Femmes Fatales Dec 4 2021
THE SUM OF HER PARTS
She never could keep a straight face.


This became one of our favorite vintage photos the moment we saw it. It shows U.S. actress Sheila Terry in 1935 during the filming of A Scream in the Night, and it suggests that beauty is not about geometric perfection but an amalgam of qualities, some measurable, some not. We can assume this was deliberate emphasis, because in nearly all her other photos Terry looks as unremarkably beautiful as any other Hollywood actress. But here she looks memorable. We should talk about her at length, but we can't today. However, the condensed version of her interesting life is as follows: she came from money, resisted the wishes of her family in becoming an actress, appeared in forty-three films (twenty-nine credited roles) but never got her acting career where she wanted, quit and became a press agent, married into more money, ultimately lost her fortune, committed suicide broke at age forty-nine, and was buried in a pauper's grave in Potter's Field, New York City. Another photo appears below.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 30 2021
FROM HER PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes you have to look at things from a whole new angle.


How many mid-century actresses began as Playboy models? An absolute raft of them. The 1957 photo above shows Dolores Donlon, who was the magazine's centerfold in August of that year. Donlon was an unusual case. She had been toiling in Hollywood since 1944, landing minor film roles and scattered magazine covers. She managed to earn seventh billing in 1954's The Long Wait, and third in 1957's Flight to Hong Kong, but they weren't major films. When she finally posed nude it was much later than usual—she was thirty-seven. It's hard to determine whether the new tactic directly paid off, but from that point forward she became a well established television actress, racking up more than twenty-five credits on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip and Miami Undercover. It wasn't movie stardom, but it was success. Was it Playboy that made the difference? Probably only she and her agent knew, and neither of them are around to tell us.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 27 2021
DI TRYING
Hold on a sec. I dropped my moral compass.


This photo of British star Diana Dors was made as a promo for her 1957 crime drama The Long Haul, and we're sure we don't need to explain our subhead. Or do we? Let's just say Lady Di was no lady, and what she was into back in the day would, in our modern era, land her in prison and on the lifelong sex offender list. See what we mean here

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Femmes Fatales Nov 24 2021
A PLACE AT THE TABLE
She has terrible manners but a terrific flair for the dramatic.


Above is another rare promo image of Japanese actress Reiko Ike, someone we've documented extensively through the years, and here, the big hair, bare skin, and brilliant pose make this one of her best shots. We have other Ike images in a stack of Japanese magazines, and if we can figure out how to keep our scanner from putting electronic streaks on the scans we hope to get those posted at some point. This one came from an issue of the magazine Weekly Playboy and dates from 1974. 

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Femmes Fatales Nov 18 2021
SUPERSIZE HER
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.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 12 2021
RUSHIA WITH LOVE
I like my men stirred, not shaken.


Above you see Japanese actress and singer Rushia Santô, who we last encountered in the film Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede, aka Female Teacher: In Front of the Students. As an actress she worked in the misleadingly named genre of roman porno (romantic pornography), which consists of non-explicit but highly sexual dramas and comedies. She made only six movies. That's not many, but with titles like Mischievous Lolita: Attacking the Virgin from Behind (Itazura Lolita: Ushirokara virgin) and Sexy doll: Abe Sada sansei, we'd wager her imprint on Japanese cinema was indelible. This shot is from around 1982.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 9 2021
SMOKE AND FIRE
Hepburn brings a special kind of style to Hollywood.


We don't smoke, but Katherine Hepburn sure makes smoking look good in this RKO promo photo shot by Ernest Bachrach in 1935. Though she had a long and storied career, this early shot is pretty much her iconic image. Prints of it are even sold on Wal-Mart's website. Hepburn is incomparable. Her must-watch films include Bringing Up Baby, Adam's Rib, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Long Day's Journey into Night, The Lion in Winter, the groundbreaking Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (which inspired an excellent reggae song by Black Uhuru), and On Golden Pond.
 
You can sum up Hepburn's output by saying she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar twelve times and won a quartet, the most ever. The Oscar has failed to stay as relevant as it could have over recent decades, and the Academy has made some embarrassing Best Picture choices (Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction—really?), but it's always been a reliable measure of acting quality, so Hepburn's four wins are meaningful. The one thing she didn't do was make a lot of pulp style movies. One that looks as if it qualifies is the 1946 drama Undercurrent. We'll circle back to that and the divine Miss H. in a bit. 

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Femmes Fatales Nov 4 2021
CON' WOMAN
She was one of the year's best point and shoot models.


You see the above person identified on scores of websites as Lisa Montell, but that's another IRE™ (internet replication error). The photo actually shows Kenya born British actress Maureen Connell. Her first movie was, fittingly, 1954's The White Huntress, about British settlers in Kenya. Connell went on to appear in The Abominable Snowman, Port Afrique, and more than twenty television shows. This shot was made when she was filming 1957's Kill Her Gently. Note the amazing shadows of the gun and Connell's body the photographer created. For us, this is one of the better armed femme fatale photos we've seen. We'll revisit Connell soon.

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Femmes Fatales Oct 31 2021
THE WITCHING HOUR
That's a great pumpkin, Ellen Drew.


This cool 1941 photo shows U.S. actress Ellen Drew, who appeared in the film noir Johnny O'Clock, as well as the titles Strange Confession, Night Plane from Chungking, The Crooked Way, and dozens of other films between 1936 and 1957. Here she has all the Halloween accoutrements—black cat, jack-o'-lantern, and a witchy cape, as she awaits the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. Psst—he's behind you.

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Femmes Fatales Oct 30 2021
A KILLER NUMBER
Now that I've knocked all the ladies dead here's a little something for the gents.


Here's an unusual and beautiful promo photo of British ice skater-turned-actress Belita from 1956's Invitation to the Dance, in which she appeared with Gene Kelly. Everyone is on the floor because the number she does is “Ring Around the Rosy,” where they all fall down. We looked around for a clip of it, but with no luck. You'll have to imagine it. But for a consolation prize we have a bunch of pix of her swimming in the Town House pool at this link.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 07
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.
December 06
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
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