Unflappable, incorruptible, untouchable.
U.S. actor Robert Stack is decked out in classic mid-century tough guy regalia, with the cool hat, the dapper suit and vest, the stylish tie, the no-frills gat, and for good measure he has a sweet ride in the background in case he needs to hurry somewhere and look badass there too. This shot was made in 1960 as a promo for the television series The Untouchables, on which Stack played the legendary Prohibition agent Eliot Ness from 1959 to 1963.
Oh, hi there. You're just in time. I was about to towel off.
We're going to use a non-word to describe this photo. It's sunshiny. It's the most sunshiny shot we've seen in a while. It shows U.S. actress Joan Staley and was made somewhere in Southern California in 1958. Staley mostly acted on television in shows such as The Asphalt Jungle, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, and Mission: Impossible, amassing more than one hundred smallscreen credits, by our quick count. Her bigscreen appearances were sporadic, but included Breakfast at Tiffany's, All in a Night's Work, Johnny Cool, and Cape Fear. Most of those roles were uncredited, but she piled up almost twenty. Altogether she had quite a résumé. Did she ever towel off, as our juvenile quip suggests? She did. She was a Playboy Playmate of the Month in November 1958, which means that, like Marilyn Monroe, she made the leap from nude model to Hollywood star. Actually, considering those one hundred-plus television roles you could even argue that, in a way, she was just as successful as Monroe. In a way.
We wonder if anyone warned her she was running out of sidewalk?
Because we're always seeing the ridiculous in even the most innocuous situations we can't stop imagining U.S. actress Leigh Snowden continuing to walk looking over her shoulder until she falls off the end of the sidewalk. Which would be ironic because she was famous for her graceful walk. These three promo images were originally made in 1956 as a single triptych to demonstrate precisely that grace. We've helpfully broken the original composite down to its constituent elements. Does Snowden look unusually graceful? Sure, we guess so—right up until the faceplant.
The full story is on the rear: Leigh Snowden demonstrates the walk which started her on the road to movie stardom. Jack Benny gave the first slight shove to the young actress who not long ago was singing in the choir in Covington, Tenn. He took her along as feminine interest for a performance of his tv show at the naval base in San Diego, early in 1955. All she did was walk on. Twenty thousand sailors let out with whistles and wolf calls which were heard in Hollywood. Leigh, unknown a few days earlier, had her choice of 11 studios and independent producers.
Answer me honestly. Do men actually like this kind of cumbersome lingerie? No? Me neither. Ahh... that's better.
For a couple of years we were mystified by the identity of the above model, but recently learned that she's Virginia De Lee. There's actually some information out there about her, some of it quite interesting. For example, in June 1957, according to Hollywood columnist Erskine Johnson, she walked into his office dressed as a harem girl, accompanied by a "225-pound giant of a fellow and a four-foot [little person],” unrolled a rug, served him a cup of Egyptian coffee, and announced, “We are here to remind you that the Tyrone Power movie Suez will be on television tomorrow night. It's the premiere performance of a series of Twentieth Century Fox movies on KTTV.”
That's what's called an old fashioned publicity stunt and as far as we know stuff like that doesn't happen these days. De Lee also popped up in the press when famed Hungarian sculptor Sepy Dobronyi said she had a perfectly formed body, so it's possible she modeled for him at some point. She obviously sought stardom, but her only movie role was a minor appearance as a stripper in the b-drama Hell Bound. Whatever fame she has these days mainly derives from the many collectible Technicolor lithographs in which she and that quirky right eyebrow of hers were featured. We showed you a few lithos already, and we have one or two more sitting around. You may see them later.
Always be careful what you say to a tabloid.
This National Enquirer published today in 1963 features the free-floating head of U.S. actress Shirley Bonne with a quote where she calls herself a “dimwit.” Enquirer often splashed shocking, sexual, or confessional quotes from stars across its covers. We have little doubt Bonne was just joshing around, if she ever said it, which we tend to doubt. She isn't well known today. Though she amassed hundreds of magazine covers, as an actress she had zero credited cinematic roles. All her credits, including movies, were on television, where she appeared on shows such as Bonanza, That Girl, Medical Center, starred in the sitcom My Sister Eileen, and was in the all-time dog of a television horror flick It's Alive. Her zenith, at least in terms being appreciated by a fandom, is having guest starred in one of the best Star Trek episodes ever—1966's “Shore Leave.” That's the one where the Enterprise crew land on a planet that makes anything they think about come true. Kirk thinks about a long lost love and Shirley Bonne appears—head, body, and all. Pretty smart thinking.
There's been a pink diamond Barbie, a fashion queen Barbie, and a Sunset Malibu Barbie, so why not a bottomless Barbi?
You need to look twice but, yes, in this circa-1972 pin-up poster Barbi Benton is missing pants. Or a skirt. Or tights. Or whatever. Benton may be best known as the consort of a world famous pornographer (Hefner, again), but she also acted, guesting on many of the cheesiest television shows of the ’70s and ’80s. Think CHiPs, Vega$, Sugar Time!, The Love Boat—six times—and Fantasy Island—eight times! For our money her zenith was 1983's notably skin-filled sword and sorcery flick Deathstalker. Come to think of it, we may watch that tonight. Meanwhile this image is amazing. Our scan is about 1900 pixels wide, which would be worth framing if we were inclined, but which we'd never do because we aren't seventeen anymore, so our walls have to be home to serious art. Not our rule, but we abide by it.
MGM's sure bet didn't quite pay off.
Above is a beautiful, blindingly colorful MGM promo shot of U.S. actress Barbara Lang, née Barbara Jean Bly, someone we've shown you in black and white in the past. The accompanying text, which we've cropped out, explains that Lang “is a sure bet for stardom,” but she acted in only three movies and made about twenty television appearances on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip and Lock Up, with her entire career lasting from 1955 to 1961. Mixed in there was a 1959 suicide attempt that doubtless derailed her momentum. But once upon a time she was a contender, and this shot befits a burgeoning star.
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.
She had more facets and more talent than most.
This photo shows U.S. actress, poet, screenwriter, playwright, journalist, and activist Ruby Dee. That's a lot of professions, but we're mainly concerned with her acting. In pursuit of that passion she appeared in such films as St. Louis Blues, Raisin in the Sun, and on television shows like The Fugitive and Peyton Place. This is a mighty nice image of one of Hollywood's most respected multi-hyphenates. It's from 1962.
She was a very intriguing star.
Swedish actress, director, and screenwriter Ingrid Thulin perches on a chair in this blonde on black promo image from 1956. She's best known for appearing in several Ingmar Bergman movies, including 1957's Smultronstället, also known as Wild Strawberries. Interestingly, Thulin guested on a U.S. spy series called Foreign Intrigue in 1954 and 1955, and the next year co-starred in the spy thriller Foreign Intrigue with Robert Mitchum, a movie that was unrelated to the television show despite its identical title. We guess the casting agent must have been like, “So, Ingrid, can you be intriguing? Just kidding. I see on your credits that you've been there, done that, so you're hired.”
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