Brando and Niven break hearts and bank accounts on the French Riviera.
Les séducteurs had its French premiere today in 1964, with the above promo art by Russian born illustrator Boris Grinsson paving the way for a U.S. production featuring Marlon Brando, Shirley Jones, and David Niven. Séducteurs translates to “deceivers,” but the original title was Bedtime Story. What you have is a couple of con men who fleece women out of jewels, cash, and more. When they cross paths on the French Riviera their egos bring about a clash of wills and a high stakes wager to see which of them can scam ripe target Shirley Jones out of $25,000. Later the bet shifts to which of them can scam her out of her clothes. File the movie with set-in-France caper comedies like To Catch a Thief, Charade, and Beg, Borrow or Steal. For that matter file it with 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is actually a quasi-remake of this flick. For most watchers Bedtime Story won't be up to the standards of those other films—even the one based upon it—but we thought it was pretty damned good.
The Music Man offers a bit of extra Whiz Bang for your buck.
We got an e-mail from Bill S., who writes about our Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang posting from last week:
Speaking of, said periodical is numbered among “the tell-tale signs of corruption” by Prof. Harold Hill, the Music Man, when he terrorizes the good people of River City with the horrors of Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.
“Is he memorizing jokes from Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang?”
Saw your post and went for my dvd copy of the great movie, as much about changing times as it is about music. Grabbed a screen shot of Buddy Hackett exposing a young lad as a Capt Billy’s reader to his mother.
Love your site.
You can see in Bill S.'s screen grab that, sure enough, Buddy Hackett is holding a copy of Whiz Bang. Meanwhile, Robert Preston is singing: “Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corncrib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain Billy's Whiz Bang?” But Hollywood may have been taking liberties with the time period here, since the first Whiz Bang was published in 1919 and The Music Man is seemingly set years earlier. Bill S. responded:
Prof. Hill lies about being a grad of Gary Conservatory ’05 (“aught five”) and since Preston looks like no spring chicken, I added 15 or so years. Gets it in the range of the mag. Seems like turn-of-the-century but out in Iowa there might have been a lag. Still might. And so Hackett may just be yanking Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang #1 out of the kid's pocket. The birth of modern pulp.
Re: the subtle subtext of a new era: it starts with the opening number, actually a “rap” about all the products the traveling salesman can no longer sell, and that even the profession of the drummer may already be obsolete. Hill’s nemesis sells anvils and carries a sample with him. Hill sells band instruments from a catalog by drop ship. He also peddles a teaching philosophy akin to modern self-help fads. The Think Method. And then there’s the unknotting of Shirley Jones’ repression. Oh my! Has any woman ever looked better in a movie?
An underappreciated work, that Music Man. Ripe for ridicule because of the obviousness of well-known show stoppers, but the love song was covered by the Beatles.
Have to agree about the movie. It’s a good laugh. Even that famous Whiz Bang number—the song “Trouble”—is quite funny. If you get a chance, check it out here. It’s worth your time. When Hackett pulls out the magazine—around the 3:00 mark—you can see the cover clearly, and it’s the one below. What Bill says about Shirley Jones is true, also. She’s very tempting. See the post below.
We are definitely Jonesing today.
Well, we have to thank Bill S. (see above) for this one. He reminded us how good Shirley Jones looked in The Music Man, and so we dug up this image. Year on this? Maybe around 1960, but who can possibly think about that when confronted with such a sight?
Hush-Hush shares its views on homosexuality.
Mid-century scandal rag Hush-Hush gets all riled up in this September 1961 issue featuring cover star Elizabeth Taylor. Inside, readers are treated to exposés of Taylor, Eddie Fisher, Brigitte Bardot, Sonny Liston, and Beverly Aadland, as well as shocking tales about goings-on in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Baumholder, Germany, but it’s in the article on bodybuilding magazines that Hush-Hush truly gets out the knives.
Because erotic publications openly catering to gay males would have caused a legal firestorm in the early 1960s, various enterprising capitalists published gay content in the guise of bodybuilding magazines, using health and fitness as a cover for imagery designed to sexually titillate. Hush-Hush journo Sidney Reed jumps all over this practice in his article, informing readers about the existence of these magazines in terms so abusive we’ve never seen their equivalent in print anywhere. He uses phrases like “sex sick creepsters” and “lunatic depravity”, and there are many more insults, so colorful, so vicious, and piled so high that it begins to feel like satire.
But Reed is 100% serious, perhaps even obsessed. He finds, in one of the magazines he located, an ad for nude photographs of a fourteen-year-old boy, then tars all gay men with that brush, while of course sparing heterosexuals from the same treatment even though the trade in pre-pubescent girls was well-established and well-documented by that time. It’s worth pointing out once again that Hush-Hush wasn’t a fringe publication—it sold millions of copies a month. And so you get a sense of some very prevalent attitudes about homosexuality in the early ’60s. We have many scans below, and more issues of Hush-Hush coming later.
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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