The mission statement was simple—take potshots at every star in the firmament.
Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.
For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?”
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."
This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.
Aiiieee! I can’t stand the clutter!
You can find plenty of amateur reviews of La mansion de la niebla, aka Murder Mansion, aka Maniac Mansion around the internet, so we won’t add another. We watched it, though, and basically, it’s about a bunch of people stranded in a fogbound manor house, and a plot to frighten one of them to death. Hope that didn’t give away too much. What really struck us was the poster, which was painted by an artist who signed his work Mac. Mac was short for Macario Gomez, and for four decades beginning in 1955 this Spanish painter created posters for such films as Dr. Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More, El Cid and others. Gomez’s effort for La mansion de la niebla is a bit cheeseball, but we rather enjoy the numerous elements he managed to fit in, including a disembodied face, some skulls, a ribcage, a full moon, assorted gravestones, some random ironwork, a spider web, a bare tree, a couple of bats, and, of course, copious fog. Faced with all that, it’s no wonder the central figure is fleeing for her life. But just to show that Gomez really does have top tier talent, we’ve shared a few of his more successful posters below. La mansion de la niebla, an Italian/Spanish co-production, premiered as Quando Marta urlò dalla tomba in Italy, and in Spain six weeks later, today 1972.
Suppressed was in rare form in November 1955.
Above is the cover of the NYC based tabloid Suppressed from this month in 1955. This issue shows Suppressed in full bloom—bold, brash, fearless. Within the next two years a series of Hollywood lawsuits against scandal magazines would begin to make editors wary of being dragged into court for committing libel and slander, but 1955 was still the heyday for celeb bashing, and Supressed engaged in what might be best described as open warfare against film stars. Here’s a small sampling of some of the gut punches in this magazine:
Marlon Brando: silly.
Anita Ekberg: egocentric, a martyr.
Rita Gam: the all-time fizzle of 1955, a bad actress, with a figure that leaves something to be desired.
Judy Holliday: pudgy.
Marilyn Monroe: childishly immature, with an inferiority complex.
Debbie Reynolds: inane.
Gloria Vanderbilt: unable to think of anyone besides herself; has more neuroses than acting talents.
Robert Wagner: pompous, unintelligent.
We could go on, but you get the point. We’ve written many times on this website that nothing in media is truly new, and this is yet another example. Click over to any muckraking celebrity blog right now and you’d think journalism, as well as simple grammar, went down the toilet around the year 2000. But no, they were always in the toilet. Remember, Suppressed and its brethren Confidential, Whisper, On the QT, Hush-Hush, et.al., were not fringe. By itself Confidential was thebiggest newsstand seller in the U.S. These publications were powerful. Like modern American cable news, they assumed leading roles in making the public swallow false political memes—a commie under every bed, a black man in every bed, and the loose women who made it all possible.
But unlike today’s fawning cable news, Suppressed was generally scornful toward the rich. For instance, this issue discusses millionaires’ secret playgrounds while parking quotation marks around words like “classy,” and “the right people.” The actual playgrounds are described as “last stand” resorts, where the rich can feel safe from the rabble of middle class America. A few pages later the editors decry nepotism in Hollywood, naming a dozen famous actors and actresses who allegedly got their start because of mommy and daddy’s money. All in all, Suppressed is a head spinning mixture, and at the end of each issue a typical reader was probably convinced of one thing—the only good people in the world were those who were exactly like him.
Oh this? It hasn't caught on yet, but one day everyone will carry one, believe me.
Mary Murphy, not to be confused with her many famous namesakes, was an American actress best known for co-starring with Marlon Brando in The Wild One. She played a virginal small-town girl, yin to Brando’s vagabond rebel yang. And what a pair they made. In this photo Murphy has a more mature yet still innocent look, gun accessorized. No date, but assume late 1950s.
Inside Story was never a top tabloid, but it still managed to entertain.
Sex, celebs, and swindles make up the bulk of this Inside Story from October 1958 with Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg starring on the cover. All tabloids had a snappy slogan. Inside Story’s is “Tells the facts about people, the news, and the world we live in.” Doesn’t exactly send chills down the spine, does it? Maybe that’s why Inside Story was always strictly a middle of the pack tab, never achieving the rarefied heights of Confidential or Police Gazette. But on to the stories. In this issue readers are told that a relationship with Anita Ekberg comes at a high cost—not in money, but in frayed nerves due to her demanding behavior, alleged examples of which are detailed from London (caught by police having sex in a parked car) to Rio de Janeiro (abandoned her boyfriend and flew back to Sweden without a goodbye). Inside Story also expounds on Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi, as well as Gloria de Haven and the unnamed Central American dictator’s son (Ramfis Trujillo, discussed last year) who was so struck by her beauty that he spent a fortune in time and money trying to get her into bed. Errol Flynn's supposedly inflated reputation as a lover also takes a hit, and both the horse racing industry and restaurant business provide material for insider horror stories. All in all, it’s a nice slate of articles, well worth the twenty-five cent asking price. We have twenty pages of all this for your enjoyment below, including a large scan of Diana Dors, because, well, she’s Diana Dors.
The National Insider takes the hatchet to Marlon Brando with the help of his ex-wife.
This issue of the tabloid The National Insider from today in 1965 gives us Lee Harvey Oswald’s military background, Jayne Mansfield’s thoughts on abortion, and Madelyn Murray’s views on religion. But all those pieces are trumped by the excoriating hatchet job on Marlon Brando written by his ex-wife Anna Kashfi. She reveals that Brando slapped her, tried to bully her into giving up her acting career, and never forgave her for being less than forthcoming about her eastern Indian ancestry. She also slams Harry Belafonte for lying to her to cover for the time Brando spent wooing the French actress France Nguyen. Kashfi had a lot to get off her chest, so much that Insider featured her revelations in four consecutive issues, basically turning her into a guest columnist complete with byline and inset photo. She must have really gotten an appetite for this kind of writing, because in 1979 she published the book Brando for Breakfast, which is still regarded as one of the most shocking tell-alls ever written. In that one she claimed Brando had sex with a chicken. For the love of God, cock-a-doodle-don’t.
I will not open up and say ahh, Marlon, and FYI you're not funny.
Promo photo of Marlon Brando seriously invading Mary Murphy’s personal space on the set of The Wild One, 1953. See two more stills from the movie here.
Hard facts and grim fairy tales.
Above is the cover of a December 1963 Uncensored, with Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Carroll Baker and Steve McQueen. Inside, you get them, plus Suzy Parker, Elizabeth Taylor, Gemel Abdel Nasser, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Ursula Andress, Sean Connery, and the great Jean Seberg. And as a bonus, you can learn about hypnotism. We did it, and it really works. *wiggling fingers* Yooou will retuuurn to our website eeeevery daaaay. See all of our Uncensored posts here.
The fast and the furious.
Above you see the Swedish promo art for the seminal youth rebellion drama Vild Ungdom, aka The Wild One. When it premiered in Stockholm, moviegoers heard this:
“Pops, you pick up on this jive, man?"
“You pick up on this jive, this crazy music here, man? Did you dig the rebop?”
“The rebop, dad! The rebop! He’s a square, man. Don’t you get this at all?”
We’d love to have seen the subtitles, because after that the dialogue gets so crazy even we can’t transcribe it, but that’s The Wild One—a different type of cinema, and a new kind of star in rough and tumble Marlon Brando. Some people think 1955 was the zenith of the American empire. If that’s so, then The Wild One is the proverbial writing on the wall that change was in the wind. Brando and the rest of his Black Rebel Motorcycle Club roared across movie screens in Sweden for the first time today in 1954.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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