation leads to his imprisonment, making him the first member of a presidential cabinet to serve jail time.
April 06
1930—Gandhi Leads Satyagraha March
In India, Mahatma Gandhi raises a lump of mud and salt and declares, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." His words, which were a protest against the British salt tax, mark the beginning of the Satyagraha March, which in turn triggers the wider Civil Disobedience Movement that ultimately culminates in Indian independence.
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