Vintage Pulp May 1 2016
BERMUDA POLYGON
The mystery happens on an island, alright. But the island is Manhattan.

We thought Bermuda Mystery would be an island adventure, a copycat To Have and Have Not, but not a single exterior scene takes place in Bermuda. The film is actually set in New York City. The mystery of the title refers to an offshore investment fund based in Bermuda and shared by six war vets. If any of the six die before the account comes to maturity the others split the extra, which in a modern storyteller's hands would be a recipe for a Tarantinoesque six-sided gun battle, but which in this film leads to the investors being bumped off one by one. Ann Rutherford plays the classic mid-century ditz role as the niece of the first victim who drags a private dick into the mystery to help her unmask the killer. Of course, romance eventually develops between ditz and dick, though he's engaged to another woman. “I told you I'd get him before this was over,” Rutherford says directly to the audience, winking. But it was obvious from the get-go. Marginally enjoyable if low budget. Bermuda Mystery premiered in the U.S. today in 1944.
 


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Intl. Notebook Jul 16 2015
HELL'S DOORWAY
Once the way is opened it can never be closed.

This photo shows a long exposure of the early instants of the Trinity nuclear test, which was conducted as part of the Manhattan Project at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. It happened today in 1945 and was the first nuclear explosion in human history. 

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Femmes Fatales Mar 20 2014
BLURRED LINES
Focusing on what matters most.

This unusual promo image of American actress Nancy Carroll, née Ann Veronica LaHiff, which features only her face in focus, was made by famed photographer Eugene Robert Richee for Paramount Pictures when Carroll was a contract star for the studio. Carroll appeared in movies like 1928’s Manhattan Cocktail, 1929’s The Wolf of Wall Street, 1932’s The Man I Killed, and dozens of others. Though she’s perhaps not widely known today, she was a blazing star, one of the biggest of her era, until Paramount dropped her for allegedly being difficult. After Paramount she was never an A-list actress again, but she worked until the 1960s and today has a plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This shot dates from around 1930.

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Intl. Notebook Dec 6 2012
MODERN 1947
It was a year to remember.


Above is a photo of Manhattan, New York City, in the year 1947, looking from Battery Park toward midtown. Here you see everything—the Staten Island Ferry Building at bottom, Wall Street to the right, the 59th Street Bridge crossing Welfare Island at upper right, and in the hazy distance, the Empire State Building—at that time arguably America’s most recognized symbol. In the aftermath of a war that had destroyed Europe’s and Japan’s industrial capacity, the U.S. was the unquestioned power on the planet, with massive economic might, a military that had taken up permanent residence in dozens of countries, and a growing stock of nuclear weapons. Two years later the Soviets would detonate their first nuclear bomb, shaking the American edifice to its foundation. Meanwhile, all around the world, the seeds of change were taking root. Below is a look at the world as it was in 1947.


Firemen try to extinguish a blaze in Ballantyne’s Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand.


American singer Lena Horne performs in Paris.

The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and the aftermath of the execution of Hisakazu Tanaka, who was the Japanese governor of occupied Hong Kong during World War II.


Sunbathers enjoy Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and a military procession rumbles along Rua Catumbi.


Assorted Brooklyn Dodgers and manager Leo Durocher (shirtless in the foreground) relax at Havana, Cuba’s Estadio La Tropical, where they were holding spring training that year. Second photo, Cuban players for the Habana Leones celebrate the first home run hit at Havana’s newly built Estadio Latinoamericano.


Thousands of Muslims kneel toward Mecca during prayer time in Karachi, Pakistan.


A snarl of traffic near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.


The city hall of Cape Town, South Africa is lit up to celebrate the visit of the British Royal Family. Second photo, during the same South African trip, the royals are welcomed to Grahamstown.


A wrecked fighter plane rusts in front of Berlin’s burned and abandoned parliament building, the Reichstag. Second photo, a shot of ruins in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter, near Rousseau Island.


A crowd in Tel Aviv celebrates a United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.

Men and bulls run through the streets of Pamplona, Spain during the yearly Festival of San Fermin.


Fog rolls across the Embarcadero in San Francisco; a worker descends from a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Detectives study the body of a woman found murdered in Long Beach, California. Two P-51 Mustang fighters fly above Los Angeles.


Danish women from Snoghøj Gymnastics School practice in Odense.


Tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo demonstrate against the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.


A beauty queen draped with a sash that reads “Modern 1947” is lifted high above the boardwalk in Coney Island, New York.


A woman in Barbados holds atop her head a basket filled with fibers meant for burning as fuel.


Mahatma Gandhi, his bald head barely visible at upper center, arrives through a large crowd for a prayer meeting on the Calcutta Maidan, India.


Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson is hounded for autographs in the dugout during a Brooklyn Dodgers game.

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Sex Files Sep 2 2011
MCMANUS ABOUT TOWN
Making ends meet in New York City.

Virginia McManus, who you see above having a smoke, stars on the cover of this September 1959 Confidential because she transformed from a New York City teacher into an expensive Manhattan call girl. Her fame was typically short-lived in the tabloid universe, but it was hardly usual in its details. McManus was a child prodigy, scion of a well-to-do Chicago family. She moved to New York when she got a job as a substitute biology teacher at Brooklyn’s William Maxwell Vocational High School. But the job didn’t pay well, and she had a difficult relationship with her parents that precluded asking for money, so McManus made the decision to sell sex.

She was arrested for prostitution in October 1958, but acquitted of the charges. The arrest did nothing to deter her—quite the contrary, she gave up teaching and became a full time lady of the evening, eventually partnering with a woman named Beatrice Garfield, whose midtown Manhattan apartment was their base of operations. In February 1959 police raided that apartment and found a nude McManus entertaining two businessmen. This time she was convicted and served three months in New York’s Women’s House of Detention.

In Confidential, she reveals that half the women in her jail were lesbians, and that confinement actually made their lives easier, at least in terms of hooking up without public scorn and legal risk. She was making an important point, but of course it read like something right out of a sleaze pulp novel, and the public ate it up. McManus, understanding the financial opportunity being presented, wasn’t long in writing a book. That book, entitled Not for Love, was published the next year and explained how a child prodigy who could read the Bible at age three and  earned a Master’s Degree in literature became a hooker.

There were several fascinating passages: she admitted that prostitution had been an easy transition for her because she had always been promiscuous, writing, “I had been able to go to bed with five men, all complete strangers, without guilt or horror or even as much revulsion as I had anticipated.” She described some of the other call girls, and how their emotional fragility led to depression and drug abuse, and revealed that, “Inwardly, I hadn’t changed a bit. These “girls” have not matured into adult women, despite the nature of their activities.”

The book was an instant bestseller, and for a time the erudite McManus was everywhere. The woman who spoke so frankly about her experiences in the sex trade, and who had written that, "My father was a shadowy figure in my life, scarcely distinguishable from any other big man with a hat and cigar," was a case study for everyone from Freudians to feminists. But this was New York City, after all, where there were so many scandals and so little time. Eventually, she was pushed from the front pages, the bestseller list, and finally from memory. Today, save for a few copies of her book that appear on auction sites, little trace of her exists in the historical record. 

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The Naked City | Vintage Pulp Nov 23 2010
WAITING FOR LEPKE
Sing-Sing the body electric.


This True Detective from November 1939 features a cover painting of mobster Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, whose flight from authorities had taken him from the U.S. to Mexico, and then to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Cuba, and across the ocean to England, France and Germany. Buchalter had begun his career in organized crime by shaking down pushcart operators in Brooklyn, and had risen through the ranks of the criminal-controlled fur industry by doing every type of dirt imaginable, from issuing threatening phone calls to garment union activists to throwing acid in a competitor’s face. Eventually he was running a criminal empire that stretched to both coasts, and was acting as head of the infamous assassination squad Murder, Inc.

In 1936 Buchalter went into hiding after he became aware that criminal charges were being prepared against him. Not long after he dropped out of sight, he was indicted for smuggling an estimated $10 million in heroin into the U.S. from Hong Kong. The FBI printed a million posters and displayed them in every post office, police station, and federal building in America. All this attention was a problem for U.S. mob bosses, and so with characteristic unsentimentality, they decided Buchalter had to surrender. Convincing him was not difficult. While he undoubtedly had the flair and intelligence to dodge the feds indefinitely, living in another country away from the old neighborhood and away from the hundreds of underlings who respected him was not his style. Buchalter was a mobster through-and-through. To him, an anonymous existence, even in a tropical paradise or cosmopolitan foreign capitol, was little different from being in prison.

Buchalter’s associates got word to him that if he came back to the U.S. he would be able to surrender personally to J. Edgar Hoover. Surrendering to the Feds meant he would not face a more serious group of charges brought by Manhattan D.A. Thomas Dewey. But it was wishful thinking. The federal charges were rapidly followed by Dewey’s charges and Buchalter earned a fourteen-year jolt in the pen. His legal team hoped tohave the sentence reduced via appeals and procedural maneuvers, but when a snitch fingered Buchalter for ordering the murder of a candy store owner named Joe Rosen, he was tried for the killing, convicted, and sentenced to execution. By some estimates Buchalter had been responsible for a thousand murders as head of Murder, Inc., but all it took was one to seal his fate. Louis "Lepke" Buchalter was electrocuted in Sing-Sing prison's famous "Old Sparky" electric chair on March 4, 1944, perhaps while realizing life on a beach in Costa Rica hadn’t been so bad after all.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 3 2009
LEAN ON ME
It’s a wall world after all.

Above are three covers by realist illustrator James Bama, featuring figures leaning against walls. Bama also loves the crossed leg pose you see on two of these pieces and used it on his famous cover for Midnight Cowboy. Bama was born and raised in Manhattan, and you can see his keen eye for urban detail in these pieces, but interestingly, he moved to Wyoming and became a leading painter of western-themed art. In fact, he was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame because of his western art. But we prefer the citified Bama. The realism and immediacy of his early paintings is unmatchable. These are three of the best examples.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 19
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
August 18
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
August 17
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
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