Hollywoodland Sep 7 2012
WHAT'S THE LOWDOWN?
From Hollywood brawls to wet celebs Lowdown gives readers their money’s worth.


This issue of The Lowdown from September 1957 has three stories of particular note, we think. First, readers learn about Diana Barrymore’s fast, out-of-control life, which she had shared with the world earlier that year in an autobiography entitled Too Much, Too Soon. She had just gotten out of a long stint in rehab, and the book was a sort of catharsis, as well as an attempt to let the show business world know that she was cleaned up and ready to work again. But the revelations in the book were of a sort that had never before been encountered by the American public in an autobiography, and the controversy never really faded. Even Mike Wallace asked Barrymore in a televised interview if, like the title of her book, it all wasn’t a bit much. Three years later, at age 38, Barrymore died from an oh-so-familiar lethal Hollywood combo of booze and sleeping pills.   

Readers are also told about a brawl at the house of Peruvian singer Yma Sumac. She had just filed from divorce from her husband Moisés Vivanco and had gone by to pick up a few items. In no time at all, she, singers Esmila Zevallos and Benigno Farfan, and private detective Fred Otash got into a hair-pulling scuffle, with the family dog at the center, to boot. Even the L.A. Times covered the fight. It seemed no couple could be more in need of a permanent split than Vivanco and Sumac, but the divorce didn’t take—they remarried later the same year.

And finally Lowdown takes Life magazine to task for not having the guts to publish racy photos of Sophia Loren from her 1957 romance Boy on a Dolphin, about a woman in the Greek Isles who while diving for sponges discovers a potentially valuable, ancient gold statue of a boy on a dolphin. We’re talking Sophia Loren in wet clothes. And really, that brings us to the entire reason we’re featuring Lowdown today—so we have an excuse to publish one of the photos in question. There it is below, and now your Friday has gotten that much brighter, right? More from Lowdown soon.

Update: a great color photo from the film just showed up online. We've added that at bottom.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 24 2011
ALL THE RAVE
Skating on thin ice.

Rave, for which you see a cover above, was a low budget U.S.-based magazine that launched in 1953 as a celeb publication, quickly moved into scandal and gossip, but didn’t survive beyond 1956, as far as we can tell. The graphic design was revamped twice, and so we suspect it just never found its niche in a crowded tabloid market. But it wasn’t for lack of providing celebrity rumormongers what they craved. This August 1955 issue discusses Serge Rubinstein’s murder, Anita Ekberg’s bombshell status, Jackie Gleason and more, but of special note are two stories: one about Sonja Henie, and another about Sheree North.

Sheree North, not well known today, was a dancer-turned-actress who in the mid-1950s was groomed (like so many other women) as the next Marilyn Monroe. She even made the cover of Life with the caption: “Sheree North Takes Over from Marilyn Monroe.” But it didn’t happen. Though North had a couple of hit films, her on-deck status was quickly usurped by another bottled blonde named Jayne Mansfield. North had done some burlesque early in her career, and Rave claims she had a few stag reels floating around. We don’t know about that, but there was a 1951 clip called the “Tiger Dance” that certainly pushed the bounds of contemporary sexiness. We found an upload of it, and you can see it here.

The story on Sonja Henie is a bit more interesting. A Norwegian-born world and Olympic champion figure skater, Henie shot to international fame at age fourteen and turned that recognition into a Hollywood career. She became extremely popular as a screen star, and the same drive that sparked that success fueled her personal life. She married three times and had numerous affairs, including with Tyrone Power and allegedlywith champion boxer Joe Louis. But the mystery man Rave hints at on its cover is none other than piano player Liberace, just above. If you know anything about Liberace then you know his dates with Henie were just for show. But as a gay or bi celebrity—and both were designations he denied until his dying day—dating women would have been a completely understandable strategy to avoid being outed by the time's vicious tabloids and losing his musical career.

Henie, on the other hand, rarely let controversy get in the way of her decisions if she thought the result would ultimately be a net gain. This is possibly why she publicly greeted Adolf Hitler with a Nazi salute at a Berlin exposition in 1936, and why she sought Joseph Goebbels’ help in distributing one of her films in Germany. Yet you have to assume that anyone who would hang out with and possibly sleep with Joe Louis didn’t have rock solid racist views. But as millions died, her behavior can only be seen as shameful. However she returned to Norway with Holiday on Ice in 1953 and again the year Rave published the above cover and was warmly greeted, if not quite totally forgiven. Henie died of cancer in 1969, but as another fascinating product of a complex time, we suspect her name will come up on this website again.

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Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Apr 26 2011
STARDOM CALLING
Marilyn had a little lamb, but soon she'd have the world.

By now we shouldn’t be surprised where Marilyn Monroe turns up. Still though, we never thought we’d see her befrocked and befrilled, fondling livestock in a field. Yet there she is on the April 26, 1946 cover of the women’s magazine The Family Circle. At the time, Monroe was modeling just about anywhere she could find work, going by her real name Norma Jeane Daugherty. She was twenty years old, one year away from her first film appearance, and two years away from her first minor film contract with Columbia Pictures. The year after that, in 1949, still trying to make ends meet, she posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley. In 1952 one photo from that session ended up on a Western Lithograph Co. pin-up calendar. Monroe was a contract player with 20th Century Fox by then, and the studio feared the photos would cause a scandal. They were wrong. Monroe admitted posing nude to pay the rent, and the public was fine with it. The next month she appeared on the cover of Life. Said Monroe: “Oh, the calendar’s hanging in garages all over town. Why deny it? You can get one anyplace. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Monroe’s career took off from there, but there’s a modern postscript to the story—namely, with the internet being what it is (a massive repository of misinformation the likes of which we never could have imagined a mere fifteen years ago), there are many shots of Monroe out there that are misidentified as the one that ended up on that 1952 calendar. So we took the liberty of posting a scan of the Life story, with its inset of the Monroe calendar. The shot you see there—and not the several others appearing on assorted websites—is the one that scandalized Monroe’s bosses but was shrugged off by the public. The nude image is pretty small in Life, but the internet being what it is (a massive repository of nakedness the likes of which we could never have imagined—but always hoped for), we were able to simply grab a larger version of Kelley’s shot and post it below so that, for purely academic interest, you can have a closer look. The photo will disappear if we get a cease and desist order, but for now it’s there.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 10 2010
FEAR OF A BLACK HAT
You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

We ran across another cool publication from Singapore, this one an English-language movie magazine called Movie News. This issue is from 1951 and features black-clad cover star Randolph Scott about to ventilate somebody with his sixguns. Inside the magazine are a couple of faces that are new to us— Zachary Scott and Miroslava. Zachary Scott, in panel nine, is unrelated to Randolph Scott, but had a moderately successful Hollywood career of his own, appearing in some westerns, as well as in the acclaimed noir classic Mildred Pierce. He died of cancer in 1965 at age fifty-one. Miroslava, née Miroslava Sternova, in panel four, was born in Prague in 1925 but fled that war-torn city for Mexico in 1939. A beauty contest opened doors in Hollywood for her, and she acted in about a dozen films and even once graced the cover of Life. At the age of thirty she committed suicide over a failed love affair. What we’ve read about her is quite interesting, so we’ll get back to her at a later date. 

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Mondo Bizarro Oct 26 2009
BLEW IN THE FACE
This isn’t going to make me look like a fool is it? Because I hate looking ridiculous.

Sequence of photos from Life magazine showing a subject experiencing the effects of a 300 mph wind in the face. It looks bad, but this guy is lucky because the technicians like him. They launch jelly donuts at the guys they hate.      

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Hollywoodland Jul 14 2009
TAYLOR REIGN
Liz Taylor may be the last big star who came out of Hollywood’s old studio system.

It’s amazing how few people these days know Elizabeth Taylor is a highly regarded two-time Oscar winner who ruled Tinseltown for twenty solid years. Though she's certainly well-known, the reasons for her fame are beginning to fade from popular memory. But she was a once-in-a-generation talent who scored four Oscar nominations in her career, notching her two wins for Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She was also the most highly paid performer in the world, and one of the first true tabloid queens, with paparazzi dogging her every step from Hollywood to Rome. Looking at this Life cover from sixty-two years ago today, we get a glimpse of the beauty that fueled the worldwide Taylor obsession.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
December 04
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
December 03
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
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