Modern Pulp May 21 2022
PLAIDING HIS CASE
Something old, something new.


This is something a bit unusual. It's a life-sized promotional cardboard cut-out for 1982's film noir-sourced comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which starred Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. We thought of this film recently due to Martin's new Agatha Christie-influenced television mystery series Only Murders in the Building, which we watched and enjoyed. We first saw Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid years ago, long before Pulp Intl. and all the knowledge we've gained about film noir. We liked it much better during our recent viewing.

If you haven't seen it, Martin uses scores of film noir clips to weave a mystery in which he stars as private detective Rigby Reardon. Aside from Ward, and director Rob Reiner, his co-stars are Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, and many others, all arranged into a narrative that turns out to be about cheese, a Peruvian island, and a plot to bomb the United States.

The film's flow only barely holds together, which you'd have to expect when relying upon clips from nineteen old noirs to cobble together a plot, but as a noir tribute—as well as a satircal swipe at a couple of sexist cinematic tropes from the mid-century period—it's a masterpiece. If you love film noir, you pretty much have to watch it. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid had its premiere at the USA Film Festival in early May, but was released nationally today in 1982.

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Vintage Pulp May 12 2022
AN EXTASE TRIP
Pack light and leave your inhibitions behind.


This poster was made in Liege, Belgium for the romantic drama Extase, starring Austro-Hungarian beauty Hedy Lamarr. Based on a novel by the Vienna born author and actor Robert Horký, the film opened in Belgium today in 1933, after having premiered in then-Czechoslovakia as Ekstase in January of that year. It isn't a pulp style film, but it's significant, which is why we had a look. It's about a young upper class woman in an unfulfilling marriage who solves that problem by acquiring a sidepiece in the form of a worker played by Aribert Mog. This results in some steamy moments and—some viewers say—the first orgasm ever depicted onscreen. “Some viewers” are right. There's no doubt. In the midst of a nocturnal tryst Mog's head and torso slide off-frame, as Lamarr breathes more and more heavily before finally grimacing in lovely fashion and snapping her string of pearls.

Yeah, this is hot stuff for 1933. And we thought everyone was having a great depression. Shows what we know. If the title Extase doesn't tell you what's going on, consider the fact that Hedy's character is named Eva, and Mog's is named Adam. It's that kind of movie. In a way, an orgasm was inevitable. Lamarr also captures moviegoers' attention with a nude swim and sprint through the fields that occurs about twenty-eight minutes in. Why's she running around starkers? Her mare Loni decides to get herself some equine action and abandons Hedy—taking her clothes along for the ride. Always make sure to tie your mount to something, especially when it's horny. Lamarr really is naked in the scene, too, which few modern performers would do in this age of new puritanism. It's thanks to this run through the wild that she meets Mog, the eventual master of her clitoris, if not her heart.

Extase isn't a silent film, but it's close. There's a lot of orchestral music and only a dozen or so sections of dialogue. Even so, it's very watchable. The visuals tend to be laden with meaning in films such as these, but some scenes require no interpretation at all, like the bit where a couple of horses mate (not Loni and her love, sadly). They don't show it of course, but the crash zoom of a mare's backside from the point-of-view of the stud horse gets the idea across with remarkable subtlety—not. It was hilarious, actually. But hey—even horses feel extase, because it's just a natural thing, see. On its own merits we'd call Extase more of a curio than a cinematic triumph, but it certainly achieves what it sets out to do, and that's success of a form, even if it would be forgotten without the orgasm. But that's often true, isn't it?
Loni! Come back, you stupid horse! That jumpsuit doesn't even fit you!

Why hello, lovely naked creature.

You rude beast! Try taking a picture. It'll last longer.

Already done. With my mind. Deposited you right in the spank bank.

Bank— What? Spank what? Oh, never mind. Give me my clothes.

Objectify me, will you? Two can play that game. Duh... nice package! Duh... I'm an idiot!

Thanks. And you're not an idiot—many women agree with you about my package.

No, I'm objectifying you, like you did to me.

Like a sex object. I understand. That's cool. I love sex.

No, I mean I'm debasing you via the reduction of any unique and admirable qualities you might have down to the purely phy— Oh, forget it! You're too dumb to understand.

Oh... oh... oh! It's true he lacks... formal education...

But he sure knows how... to make a girl... SNAP HER PEARLS!

*sigh*

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Vintage Pulp May 5 2022
MODESTY TO A FAULT
Twentieth Century Fox chooses goofs over thrills for Blaise adaptation.


After writing about the first four Modesty Blaise novels over the last few years we figured it was time to talk about Twentieth Century Fox's cinematic pass at character. You see a brilliant poster for the movie adaptation above by Bob Peak, who seems to be reminding people that Robert McGinnis wasn't the only painter capable of working in this style. Two more versions of the poster appear below, and you can another example of his work here.

We'd heard for years that Modesty Blaise is a terrible movie, but it isn't—lightweight might be a better description. It's based on the debut novel, and while author Peter O'Donnell plays it straight apart from the affable relationship between Blaise and her partner Willie Garvin, here in the movie Blaise has a space age apartment, a sentient computer, a huge lobster tattoo on her thigh, an adoptive father, and a referential theme song. The villain, meanwhile, drinks goldfish water, wears a chauffeur's cap, and uses a Japanese pai pai fan. At a couple of points Blaise and Garvin burst into song together. All these touches must have baffled fans of the book, and indeed the additions are pointless in our opinion, but that's cinema. Filmmakers are not transcribers—they're translators, and if you know anything about translation you know it's not done literally.

The main question is whether star Monica Vitti does the legendary main character justice. It was a lot to ask, after Modesty became popular thanks to three years of popular daily comic strips followed by a well received novel. We think she manages fine with the material she's given, but there's the rub. While the screenplay follows the basic thread of the novel, the flow is clunky and the dialogue is cluttered with non-sequitur asides and attempts to be cute that make Vitti resemble Emma Peel from The Avengers rather than the lethal woman O'Donnell created. In terms of the actual story, Modesty is tasked with stopping a master criminal from stealing a cache of diamonds meant for her father (we know, we know—she's an orphan in the books, and it defines her character). She's had dealings with this quirky crook before and would like to settle matters between them permanently. That means traveling from London to Amsterdam to his rocky stronghold on Sicily for a final showdown—in good pumps and a diaphanous haute couture a-line dress.

The action, which is central to the books and written with deadly seriousness, is mostly played for laughs. We mean even to the extent of villains crashing into each other to the accompaniment of circus music. We think this is probably the movie's only unforgivable sin. O'Donnell took pride in his action sequences, underpinning them with ingenious forethought by Blaise and Garvin and violent precision in execution. All the humor and cuteness would have been fine if the movie had thrilled where it most needed to, but no such luck. So in the end what you get is a cutesy spy caper of a type that was all too commonplace during the 1960s, but even goofier than most. We think the movie should have been something fresh and surprising, and in ways that go beyond its glossy high fashion aesthetic. Unfortunately, the final result is no better than watchable, though it becomes progressively more enjoyable the more booze that's ingested. Hit the liquor store before screening it and you'll find out for yourself. Modesty Blaise premiered in London today in 1966.
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Vintage Pulp May 4 2022
HIGH REVOLTAGE
Touch a hot Stover and you'll get burned.


Above is a promo poster made for the Jane Russell drama The Revolt of Mamie Stover, which premiered in Honolulu today in 1956, and was sourced from William Bradford Huie's novel, a book we discussed at length some months back. The movie was directed by Raoul Walsh of Casablanca fame. He's properly credited on the above art, but for some reason on the second poster, which you'll find below, his name appears as Walsh Raoul. It's a weird mistake to get past so many studio eyes, but things like that happen, we guess. The U.S. art is uncredited, but the third poster, also below, was made for the film's British release and that was painted by Jock Hinchcliffe. He wasn't a noted stylist whose work is especially sought after today, but he did paint numerous posters, and he signed the piece below. Anyone who did that gets singled out here, because so few artists were credited by the studios.

Regarding the movie, needless to say, the challenging themes of Huie's novel were turned on their head by Hollywood. Mamie is no longer a racist toward Hawaiian islanders—in fact, the one islander character who gets to speak is bigoted against her. And she's no longer a prostitute but a hostess who induces men who frequent Honolulu's Bungalow Club to buy more booze and pay extra for private time. That private time takes place in a rattan decorated sideroom, but there's no bed evident. Instead there's a table and two chairs, so apparently men pay just to chat with Mamie, and the other women at the club. There's a sexual implication, but of the barest sort, because obviously Twentieth Century Fox could not have made a movie about Jane Russell prostituting herself 51,840 times—the exact number given in the book.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover is another example of suppressed sexual themes during the mid-century era, which is a big reason why we extend our purview at Pulp Intl. into erotic films and imagery—because in our era the previously unshown can be shown and openly examined. We've discussed this before. If you watch the movie, it's interesting to ponder the presumed maturity of book readers, who were asked point blank to consider a prolific prostitute the protagonist of the story, as opposed to cinemagoers, who were never presented with the possibility. In any case, the screen version of Stover, while not a sex worker, is at least a very knowing character, and Russell certainly has the sneer needed to pull off portraying a romantically cynical money worshipper determined to reach the top tax bracket no matter what it costs—her or others.

We figure anyone who has what it takes to get rich for simply, er, chatting with men deserves wealth, and indeed Mamie gets her money. That's not a spoiler, because it's never in doubt. It's part of the revolt—her resistance against forced membership in the underclass. The question is whether she can retain her newly gained higher status, and whether she can preserve the love she's stumbled upon along the way, because in American cinema moneyseeking characters must choose between their fortunes and their souls. That choice is supposed to supply the drama, but we think the movie is more interesting for its proto-feminist feel and class discussion. It's pretty good on all fronts, though, except that co-star Richard Egan is a bit of an empty shell. But he doesn't ruin it. How can he? He has Russell to carry him the entire ninety-three minutes.
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Vintage Pulp May 1 2022
THE OLD BUMP AND GRIND
Who do you think you're calling a lady?


We had to watch this one. Lady of Burlesque is an adaptation of Gypsy Rose Lee's 1941 murder mystery The G-String Murders, which we talked about not long ago, describing it as a must-read due to its commingling of burlesque and murder. The movie sticks to much the same course as the book. Murder takes place backstage at a burlesque house and the dancers get together to try and solve the crime. Barbara Stanwyck is thirty-six here and showing excellent abs playing a rising stage star calling herself Dixie Daisy. She gets a solo dance that omits the bold bumps and hipshaking of true burlesque, but it's still a nice number.

The chief problem with Lee's novel is its clunky focus on backstage patter instead of the murder mystery. The movie solves that problem—not by focusing more on the mystery, but by bringing the entertaining burlesque and comedy performances to life, which replaces the weaknesses of Lee's book with strengths. Neat trick, and a pretty neat movie. Did Stanwyck ever headline a failure? We suppose she must have, but we haven't seen it yet. She's not thought of by some as a great cinematic beauty, but if you agree with that assessment this movie may change your mind. Lady of Burlesque premiered today in 1943.
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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Apr 29 2022
DOWN FOR THE COUNT
If a boxer falls when nobody hits him is it still a knockout?


We've been neglecting French promo art lately, so here'a a little something—a poster for Plus dure sera la chute, which is better known as The Harder They Fall. This was painted by Jean Mascii, whose work we last saw several years ago when we talked about the 1960 thriller Plein soleil. We recommend having a look at that to get a better sense of Mascii's skill. He created a very interesting portrait of Humphrey Bogart for this effort. This was Bogart's last movie. He filmed it while gravely ill, having been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, but did his work in legendary style, a true professional, working long hours, shooting retakes, and generally doing all he could to prevent his condition from affecting the production.

Bogart plays a struggling sports writer hired by shady fight promoter Rod Steiger to be the press agent for his new discovery—a gigantic but glass-jawed carnival strongman from Argentina named Toro Moreno. Steiger wants Bogart to sell Toro as the next great heavyweight contender, but in order to do so they need to send him on a bum-of-the-month tour to knock out a series of hapless opponents paid to take dives. After Toro has been built up in the press as the second coming of the heavyweight division, Steiger plans to make a bundle with a match against the champ, played by Max Baer. Bogart signs on for this ride because after all his work in the newspaper business he has nothing, and wants to finally make real money. But it could cost his reputation, and because Toro has no clue the fights he's winning are fixed, the scheme can only end with the poor overconfident dupe slaughtered by the champ.

Steiger would win an Academy Award in 1967 for In The Heat of the Night, and here, more than a decade earlier, you can see that achievement as almost inevitable as you watch him dominate the screen. He's simply great in this, and Bogart gives an excellent performance too, failing physically but soldiering onward, using that world weary mug of his to impart a lifetime's worth of fatigue and disappointment. The movie also features Jan Sterling. We had no idea she'd gone in for rhinoplasty, and at first weren't positive it was her. It is though, and after writing just recently how gorgeous she was we're sad she didn't see her own perfection and instead chose to go under the surgeon's knife. But her body her choice. She's good as always, here playing Bogart's conscience, trying to keep him from sliding down the slippery slope to amorality.

There's another person who should be mentioned—Mike Lane as the lumbering Toro Moreno. This was his debut role, and you'd think there weren't many more parts out there for a guy standing 6'8”, but surprisingly he accumulated almost seventy acting credits, almost all on television, where he appeared in shows of every type, from Gunsmoke to Get Smart. Obviously, any vintage boxing movie involves mimetic acting, and the fighting here isn't realistic—quantum leaps in how to convincingly portray ring scenes came later—but they serve their purpose. And for boxing realists, the movie gets extra credit due to the presence of both Baer and Jersey Joe Walcott. The Harder They Fall opened in March 1956, and had its French premiere today at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Fine, Toro, you're huge. Massive. Enormous. But you need to learn how to box or the champ is going to crush your face like a graham cracker.

Hi, champ! Before we start, I just want to say I'm probably your biggest admir—

I thought that whole graham cracker speech was just Bogie being colorful.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 24 2022
RUN FOR THE BORDER
When you cross the line trouble is sure to follow.


This bright poster for Dödsdalen was made for the Swedish run of the U.S. drama Border Incident, an interesting vintage film about illegal immigration—a hot button issue everywhere these days. Ricardo Montalbán stars as a Mexican investigator named Pablo Rodriquez who goes undercover as a migrant worker and crosses the border illegally to try and get to the bottom of why and by whom migrants are being exploited and sometimes murdered. He gets support from U.S. immigration cop George Murphy, who's equally eager to apprehend the evildoers.

We were curious what sort of treatment migrants would get in the screenplay, and it was generally compassionate. The years we lived in Guatemala we became acquainted with some locals and learned quickly that the vast majority of those who left for the States didn't want to go. Well, we didn't learn it—we already knew it because it's a no-brainer. Leave their families, wives, children, culture, social networks, and all sense of security? Of course they don't want to do it. But for the most part it's go north or go hungry. If that kind of dilemma isn't worthy of a person's compassion, we don't know what is.

Montalbán brings authenticity and passion to his performance. You may remember we thought he should have starred in Touch of Evil instead of Charlton Heston. His character comes under suspicion immediately—his hands are too soft to belong to a migrant. Murphy, working undercover from the other end, also gets into hot water, but survives a beating and torture to get next to the crooks. They're from the U.S., which of course is plausible. No industry as profitable as human trafficking is controlled from only one side of a border. Americans make money on it and always have. These particular Americans will kill to keep the profits coming in, which means Montalbán and Murphy have their hands full.

Border Incident scores well in mood, tension, and seriousness, and is well photographed in noir style, and in fact qualifies as a film noir, though one that's rarely cited. It was helmed by Anthony Mann—the noir veteran behind T-Men, Railroaded!, and Raw Deal, and his expereience and style help make the movie more than the sum of its production budget. When you add it all up, what you have here is a flick that's worth seeing, not least because Montalbán is a natural star. He's great in this. Border Incident premiered in the U.S. in late 1949 and opened in Sweden as Dödsdalen—"valley of death"—today in 1950.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 13 2022
FORGET ME NOT
The toughest case to solve is a case of amnesia.


The poster above was made to promote the mystery Two O'Clock Courage, an interesting little noir-adjacent obscurity released today in 1945. It was directed by Anthony Mann of T-Men fame, and stars Tom Conway as a hapless everyman and Ann Rutherford as a cabbie who almost runs him over, but instead takes him under her wing. Conway needs help, you see, because he's been bonked over the head, and has no clue by whom or why. In fact, he doesn't remember anything before meeting Rutherford. Everything is a big fat blank. With his brain back to factory reset, he's a nice enough guy, but he soon learns that Rutherford found him near the scene of a murder. Did he have anything to do with it? He fears he might have. He and Rutherford pair up to sleuth their way to a solution, with cops and the press underfoot all the while.

The movie, while a mystery, also aims for laughs in the style of The Thin Man, with quips, wacky secondary characters, Bettejane Greer (Jane Greer) comically overacting the effects of alcohol, and an inspector who's entirely too willing to defer authority to nosy amateurs. Maybe it was uproarious in its day, but in our day it's a bit tedious. The problem is Conway's stumbling, stammering performance. A little more agency and competence would have played better, in our opinion. His all thumbs persona isn't a dealbreaker, though, thanks to Rutherford's presence. The two even manage to generate a few legit chuckles. As for the mystery, they're pretty bad as sleuths, but they eventually solve it, because with respect to cinematic amnesia you can always count on one thing—it's easy come, easy go.

So you really have total and complete amnesia?

I guess you don't remember, but I've let you ride in my cab, like, hundreds of times and you owe me probably three grand. Cash only, please.

Oh, also we've had dozens of wild, carnal nights together. Since you forgot we better do all those again.

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Modern Pulp Apr 10 2022
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED
She's arrived on this earthly plane to love you to death.


We said you'd see sexploitation star Laura Gemser again sooner than you thought, and here she is—or at least here's an interesting depiction of her—on a poster made in Turkey to promote her film Ateşle Oyun. That translates as “game with fire,” but the movie was known in English as Divine Emanuelle and Love Camp. There's no Turkish release date, but we're talking about it today because it premiered today in 1981 in West Germany, where it was released as Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps, or “the death goddess of love camp.” Death goddess, eh? That doesn't sound fun, but we'll get to that in a minute.

As you can see in panel two, the West German promo is nothing to write home about, which is why we decided to focus on the Turkish art. It's signed by an illustrator named Ömer Muz. We looked him up and got many hits, but with no way of knowing whether any of them were the Muz we were seeking. A few of them were artists, and one was even an art director in movies back in the early 1980s, but final identification eluded us.

Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps was written, directed by, and co-starred Christian Anders, an Austrian musician/singer/composer and man-in-over-his-head in terms of technical ability. His character oversees a free-love cult on Cyprus called Children of Light. He's the servant of the Divine One, played by Gemser, who bathes in milk, parades around topless while flanked by an oiled up bodybuilder, and preaches an apocalyptic schadenfreude doctrine that sounds a lot like the Rapture. In her cult, you can give love freely, but cannot be in love. “Love for only one person is egosim,” she puts it. “When two people love each other they shut the world out. That's a sin.” Basically, that means the cult is an ongoing orgy. Rulebreakers get slapped around or whipped. Gemser even whips herself occasionally. She's a true believer.

The plot kicks into gear, sort of, when one of the cult babes decides she wants to leave and is instead thrown off a cliff by the oiled up bodybuilder guy. There had to be a dark side to all this sex, and that dark side is you can check in anytime you like but you can never leave. We next learn that the police have become suspicious about missing cult members and have inserted an undercover operative who's poking around even as Gemser tries to indoctrinate an heiress and soak her down for her fortune. Will the undercover cop learn the truth of the cult? Will Gemser expose him? Will she expose herself? On the latter score, fans will be satisfied, rest assured. But for objective film buffs, we have to tell you that, like most Gemser efforts, this flick is terrible.

But it's also significant because there's bizarre trivia associated with it. Most notably, David Koresh has a small role. You perhaps remember him? As the leader of the Branch Davidian cult he sought to create a new lineage of world leaders, had sexual partners as young as ten years old, and finally died in 1993 with seventy-five disciples during a fire that broke out at the cult's compound during an FBI raid. On top of all that, writer director Anders propagated various conspiracy theories in books and interviews. The lesson is don't take a movie script too seriously. Especially a sexploitation script. Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps premiered today in 1981.

Witness me, little ones! Are my abdominals not out of this world?

Bring forth the divine ointments and sexual lubes!

I and my slippery, steroid enraged servant shall now engage in the holy rite of hot raw sex. You may want to rewind this part a few times.

I came here to find myself, and she gives me this room. Feels like she's mocking me.

There's something to find right under these holy raiments, little lost blonde one.

Divine One, I prefer this female version of myself. Diversity is good and all, but we're a matched set. Hope you're okay with that.

Throw them both into the pit of eternal-despair-without-hope-of-redemption-or-surcease! Hmm... probably need to shorten that name. And who forgot to order the lube for today's orgy? Throw him in the whatever pit too!

I'm a cruel goddess, it's true. But behold the everloving fuck out of this!

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Vintage Pulp Apr 2 2022
HOLEY MACAO
Who needs a good script when you have Mitchum and Russell?


Above is a surpassingly lovely poster for the thriller Macao with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, reunited by RKO Studios after the previous year's His Kind of Woman. It's always interesting how old movies introduce the romantic leads to each other. In filmmaking parlance, these encounters are sometimes called “meet-cutes.” But it isn't very cute for the man to have to save the woman from a sexual assault. It's also not cute when the price for being saved is an uninvited kiss, but this is the early fifties and in movies you have to expect that stuff. Nonconsensual wrestling match—bad. Nonconsensual kiss—okay. Mitchum goes in for his reward and Russell doesn't mind.

We joked about these two being the best looking pair you can find in vintage cinema, and they're both in top form here. The honchos at RKO knew they had a dream pairing. Placing them in an exotic port, giving them an obstacle to overcome, writing them some quips, and hiring a respected director like Josef von Sternberg and charging him with capturing Casbalanca-style magic was a no-brainer. The adventure involves Mitchum coming across a stolen diamond, then trying to sell more gems to a local criminal kingpin. Little does he know that it's all a scheme hatched by an American police lieutenant to capture said kingpin, leaving Mitchum stuck in the dangerous middle. Russell plays a lounge singer and seems ancillary to all the intrigue, but as the plot evolves she becomes central to the caper.

Macao has its moments, and we certainly enjoyed it, but objectively speaking it's a middling effort, with too many narrative holes and too much boilerplate dialogue to offer any real thrills. The caper isn't compelling, and the villain—played by Brad Dexter as if he's on Quaaludes—has no real sense of menace. So the movie has the exotic port, the obstacle, and the quips—but no magic. Mitchum gets the girl, though, so that's something. Or maybe Russell gets the boy. However you prefer. What we'd prefer is more of this pairing, but sadly this was the last time the two starred together. While both their collaborations are watchable, they never made the blockbuster their onscreen chemistry deserved. Why not? Probably because Macao flopped so hard. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1952.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
May 21
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
May 20
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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