They're dressed for bed but it doesn't look like sleep is the plan.
We're back to Mike Ludlow today, with these two pin-up paintings of negligée clad beauties he created for Esquire magazine. As we mentioned not long ago, Ludlow painted portraits of film stars, and as you can see here even the women that came from his imagination look a bit famous. For instance, to us these two look like Diana Dors (a little) and Elaine Stewart (a lot). Or is that just us? Regardless, they're beautiful creations.
Only perfect manners can snare the perfect man.
This item caught our eye. How To Be Attractive was written by Hollywood actress Joan Bennett and, as its title indicates, is designed to help the modern mid-century woman negotiate the fraught dating scene. We've seen a few bloggers rip this book to shreds, but that's easy do with something written in 1943. We've read a few excerpts of it and it strikes us as a harmless artifact of an earlier age. Nobody was hurt in its writing, manufacture, or sale, and some of the advice—which veers into such realms as throwing parties and befriending other women—seems pretty practical to us. On the other hand, there's definitely a boys-will-be-boys theme running through it, the idea that if guys get the wrong idea from a woman's behavior or dress it's entirely her responsibility. We daresay most people have grown up a little since then, are still doing it, and will keep at it. We've seen a few other celebrity authored books, so maybe we'll post some of those later. Below, Bennett shows she'd be attractive, with or without the help of a book.
This hat looks great. Now with water, fertilizer, and a lot of patience I'll be able to make a dress to go with it.
Above, a return engagement on Pulp Intl. for American model Joanne Arnold, who in this nice Technicolor lithograph is wearing nothing but a bonnet garlanded with daisies. Arnold was a 1954 Playboy centerfold and sometime model for famed photographer Peter Gowland, who made her the centerpiece of a famous series of underwater nudes, one of which we showed you way back in 2012. She also popped up on another Technicolor litho with four other models. You can see that here. The date on the above item is 1950. Arnold will return, we promise, at which point we'll see if she ever got the rest of her outfit together.
Girls Come First but Lindberg came last.
Above you see a promo poster for the wacky British sex comedy Girls Come First, which premiered this month in 1975. The movie deals with a rich magazine owner named Hugh Jampton who hires a debt-wracked artist played by hunky ex-physique model John Hamill to paint nude portraits of the hostesses that work at the Swinger Club, which Jampton owns. This is a short film, only about forty-five minutes, so that's the entire plot, other than Hamill getting laid. Our main interest in this was determining whether Christina Lindberg is in it. She's not on any cast lists you find online, but she's right in the middle of the poster. Could she be in the film but be absent from cast lists? Absolutely. Thanks to the dreaded internet replication error, she's listed everywhere as appearing in 1974's Teenage Playmates, which she doesn't, so we wouldn't be surprised if she isn't credited for a movie she's actually in. So we took a detailed look and we can say without doubt that—like technical values, genuine laughs, acting ability, and a sense of shame—Lindberg is nowhere to be found here. The producers obviously figured she'd make a great addition to the poster and borrowed her for that purpose.
After getting over that disappointment, we noticed British-Chinese actor Burt Kwouk playing Jampton's chauffeur. His presence is worth mentioning because, in a way, he's a film icon, a sort of symbolic stand-in for stereotyped Asian characters in cinema. He played the bumbling Cato in four Pink Panther films, and here he plays a bumbler named—wait for it—Sashimi. Can you imagine? Kwouk personified the dilemma confronting all actors, but particularly actors of color, throughout film history. In the real world a paycheck is nothing to sneeze at, but the resulting work survives for future generations to ridicule and/or revile. Kwouk said in 1981 about the parts he played, “If I don’t do it, someone else will. So why don’t I go in, get some money, and try to elevate it a bit, if I can?” If Kwouk's work was the elevated version you'll break into a cold sweat imagining what his roles could have been like. In any case, we've solved the Lindberg mystery, and now we'll move on. Below are a couple of shots of Hamill and Longhurst for your pleasure.
Don't worry. Lava's slow. I'm fast. I'll undress, we'll screw, then we'll run for our lives.
When we lived in Central America there were three volcanoes that loomed over our town. One's slope commenced just a few miles away and its peak dominated the sky to the south, but that one was extinct. The other two were not. One was dormant, but the other was active and smoked nonstop, with the prevailing wind carrying the ash away from town. This mountain occasionally shot out fountains of lava hundreds of feet high, which is a sight that will make you realize how insignificant you are the same way seeing a tornado or massive wave will. These mountains stood sentinel over many of our adventures, and were even involved in a few, including the time we visited a village on the extinct volcano and a mob of about thirty people beat a suspected thief to death.
Another time the top of that volcano started glowing red one night when we were hanging out at one of the local bars. We stood in the street with our drinks watching this spectacle, and pretty soon we could see flames around the mountain's peak. We thought we were seriously screwed. It was always understood that if that dead volcano ever came back to life there was nothing to do but kiss your ass goodbye. We decided to redouble our drinking. It turned out the flames were caused by a forest fire way up by the rim, but we gotta tell you, in those moments when we thought we might be toast, we got very efficiently hammered. It's a great memory, standing in that cobbled colonial lane, guzzling booze and waiting for the mountain to blow us all to hell.
Needless to say, for that reason the cover of 1952's The Angry Mountain by Hammond Innes sold us. The art is by Mitchell Hooks and it's close to his best work, we think. We didn't need to know anything about the book. We just wanted to see how the author used a volcano—specifically Vesuvius—in his tale, since they're a subject personal to us. The cover scene does occur in the narrative, though the couple involved aren't actually trying to have sex. Innes describes this lava lit encounter well. In fact we'd say it's described beyond the ability of even an artist as good as Hooks to capture, but that doesn't mean the book is top notch. Innes simply manages to make the most of his central gimmick.
The narrative deals with a man named Farrell who was tortured during World War II, losing his leg to a fascist doctor who amputated without anesthesia. A handful of years later Farrell is in Europe again, getting around on a prosthetic leg, when a series of events leads to him believing the doctor who tortured him is alive and living under a false identity. In trying to unravel this mystery he travels from Czechoslovakia, to Milan, to Naples, and finally to a villa at the foot of Vesuvius, along the way being pursued but having no idea why. He soon comes to understand that he's thought to be hiding or carrying something. But what? Why? And where? Where could he be carrying something valuable without his knowledge? Well, there's that hollow leg of his he let get out of his sight one night when he got blackout drunk...
That was a spoiler but since you probably don't have a volcano fetish you aren't going to seek out this novel, right? The main flaw with The Angry Mountain is that, ironically, there's not much heat. Farrell is an alcoholic and has PTSD, so he's not an easy protagonist to get behind. And his confusion about what's happening gives the first-person narrative the feel of going around in circles much of the time. And because this is a 1950s thriller, there's the mandatory love interest—or actually two—and that feels unrealistic when you're talking about a one-legged boozehound who has nightmares, cold sweats, and general stability problems. So the book, while evocative, is only partly successful. But those volcano scenes. We sure loved those.
There's been entirely too much downsizing around here. How about today you and I do a little upsizing?
When does a growth spurt occur in a typical business? In mid-century sleaze fiction, it happens whenever secretary and boss agree, as suggested in this brilliant cover by George Gross for John Hunter's 1957 novel Office Hussy, previously published in 1951 as The Loves of Alice Brandt and credited to Gene Harvey. We like to interpret this as the woman being the boss, having just told her subordinate to pour a couple of tall bourbons, and be damned quick about it. But it can be seen the other way if you wish. Doesn't matter, because when consenting parties get together everybody gets a bonus. You already know George Gross was close to the best paperback artist ever, but if you're unfamiliar with him, check here, here, and here.
Blacula hopes to get a hard restart.
Every blockbuster deserves—or at least spawns—a sequel, and so it was with 1972's blaxploitation hit Blacula, which American International Pictures followed up with Scream, Blacula, Scream. All it really needed was star William Marshall, who in the first movie showed true professionalism by playing his role of Mamuwalde the cursed vampire to the hilt. He does the same here, and with the addition of Pam Grier the filmmakers had their bases covered. Grier plays a Mamaloa priestess who Mamuwalde asks to use her voodoo judo to turn him into a man again. Presumably at that point he'll start his new life with a romp in bed with Grier. We would.
Grier tries to figure out how to transform Mamuwalde, but in the interim he still occasionally gets hungry, which presents the cops with a series of bizarre murders. You know the drill. Bodies are punctured about the neck and drained of blood, but everyone is skeptical about the vampire thing. In short order they change their minds, generally right before departing for the sweet hereafter. At least part of the fun for audiences would have been seeing cops beaten and maimed, and the climax surely offers plenty of that. Does Mamuwalde's scheme to rejoin humanity work? We'll give you a hint: When the man is on your trail bite more, talk less.
We have some nice promo images below. The two of Grier in a red crop top are usually considered to be from Foxy Brown, but she actually wears the outfit in this film. Maybe she wears it in Foxy Brown too. And why not—it's hot. You can read about Blacula at this link, and see plenty more of Miss Grier by clicking her keywords below. Scream, Blacula, Scream premiered in the U.S. today in 1973.
Coffee isn't going to get the job done today. You got any of that 8-ball left over from last weekend?
Based on the bummed expressions on the faces of the coffee drinkers on this cover for Larry Tuttle's The Bold and the Innocent, they've just come to the conclusion that they need stimulation of a higher order than caffeine. At least that's what it looks like to us. But this is a swinger sleaze novel, which means the only way they'll get their hands on 8-balls is if they have sex with 4 guys. That doesn't happen. Instead the story deals with two married women who cross the line with each other. You know the one. The lesbian line. That always leads to serious trouble in mid-century fiction, and The Bold and the Innocent is probably no exception. 1965 on this, with uncredited art, though it's possibly Bill Edwards.
So far I've had malaria, dysentery, dengue, hookworm, and schistosomiasis, but baby, you make it all worth it.
Once again cover art works its intended magic, as we made the choice of reading Georges Simonen's African adventure Tropic Moon solely due to being lured by Charles Copeland's evocative brushwork. This edition came from Berkley Books in 1958, but the tale was originally published as Coup de lune in 1933. It's set in Gabon, then a territory of French Equatorial Africa, and poses the familiar question: does Africa ruins whites or were they bad beforehand? The main character here, Joseph Timar, is done in by heat and booze and easy sex, but he was surely a terrible person before he ever set foot in Gabon, and of course he's a stand-in for all white colonials. All we can say is we get the message. We got it way back when Conrad wrote it. What would be great is some sense of evolution in all these Conrad-derived works, for instance if occasionally the human cost of colonial greed were shown to be black lives and prosperity rather than white dignity and morality, but literary treatments of that sort had not yet come over the horizon during the pulp era. On its own merits, though, Tropic Moon is interesting, a harrowing front row seat for a downward spiral in the equatorial jungle.
Once we get started you'll realize this isn't actually my debut at this sort of thing. I just wanna be honest here.
Above a cover for the sleaze novel Depraved Debutante, published in 1962, with art by an unknown. Roger Blake, aka John Trimble, also wrote 1962's Sex King and its follow-up Sex Queen, which aren't about royals getting freaky, but would probably be better if they were. See Sex Queen here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
1960—To Kill a Mockingbird Appears
Harper Lee's racially charged novel To Kill a Mockingbird
is published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. The book is hailed as a classic, becomes an international
bestseller, and spawns a movie starring Gregory Peck, but is the only novel Lee would ever publish.
1962—Nuke Test on Xmas Island
As part of the nuclear tests codenamed Operation Dominic, the United States detonates a one megaton bomb on Australian controlled Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. The island was a location for a series of American and British nuclear tests, and years later lawsuits claiming radiation damage to military personnel were filed, but none were settled in favor in the soldiers.
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