Expectation and reality don't meet in Rat Pack classic.
This is a tasty poster for Colpo grosso, and at first glance you'd expect the movie to be a dark thriller, giallo, or film noir. But then you notice the cast list at top—Martin, Sinatra, Davis, Jr.—and it probably dawns on you that this must be Ocean's Eleven. The poster was painted by Averado Ciriello and we have no idea why he went so dark with what is basically a comedy, but it's great work. Actually, it's better than the movie. For Sinatra-philes, Rat Pack lovers, or people who haven't yet seen Ocean's Eleven, that statement may seem sacriligious, so we won't try to back it up with our words—we'll just note that reviews of the day called it lazy and too long, and currently it has less than a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Basically, despite being a cultural touchstone of a film, it isn't that good, with its main problem being that it's plain boring in parts. However...
The movie has tremendous value. A lot of contemporaneous reviews hated it because of its insouciant attitude toward the heist. New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther said it was “nonchalant and flippant towards crime,” and also described it as amoral. “Young people,” he wrote, “are likely to find this more appropriate and bewitching than do their elders. The latter are likely to feel less gleeful in the presence of heroes who rob and steal.” So it's clear that Ocean's Eleven flagrantly defied the strictures of the Hays Code censorship regime, which was weakening but still intact. The Code stated that in no film should the sympathy of the audience be “thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil, or sin,” yet audiences loved Sinatra and his party bros, and their laissez faire attitude was a needed course correction after decades of creative suppression. It's a shame then, that Ocean's Eleven isn't just a bit better.
Hitchcock says no festival for you this year!
The 73rd edition of the Festival de Cannes, aka the Cannes Film Festival, would have kicked off today in the south of France, but was cancelled a while back. It's just one of a wave of event cancellations that will cascade through the year. Festivals as diverse as Burning Man and San Fermin, aka the Running of the Bulls, have also been shelved. But getting back to Cannes, we thought this would be a good moment to commemorate past fests with some historical photos. Above you see Alfred Hitchcock on a boat with the town in the background, in 1972, and below are about fifty pix from the 1940s through 1970s, documenting various iconic moments, and a few quieter ones. Maybe the Cannes Film Festival will back next year, maybe not. At this point, predicting anything is an exercise in futility. But at least we'll always have the memories.
Edith Piaf sings on the terrace of the Carlton Hotel on the iconic Boulevard de la Croisette at the first Festival de Cannes to be held under that name, in 1946. Back then the event took place in September and October, but would shift to May a bit later. Diana Dors and Ginger Rogers arrive at the fest the only way anyone should—breezing along the beachfront in a convertible, in 1956, with an unknown driver. Kirk Douglas holds court on the beach in 1953, and Brigitte Bardot soaks up rays in the foreground. Michele Morgan poses at the first Festival in 1946. Photo ops of this sort were essential sources of publicity for stars, and would soon become opportunities for non-stars seeking to be discovered. Case in point. Robert Mitchum poses with actress Simone Sylva in 1954. Sylva was allegedly not supposed to be there, but shucked her top and photo-bombed Douglas in an attempt to raise her profile. It didn't work. She made only a couple of credited movie appearances after her topless stunt. Romy Schneider and Alain Delon at the 1959 fest. An unidentified model or actress poses in the style of Anita Ekberg from La dolce vita in 1960. This looks like it was shot at Plage du Midi, which is a beach located a little ways west of the Cannes town center.
A unidentified partygoer is tossed into a swimming pool after La Dolce Vita won the the 1960 Palme d’Or. The Festival is almost as well known for legendary parties as for legendary film premieres. Another unidentified model or actress poses on the boardwalk in 1979. Generally, you don't have to be known to draw a crowd of photographers—you just have to be nearly bare. She's wearing lingerie, so that explains the interest, though this is modest garb for a Cannes publicity stunt. It's never a surprise to see a headline-seeking film hopeful strip all the way down to a string ficelle féminin, or thong, which is the limit of what is legal in Cannes Sidney Poitier and Jean Seberg have a laugh in 1961. This was the year Poitier's flick Paris Blues was released, so it's possible he had jetted down from the capital for the Festival. Philomène Toulouse relaxes on the sand in 1962 while a boy practices the classic French look of disgust he'll be using the rest of his life.
Actor Bernard Blier, 1975.
An unidentified bikini wearer boldly enjoys a lunch in a café on the Croisette, 1958.
Natalie Wood aboard a sailboat in 1962. Grace Kelly, 1955. Kelly times two—Grace Kelly and Gene Kelly, hanging out, also in 1955. Sammy Davis, Jr. poses in front of a billboard promoting his film A Man Called Adam, 1966.
Joan Scott gets sand between her toes in 1955. Scott is obscure. She isn't even the most famous Joan Scott anymore. The IMDB entry for the only Joan Scott near the appropriate age is for an actress born in 1920 who didn't begin acting until 1967. The Joan Scott above doesn't look thirty-five, though, and we doubt she would have been the subject of this somewhat well-known photo without parlaying it into a film appearance before twelve years had passed. So we don't think this is the Joan Scott referenced on IMDB.
Sharon Tate, with Roman Polanski, and solo, 1968. Marlene Dietrich brings glamour to a tiki themed bar in 1958. Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock release caged birds as a promo stunt for The Birds in 1963. Sophia Loren sits with husband Carlo Ponti, who was a member of the 1966 Festival jury. Raquel Welch poses on a motorcycle in 1966. Jane Birkin takes aim with one of her cameras in 1975.
Dorothy Dandridge frolics in 1955, when she was promoting her film Carmen Jones. Cinematic icon Catherine Deneuve and her sister Françoise Dorléac in 1965. Dorléac died in an automobile accident a couple of years later.
Robert Redford lounges on the beach in 1972. Based on his outfit you'd think he was in Cannes to promote The Sting, but he was actually there for his western Jeremiah Johnson, which screened May 7 of that year. Sophia Loren waves to well-wishers in 1964. Bogie and Bacall paired up and looking distinguished in 1957. John and Cynthia Lennon in 1965, and John with Yoko Ono in 1971. Every story John told on that second trip probably started with, “When I was here with the first love of my life...” until Yoko smacked him across the mouth. Rock Hudson and bicycle in 1966. Unidentified actresses pose on the beach in 1947. To the rear is the Hotel Carlton, mentioned in the Edith Piaf image, built on the Croisette and finished in 1910. George Baker, Bella Darvi (right—your right, not his), and an unknown acquaintance have a surfside run/photo op in 1956. Jayne Mansfield and Russian actress Tatiana Samoïlova enjoy a toast in 1958. Mansfield probably shared the story of how she once made Sophia Loren stare at her boobs, and Samoïlova said, “Cheers to you—well played, you provocative American minx.” French actor Fernandel, whose real name was Fernand Contandin, on his boat Atomic in 1956. Arlette Patrick figures out a different way to generate publicity—by walking her sheep on the Croisette in 1955. A pair of water skiers show perfect form in 1955, as a battleship floats in the background. Jeanne Moreau, for reasons that are unclear, poses on a banquet table in 1958. Most sources descibe this in such a way as to make it seem spontaneous, but we have our doubts. It's a great shot, though. Two unidentified women take in the scene from the terrace of the Hotel Carlton, 1958. This shot is usually said to portray two tourists, but the woman on the left is the same person as in the bikini lunch shot from earlier, which tells us she's a model or actress, and both photos are staged. Like we said, publicity is everything in Cannes.
Danielle Darrieux and Sophia Loren at the 11th Cannes Film Festival, 1958. Italian actress Monica Vitti chills on a boat in 1968. Aspiring stars catch some rays on the Croisette beach in 1955. The two large posters behind them are for The Country Girl with Grace Kelly, and Jules Dassin's Du rififi chez les hommes, both below. The renowned opera singer Maria Callas, 1960.
Tabloid obsesses over Kim Novak on her psychiatrist’s couch.
In a story entitled “What Kim Novak Won’t Tell Her Psychiatrist,” this issue of Uncensored from April 1962 promises “the most intimate, revealing self-portrait of a guilt-tormented soul that you have ever read.” What does the magazine reveal? Apparently Novak’s father was disappointed to have had a daughter instead of a son. Novak’s father is portrayed as domineering and distant, and this relationship is cited as the cause of all her “neuroses,” from her preference for slacks and shirts over dresses and skirts, to her supposed shame over sex. Even her short hair is blamed on her father—she allegedly cut it off as an expression of self-loathing. But here’s the bit we love: “He is a father who raised no objection when nightclub entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. showed up at Kim’s home in Chicago with a engagement ring one Christmas.” Yes, this father of hers was truly the lowest of the low.
The story goes on to describe all the various hells Novak put her employers and paramours through, reveals a lifetime of analysis beginning in childhood, and outs her for an alleged late 1950s stint in a psychiatric facility, where she received “mechanical tests”—i.e. an EEG. It finally ends on a melodramatic note: “Kim fled the hospital, fled the analyst, fled the dark memories. She went back to making movies, to throwing temper tantrums. And, on occasion, to more solid things. She went back to the loneliness she dreads. To the big house that is haunted by shapes, people, memories she dare not dredge up and face lest the strain be too much, added to other strains.” You’d almost think journalist Marian Simms was writing a Harlequin novel—a bad one.
Uncensored offers readers much more than Kim Novak. Journo Ken Travis takes down King Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson in a story rather amusingly titled “Those Royal Money Grubbing Windsors,” raking them over the coals for being filthy rich but too stingy to even pick up a dinner check. Elsewhere in the issue Hitler’s Heirs author Paul Meskil offers a story claiming with 100% certainty that Nazi criminal Martin Bormann was hiding in Argentina. But embarrassingly, Bormann was nowhere near South America—he died in Berlin at the end of World War II, but his body wasn’t found and identified until 1972. You also get letters from readers, photos of Vikki Dougan doing the twist, trans pioneer Coccinelle showing off her cleavage, a really cool 8mm movie advert that bizarrely misidentifies a California blonde type as Romanian-Tatar dancer Nejla Ates, and more.
Who can take a tragedy and make it a success? The Candyman can.
A world-weary Sammy Davis, Jr. appears here in a photo shot by Peter Basch in the back of a Chicago limousine. Davis was about to go to New York to star on Broadway in Clifford Odets and William Gibson’s Golden Boy, a musical involving a boxer’s turbulent career, doomed interracial romance, and eventual suicide. Not exactly an uplifting night out, yet the show ran for 569 performances and the cast album cracked the Top 40. That’s called star power, and Davis, who was already huge in Hollywood and the music industry, had it to spare. The photo dates from 1964.
Precisely when it’s scarcest is when you want it the most.
Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay, Elvis Presley, Eartha Kitt, and more. This issue of Whisper published this month in 1965 tells tales about some of the most popular stars of the day. And then there’s Hayley Mills, former child star who was trying to make a full-grown career for herself where breaking from type often involves shocking the public. In Mills’ case, she planned to star in the film Candy, which was to be an adaptation of the banned satirical novel Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg had based on Voltaire’s Candide. Considered one of the sexier novels of the time, it touched on homosexuality, masturbation, interracial relations, and seemed like a disastrous choice for wholesome Hayley Mills. But if she actually wanted to change that image what could do it? Candy could. Whisper warns Mills away from the role: “We’ll bet her fans—and the moviegoing public at large—won’t buy it.” Dire words, indeed. But in the end, Mills never got the role. It went instead to Swedish actress Ewa Aulin.
Whisper also discusses the infamous relationship between Sammy Davis, Jr. and Kim Novak, and ponders whether Novak is still carrying a torch for Davis. Journalist Pete Wallace doesn’t interview Novak, but manages to score quotes from many acquaintances—or so he claims. The upshot? Novak’s life has been a shambles ever since the relationship ended, but Wallace, trying to reason from afar with Novak, explains that Sammy dropped her for both their sakes because of the forces—studio, family, the American public, and eventually the Mafia—that were arrayed against them. But Wallace also sympathizes. He writes: “If the one man she ever really loved walked out on her (never mind that it was for the best of reasons) how can she trust herself to anyone less?” Who could ruin you for other men forever? The Candyman could. We have nineteen scans below of all that and more, and many more issues of Whisper to come.
You wouldn’t mind terribly if we steal your nickname?
Today we have a January 1961 issue of Confidential for you, with cover stars Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt. Since we’ve already discussed Sammy and May of late, and even made her a recent femme fatale, we’ll skip past them and focus on another interesting story—the tale of Diane Harris, who shot to notoriety as a witness in the infamous Minot Jelke pimping trial of 1952. We wrote about it back in 2009—Jelke was an oleomargarine heir who was cut off from his trust fund and decided to turn his girlfriend Patricia Ward into a prostitute in order to make ends meet. Ward became known as the “Golden Girl of Vice” and “The Golden Girl of Café Society,” which is why it’s interesting that Confidential calls Diane Harris “The Golden Prostitute.” Apparently Jelke had the Midas touch.
Confidential wastes no time in its article. It begins: She gave herself a title… Lady Diana Harrington. The New York D.A. gave her another… the Golden Girl of Café Society. Houston police gave her a third, less flamboyant title… prostitute. Uh oh—the New York District Attorney’s nickname for Harris is identical to Patricia Ward’s nickname. After a few more paragraphs of reading, it becomes clear that Confidentialbelieves the Golden Girl is Diane Harris—not Patricia Ward. While it’s true that Harris did use some aliases, including Lady Diana Harrington and Mary Lou Brew, nowhere is the name Ward mentioned as a pseudonym.
After searching high and low for some idea of whether we were dealing with one woman or two, we finally saw in the IMDB page on the 1995 Jelke biopic Café Society that Patricia Ward and Diana Harris were played by separate actresses—Lara Flynn Boyle and Cynthia Watrous. So was there some confusion in 1961 about who exactly the Golden Girl was? Looking back at our original post on the subject, the photo of the Golden Girl on the cover of Hush-Hush shows a blonde. Confidential has numerous photos of their Golden Girl Diane Harris, and a single photo they identify as Pat Ward. Just plain Pat—no Golden, no nickname at all. And she’s a brunette. So not only does Confidential identify the Golden Girl of Café Society as Diane Harris—turns out so did that March 1961 Hush-Hush. We just didn’t realize it at the time.
Our mistake came when we first researched the Jelke trial and found a New York Times movie review that identified Pat Ward as the Golden Girl. From that point we just ran with it and never thought to doublecheck. Until today. Now, based on available evidence, it seems that at some point over the intervening years the historical record got twisted and the label Golden Girl was applied to Patricia Ward, where it stayed even up to thepoint of a Hollywood motion picture misidentifying her. She was indeed Minot Jelke’s girlfriend, whereas Harris was just a fellow high dollar prostie (and corroborating witness), so perhaps some clever scribe, or even the writers of the 1995 movie, decided that such a catchy nickname would be better applied to the girlfriend. At least that’s the way it looks to us.
If we’re right, is any of this important? Does it matter that Harris was fleeced of her nickname, or possibly that a movie took liberties and those liberties were later assumed to be facts? Do we expect an award? No, not really, but it’s interesting. Confidential barely recounts the events of the trial. The story is actually about Diane Harris being found dead in a Houston apartment eight years afterward, in September 1960. She was still a prostitute at the time. Confidential tells us: The blonde’s nude body was in bed, a green sheet and a pink blanket covered her. Pictures of herin more glamorous days were on the walls. An autopsy disclosed a large amount of morphine in her body. Police theorize that a combination of drink and drugs killed her.
Diane Harris had wanted the best life had to offer, and money meant everything. All her friends and acquaintances knew that about her. According to her maid, even at the end she still bragged about once being able to command fifty dollars per date. An obsessive desire for luxury drove her into the arms of rich, uncaring men, and eventually, in order to maintain her high flying lifestyle, into prostitution. The one piece of her that endured long after she died naked and surrounded by bottles and pills was her famous nickname—The Golden Girl of Café Society. But she eventually lost that too.
What was it Shakespeare wrote about rough winds and May?
Above is a publicity photo of American singer/actor/comedian Sammy Davis, Jr. with his Swedish bride, actress May Britt. The shot dates from today in 1960, and as you might guess, that was a very bad time for mixed couples. Sammy had for years been making tabloid headlines for dating white women ranging from Tinseltown icon Kim Novak to Canadian singer Joan Stuart, but when he announced plans to marry Britt, a chunk of the general public lost its collective mind. He faced racist banners and chants in London, received rafts of hate mail, and was confronted in Los Angeles with the bizarre spectacle of three men marching outside the Huntington Hartford Theater in nazi regalia. Even two admirers, John and Robert Kennedy, allegedly asked Frank Sinatra to tell Davis to delay the wedding until after the 1960 presidential election.
Professionally, Britt had to choose between her career and Davis, because it was quite clear that she would never be hired in Hollywood if she married him. Some websites suggest that she lost little because she was a minor talent at best, but she had appeared in over a dozen films and had made the cover of Life magazine twice before even meeting Sammy, so her expectations of a strong run in Hollywood were in no way delusional. Obviously, she chose love over career, and wed Davis at his home in the Hollywood Hills. Some of the guests at the reception included Peter Lawford, Diana Dors, Barbara Rush, Janet Leigh, Leo Durocher, Shirley MacLaine, Milton Berle, and Edward G. Robinson, Jr. The marriage lasted eight years—not long in the real world perhaps, but an eternity by Hollywood standards.
11:1? We'll take those odds.
Above, a Japanese poster for the original Ocean’s Eleven, with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Sammy Davis, Jr., et.al., in a tale of the ultimate Las Vegas casino heist, which is basically just a flimsy excuse for the boys to sing, joke, drink, and look cool. They're great at all of those, though the movie could be better. It opened in Tokyo today in 1960.
She danced her way from New York to stardom.
Cuban-descended American-born dancer and singer Lola Falana, who was discovered in a New York City nightclub by Sammy Davis, Jr., and went on to become a major star in Italian cinema.
The heart wants what the heart wants, the world tries to stop it.
Above is a colorful cover of the tabloid Top Secret, from this month 1960, with Sammy Davis, Jr. composited next to a woman the magazine says is his future wife, Canadian singer Joan Suart. But things change quickly in Hollywood. Davis had just broken off his engagement with Stuart and was already seeing Swedish actress May Britt, who he would marry in the autumn. In any case, Stuart doesn't look anything like Kim Novak, the world class beauty Davis had briefly been involved with and who he may well have been pining for since their split. We’ve mentioned the story before: when Novak was possibly the most famous woman in cinema, she and the Candyman started sleeping together. Her studio bosses weren’t about to risk the news reaching the public, so they spoke to some Mafia friends and had Sammy kidnapped to throw a scare into him. It worked, and the affair with Novak ended.
It gets worse. The Mafia then pushed Davis into a marriage with a black dancer—just to squelch the Novak rumors that had begun to crop up—and the union lasted less than a year. His marriage to May Britt lasted longer, about eight years, but even though Sammy had found a woman the Mafia didn’t care about, most other Americans were scandalized. It was driven by racism, of course, but it was also driven by that eternal desire to control women’s sexuality. Ask any woman you know, and she'll agree that men are always trying to tell her whom she can sleep with, irrespective of skin color. Davis thought he could handle the public fallout from his interracial marriage, but when John F. Kennedy caved in to political pressure and removed him from the bill of a White House party, it scarred Davis and led to the bizarre sight of him endorsing Richard Nixon and even hugging him on live television.
There’s a second interesting story here, about the child star Evelyn Rudie, left. Rudie was nine years old in November 1959 when, without telling anyone where she was going, she hopped on a plane for Washington, D.C., with the purpose of seeing First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Rudie supposedly broke open her four piggy banks and collected $160.00 in change, which was just enough for a ticket to D.C. And why did she want to see the First Lady? Here’s what she said at the time: “When I saw Mrs. Eisenhower in Washington last year, she told me that her grandchildren and the President enjoyed my acting so much. So I decided to talk with her and see if she couldn’t get me a part in a film or television series.” That’s called going straight to the top. But Rudie never got to see the First Lady. Mainly, she just made headlines. And that’s the most interesting part about this—the headlines did not concern the fact that she had traveled alone, but that the whole scenario might have been a publicity stunt. How times have changed. Today, her parents might end up in jail for neglect. We’ll have more from Top Secret soon.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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