I do everything big—guns, smokes, uh, pockets. Acting, of course. Everything is over the top.
Above: a cool shot of Betty Lou Gerson, made when she was starring in the 1949 anti-communist scare flick The Red Menace. We talked about it many years ago. Shorter version: the real menace was toward the filmgoers. Gerson, who is known today for narrating the Disney film Cinderella and voicing Cruella de Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmatians, did most of her acting on television, appearing on such shows as Gang Busters and Adventures of the Falcon. Looking at the above image, we actually aren't sure whether the gun was big, or Betty Lou was small, but either way, it makes her look pretty menacing.
Ready, aim, when the concession manager bends over we all nail him in the ass.
Today in 1955 the soon-to-be global tourist attraction Disneyland debuted to 28,000 invited guests, media, and assorted celebrities on hand to lend a bit of glitz to the kitsch. Stars who were present included Eddie Fisher, who hosted the festivities, Debbie Reynolds, Danny Thomas, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Art Linkletter, Irene Dunne, Jeff Chandler, Eve Arden, Marilyn Maxwell, George Gobel, Margaret Whiting, Gale Storm, Charlton Heston, and many more. The above photo shows, left to right, Adelle August, Steve Rowland, and Kathleen Case enjoying the air rifle attraction, and Case in particular must have been a hell of a shot, firing away from the hard-to-master seated position. No word on whether any of the trio won a prize, but we doubt it. On the other hand, considering the congestion and the mess 28,000 people can make maybe the prize was being allowed to the front of every line and having a celebrity potty watched over by a furry mascot wielding a mop and bucket. We aren't sure how long Case and Co. hung around—it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit that day and the water fountains weren't functioning—but it looks like they went above and beyond the call of publicity. If we had to guess, though, we'd say they left immediately after Case felt the monkey's warm anus on her bare shoulder.
I can’t wait until I can afford a good pair of high heels—then when I walk all over these chumps it’ll actually hurt them.
Above is the cover for the 1952 Lion Library paperback edition of Ward Greene’s Cora Potts, which was originally published in 1929 as Cora Potts: A Pilgrim’s Progress. An illiterate country girl robs her father’s store, runs away barefooted to the big city, eventually commits murder, and ends up a respectable, nouveau riche society wife. Greene was saying that the U.S. was a country that rewarded greed and ruthlessness, while respect for the rules was peddled to the lower classes to keep them in line. Some critics found this formulation unpalatable, and many thought the part where Potts burns through $100,000 in one year was just impossible. As that’s only about $1.3 million in today’s money we find their protests bizarre, but in any case Greene had based his character on an actual femme fatale with the amazing name of Kitty Queen.
Catherine Queen, as she had been born, indeed progressed from barefoot Georgia bumpkin to bejeweled society dame. She became public knowledge briefly in 1929 when her dupe of a husband, a prominent banker, was nabbed for embezzlement and the facts of his lavish expenditures on Queen came out at trial. How much had he spent on her in a year? $147,000. And like Cora Potts’ hapless first husband, Queen’s husband still loved her, wrote heartrending letters from prison, and sent her the few meager dollars he still collected via various means. And yet Queen never visited him once, same as Potts never visits her imprisoned spouse. The Manhattan critics who doubted the novel's verisimilitude knew nothing about Kitty Queen, but Greene had lived and worked in Atlanta and down there her story had been big news.
The cover at top is by Mal Singer, and the art from Lion’s 1955 re-issue at right was painted by Robert Maguire. Greene’s book is surprisingly obscure today, but its general message that in a corrupt society vice is virtue resonates more than ever. His genius was also in having a female character behave in a way typically ascribed to successful men, and having her go unpunished for breaking both the rule of law and of gender. Greene touched on similar themes more than once, but also wrote upbeat material. One of those pieces was a short story called, “Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog,” which appeared in Cosmopolitan and became a primary inspiration for one of the most beloved screen romances of all time—the animated feature Lady and the Tramp.
And just to dig as deeply into this subject as we can, there is some confusion online about when Greene wrote that dog story. Nearly every website says 1943, but then again nearly every website copies from other websites. A couple of sources say the story is from 1924, while a French page says 1937. We don’t know when he wrote it, but we’re inclined to believe the 1924 date. Greene was already in his mid-thirties by then, and had been writing for Cosmo since at least 1923, publishing a piece on F. Scott Fitzgerald that year. We think Walt Disney probably read the Happy Dan story in 1943 in an old Cosmo, and at that point contacted the now respected literary figure Greene about buying the property and adapting it. But we don’t know for sure. Someone in the real world of actual libraries with actual paper info will have to sort this one out.
Better dead than red.
Above: a rare poster for the Republic Pictures drama The Red Menace, which as you might guess was a cheeseball propaganda film designed to instill terror into Americans about communism’s plans for global domination. You get plenty of subterfuge here, along with lots of betrayals and a few brutal beatdowns, and one of the commies—Betty Lou Gerson—would later portray purest evil by voicing Cruella de Vil in Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Ironically, when The Red Menace premiered the U.S. government was entering into a period during which it would sponsor numerous anti-democratic coups in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. This was unknown to most Americans, but it’s debatable whether they would have been concerned. The years immediately following World War II marked a rising anti-communist wave in the U.S., a movement that would create fertile conditions for the political stardom of witch hunting senator Joseph McCarthy. He would flame out within a decade, but at the beginning of his crusade he had substantial public support. For its part, Republic Pictures was interested more in profit than propaganda, and Menace was rush-released to take advantage of the public mood. The haste showed—the movie was spectacularly, hilariously bad, and is considered today by many to be the Reefer Madness of anti-communist films. It premiered today in 1949.
It’s the oldest game in Hollywood—show a little skin and score free publicity worth millions.
American actress Adrienne Bailon, of Disney’s prefab musical group the Cheetah Girls, claims her laptop computer was stolen and photos on the drive intended for her boyfriend Robert Kardashian were made public without her knowledge. The shots show virtually nothing, as you can see yourself, and don’t seem the sort of pix a lustful boyfriend would snap. There’s an axiom in this business: if the nudity isn’t fully revealing the photos ain’t legit. Ever since Cecilia Cheung’s sex pix got out, our standards have risen—and our requirements too. But clumsy publicity stunts date back to the earliest days of Hollywood, which means we can post Adrienne’s photos without feeling duped, because fake or not, they’re pulp. Ass for Ms. Bailon, we’ll just say fame is the most addictive drug of all, and we are never surprised what people will do to attain more.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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