Femmes Fatales Mar 4 2024
GOODNIGHT IN WHITE SATIN
Zip your pants and keep them zipped, Harry. I'm going to bed and you aren't coming with me.

Above is U.S. actress Joan Perry in a promo image made for her 1936 crime drama Shakedown. She appeared in about twenty films beginning in 1935 and was out of acting by 1941, when she married Columbia Pictures co-founder and president Harry Cohn, one of the most hated and feared men in Hollywood. Cohn allegedly attacked actresses, demanded and received sex for film roles, and infamously had mob acquaintances threaten to kill Sammy Davis, Jr. if he kept canoodling with Kim Novak. Perry stayed wedded to the guy for seventeen years, until his death. Afterward, she married twice more, but one union lasted only two years, and the other lasted three. Which goes to show that you never can tell about relationships—or for that matter, people.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2023
JACK AND THE BOX
Rise by the camera, fall by the camera.


Above is a promo poster for the 1950 drama Shakedown made for the Italian market, where it was called Jack il ricattatore, or Jack the blackmailer.” It stars Howard Duff as a photographer whose ambition pushes him across the line into criminality. We talked about it a while back. The poster is signed by an artist we can't identify—it looks like “e-pic.” We've seen other work by this person, but we don't have a real name or any other biographical info. This is a nice effort, so we'll an eye out.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 1 2023
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDREL
Danger there's a Shakedown dead ahead.


If only real life were bounded by the same rules as mid-century cinema. In real life you can screw someone completely to succeed and in many quarters you're hailed as an amazing talent and can even run for president, but in vintage cinema anyone who succeeds had better do it via fair play or the screenwriters will punish them. In Shakedown, Howard Duff plays an ambitious photographer symbolically named Jack Early, who takes shortcuts to success in San Francisco. He talks his way into a job at a local newspaper, and during his duties quickly reveals himself to be not only ambitious, but amoral. He generates a pile of off-the-books cash with various hustles, and reaches a point where he's full of himself, reckless, and dressing like he runs a stable of hookers on the side.

It's not a surprise when, at this point, in an act of utmost hubris he pits two deadly gangsters against each other by using photos of one engaged in a criminal act. When his blackmail results in one crook blowing the other up with a bomb, Early is right there with his camera and is almost killed too. But he gets the photo. It earns him upper tier status among San Fran lensmen, and the best assignments. But even that isn't enough for him. When one magazine editor offers him top rates for his services, his response is: “The top's too low.”

Clearly someone suffering from this level of egomania is headed for a mugshot session or a mortuary—the mid-century movie censorship regime demanded it. The only question is how exactly does Early go down. We'll only tell you that his journey is entertaining, if unlikely, and the film on the whole is a better than average vintage drama, bolstered by the rock solid Peggy Dow in a supporting role, along with Brian Donlevy and Lawrence Tierney as Gangster A and Gangster B. When it's all over you'll believe the corrupt always lose—on the screen anyway. Shakedown premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 25
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels, dies after a long battle with cancer.
June 24
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
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