Hollywoodland Mar 21 2024
ON BENDED KNEES
Strange ideas from the minds and lenses of mid-century promo photographers.
A while back we shared a promo photo of Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame from 1953's The Big Heat that was meant to imply oral sex (it absolutely was, and you can see for yourself here). We commented on its weirdness, and noted that an actress would probably not be asked or made to pose that way today. The shot got us thinking about whether there were other kneeling promo shots from the mid-century era, and above you see two others from The Big Heat.
 
Below we have more such shots, and while none are as jarring as that previous promo, they're all interesting. We assumed there would be few if any featuring kneeling males, but we found a couple. Even so, there are probably scores more kneeling actresses that we missed. While many of shots took the form they did to highlight the criminal/victim themes in their parent films, you still have to wonder what else—consciously or not—was in the various photograhers' minds. Anyway, just some food for thought this lovely Thursday. Ready, set discuss!
Rod Taylor and Luciana Pauluzzi swap subordinate positions for 1967's Chuka.

Edmund O'Brien goes for the time honored hair grab on Marla English for 1954's Shield for Murder.

Marilyn Monroe swoons as Richard Widmark snarls for Don't Bother To Knock, 1952.

Inger Stevens and Terry Ann Ross for Cry Terror, an adaptation of a novel we talked about a few years ago.

Kim Hunter soothes an overheated Marlon Brando in a promo for 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire.

George Raft menaces Marlene Dietrich in the 1941 comedy Manpower.

As promos go, these actually make sense. They show three unidentified models mesmerized by vampire Christopher Lee for 1970's Taste the Blood of Dracula.

Glenn Ford is at it again, this time looming over Rita Hayworth for the 1946 classic Gilda.
 
Aldo Ray and Barbara Nichols for 1958's The Naked and the Dead.

This one shows less domination and more protectiveness, as Humphrey Bogart prepares to defend Ida Lupino for High Sierra, 1941.

Humphrey once more. Here he's with Lizabeth Scott for Dead Reckoning, 1947.

This shot shows Brazilian actress Fiorella Mari with an actor we can't identify in a movie we also can't identify.

Shelly Winters and Jack Palance climb the highest mountain together for I Died a Thousand Times, 1955.

As we said, we didn't find as many examples of kneeling men, but we found this gem—Cappucine makes a seat of director Blake Edwards on the set of The Pink Panther in 1963. Does this count, though? While Edwards is subordinate, he isn't kneeling and it really isn’t a legit promo.

And lastly, in a curious example, Hugo Haas seems to tell Cleo Moore to stay in a shot made for 1953's One Girl's Confession

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Vintage Pulp Jan 20 2024
CASES IN POINT
Times change but crimes stay the same.


Above: the cover and selected interior scans from an issue of Complete Detective Cases that appeared on newsstands seventy-six years ago, in January 1947. The magazine was published quarterly by Postal Publications and based in New York City and Chicago. A reading of the stories shows how little we've changed in that long span of time: a man is murdered and dumped in a river, cops get cruel to capture a man who killed one of their own, adultery leads to a savage killing, and a cabbie is senselessly shot in the stomach though he's unarmed and acquiescent. The cover story deals with Sherry Borden, who authors an autobiographical tale of descent into serial robbery. The art in Complete Detective Cases is posed by professional models. You can see more examples of these sort of publications by clicking the keywords “true crime magazine” below.

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The Naked City Jan 12 2024
FINAL SHOT
Life and death in the cinema.


Police Lt. Hugh Crowley lies dead in the Fox Westwood Village Theater in Los Angeles after being shot today in 1932. Crowley had gone to the theater after closing time to retrieve box office receipts, but instead surprised two thieves. Crowley reached for his sidearm and fired, and one of the crooks gunned him down. Both men were captured and tried, and Joseph Francis Regan, who had fired the fatal shot and actually been hit in the abdomen by a bullet fired by Crowley, was sentenced to death. Jack Green, who had no prior criminal record, had not fired a shot, and had cooperated in the police investigation, nevertheless also was sentenced to death, probably because he had planned the crime. Regan was hanged at San Quentin State Prison in August 1933. Green came close to the gallows, but received numerous reprieves after public pleas for leniency from his parents, and rulings from higher courts. Eventually his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Although Green was probably never aware of it, legal authorities often cited his case during the long battle over the constitutionality of the death penalty in California. The idea put forth by the pro-death penalty side around 1960 was that even though Green’s commuted sentence specified “without possibility of parole,” there was no actual reason in California jurisprudence or the state constitution that he could not be released. All that was required was for an appropriate state authority to decide to do it. They felt therefore that anti-death penalty campaigners’ assurances that criminals could be imprisoned for life if such punishment was deemed necessary meant nothing. No matter the language of the original life sentence, any criminal could later be released. Green doubtless would have found all this fascinating, but none of it ever came to affect him. As far as we can tell, he did in fact spend the rest of his life in San Quentin.

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The Naked City Dec 4 2023
CHALK UP ANOTHER ONE
Life to draws to a close in the City of Angels.


This photo, which is another one from the Los Angeles Police Department photo archive, shows an unidentified man after police crime scene detectives have outlined his body in chalk. Note the knife. He defended himself against an attacker, but unsuccessfully. Or perhaps he attacked someone and they defended themself successfully. The photos from the archive carry only the information written on them, and in this case that's nothing. But it's a compelling shot, made today in 1950. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 23 2023
THE COLOR OF TROUBLE
When there's a blonde on the premises anything can happen.

Any movie called Dangerous Blondes is a mandatory watch, if only because it might give us insight into the mind of PI-1, the most dangerous blonde we know. We learned nothing useful on that front, but the movie was entertaining. It stars Allyn Joslyn as a famous mystery author who sometimes helps the cops but mostly gets on their nerves. Does that sound familiar? 1937's Super-Sleuth, which we watched earlier this year, also features a celebrity crimesolver who sometimes helps but mostly gets on the nerves of the cops. And of course there's that Thin Man celebrity sleuth guy. Hollywood, it seems, has always beaten dead horses.

As it happens, though, the filmmakers beat life right back into this particular carcass. Dangerous Blondes is a cut above because of Evelyn Keyes, who'd be interesting to watch even clipping coupons or digging holes in the garden for her spring magnolias—let alone in a meaty role co-headlining a high budget mystery. She plays Joslyn's better half as the two try to solve the murder of a society lady laid low in a photography studio. Simply put, she's tops in screen magnetism and elevates everything she's in.

Nothing else about the movie is exemplary, but all of it is pleasant and competent. You get a locked room mystery, an amusing lead male, a bumbling inspector, a bit of slapstick from the fringe castmembers, and a resolution complete with the classic line, “If it hadn't been for your meddling I'd have gotten away with this.” They don't make 'em like this anymore. Actually, no—strike that. The two Knives Out movies play in these waters, and the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building is exactly what Dangerous Blondes is, but updated for modern tastes. You should probably watch all of the aforementioned. The latter premiered in the U.S. today in 1943. 
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The Naked City Aug 26 2023
A RAINY NIGHT IN THE BOWERY
Even in the height of summer New York City can be a cold, cold place.


In this photo made today in 1930, a policeman stands over the body of Louis Riggiona, who had been shot twice in the heart by two gunmen as he and his brother Joe exited a restaurant in New York City's Bowery district. Joe fled and avoided injury, while the gunmen dropped their weapons (one pistol is visible in the foreground) and escaped. Louis Riggiona had become the latest casualty in what was known as the Castellammarese War, a Mafia power struggle whose opposing figureheads were Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Masseria. Maranzano was from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, thus the name of the conflict. He won the war, but got to be capo di tutti i capi for only five months before he too was murdered. 

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Femmes Fatales Aug 24 2023
WHAT BALLS
If you think these are big you should see the sack I carry them in.


This photo features pre-Code actress Doris Hill in a shot made by photographer Eugene Robert Richee. She looks about to bowl, but we think she's holding balloons, not balls. Anything else would be too heavy. Usually when we say someone is pre-Code we mean they got famous before the Hays Code took effect and continued acting afterward, but in Hill's case everything she did was pre-Code, with her entire career spanning 1926 to 1934. Among her films: Thief in the Dark, The Studio Murder Mystery, and Darkened Rooms. We thought because of the unusual background on this photo that we'd be able to pinpoint what film it was made for, but we had no luck. But we can tell you the date. Most sources say it's from 1929. 

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The Naked City Aug 5 2023
DOMINICK DONE
Gangster life has great benefits but the retirement plan leaves a lot to be desired.


It seems like the same lesson is imparted by nearly every vintage Mafia photo we run across—ambition is a double-edged sword. Dominick Didato, aka Terry Burns, who you see above in a photo made by Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee, lies dead on a New York City street where he was gunned down today in 1936. He was killed for interfering with rackets run by Lucky Luciano. It was a low percentage play. Luciano was literally the most powerful mobster in the U.S. at the time, and as the saying goes, you come at the king, you best not miss.

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The Naked City Jul 23 2023
THE DEATH OF HIM
He was an innocent bystander. The stander part doesn't apply anymore.


The only information accompanying the above image, which is from the Los Angeles Police Department photo archive, is that an unidentified bystander was shot to death during a botched jewelry store robbery. That was today in 1932. The photo came to public notice when it was exhibited back in 2019 by L.A.'s Lucie Foundation, along with more than 80 other images.

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The Naked City Apr 21 2023
A NOT-SO-BRIDE IDEA
When in doubt think: trial separation.


Think your marriage has difficulties? The top photo shows Los Angeles resident Henry Orsell, 69 years old, being led away by police after he killed his wife Elena with a pipe wrench. The middle photo shows an LAPD detective named Don Whitehead holding the murder weapon, and the third shows Henry in the police station facing the music over his deed. The Orsells had been married for nineteen years, but we guess the last few didn't go so well, and led to yet another of the eight million ways to die in the naked city. Also, though she probably went unnoticed when you looked at the second image, if you look again you can see poor Elena curled up in the background. Or you can just look at the zoom below. Either way—talk is sometimes better than action. The photos were made today in 1958.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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