A favor turns fatal in MacDonald mystery.
This is just the sort of eye-catching cover any publisher would want from an illustrator, an image that makes the browser immediately curious about the book. Since so many John D. MacDonald novels were illustrated by Robert McGinnis, and the female figure here has the sort of elongation you usually see from him, you could be forgiven for assuming at a glance that this is another McGinnis, but it's actually a Stanley Zuckerberg effort, clearly signed at lower left. We've run across only a few of his pieces, namely The Strumpet City and Cat Man. This is by far the best we've seen.
The story here is interesting. It begins with a woman having drowned in a lake and a sister who disbelieves the verdict of accidental death. She's right, of course, and the detective she hires soon agrees with her. The mystery is quickly revealed to involve taxes, deception, and money—specifically money the dead woman was supposed to keep safe and which has now disappeared. In an unusual move, MacDonald unveils the killer two thirds of the way through the tale, and the detective figures it out shortly thereafter. The final section of the book details his efforts to trap the villain.
This is the last book MacDonald wrote before embarking on his famed Travis McGee franchise. It was within the McGee persona that MacDonald indulged himself in often tedious sociological musings. In The Drowner his characters ring more true, but you can see signs of what is to come in several existential soliloquies concerning the state of the world and the various frail personality types that inhabit it circa 1963. For all our misgivings about the McGee books, they're still good. But we especially recommend any novel MacDonald wrote that came earlier, including this one.
Update: We got an e-mail from Pamela, who told us, "The plot seemed familiar, and sure enough - it was an episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre back in 1964."
We had a look around for it, with no expectations of success, but lo and behold, we found the episode on Archive.org, which often has public domain films and television shows on its platform. We watched the episode, which stars Aldo Ray, Clu Gallagher, and Tina Louise, and we have to say, John. D. MacDonald was probably thrilled. The adaptation is almost exact, with only a bit of license taken with the climax. The only thing he would have hated is that he's credited as John P. MacDonald. The only thing we hated was the lo-rez quality. Oh well. You can't ask for perfection when it comes to early television.
With special guests the Slaymates of the year.
Today we have some beautiful rarities, a set of door panel posters made for the 1968 Dean Martin spy movie spoof The Wrecking Crew. Martin played the wise-cracking and woman-loving Matt Helm, a character created by novelist Donald Hamilton. There have been a lot of loveable drunks in cinema, but Martin certainly was one of the most popular. Boozy Matt Helm was a perfect role for him, and the first film became the launching point for a series that stretched to four entries.The Wrecking Crew was the last film, coming after 1966's The Silencers and Murderer's Row, and 1967's The Ambushers. The movies were populated by a group of women known as “Slaymates,” and the actresses on the posters below are posing as members of that deadly cadre. They are, top to bottom, Sharon Tate, Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise, and a fifth woman no other website seems able to identify, but who we're pretty sure is Kenya Coburn.These posters are 51 x 152 centimeters in size, or 20 x 60 for you folks who measure in inches, and they caught our eye mainly because of Tate. There's been renewed interest in her, including portrayals in two 2019 films—The Haunting of Sharon Tate and Quentin Tarantino's new effort Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Her poster is definitely one of the nicest pieces of Tate memorabilia we've seen.
We glanced at The Silencers a while back and found it just a little too dumb to consider slogging through the series, but maybe we'll have another go at it. We're sort of newly interested in Tate too, and since The Wrecking Crew was her next-to-last screen role, we want to have a look. Allegedly, Dean Martin quit this highly successful franchise because it felt wrong to go on with it after the Tate–LaBianca murders in August 1969. From what we've read about the era, Martin was far from the only person who felt as if that event changed everything. These days Tate's death makes anything she's in seem ironic and portentous, even, we suspect, a piece of fluff like The Wrecking Crew.
If there's a reward here it's going to be damned hard to get.
In a reward based system, Tina Louise would be the carrot, but since it looks like the punishment part is anything from a bump on the head to a hole in the heart, perhaps it's best to just to stand pat. Born in New York City as Tina Blacker, Louise is best known for playing sultry Ginger Grant on the television comedy Gilligan's Island, but she is also a veteran performer from such films as God's Little Acre and Warrior Empress, the latter of which gave the world the above promo shot. It was made in 1960.
There’s no horse or carriage, but if you want, we can go on a different type of hayride.
This week’s page from the Goodtime Calendar of 1963 features the work of German born glamour photographer Peter Basch, whose photography appeared in magazines like Life, Look, and Playboy. This particular model is unknown to us, but during his career Basch photographed pretty much every prominent celebrity, among them Mansfield, Bardot, Andress, Belmondo, Mastroianni, Brando, Dali, Cocteau, Monroe, et. al., and published them in numerous photography books that sold well and made his name internationally known. Some of those appear below, with cover stars Candice Bergen, TIna Louise, and Brigitte Skay.
As the end of the year grows near, the Goodtime editors seem to be running on empty with their quips. We still can’t figure out why they can get images from some of the best photographers of the day, but can’t find better quotes. Since speech is free for anyone to use as long as it’s attributed, they have access to pretty much everything that has ever been said by humans in all of history, but instead settle for the wisdom of guys like Jim Conway and Johnny Morgan. Oh well. It’s a mystery.
Sep 29: Men really understand women—some say they don’t because it’s cheaper that way.
Sep 30: A fence between makes love more keen—German Prov.
Oct 1: Women’s slacks: Cutting to get to the bottom of every figure problem.
Oct 2: Modern wife: A woman who knows her husband’s favorite dishes and the restaurants that serve them.
Oct 3: “A man never knows that a woman has any old clothes until he marries her.”—Jim Conway
Oct 4: “If it wasn’t for marriage, husbands would have to fight with strangers.”—Johnny Morgan
Oct 5: “The only time an experienced husband puts his foot down is when his wife’s finished vacuuming under it.”—Henry Morgan
Check out the above shot of American cinema legend Cary Grant, looking his debonair best on the cover of the Chilean movie magazine Ecran. And on the back cover is Tina Louise from the days before she was banished to Gilligan’s Island. "Ecran" is not, as far as we can tell with our imperfect language skills, Spanish, but rather French. The word means "screen," but we don't think the magazine is affiliated with French film magazine L’Ecran. We could be wrong about that, though. In any case, we have more issues of Ecran we'll show you later. This one was published in 1959.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Boston Strangler Convicted
Albert DeSalvo, the serial killer who became known as the Boston Strangler, is convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison. He serves initially in Bridgewater State Hospital, but he escapes and is recaptured. Afterward he is transferred to federal prison where six years later he is killed by an inmate or inmates unknown.
1950—The Great Brinks Robbery Occurs
In the U.S., eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston, Massachusetts. The skillful execution of the crime, with only a bare minimum of clues left at the scene, results in the robbery being billed as "the crime of the century." Despite this, all the members of the gang are later arrested.
1977—Gary Gilmore Is Executed
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States. Gilmore's story is later turned into a 1979 novel entitled The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
1942—Carole Lombard Dies in Plane Crash
American actress Carole Lombard
, who was the highest paid star in Hollywood during the late 1930s, dies in the crash of TWA Flight 3, on which she was flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after headlining a war bond rally in support of America's military efforts. She was thirty-three years old.
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