Vintage Pulp Jul 16 2023
WHY, IT'S ELEMENTARY
Look, I've found something! I bet this advances the plot!


Here's another nice panel length poster for the 1937 mystery comedy Super-Sleuth. The term "door panel," which is a commonly used designation, is a bit deceptive. These are nowhere near the size of a door. The dimensions are twenty by sixty, or sometimes fourteen by thirty-six—in any case around three times taller than wide. The dimensions of this one aren't actually quite there. It's closer to two-point-five-to one. Close enough, as far as we're concerned. Anyway, we've been unearthing a lot of this style of promo lately, and we like them because the arrangement of visual elements and text are pleasing to our amateur eyes.

In the movie, an egotistical actor played by Jack Oakie, whose signature character is a sleuth, criticizes the LAPD and ends up in a press feud with them. He's been critical because he and other Hollywood stars have been receiving threatening letters from “the Poison Pen,” but the cops have no idea who's sending them. Oakie gets his chance to prove whether he can be a real life sleuth when there's a shooting on his movie set. While Super-Sleuth is billed as slapstick mystery, the mystery part is not delivered. There's only ever one true suspect. We suppose it's difficult to write in red herrings and twists when a film is 75 minutes long. Still, having the sinister and secretive weirdo be the murderer is a little too elementary.

Though many of the characters, including Oakie, are buffoons, there's also, it must be noted, a ridiculous black stereotype played by Willie Best, who sometimes acted under the moniker Sleep 'n' Eat. He's often reviled for his portrayals now, but in a 1934 interview he said, “What's an actor going to do? Either you do it or get out.” It's the dilemma of all actors—do your level best with what you're given or end up on the do-not-hire list. Super-Sleuth doesn't give its actors a lot to work with, but Oakie, Best, the beautiful Ann Sothern and the rest put their all into it and the result is a passable slapstick (non) mystery with a handful of genuine laughs. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1937.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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