Alarms, security, police... As a master jewel thief I thought I'd considered every possible obstacle. Just goes to show.
This Avon Publications cover for The Deadly Game by Norman Daniels was painted by Bob Abbett. The book has a promising premise, though there's no nude that interrupts a safe cracking. The story concerns a high society jewel thief who's being constantly dogged by a determined police detective, and who decides to get revenge by bedding the cop's wife, then, for good measure, implicating her in his next heist. It's revenge to the nth degree—cuckold the cop, further humiliate him by succeeding with the crime, then railroad his wife to prison. We're talking cruel. Too bad this one is undone by substandard writing. But it wasn't bad enough to stop us from sticking with it until the end and finding out how it all resolved. If you find it for five bucks or less, it's probably worth taking the plunge.
Sorry to scare you. Just triple checking. So it's a firm no on that dinner invitation. Any chance you'd meet me for coffee?
In one of our favorite episodes of The Simpsons, Bart is on edge because he's being stalked by Sideshow Bob, who wants to kill him. Homer decides to show Bart a new hockey mask and chainsaw he's bought. He bursts into Bart's room wearing the mask, brandishing the roaring chainsaw, and yells, “Hey Bart! Check out my new hockey mask and chainsaw!” Bart screams in terror, and Homer, realizing he's chosen the worst possible time to show off these purchases, backs out of the room apologizing. Amazingly, a scene exactly like that occurs in Mignon G. Eberhart's 1946 Miami based parlor mystery White Dress, except protagonist Marny Sanderson is terrified of a killer who's been stalking her while wearing a black raincoat with a black scarf wrapped around his head. Another character dons the same costume and walks unannounced into her room with the intention of confirming her description of the killer. He doesn't yell, “Hey Marny, did he look anything like THIS!” But he might as well have. His subsequent apology: “My God, how stupid of me. It never occurred to me that I might frighten you.” We got a hearty laugh from that.
None of this is to say White Dress is bad, but it's certainly obtuse in parts. It's also old fashioned, even for a novel from the period. Authors like Dashiell Hammett had debuted more than a decade earlier and changed the conventions of detective novels, peopling them with hard-boiled men and women. Swooning flowers of maidenhood like Marny continued to exist in the sub-genre of romantic mysteries Eberhart specialized in, but ladies of leisure faced with murder don't react in proactive ways. That's where the romance comes in, as Marny attracts the attentions of a dashing Navy flier who makes it his latest mission to swoop down and save the hot damsel in distress. Though more decisive than Marny, his approach to the mystery is often ridiculous. Without getting deeply into it, suffice it to say he has a couple of dangerously cockeyed brainstorms. But you know what? For all its quirks we still liked White Dress. It's a window onto a romanticized realm we've never understood. Maybe it never truly existed. But viewed anthropologically, it's engaging and amusing.
We just can't say no—to René Roques.
Once again we're charting the output of Éditions R.R. and René Roques. His company produced some of the tastiest covers in French publishing, and this one by Jef de Wulf for the novel Choc!, or “Shock!, maintains the high standard. Just click the keywords “Éditions R.R.” below and you can see four more excellent covers.
St. Cyr escapes her gilded cage.
Above is a poster for Runaway Girl, a starring vehicle for burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr. In the film, Randy, played by Jock Mahoney, runs a family vineyard, and imports low wage harvest workers every year, all of them women, all young. This year his flock of seven laborers includes an extra woman in the form of Edella, played by St. Cyr. The grape grower starts to have randy feelings toward her, and pretty soon the two are canoodling in town and country. But Randy isn't actually a member of the wine making family by blood. He was taken in by the patriarch when young, and dating the help quickly causes this fault line to open. St. Cyr doesn't belong either. She's beautiful, glamorous, and has clearly never worked hard in her life. What is she doing there? How did a glamorous blonde end up picking grapes in a vineyard? The title of the movie tells you.
Runaway Girl is a low rent drama with only St. Cyr to distinguish it, but there are two versions—a cinematic release, and a racier adult version with three nudie cutie segments. There's a group shower sequence, a skinny dipping sequence, and a striptease. These sequences are jarring because they were spliced in to heat up the stew for an adult oriented re-release that played in nudie cinemas. St. Cyr also does a little medley of her most famous burlesque numbers, as she explains in a flashback that she's—shockingly—really a nationally famous peeler running away from the overwhelming demands of life as a paid exhibitionist. This revelation doesn't sit well with the old fashioned Randy. Can he overlook St. Cyr's racy past?
Runaway Girl is a product of classic Hollywood thinking—i.e. any famous pop culture personality can be harnessed for profit. The same holds true today, as a succession of singers, rappers, reality stars, and comics trickle into movies every year. We're not putting them down. Some can actually act, particularly the comics. But St. Cyr can't. Emotively, she's flatter than a fruit roll-up. It pains us to admit that, because we think she's a celestial wonder. But there you have it. Even worse, this was her seventh full length film, so it probably represents the height of her acting skills. Woof. You have a choice. You can either avoid this turkey or watch it expressly to see St. Cyr with motion and sound, rather than merely as an amazing pin-up. We have some nice production photos below to help you make up your mind. Runaway Girl premiered in the U.S. today in 1965.
Welch proves indispensable to yet another ’60s caper flick.
Above you see a promo poster for 大泥棒, or “Great Thief,” made for the 1968 Raquel Welch/Robert Wagner caper flick The Biggest Bundle of Them All. The U.S. poster was painted by master illustrator Robert McGinnis, but we decided to show you the Japanese art instead because it's rare. There are two more Japanese promos below that are also rare. We'll get to the McGinnis version later. In the film, Wagner and his henchmen kidnap an elderly Italian gangster played by Vittorio De Sica and hold him for ransom. Problem is he has no money. At first they don't believe him, but when it finally becomes clear he's broke, Wagner and Co. try to cut bait. But De Sica is terrified all Italy will find out he couldn't pay his own ransom. His reputation would be ruined. So he convinces his kidnappers to join him in a swindle that will maintain his reputation, make him rich again, and earn the kidnappers more money than they ever imagined. De Sica becomes the boss of his own abductors.
For a crime-comedy, it's an ingenious premise, which makes it a shame it wasn't original. Another movie with an almost identical plot called The Happening was in production at Columbia, and when the studio got wind of The Biggest Bundle of Them All it threatened to sue. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer agreed to give Columbia a cut of Bundle's profits and a legal bloodbath was avoided, but in the same way De Sica's big caper doesn't exactly play out perfectly, Bundle's profits didn't blow the roof off MGM headquarters as planned. And no wonder. It wasn't just the script that wasn't original—the film falls into the same category as continental crime capers like Charade, To Catch a Thief, and Topkapi, and those make for crowded and treacherous cinematic waters. Bundle isn't sophisticated enough, or exciting enough, or infused with enough sexual chemistry to compete with better films of its ilk.
Speaking of sexual chemistry, Welch is naturally the big attraction of any movie she's in, and we've seen enough of her work now to understand that she was more of a persona than an actress during this mid- to late-’60s period. In film after film she basically played herself. Here she smiles and quips and poses, and it's all very Welchian in that groovy way her fans had come to expect—bikinis, lingerie, go-go dancing and all. The movie would be worth far less without her. There are also supporting appearances by Edward G. Robinson and Femi Benussi, while future blaxploitation icon Godfrey Cambridge is one of the kidnappers, so there's plenty for stargazers to enjoy here, but we can't call the movie a success. If you have nothing to do some evening, it might give you a few smiles, but not a bundle of them. After premiering in the U.S. in 1968, The Biggest Bundle of Them All opened in Japan today in 1968.
Adventure magazine takes a look at what the better half is doing.
We've written a lot about vintage men's adventure magazines. Today the tables turn. Above you see the cover of a May 1956 issue of True Woman's Adventures. We're not going to kid you, though—it's still a men's magazine. Easiest way to tell? There are no photos of studs in bathing suits. But even though this women's magazine is really a men's magazine, it at least celebrates rugged women, with stories on bullfighter Patricia McCormick, French aviator Maryse Bastié, and explorer/travel writer Ginger Lamb. We'd like to do a deep dive into their biographies, but it'll have to wait for another day.
Some of the articles here are also written by women, with credits given to Carole Lewis, Jean Mayfield, Christine Herman, and Peggy Converse. This was the debut issue of True Woman's Adventures, but unfortunately, the only one. Was it always intended to be a one-off? We don't know. The cover was painted by George Giguere, whose signature you can see at lower left. Even so, we're amazed Mark Schneider didn't paint it—the style is so close. Check what we mean here. And check out the thirty scans below. As always, we have more adventure magazines to come.
It's not just your eyes or your lips that thrill me. It's the entirety of your head.
Above, an amusing cover for 1954's Forbidden by Leo Brattes, painted by an unknown artist. Brattes was a pseudonym for Leslie Raddatz, and this seems to have been his/her only book.
This is one tough dame. I think it's time we tried Thai food, a few glasses of white wine, and a back rub.
No! Not the back rub! Anything but that! It'll work, though. And once she starts talking she'll give up the details on everyone. Occasionally you read a book and it isn't anything like you expected. We knew A.E. Van Vogt was a science fiction writer, but we figured that—like others in his literary niche—he dabbled in crime or sleaze fiction early in his career. And perhaps he did, but not with this book. It starts with a quasi-detective character believing he's rescuing a woman from whip wielding villains, but soon takes a left turn to involve secret Central American cults and an ancient marble house that bestows its inhabitants with eternal life, with the protagonist of course refusing at every step to believe what he's seeing. It's a fascinating concept, but Van Vogt forgot to piece his tale together in a way that allows the narrative to gel. We give it major points for weirdness, but demerits for execution. Interesting effort, though. The cover art on this Beacon edition from 1960 is by Gerald McConnell.
Get while the getting is good.
It's the classic film noir pickle: what will a guy do when he can't find a job? Pretty much 100% of the time he resorts to crime, and pretty much 100% of the time he gets in deep shit real fast. The unlucky mug in Try and Get Me! is Frank Lovejoy, who moved with his wife and son to California but didn't realize “a million other guys had the same idea.” Desperation sets in and a chance meeting precipitates his descent into crime, as he becomes a getaway driver for stickup artist Lloyd Bridges. Meanwhile, over in the subplot, a news publisher who wants to move more copies of his paper convinces a reporter to portray the holdups as part of a crime invasion by eastern gangs. Interesting, right? If you're a media outlet that wants to rake in profits, just claim some “other” is ruining your community.
Here's the money quote: “People love to be scared to death. The more you scare 'em the more papers they buy.”
Without putting too fine a point on it, which we'll do anyway, clearly nothing has changed seventy years later, except now cable and radio don't sell fear, because that implies weakness—they sell “outrage,” which sounds macho and proactive, but is nothing more than a fight-or-flight reaction to fear. Would a character in a popular movie made in 2021 casually toss off an observation like that? We mean a line that gets at an essential societal ailment—to wit, people will think exactly what they're told to think, as long as the information comes from someone they like? We doubt it. In Try and Get Me! the newspaper guys use the “eastern criminals” fairy tale until people are so riled up they lose the capacity for rational thought. They even—ahem—form a lawless mob and assault the seat of government.
Too much plot info? Oops. It's less relevant than you'd suspect, though. Anyway, Bridges, who's instigating the crime spree, inevitably tires of taking in twenty and thirty bucks per job and drags Lovejoy along on a prospective big score. How do you think that turns out? Could it possibly be... murder? And now they're both in it up to their noose-sized necks. The audience knows from an earlier scene that Lovejoy's collar size is fifteen and-a-half. Foreshadowing? Possibly, but there's still an hour left in the film at that point, and anything can happen. Later there's an interesting shot of a window shade and its circular pull, which looks sort of like a noose. Hmm... Well, best not to dwell on possible signs and portents too deeply. Try and Get Me!, also known as The Sound of Fury, premiered in the U.S. today in 1950
Gardner and MacMurray juggle love and danger in wartime Malaysia.
We talked about the 1947 war adventure Singapore in August. Here's a beautiful Italian poster for the film, on which co-star Ava Gardner takes front and center, with Fred MacMurray lurking in the background. There are several Italian promos. This one is by Zadro, who painted a number of other brilliant pieces, but about whom little is known today. We'll get back to him. And you can read more about the movie here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1905—Las Vegas Is Founded
Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres of barren desert land in what had once been part of Mexico are auctioned off to various buyers. The area sold is located in what later would become the downtown section of the city. From these humble beginnings Vegas becomes the most populous city in Nevada, an internationally renowned resort for gambling, shopping, fine dining and sporting events, as well as a symbol of American excess. Today Las Vegas remains one of the fastest growing municipalities in the United States.
1928—Mickey Mouse Premieres
The animated character Mickey Mouse, along with the female mouse Minnie, premiere in the cartoon Plane Crazy, a short co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This first cartoon was poorly received, however Mickey would eventually go on to become a smash success, as well as the most recognized symbol of the Disney empire.
1939—Five-Year Old Girl Gives Birth
In Peru, five-year old Lina Medina becomes the world's youngest confirmed mother at the age of five when she gives birth to a boy via a caesarean section necessitated by her small pelvis. Six weeks earlier, Medina had been brought to the hospital because her parents were concerned about her increasing abdominal size. Doctors originally thought she had a tumor, but soon determined she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her son is born underweight but healthy, however the identity of the father and the circumstances of Medina's impregnation never become public.
1987—Rita Hayworth Dies
American film actress and dancer Margarita Carmen Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth, who became her era's greatest sex symbol and appeared in sixty-one films, including the iconic Gilda
, dies of Alzheimer's disease in her Manhattan apartment. Naturally shy, Hayworth was the antithesis of the characters she played. She married five times, but none lasted. In the end, she lived alone, cared for by her daughter who lived next door.
1960—Gary Cooper Dies
American film actor Gary Cooper, who harnessed an understated, often stoic style in numerous adventure films and westerns, including Sergeant York, For Whom the Bell Tolls, High Noon, and Alias Jesse James, dies of prostate, intestinal, lung and bone cancer. For his contributions to American cinema Cooper received a plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is considered one of top movie stars of all time.
1981—The Pope Is Shot
In Rome, Italy, in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II is shot four times by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The Pope is rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic to undergo emergency surgery and survives. Agca serves nineteen years in an Italian prison, after which he is deported to his homeland of Turkey, and serves another sentence for the 1979 murder of journalist Abdi Ipekçi. Agca is eventually paroled on January 18, 2010.
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