You don't know jack-o'-lantern.
How many people have made jack-o'-lanterns without knowing anything about them? Plenty, we bet. The term comes from an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack (sometimes Jack the Smith, Drunk Jack, or Flaky Jack), a folkloric deceiver whose lies and tricks resulted in him having to wander the world after his death, admitted to neither Heaven nor Hell, lighting his way with an ember inside a hollowed out rutabaga. We don't know if rutabagas were ever used for jack-o'-lanterns, but if they were the switch to pumpkins was a good one. Rutabagas aren't scary. Unless you have to eat them.
Posing with en enormous plaster jack-o'-lantern is U.S. actress Anne Nagel, whose Hollywood career spanned about twenty-five years. She acted in (including uncredited appearances) about a hundred films, among them the crime dramas Bungalow 13, Escape by Night, Armed Car Robbery, and The Trap. Nagel is a good femme fatale choice for this time of year because her personal life was even scarier than these photos. Her first husband committed suicide, she allegedly had problems with alcohol, she never accumulated much money despite her many screen performances, and she died of cancer at age fifty.
Here's the most frightening story of all. In 1947 she filed a $350,000 lawsuit against a surgeon who she claimed removed some of her reproductive organs in 1936 without consent when he performed an appendectomy on her. Could you even imagine? Nagel said she had no idea until shortly before filing suit more than a decade later, but the surgeon countered that Nagel knew exactly what he was going to do. We don't know how the case turned out, but given the era we bet she didn't win. These photos, no longer very scary after hearing that story, are from 1940.
I'll tell you one thing. After today we won't complain so much when someone steals a couple of our towels.
The two photos above show an LAPD detective and two witnesses re-enacting a robbery (notice the detective is aiming a gun in the top photo) that occurred today in 1951 at the Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Two gunmen had gotten away earlier in the day with a bundle of cash. Newspaper accounts differ about how much. The San Bernadino County Sun, in its evening edition published later, pegged the amount at $1,073 ($12,275 today), but the Los Angeles Times morning edition printed the next day claimed it was $500 ($5,731). The Times is probably a more reliable source, and with more time to get the amount right we'd tend to think its report is correct, but $500 is a conveniently round number, whereas the $1,073 reported by the Sun is very specific. Either way, we imagine the terrified hotel employees surrended every dollar on hand.
The reason the story caught our eye, though, is because the Garden of Allah was one of the most famous hotels in Los Angeles at the time. The Spanish revival complex consisting of a main building, villas, restaurant, bar, pool, and landscaped grounds, opened in 1927 and quickly became a favorite stopover for Tinseltown glitterati. Everyone from Lauren Bacall to Orson Welles spent time or stayed there, and the place was described by one resident as in “continual tumult” because of all the intrigues, disturbances, and minor scandals. But all of its celebrity history and architectural significance amounted to nothing among the ranks of those who sought so-called progress, because like so many other Hollywood landmarks, this iconic property fell to the wrecking ball when it was demolished in 1959 to make way for a bank.
They're not really going anywhere but they look mighty good doing it.
What's a period drama without a fake driving scene? Nearly all such sequences were shot in movie studios using two techniques—rear projection, which was standard for daytime driving, and both rear projection and lighting effects for simulating night driving. Many movie studios made production images of those scenes. For example, above you see Jane Greer and Lizabeth Scott, neither looking happy, going for a fake spin around Los Angeles in 1951's The Company She Keeps. We decided to make a collection of similar shots, so below we have more than twenty other examples (plus a couple of high quality screen grabs) with top stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Mitchum, and Raquel Welch. We've only scratched the surface of this theme, which means you can probably expect a second collection somewhere down the road. Incidentally, if you want to see Bogart at his coolest behind the wheel look here, and just because it's such a wonderful shot, look here for Elke Sommer as a passenger. Enjoy today's rides. Humphrey Bogart tries to fake drive with Ida Lupino in his ear in 1941's High Sierra. Dorothy Malone, Rock Hudson, and a rear projection of Long Beach, in 1956's Written on the Wind. Ann-Margret and John Forsythe in Kitten with a Whip. We think they were parked at this point, but that's fine. Two shots from 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice with John Garfield and Lana Turner, followed by of shot of them with soon-to-be murdered Cecil Kellaway.
Shelley Winters, looking quite lovely here, fawns over dapper William Powell during a night drive in 1949's Take One False Step. William Talman, James Flavin, and Adele Jergens share a tense ride in 1950's Armored Car Robbery. William Bendix rages in 1949's The Big Steal. Frank Sinatra drives contemplatively in Young at Heart, from 1954. George Sanders drives Ingrid Bergman through Italy, and she returns the favor, in 1954's Viaggio in Italia. Harold Huber, Lyle Talbot, Barbara Stanwyck and her little dog too, from 1933's Ladies They Talk About. Virginia Huston tells Robert Mitchum his profile should be cast in bronze in 1947's Out of the Past. Peggy Cummins and John Dall suddenly realize they're wearing each other's glasses in 1950's Gun Crazy, a film that famously featured a real driving sequence, though not the one above. John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge in 1951's The Scarf. James Mason drives an unconscious Henry O'Neill in 1949's The Reckless Moment. Hopefully they're headed to an emergency room. Marcello Mastroianni driving Walter Santesso, Mary Janes, and an unknown in 1960's La dolce vita. Tony Curtis thrills Piper Laurie with his convertible in 1954's Johnny Dark. Janet Leigh drives distracted by worries, with no idea she should be thinking less about traffic and cops than cross-dressing psychos in 1960's Psycho. We're not sure who the passengers are in this one (the shot is from 1960's On the Double, and deals with Danny Kaye impersonating Wilfrid Hyde-White) but the driver is Diana Dors. Kirk Douglas scares the bejesus out of Raquel Welch in 1962's Two Weeks in Another Town. We're familiar with her reaction, which is why we're glad the Pulp Intl. girlfriends don't need to drive here in Europe.
Robert Mitchum again, this time in the passenger seat, with Jane Greer driving (and William Bendix tailing them—already seen in panel ten), in 1949's The Big Steal. The film is notable for its many real driving scenes.
James Mason keeps cool as Jack Elam threatens him as Märta Torén watches from the passenger seat in 1950's One Way Street. And finally, to take a new perspective on the subject, here's Bogart and Lizabeth Scott in 1947's Dead Reckoning.
Diamond thieves get away with millions in gems after Brussels airport heist.
Some real world pulp for you today. The news is just coming out in the last day, but apparently on Monday night in Belgium, there was a diamond heist at Brussels National Airport. A group of men driving two black vans with flashing police lights entered the airport through a hole cut in a perimeter security fence, drove up to a Switzerland-bound commercial jet idling on the tarmac, held at gunpoint workers who had loaded a cache of diamonds onto the plane, and snatched the gems right out of the cargo hold. Passengers on the plane were unable to see any of the action. A few minutes later the vans sped away and slipped through the previous gap in the security fence. The vehicles were later found burnt to a crisp outside Brussels. The diamonds are said by industry spokespeople to be worth about $50 million, which must be very interesting news to the men who dig them up somewhere in Botswana or Yakutia. In any case, the theft investigation is ongoing and as yet there are no leads.
Two mobsters meet a messy end on the boulevard of broken dreams.
They were known as the Two Tonys—Brancato and Trombino, a pair of wild mobsters out of Kansas City. In May 1951 they robbed the cash room at the mob-controlled Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. They and their three henchmen had been wearing hats, but Tony Brancato lost his mid-robbery, was caught on camera, and from there ended up on the FBI’s most wanted list. Brancato and Trombino were also identified by a mob subordinate who recognized them because he’d been robbed by them in Beverly Hills. The pair were arrested for the Flamingo robbery, but made bail, then promptly headed to Los Angeles. There they shook down a mob bookmaker’s right hand man, which put them on L.A. crime boss Jack Dragna’s most wanted list. But the difference between his list and the FBI’s was that Dragna’s had nothing to do with capture and trial. He ordered the Two Tonys to be killed, and mob shooter Aladena Fratianno, aka Jimmy the Weasel, took on the task. Brancato and Trombino desperately needed money for their legal defense, and Fratianno told them he’d help them take down a high stakes poker game worth $40,000. The Tonys were thrilled and grateful, but the heist was fiction. Instead, in a car on Hollywood Boulevard, Fratianno had two subordinates murder them. The aftermath appears above and below. Today, 1951.
Albert Nussbaum was good at almost everything—but what he really enjoyed was crime.
Above is an Inside Detective published February 1963, containing a feature on Albert Nussbaum and Bobby Wilcoxson, a pair of armed robbers who were among the most sought after fugitives of their time. Nussbaum was the brains of the operation, and was adept at chess and photography, and was a locksmith, gunsmith, pilot, airplane mechanic, welder, and draftsman. With his spatial and mechanical aptitude, many careers would have been available to him, but he chose instead to become a bank robber. Predictably, he was good at that too.
Nussbaum and Wilcoxson knocked over eight banks between 1960 and 1962, taking in more than $250,000, which back then was the equivalent of more than two million. During a December 1961 Brooklyn robbery, Wilcoxson got an itchy trigger finger and machine-gunned a bank guard. The killing landed him on the FBI’s most wanted list. But even after the Feds distributed more than a million wanted posters and involved upwards of 600 agents in the case, they could locate neither him nor the elusive Nussbaum. The pair were just too smart.
But brains are not the same as intuition. Nussbaum was clever enough to arrange a meeting with his estranged wife right under the authorities’ noses, but apparently had no clue his mother-in-law was capable of dropping a dime on him. What followed was a 100 mph chase through the streets of Buffalo that ended only after a civilian rammed Nussbaum’s car.Wilcoxson was arrested soon afterward in Maryland, and both robbers were convicted of murder. But where Wilcoxson got the chair (a sentence which was commuted to life upon appeal), Nussbaum got forty years, which made him eligible for parole.
Before being arrested Nussbaum had begun corresponding with mystery author Dan Marlowe, who encouraged him to put his experiences into fiction. He suddenly had plenty of time on his hands, so he wrote some short stories, and of course, he had an aptitude for that, too. With Marlowe’s help, he scored a gig writing film reviews for the Montreal magazine Take One, and after being paroled years later, wrote fiction that appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine, and other places. He and Marlowe eventually lived together, with Nussbaum acting as a sort of caretaker for his mentor, who was in failing health and suffering from amnesia. Marlowe died in 1987 and Nussbaum continued to write, as well as host workshops, and get himself elected president of the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writer’s Association.
Truly, Albert Nussbaum’s story is one of the most interesting you’ll ever run across, and there’s much more to it than we covered here. Perhaps a suitable summation would be to say that before there was such a term as “street cred” Nussbaum had it in spades. His crimes resulted in a man’s death, and his later fame traded on the very experiences that led to that tragic event—unforgivable, on some level. But still, he proved that, given a second chance, some people are capable of making the most of it. Albert Nussbaum died in 1996, aged 62.
Five old masters disappear without a trace.
There’s so much priceless art in Paris it’s a virtual smorgasbord for art lovers—and it’s all you can eat for art thieves, as well. Last night a group of sophisticated robbers proved that when they broke into the Paris Museum of Modern Art, helped themselves to a Picasso, a Matisse, and a Légere, had a side of Braque and topped the heap off with a Modigliani and some bleu cheese dressing before disappearing without a trace. The stolen art was initially said to be worth a whopping €500m, or about 600 million dollars, which would have made the heist the largest in history. Later, museum authorities revised their figure to 150 million dollars, which is quite a write-down. We can hear the conversation: “Oh, we thought they stole the other Braque. That one’s priceless. The one they actually took is the one we use for darts.”
Of course, the fascinating bit about these art thefts is that they are strictly pre-order—which is to say, they are financed by wealthy individuals who have the capacity to pay for the pieces, store them indefinitely, or perhaps even display them in their homes with no fear of exposure to authorities. The black market for stolen art is robust, to say the least, and for thieves the jobs are irresistible because it’s physically impossible to steal 500 (or 150) million in actual cash. At least not without the starting offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles to help you carry it. Even if the sale value for stolen art is a fraction of its estimated value, it’s still probably impossible to physically steal, say, 60 million dollars—or even 10 million.
Enticed by such rewards, and outfitted by rich backers who can finance purchases of the latest in security-thwarting gear, it’s very possible no protective technology can prevent these kinds of thefts. French police made a statement earlier today in which they revealed that they have a security recording of one thief entering the museum through a window, but otherwise they seem to be sans indices—i.e. clueless.
Is it just us, or does the thought of financial institutions being robbed fail to arouse your moral outrage?
Most people think it’s pretty hard to rob a bank, but that perception is mostly a result of good marketing by financial institutions. The reality is, all you need is the huevos. Take for example the Blue Note Bandit. Here’s a guy who has robbed fifteen California banks in four months and shows no signs of slowing down. They call him the Blue Note Bandit because during his first heist he showed the teller a blue note demanding money. Other times the note was on white paper. Sometimes off-white. But the end result was the same every time—he walked with the green.
Except for having a dye pack explode on him after one of the robberies, everything has gone the bandit’s way so far, but of course, the odds of him getting nabbed go up with each foray. We seriously doubt he’ll get away with many more. Back during the heyday of the pulp era bank robbers became folk heroes. Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Bonnie and Clyde. Today, most people are far too responsible to support criminals in such fashion. But isn’t siding with a bank over a bank robber in these interesting economic times a bit like accusing a woman of assault when she slaps the vampire who’s sucking her blood? Just a little moral complexity to get your Monday off to a good start. You’re welcome. And Mr. Blue Note? Quit while you’re ahead and visit sunny Guyana for the next, oh, rest of your life.
Does this look like a guy who’s responsible for his actions?
Actor Rip Torn, best known for his role as Zed in the sci-fi blockbuster Men in Black, was found Friday inside Lichfield Bancorp, a Connecticut bank, drunk and carrying a loaded handgun. Police arrested the 78-year-old and charged him with first-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree trespassing, and possession of a firearm without a permit. Quite a laundry list. The mug shot here is actually from a previous arrest, but we’ll just assume he looked more or less the same Friday. Anyway, we laid out the rules for American justice in yesterday’s post—the richest person or entity wins. Torn is, one would assume, reasonably well off, which means he’d walk from this crime if he broke into, say, your house. But since he broke into a bank, he’s basically screwed. His only chance is to blame it on alcohol. That’s a lot like shooting someone, then rubbing the gun’s nose in the victim’s blood and screaming, “Bad weapon!” But for some reason, it seems to work for celebs.
Modern day bad girls are nothing compared to Patty Hearst.
Winona, Paris, Nicole—read and learn. Patty Hearst was first a millionaire socialite, then a kidnap victim, then a self-described urban revolutionary and machine gun toting bank robber. She went on trial for armed robbery in January 1976, and the proceedings continued through March. Newsweek produced the grainy cover you see above twenty-two years ago today. Despite the efforts of celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, Hearst was sentenced to 35 years. But her sentence was commuted by president Jimmy Carter after a mere 22 months of time served, even though she had refused at trial to give evidence against her kidnappers/accomplices. She was later given a full pardon by Bill Clinton. Psychologists claim Hearst was not responsible for her actions due to the effects of Stockholm syndrome, which basically means she started digging her kidnappers. We're gonna try that excuse next time we get arrested, but we have a feeling it won’t work.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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