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.
She's the reason you should have disaster insurance.
Above, a great promo image of U.S. actress Gail Russell from the 1957 drama The Tattered Dress, in which she co-starred with Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain, and Elaine Stewart. We aren't kidding about disaster insurance, by the way—she once crashed her car into a bar.
David Janssen takes aim at a mystery linked to his past.
Twenty Plus Two premiered in the U.S. today in 1961. We got interested in this one because it starred David Janssen, who was the central character in the television show The Fugitive, but who we remember from the obscure flick Birds of Prey that used to pop up on cable when we were in high school. We loved that movie, but it was the only thing we'd seen Janssen in. Twenty Plus Two is billed as film noir on some websites, so that interested us too. First things first—it isn't a film noir. Not even close. It's a black and white crime drama with a few night sequences, but no noir stylings or iconography, except for a single flashback. People get this twisted all the time, but we'll say it again: just because it's a black and white crime movie doesn't mean it's a film noir.
Janssen stars as an investigator who's drawn into a murder case involving a movie star's secretary. She possessed material on a missing heiress, and Janssen finds himself investigating both the missing person and the murder. Mixed in are complications from his past in the form of his ex-fiancée. Janssen never quite figures it all out, but that's okay—the villain explains it in detail for him at the end. The whole production comes across like a television movie, complete with the type of punctuative trumpet blasts you'd hear on an old cop show. We can't recommend it, but if you're a fan of Janssen you won't be disappointed. He's about as reliable a star as you'll find, and he makes Twenty Plus Two watchable all by his lonesome.
And it isn't even Christmas yet.
American actress Jeanne Crain, whose many film include Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes (which we talked about here), Pinky, and Cheaper by the Dozen, looks like a gift or a piece of candy in this promo photo of her wrapped in various colors of cellophane. It's one of the more unusual vintage images we've come across. It dates from 1955.
And as far as gentlemen go, they’ll take whatever they can get.
Above is a brilliant poster for the film musical Gentlemen Marry Brunettes starring Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain. Both Brunettes and 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had begun as novels written by Anita Loos, in 1927 and 1925 respectively. Blondes (it was actually the second time the book had been filmed) was of course a smash with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the leads. A year later Monroe was unavailable to reprise her role as Lorelei Lee, so both leads were rescripted into entirely new characters and Jeanne Crain scored the new part opposite Russell. Gentlemen Marry Brunettes appeared in 1955, but the result wasn’t quite as electric as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Same old story—it’s almost always pointless trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice, and a sequel without Monroe was destined to disappoint, at least artistically. But it did become one of the top box office movies of 1955. Amazing, considering it’s almost forgotten today. Seems the audience has stated its preference rather clearly. Well, even if Brunettes fell short of Blondes in the memorability department, there’s nothing forgettable about its Japanese poster.
Everyone loves a Parade.
Since we were just talking a couple of days ago about websites where it’s possible to download vintage magazines, we thought we’d shine the spotlight on two more. Vintage Girlie Mags and Dad’s Stash, which are basically alter egos of each other, both have full scans. The main difference is vintagegirliemags gives away the scans for free, while dads-stash charges a minimal amount for downloads. The May 1950 issue of Beauty Parade you see above is available at the latter site, though ours didn’t come from there. The cover art on this issue is by the great Peter Driben, and inside you get Yvonne de Carlo, Denise Darcel, Ann Sheridan, Lana Turner, and page after page of other beauties. Many scans below for your Friday enjoyment.
Britain may have colonized the island, but it was Hollywood that colonized the film culture.
Above are six issues of Hong Kong’s West Point magazine, named for a geographical feature of Hong Kong Island. The insides of these are not as visually interestings as the outsides, owing mainly to the poor quality printing and coarse paper stock, but if you’re curious you can see some interior pages here. You may also be wondering if West Point had coverage of Asian celebs. Yes, but unfortunately they weren’t allowed within light years of the magazine’s cover, as far as we can tell. These issues, top to bottom, date from the early-’50s to 1967 and feature Barbara Lang, Ann-Margret, Rock Hudson, Jeanne Crain, Michèle Girardon, and Julie Andrews.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
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