Vintage Pulp Apr 9 2023
HELLION YES
She's great. But you know how they say dance like no one's looking? She can dance only when everyone's looking.

A few days ago we shared a book cover inspired by a 1948 Life magazine photo. We wanted to show you a more direct inspiration from that shot. Here you see Tony Calvano's The Hellions, from 1965 for Greenleaf Classics, published by its sub-imprint Leisure Books. Calvano was in actuality Thomas P. Ramirez.

The art on this is by Robert Bonfils, and he basically copied the dynamic figure in the Life photo, and did so brilliantly, making changes to her hair (more and wilder) and bikini (smaller and flimsier). The result is an illustration that's a real eye-catcher. You can scroll down a few posts if you want to see the Life shot in a larger size. It was part of a photo essay on a performative youth movement called Activationism, centered in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 6 2023
VOODOOS AND VOO-DON'TS
Except for a few quaint customs she clings to, she's a typical conservative society lady.


Love at first sight, and marriage on first night. At least a few mid-century writers worked this theme, and readers seemed to buy it. A few descriptions of how beautiful the woman was and voilà—hearts and wedding bells. But whether it actually worked as a device depended upon plot and writing skill. Eric Hatch, in his 1952 novel The Golden Woman, uses the exotic surroundings of Port-au-Prince, Haiti to weave the spell needed to make readers believe a fantastically rich young virgin named Yvette du Chambrigne and a naval officer named Walter Moore meet, fall in love, and marry over the course of a night and day. The romantic but reckless decision brings them into conflict with the Haitian elite, as Yvette has defied her powerful father's wishes to marry her off for political gain to a cruel army general named La Borde.

Yvette is Haitian, but she's also white. Well, near enough to count, though as Hatch writes the character, her smidge of African blood makes her—in some mysterious way that must have made sense to readers back in the day—primitive. We know, we know. We didn't write the thing. We just work here. Hatch's protagonist Walter Moore says he wouldn't care if Yvette were fully and visibly black, but since she's by any realistic measure fully and visibly white, he would say that, wouldn't he? Whether the young lovers are culturally compatible becomes a key question of the story, and this brackets a central plotline in which Moore becomes swept up in—you guessed it—revolution. We've read a few books now that have used the same idea. In this case, Moore basically leads the revolution. While riding a horse. And carrying a sword. While under the protection of the voodoo god Mala. Sounds silly, right? It is. But we have to admit it's also fun.

Eric Hatch is remembered today for his books 1101 Park Avenue (filmed in 1936 as My Man Godfrey) and The Year of the Horse (filmed as The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit). With The Golden Girl he reminds readers that if you got one drop of ink in the milk, the milk was perceived to be fully ink. Even today, someone who is three quarters white and one quarter black is going to be seen as black. The Golden Woman is, in the Year of Our Division 2023, a reminder that ideas around "purity" still predominate—even if unconsciously—for many people. But leaving that fraught discussion aside and judging the book solely as a thriller, it's worth a read, absurd though the story may be. If you're interested in island adventures in general, or Haiti in particular, we say go for it. The art on this Gold Medal edition is by Barye Phillips, influenced by a Life magazine photo from 1948, which you see below.
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Hollywoodland Aug 7 2021
BACK IN THE DAY
You know, young lady, I used to have one exactly like that but I used it so much it eventually wore out.


This is a rather amusing shot of professional celebrity, sometime actress, and buttcrack innovator Vikki Dougan's caboose being checked out by an older woman at a Los Angeles social event. You know the story by now. Aspiring star Dougan and her agent were looking for a way to garner publicity, and because so many actresses were wearing low cut dresses that showed cleavage, they cooked up the scheme of having Dougan appear in public with dresses that were low cut in the rear. Thus her nickname: the Back. These dresses would at moments even dip to buttcrack level, which was scandalous, but effective in terms of getting Dougan's name into the tabloids. She soon had the most famous back—and crack—in Hollywood. And of course who can forget the time she showed her girlfur? We certainly can't. The above shot has been nicely colorized, and dates from 1957. Many sites say 1956, but it's part of a photo series made by lensman Ralph Crane for Life magazine and published in ’57. We have an uncolorized shot, slightly different (notice the interested woman isn't wearing glasses in that one) below. We'll have more from Miss Dougan soon.
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Femmes Fatales Jul 29 2021
CHILI RECIPE
How do you get famous in Hollywood? Start with good usage of punctuation.


Chili Williams née Marian Sorenson, seen in a nice shot above, was a U.S. model who appeared in a 1943 issue of Life magazine in a dotted bikini, received 100,000 pieces of fan mail, and became known as the Polka-Dot Girl. Subsequently she was almost always photographed in dots. She might as well have had a permanent case of measles, so dominated her life was by dots, but thanks to them she was discovered by Hollywood. Her cinema career didn't quite take off, though, so she next posed covered with commas, indicating that she wasn't done yet. And when that failed she posed covered with ampersands, which she felt was a bolder way of saying she wasn't done yet. And finally, having hit rock bottom, she posed with money signs in a clear cry for help. Later she was arrested for breaking and entering. Only one of the four previous sentences is true. Can you guess which one? Anyway, by the mid-1950s Chili was out of Hollywood, but many excellent photos like the two here survive.

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Hollywoodland Dec 16 2019
DANCING AROUND THE PROBLEM
Chorus line turns to picket line for L.A. dancers.


Today in 1938 a group of Carroll Girls—dancers employed by famed theatrical producer Earl Carroll—staged a protest outside the Musicians Union Hall in Los Angeles, an event discussed in the above clipping from Life magazine. The picketing was the result of a spat between Carroll and bandleader Roy Cavanaugh. Apparently Carroll had reneged on a booking and Cavanaugh had appealed to the musician's union and won their backing. The dancers, caught in the middle, took to the sidewalk to denounce the union for being unwilling negotiate a solution that would let the show go on, and let the dancers get paid.

You will notice in the wider shot below that the meat cutters union Local 421 is in the background. We can't explain that, except to guess that the musicians and butchers unions were located in the same area. You'll also notice a lot of musicians playing. Presumably, they're union guys, and presumably they shouldn't be playing—i.e. helping to publicize the picket against their own union. But then again, nothing will divide your loyalties like a woman. Just saying. Been there, lived that.

All told, this looks like the most entertaining protest in history. We picture an epic barbecue thanks to the meat cutters union, and killer tunes thanks to the (soon to be punished) musicians. We'd love to tell you how the Carroll Girls fared with their demands, but we don't know. However, Carroll's stellar run as a show business impresario continued until his death in 1948, so we suspect that even if the Cavanaugh show didn't happen the dancers got over that speed bump and kept working steadily for a long while.
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Femmes Fatales Sep 14 2019
BLANK EXPRESSION
Photographer fatally shot by movie star while staging publicity photo.

This unusual triptych shows actress Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, better known as Natalie Wood, not watching as she fires off a round. You'll see these photos described simply as Wood shooting a pistol, as if she used a real gun, but we doubt it's real. We don't think the photographer Ralph Crane would have risked having her fire a real gun anywhere in the direction of either himself or an expensive remote operated camera—especially considering the shaky aim involved.
 
Wood is almost certainly using a Hollywood prop pistol designed to shoot blanks. Crane probably set up about thirty feet away, where he'd be at no risk from superheated gases, blank cartridge debris, etc. On the other hand, maybe the bullet was real—because you never know what sort of crazy shit someone will do with a gun.

Second matter that needs clearing up—some websites say this isn't Natalie Wood. They're wrong. She was eighteen when the photos were made, and was already a big star thanks to 1955's Rebel without a Cause. We mention the film only because Wood's fame means there were hundreds of photos of her from the period, and we've uploaded a nice color one here as well. There's zero doubt. Same eyes. Same haircut. Same mouth. Natalie Wood.
 
The shooting photos first appeared in Life magazine, and both those and the color image are from 1956. As we've noted in the past, sometimes the narrow column width on Pulp Intl. means images are smaller than we'd like them to be, so we took the liberty of rearranging the black and whites vertically in order to offer a better look at them, and you see the result below. Interested in seeing more rare Wood images? Look here, here, and here.
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Hollywoodland Aug 11 2019
RAVENOUS RITA
Hayworth enjoys a not-so-light snack in Santa Monica.


Published today in 1941, we love this Life magazine cover of Rita Hayworth on the beach in Santa Monica, California. But we love the second photo even more. Movie stars will do just about anything to avoid being photographed unhinging their jaws to cram in a pile of food. You can't blame them. Paparazzi lurk in hope of getting exactly this type of shot, which they sell for big money to websites that specialize in making celebs look bad. Hayworth turns the idea into comedy while simultaneously looking appetizing herself. That's star power for you.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 26 2017
TEETER TOTTER
Whoa... is the floor swaying or is that me?


Audrey Totter isn't as well known today as she should be, considering she appeared in The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Lady in the Lake, F.B.I Girl, The Unsuspected, The Set-Up, Main Street After Dark, and Tension, but she was well appreciated in her day as a bad girl and film noir stalwart. Her career spanned radio, cinema, and television, and her life spanned ninety-five years, a good run on both counts. This promo photo of her in the typical bad girl's natural habitat—the local gin mill—was made in 1946 and appeared in Life magazine.

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Hollywoodland Oct 26 2016
DIGGIN' DOUGAN
The Back makes a spectacle of herself in Hollywood.


In a series of photos made for an edition of Life published today in 1953, actress and model Vikki Dougan takes a stroll around Hollywood and Vine to see what sort of reaction she gets in her back baring dress. Dougan was nicknamed The Back, so this was a publicity stunt designed to increase her recognition as that persona. While the stroll was bold, the dress was actually rather tame for her—on at least a few public occasions her dresses dipped so low she showed ass cleavage, though only at Hollywood events, not outside where she might have gotten in trouble. Still, in the less radical outfit above she draws quite a crowd. Life didn't originally publish all the shots you see here. Some archival images appeared a few years ago and have made their way around the web. If you've been visiting our site for a long time, this series may bring to mind a similar one we shared several years back that was made in Mexico City in 1950 with actress Maty Huitrón. In that group of photos Huitrón was covered from shins to neck, but the effect she had on bystanders was if anything even more profound. You can see that here.

Edit: Turns out the cover and the photos come from two different issues of Life. The photos are actually from 1957, according to the Life website, and they would know (though they get the date of Dougan's cover wrong, saying it was from October 23. But we're sure they're right on the year.

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Hollywoodland Aug 27 2016
WATER DANCE
Ice is nice, but harder than water.


British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir.

In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
 
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 20
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.
April 19
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.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
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