For some men divorce is not a tragedy—it's an opportunity.
If you've never seen one, this is what an AP wire photo looked like back in 1966. The text at the bottom gives newspaper editors the identity of the subject and some basic facts. No identity needed here—this is Ursula Andress, and the photo is the one widely used when newspapers reported that her husband John Derek was filing for divorce in Tijuana, Mexico. This made us smile because the basic idea here was to show that Derek was out of his mind. Perhaps, however he had already established a pattern of moving on to younger, equally beautiful women. He was first married to Pati Behrs, but divorced her when he met nineteen-year-old Andress. She was thirty when they divorced and he moved on to twenty-three-year-old Linda Evans. And Evans was thirty-two when Derek tossed her over for sixteen-year-old Mary Collins, who you know better as Bo Derek. Andress, Evans, and Collins could have been sisters, and in fact they looked quite a bit like John Derek too (see below). But in Bo he had found not just another doppleganger, but an ingénue willing to star in the poorly made sexually oriented films he liked to direct. These included Fantasies (when Bo was sixteen), the almost competent Bolero, Ghosts Can't Do It, and Tarzan, the Ape Man. Bo and John John Derek stayed together until John died, a span of twenty-two years, so it seems wife number four cured him of his habit of trading for younger models. Just an interesting Hollywood factoid to enliven your Monday.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife—unless he says it turns him on.
Here’s an interesting National Enquirer cover from today in 1966, with a scrunched Ursula Andress and a quote from her husband John Derek, who never actually had a problem sharing her, or for that matter any of his spouses—at least artistically. He shot and published nude series of second wife Andress, third wife Linda Evans, and fourth wife Bo Derek, and directed Derek in the softcore bomb Bolero, which contained a sex scene that had filmgoers asking at the time if maybe Bo and her partner went beyond mere acting. John Derek is actually worthy of a separate discussion sometime, so maybe we’ll get back to him. He was also eerily consistent—Andress, Evans and Derek are virtually clones of one another. See below.
She's a lover, not a fighter.
Above are the cover and several interior pages from Spain’s Triunfo, with Swiss actress Ursula Andress, who according to the magazine was the most beautiful woman in the world. Andress was starring opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in the French action adventure Les tribulations d’une Chinois in Chine, based on Jules Verne’s Tribulations of a Chinaman in China, and released in the U.S. as Up to His Ears. The article discusses among other things how Andress injured herself during the first week of the physically demanding shoot, and you can see a scab on her knee and calf, as well as a bandage on her thigh. While she perhaps didn’t have a gazelle’s grace, she did seem to possess a siren’s allure—her rumored affair with Belmondo supposedly ruined her marriage to John Derek, and this may not have been her first affair. However, it seems possible that the marriage failed for reasons other than fidelity, since John Derek did not seem to be a possessive husband (if his willingness to share his fourth wife Bo is any indication). Anyway, not be overlooked is Pamela Tiffin, who appears in the centerfold. We’ll have more on Tiffin later.
Who's gonna ride your wild horses?
Erotic fiction has always been a major subset of pulp literature, and for a while sex was likewise part of American cinema. Bo Derek personifies sexual nudity on film as much as any actress we can remember. She was originally presented to the world by her Svengali husband John Derek, who had also helped his second and third wives, Ursula Andress and Linda Evans, become stars. The difference was they could act. Bo couldn’t.
But Bolero isn’t godawful because Bo acted in it—it’s godawful because John Derek wrote it. Yet for all its flaws, Bolero is a landmark because it’s one of the last full-blown, joyful, erotic American films. From this point forward, nudity in American cinema seemed to consist of either breast-flashing slapstick, or result in severely negative consequences. Cinema sex as an expression of simple joy still existed, but actual nudity was becoming more and more political. Was it AIDS that did this? Was it simply an overdue cultural shift? We can’t say.
Fast forward to 2009 and we have American directors shooting clothed sex scenes, then explaining—as if every other director in town hadn't also shot a clothed sex scene—that not showing skin is much sexier than having actors parading around naked. We disagree, and the stills below prove our point, but we understand that times change. Bolero makes clear just how much. It was one of the worst films of that or any year, but it made sex a celebration. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1984.
I'm afraid that isn't my hand in the small of your back, my dear.
Swiss actress Ursula Andress’ performance as Dr. No’s knife-wielding skindiver Honey Ryder made her a star and set the standard for all future Bond girls. At the time of this publicity photo she was married to John Derek, but we have a feeling Sean Connery didn’t care—and rumor has it Andress didn’t either. She was delivered up from the sea on a clamshell today in 1936.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
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