Everyone in Paris hopes for a glimpse of Nico's velvet underground.
Una ragazza nuda, for which you see two beautiful Angelo Cesselon posters above, was originally released as Strip-Tease, and called in the U.S. Sweet Skin. It was an Italian/French co-production starring Krista Nico, née Christa Päffgen, better known as just Nico, future collaborator with the Velvet Underground. Her supporting cast includes Dany Saval, Jean Sobieski, and American jazz pianist Joe Turner playing a character named Sam (IMDB has him incorrectly listed as playing himself). Basically, the movie is the story of an ambitious dancer who can't catch a break, and takes a job stripping at Le Crazy Horse, the famed Parisian cabaret.
Nico goes through the typical stages of becoming the jaded, empty woman viewers have been taught to expect in movies like these. But what isn't typical is the setting. If you're looking for a film with overwhelming Parisian atmosphere this is the one. Streets, cafés, restaurants, the Seine, the wintry countryside, Hippodrome de Vincennes, and the Crazy Horse (or a fictive stand-in) are all on prominent display, and the stripteaseuses are beautifully showcased. And keep an eye out for cameos from Serge Gainsbourg and Juliette Gréco. We just came back from Paris last year and thanks to this flick we're already trying to figure out how to return.
On a technical level, the direction by Jacques Poitrenaud and cinematography by Raymond Pierre Lemoigne both take advantage of the film's many wonderful settings, but the on-camera performances aren't quite at the same level. Nico is a novice actress at this point and it shows, but her minimal emotional range fits with her character. Joe Turner isn't an actor at all and that shows too, but as the conscience of the film his role also works. Some movies are more than the sum of their parts, and Una ragazza nuda adds up to an excellent ninety-five minutes. It premiered in Italy today in 1963.
Oh, I plan to go for his body, alright. Particularly below the belt. I hope he plans the same for mine.
Ed Lacy is a fascinating writer, a fearless craftsman who sought unique angles for his vivid, often racially charged tales. His 1954 novel Go for the Body is a story of amazing imagination dealing with an ex-boxer and would-be promotor named Ken Francine who runs across a black American boxer in Paris. Francine already knows this other boxer, Bud Stewart, from Stateside. In fact, Stewart was the reason Francine retired, a decision brought on by a brutal ass-whipping that exposed his deficiencies in the ring. Now, years later in Paris, Francine sees an opportunity for profit, and begins pushing Stewart up the ladder in the European fight racket. The text on the cover art is deceptive. The book isn't really about the love story, “DIFFERENT” or otherwise, between Stewart and his beautiful wife. It's about Francine, local politics, the dirty work of promoting boxers, and murder.
In the hands of a brilliant writer this could have been an all-time classic. Don't get us wrong—it's still enjoyable. Lacy evokes the atmosphere of Paris effortlessly by sharing minute details. He never crosses the line into travelogue. A quip about the trendiness and expense of Perrier followed by a local's aside that the pipes in European cities weren't always great is enough to plant the idea in the reader's head that fizzy bottled water became popular because it was known to be clean. Another example is how Lacy doesn't bother to describe any of the geography or people of Champs-Élysées, but simply notes that you see big American cars there. He makes clever choices like these throughout Go for the Body, never taking the obvious route, instead relying on readers' ingrained knowledge of Paris from popular culture to fill in the blanks.
His plot does the same. There are few obvious turns. Guessing which direction the narrative will go will likely prove fruitless. Of course, certain aspects are required, such as the Parisian flavor, the post-war malaise, and the nostalgia for a lost love. And naturally, boxing novels nearly always lead up to a big fight, and this one does too, in Milan, Italy. But there's far more on the line in that final bout than any reader could possibly suspect when the book begins. That's the main reason we give Go for the Body a thumbs up—its scope. Lacy is no Faulkner or Malamud, and his main character Ken Francine is confoundingly slow-witted at times (as an ex-fighter who was literally beaten into retirement it's possible he's not supposed to be very bright), but the tale delivers a solid punch. It may not knock you for a loop, but in the end the decision goes in its favor.
You'd be vicious too if you ate only once a month.
When we last saw Bertrand the Werewolf—on a very nice 1951 cover of Guy Endore's The Werewolf of Paris—he had been unleashed by the full moon and was dining out in decidedly un-French style. On this 1962 Ace Books edition he's finished his meal and is pondering possible desserts. He looks considerably more menacing here than on that previous cover thanks to the skill of the artist, who is, incredibly, uncredited. For that Ace receives a serious demerit, because this is special work and it should have been attributed. Bad publishers! We'll dig around and see if someone has an idea who painted it.
How many secrets can one man keep?
Charade is one of the great romantic thrillers in cinema history, and is a movie you should definitely see if you haven't. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman whose husband is fatally thrown off a speeding train and Cary Grant is a charming but mysterious stranger willing to render aid in solving the murder. But Grant has ulterior motives, as well as multiple identities. Others are interested in the killing too, and it soon develops that they're after $250,000 worth of missing gold.
The movie is great, as legions of fans and critics have agreed, but in addition to its narrative, directorial, and acting brilliance, what we like about it is that the unlikeliness of the May-December attraction between Grant and Hepburn does not go unaddressed. At one point Grant, 59, quips to Hepburn, 30, that he's afraid he'll be arrested for transporting a minor. We love the tack taken in dealing with the romance because it gives the audience credit for being intelligent enough to appreciate the subtleties of life. That's increasingly rare in popular movies—as well as in popular culture.
For example, these days there's talk of such things as “age appropriate” relationships, the inference being that older men should not be with younger women (and possibly vice versa). Horseshit. We can think of little more sexist than assuming women aren't able to make their own life choices. Consenting adults—older/younger, male/male, female/female, other/other—trying to find love will tend to look anywhere they can, and internet tribunals can take a flying leap. We don't say that merely because neither Pulp Intl. girlfriend is age appropriate. We say it because nothing in this life is more important than finding the right partner.
Interestingly, numerous other mid-century films—among them classics like Sabrina and To Catch a Thief—also addressed the presumed incongruity of older men with younger women, and did it in an empathetic, humanistic way. Charade does it more amusingly than most. Grant is initially embarrassed by Hepburn's attentions, but of course she eventually wears him down. The film mixes comedy, romance, and thrills, plus it was made in beautiful locations around Paris, all of which makes it a total winner. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
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.
Parisian publisher does erotica as only the French can.
Today we have for your enjoyment an issue of Paris Frou Frou, #46, published in 1956. This was the brainchild of S.N.E.T.P., which decoded is Société Nouvelle D'editions Théâtrales Parisiennes. See, the French understood that smut must wear a fig leaf of intellectualism, which is exactly why we write so much on Pulp Intl. rather than just publish reams of nude photos. Hah, just kidding (did we mention the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are out of town?). The eroticism is just a bonus that comes with all the fiction, film, and art. And it's a bonus that helps our traffic.
Anyway, on the cover of this mag is Austrian actress Nadja Tiller, and the rear features a nice shot pairing yanks Lori Nelson and Mamie Van Doren. With a wrapper like that the inside must be nice, and indeed it is. You'll see Sabrina, the one-name star time has forgotten, as well as U.S. nudist model Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey. If your memory is very sharp you'll recall one of the same Webber photos appearing in an issue of the U.S. magazine Male from 1958 we shared a while back. Mixed in with the celebs is the usual assortment of Parisian showgirls. We'll revisit Paris Frou Frou later.
I love you, tiny shoe. I'm going to draw out the delicious anticipation before I put my foot inside you.
More from France today. Above you see Envoûtement sensuel, by Pierre Sénard for Éditions C.P.E., published in 1958. The title translates to “sensual enchantment,” and enchanting is a perfect word to describe this cover, which has a very romantic feel. The art wraps around onto the book's spine too, which makes it even nicer. We assume the cover figure is contemplating something other than her right shoe, but maybe not—we know a couple of women that get this way about footwear. The artist here is Jacques Leclerc, who signed his work as Jihel, and we think it's among his best.
Who needs a man when you have technology?
Éditions R.R. specialized in beautiful covers, and this one continues the trend. The art is by Jef de Wulf, and it fronts Dit oui, Madame by René Roques. You can't tell, but this is about a woman who falls in love with a robot. And he's a French robot, so he shares his feelings, which is more than you do. Roques actually got racy enough here that the book was banned shortly after publication in 1957. Still, we bet it wasn't as wild as this mechanical lover novel. Or for that matter this one. They say robots are going to take all our jobs. Add sex to the list.
For you this is just a light, but for me it's the beginning of a toxic sexual obsession and eventual restraining order.
We're going to do one more entry on France before we head to other countries. Once we have time to do some intensive scanning you'll see the bulk of our Paris treasures. Paris, by the way, is a city where strangers often ask you for a light, which is why we thought of the above subhead. If we actually smoked it would be a great way to meet people, but since we never have an actual light all interaction ends there. So while we learn how to smoke, above you see a cover for Elle ne perd pas son temps, by George Maxwell, aka Georges Esposito, for Presses Mondiales and its series Les grands romans dessinés, published in 1953. These were comic books adapted from the series La Môme Double-Shot, specifically 1952's La belle se joue à deux, which you can see here. Elle ne perd pas son temps translates to “She doesn't waste her time,” and neither did the artist Jacques Thibésart, aka Mik, when he painted this nice cover. If you're inclined you can see examples from him here, here, and here, and you can certainly expect more in the future.
Finally a place where the left/right divide isn't a bad thing.
No pulp hunter in Paris can possibly do without a trip to the bouquinistes, the sellers of used and antiquarian books located along the Seine. Actually, you don't even have to look for these guys. If you go into the city center you'll likely run into them without trying, since they're rather widely arrayed along the river's right bank between Pont Marie and Quai du Louvre, and on the left between Quai de la Tournelle and Quai Voltaire. It was rainy both days we popped by, which meant some weren't open. But even operating at less than half capacity, the bouquinistes had hidden treasures. We grabbed a few little things we'll be scanning and uploading imminently. For example, see the following post...
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1960—To Kill a Mockingbird Appears
Harper Lee's racially charged novel To Kill a Mockingbird
is published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. The book is hailed as a classic, becomes an international
bestseller, and spawns a movie starring Gregory Peck, but is the only novel Lee would ever publish.
1962—Nuke Test on Xmas Island
As part of the nuclear tests codenamed Operation Dominic, the United States detonates a one megaton bomb on Australian controlled Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. The island was a location for a series of American and British nuclear tests, and years later lawsuits claiming radiation damage to military personnel were filed, but none were settled in favor in the soldiers.
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
1948—Paige Takes Mound in the Majors
Satchel Paige, considered at the time the greatest of Negro League pitchers, makes his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His career in the majors is short because of his age, but even so, as time passes, he is recognized by baseball experts as one of the great pitchers of all time.
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