You try staying calm when there's a killer on the loose.
After several years writing up movies being screened at San Francisco's annual Noir City Film Festival we decided not to do it this year. But we're going to make one exception. The 1946 French drama Panique, for which you see a beautiful promo poster above, is showing at the fest tonight, and since we were able to obtain a copy, we had a look. It isn't a film noir. It's a drama starring Viviane Romance, Max Dalban, and Michel Simon, and it deals with a woman named Alice, her lover Capoulade, and her neighbor Hire, who has a crush on her. The set-up suggests love triangle, but Hire has more than just a romantic interest in Alice. He also believes her boyfriend might be responsible for an unsolved murder. The issue he'll confront is just how strong Alice's loyalties to her boyfriend are.
Every year the Noir City Film Festival draws entries from outside the film noir realm. Panique was probably chosen because its subtext deals with bigotry, an evil that is on the upswing across the globe. The character Hire is Jewish, which leads to serious trouble for him as the film progresses. The powerful screenplay was derived from George Simenon's 1933 novel Les Fiançailles de M. Hire (also the source material for the 1989 film Monsieur Hire), and of course in 1933 in Europe, the flames of anti-semitism were being fanned by demagogic leaders into what would soon be the conflagration of genocide. We can't tell you more about the plot of Panique without giving everything away, but we recommend it. Foreign film buffs will certainly enjoy it.
Something else we recommend is our write-up on Viviane Romance from ten years ago. Many European film performers and artists whose careers spanned World War II either fled the continent, ran afoul of the Nazis, or worked out an accommodation that allowed them to continue in their professions. Romance falls into the third category. The French population was somewhat understanding about stars who decided to keep working even after the Nazis took over the French film industry. They were understanding up to a point, that is. If you're interested in learning more just click this link.
Albert Camus' fatal 1960 auto accident may have been a KGB assassination.
Italian author Giovanni Catelli has just published a book that claims French writer Albert Camus was assassinated by the KGB, rather than dying in an auto accident, as largely believed. When you say the words “Cold War intrigue,” we're all in, so the story caught our eye. Catelli's theory, which he first began airing in 2011, is that the KGB silenced Camus because he was a globally famous figure who made a habit of criticizing the Soviet Union. The order was allegedly given by Dmitri Shepilov, the USSR’s minister of internal affairs, after Camus slammed him in the French newspaper Franc-Tireur in March 1957. Camus died in 1960, so the killing took three years to come to fruition, according to Catelli.
His book length argument, La mort de Camus, is getting white hot press right now, however it's very interesting to look back at contemporary articles about the crash. Camus was riding as a passenger in a car driven by his publisher Michel Gallimard, with Gallimard's wife Janine and their daughter Anne in the rear seat. Michel Gallimard died, but his wife and daughter survived to describe the crash. Michel was driving fast and had been told to slow down, and had drunk wine at dinner.
A gander at the wreckage of the heavy Farcel Vega HK500 attests to its speed. We checked the various articles popping up online and found none that mentioned either the velocity of the car or the drinking of the driver, but that's how the internet works—a fantastic claim circles the world five times faster than anything resembling balance or a fact check.
Catelli, though, has an answer for the reckless driving theory—the Soviets had attached a device to the car that would puncture a tire only in the event of sufficient speed. If the Soviets came up with the device described, it would not kick in without the added ingredient of driver haste, which often happens in conjunction with alcohol consumption, which in turn is a near certainty when talking about French people, all of which means the chances of a crash with muddied circumstances were pretty high. The device, if it ever existed, was certainly clever. It would be like a device that tied your shoelaces together, but only if you went downstairs in a rush, and you happened to live in a fourth floor flat with a balky elevator.
Catelli's belief that Camus was disposed of via assassination is bolstered by the fact that the car he was riding in somehow careened off a stretch of straight road thirty feet wide. Nobody described Michel Gallimard trying to dodge a hedgehog or pothole, so despite speed and possible drunkenness, some unforeseen factor seems required to send the vehicle into the weeds. On the other hand, three years is a long time to enact a death plot. We've seen Yankees and Red Sox fans patch their shit up in less time. But let's move this death from the settled bin into the mysterious bin, which is where we like everything to be anyway. Camus, the famed absurdist, once wrote that, “There can be nothing more absurd than to die in a car accident.” And if Catelli is correct, nothing can be more convenient either.
Oh! Heh heh. You had something on your shirt and I was... er... just going to stab it for you.
It's been a while since we featured Michel Gourdon's work, so above you see a cover for L'évadée de Saint-Lazare by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, for Paris based publishers Éditions Robert Laffont, number 29 in its series Collection Rex. The book is about a ruthless criminal named Fantômas, who wears a blue mask and black gloves. He was one of the most popular creations in the history of French literature. Souvestre and Allain wrote thirty-two books about him between 1911 and 1913. That's not a typo. They wrote fast, about a book a month, and were greatly helped by the money earned by selling him to the movies, where he became a stalwart of France's early silent cinema. Éditions Robert Laffont republished the books during the 1960s, with Michel Gourdon illustrating all of them, and the above edition coming in 1963. Rear cover below. We'll probably get back to Fantômas later.
French magazine celebrates essential American film genre.
A few years ago we used this image of German actress Dorothée Blanck as a femme fatale, but didn't scan the rest of the magazine in which we had found her. By now you know why—the pages of these old film mags are large and we have to scan them in halves and put them together in Photoshop or GIMP, which is time consuming, something that's a real problem for lazy people like us. But here we are three years later and we've finally done it. Above is the full cover of the issue of Cinémonde—“cineworld” in English—from which Blanck came.
Cinémonde was first published in October 1928 and ran until being interrupted by World War II in 1940. Post hostilities the magazine reappeared, running from 1946 until 1968, taking another pause, running again from 1970 to 1971, and finally folding for good. This issue hit newsstands today in 1965. Like other European magazines of the era, the main attraction with Cinémonde is that its photos generally have not been seen online before. This issue was devoted to the American western, and the subjects include some of the biggest cowboy stars in cinema history, including John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Clint Eastwood, and Jimmy Stewart.
That's the first half of the issue. Afterward editors move outside the western milieu, and you get Marlon Brando, David Niven, Francois Dorleac, Barbara Bouchet, Serge Gainsbourg, hair secrets of the stars, the top ten Don Juans of French cinema, and more. Do we have other issues of this magazine? You bet. We own a group that includes Cinémonde, Ciné-Revue, and others. Will we ever scan them? Well, we make no promises at this point, but you never know—maybe we'll splash out for a bigger scanner and solve the problem with money instead of effort. Seems to work for everyone else. Thirty plus images below.
French publisher Editions Ferenczi had a Verrou unique way of doing things.
Collection le Verrou (The Lock Collection) consisted of 205 pocket-sized crime novels published in France by Editions Ferenczi from 1950 to 1959. Some were written by French authors using pseudonyms that sounded English or American, while other writers used their real names, such as Alexandra Pecker (yes, that's a real name) and René Poupon (idem). Other books were written by U.S. or British writers and had been previously published. For instance, above you see Le singe de cuivre by Harry Whittington, which you might know as The Brass Monkey, and below you'll find entries from Lawrence Blochman and English scribe Peter Cheney, better known as Peter Cheyney. The art on these books is generally quite colorful. The cover above was painted by Michel Gourdon, and below you'll find another piece from him, many efforts from Georges Sogny, and a couple from as-yet-unknowns. We really like Ferenczi's output, so expect us to share more covers from this publisher later.
Santa Claus, huh? Well, let's see some identification. And get those reindeer back or they'll be sorry.
Above, a nice promo shot for the Dick Powell film noir Cornered, which opened in the U.S. today in 1945. Powell is posing with co-star Micheline Cheirel. If you're interested we talked about the movie here.
I shot the director. But I didn't shoot the D.O.P.
A DOP, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the Director of Photography, the director's creative right hand on a movie set. J. P. Ferrière's Marie-meurtre, which is entry #573 in Editions Fleuve Noir's long-running Spécial Police series, is about a woman whose visiting brother dies in her home of a heart attack, and whose demise is immediately followed by the arrival of a Parisian gangster looking for a cache of stolen jewels. This would normally be a disconcerting development, but Marie has an enemy and the gangster's presence turns into an opportunity for long sought revenge. The book was published in 1967 and it has Michel Gourdon artwork, possibly only tangentially related to the actual content. Since our French is bare bones at best we couldn't pore over the book to find the connection to the cover art. But when you come up with a good caption you just have to run with it.
Well, if that's the way you feel about it, fine—I'll go to the damn grocery store with you.
Here's how food shopping works around here. When we go to the market we buy only enough for a day or two because we want to prevent food from going over, but when the Pulp Intl. girlfriends go they buy more than they can carry. Therefore, when we go alone we never get everything they want, and when they go alone they never have the help they need. We're thinking of buying them a donkey to solve that problem. Paul Kenny's Consigne impitoyable has nothing to do with any of that. It's an espionage thriller featuring the long-running character Francis Coplan, aka FX 18, who works for SDECE (Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage). The series, which was credited to Kenny as a pseudonym but written by Belgian authors Gaston Van den Panhuyse and Jean Libert, was immensely popular and sold tens of millions of copies globally. As you can see, Consigne impitoyable had two nearly identical covers, presumably representing two nearly identical occasions when extra persuasion was needed to get Coplan off his ass to help with the shopping. He may need to buy a donkey too. Both editions had Michel Gourdon cover art and appeared in 1958.
She's not out of the woods yet.
This is your regular reminder that Michel Gourdon was a top notch illustrator, though his brother Alain was the one who attained legendary status. Michel was more of a workhorse, though, painting many hundreds of paperback fronts, which probably contributed to him producing the occasional less-than-stellar effort. But this piece for Pierre Courcel's, aka Roger Jean Tribot's La haine qui rôde, aka The Hatred that Lurks, is Michel at his best. The sports car and female figure are nice, but the background of trees and sunlight is particularly beautiful, we think. It's from 1965 for Editions Fleuve Noir, entry #483 in its long-running Collection Spécial-Police.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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