A nocturnal perpetrator is revealed thanks to key evidence.
Above you see a beautiful paperback cover, both front and back, for Gerald Kersh's classic drama Night and the City, basis for the famed 1950 film noir. We have a copy of the book, so we may get back to it later. We're sharing the cover because it was painted by Sandro Symeoni. Back when we first stumbled upon this genius more than a decade ago there was little online about him. Now he has a Twitter page, a dedicated website currently in mid-build, plus a recent Facebook group. All of this means his profile is growing, which in turn means more attributed pieces appearing.
But attribution can be tricky. Symeoni was a chameleonic artist, with a style that evolved so much that even with the presence of his signature removing all doubt as to the provenance of the work, it's still hard to imagination that he painted with such range. And of course, some of his pieces don't have signatures, often because it was covered or cropped, and in those cases a little detective work is needed. The above cover is a good example. It's not signed, and has not been attributed to Symeoni anywhere, but it's him.
Note the background perspective on the left side, the chain of streetlights that draws the eye beyond the female figure. For a while this was Symeoni's thing, and it appeared in much of his work. For example, check this section at right (or above if you're using a mobile device) of his cover for the Peter Cheyney novel He Walked in Her Sleep (full cover here).
And directly below that example you see another, more subtle version of it in a crop we've made of his poster for La strada della vergogna (full poster here). Again you see a pretty chain of light receding from the viewer, plus a few impressionistic dots of nocturnal illumination. We have a few more examples below, but what you've already seen is probably convincing enough. These are all unmistakably by the same hand. Simultaneously, Symeoni used another stylistic trademark on the Kersh cover—flourescent yellow. You see that in the first two posters of this group. Sorry to ask you click over there, but if we added those examples here the post would become a real mess. In any case, you see what we mean about the light. With both the perspective and dayglow yellow characteristics noted, plus the general similarity of style, there's little doubt this is Symeoni's work. The final piece of evidence is simply that he's known to have produced pieces for Ace Books between 1958 and 1960, if not even a year or two later. This is an Ace cover, thus the case becomes open and shut. Well, maybe it wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for here. Verdict reached: Symeoni. Below we've uploaded a few movie posters, confirmed as Symeoni's, in which he uses the perspective technique noted above. They'll help to reinforce our conclusion. Again, stylistically he was wide ranging. In addition to what you see here he painted portraits, delved deeply into color blocking, painted with abstract and blank backgrounds, drew in ink, painted humorous pieces, and created scores of unique fonts. But of all his styles we like these nighttime masterpieces best. More from this virtuoso later.
Hi, Jane. I hear Tarzan's away for the week. You know, some of us guys living in this jungle have a little class.
Remember that time Tarzan went all the way to the city to buy bug repellant? Jane was alone, and they'd been having some troubles, and she needed a shoulder to cry on, and Chad, who lives a couple of trees over, happened to be around, and, well, something happened. It lasted like a week. Chad was such an entitled ass it made Jane realize how good she actually had it with the King of the Jungle. And him? What he doesn't know can't hurt him.
One small film for sci-fi, one giant Lepus for bad cinema.
This rare poster was made to promote Night of the Lepus, and those creepy eyes in the dark belong to rabbits. Giant rabbits. Lepus. Makes sense, right? Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and DeForest Kelly, post-Star Trek, star in what is supposed to be an epically bad film, but to us it was more like standard low level sci-fi or horror (take your pick). The special effects drag down the entire enterprise, but that's almost par for the course when it comes to this genre during the time period. We can imagine the actors signing on and being told the special effects would carry the movie. “Yeah, we've got top people on this giant rabbit thing. They'll look totally convincing!” Well, they don't, but neither do the monsters in 90% of vintage sci-fi.
If we had to guess, we'd say one reason people think this film is so bad is that there are numerous inadvertently funny lines of dialogue, for example when Kelly says, “We've got three holes to blow,” and when Chuck Hayward says, “I'm ready to release the gas as soon as they come out.” But the script is coherent, and the acting is more than adequate, so those two positives alone keep this out of the Plan 9 and Starcrash sub-basement category, as it brings to life the story of scientists and ranchers trying to reduce the number of feral rabbits in Arizona. Researchers Whitman and Leigh turn to hormones to shut off the bunnies' breeding capabilities, but this accidentally causes them to grow to enormous size—and makes them hopping mad too. In short order they overrun the nearby town and all the humans are fleeing for their lives.
Yes, the movie is silly. It's a clinic in the limited utility of forced perspective for trying to make believable monsters, an endeavor additionally undermined by the inconvenient fact that giant bunnies are still cute. But can you really pass up the chance to see Bones from Star Trek ambling around the high desert? And Janet Leigh is always sight to behold, here settling deep into an elegant milfhood, forty five with a cotton candy afroperm that she makes look as regal as a platinum crown. Epically bad? It's bad alright, mainly because it lacks distinction. But maybe you should just watch it and decide for yourself where it ranks. Night of the Lepus premiered today in 1972.
Excuse me madam, would you like to hear an American's opinions about everything?
John Steinbeck's Un americano en Nueva York y en Paris was published in 1957 by Ediciones Mariel, which was based in Buenos Aires. First published in 1956 in France as Un Américain à New York et à Paris, this is a collection of articles that Steinbeck wrote for Le Figaro when he was living in Paris. Because they originally appeared in French for a French publication many went unpublished in English for decades. In fact we can't be sure all the essays are available in English even today, though one would like to assume so. In any case, that's why this book caught our eye—because it surprised us that the entire collection of essays was available in Argentina, but not the U.S., almost immediately after they appeared in France.
Steinbeck was a serious writer, and thus was considered a serious persona, but the Le Figaro essays gave him a chance to show readers his wit and humor. Some of his observations read so contemporarily they could be from a year ago, particularly his musings over a restaurant owner who received a Michelin star, then spent every waking moment plotting, hoping, suffering to get another. He hopes to have his chance when the Michelin critic schedules another visit. The fact that the chef's official taster is Steinbeck's cat Apollo just adds more absurdity to the tale, as the genius who wrote Of Mice and Men veers into the silliness of cats and menus.
The parts of Un americano en Nueva York y en Paris not about France consist of articles concerning New York, culture, and politics. One of those latter entries, from 1954, is about Joseph McCarthy, who was in full witch hunt mode at the time. Much of the literati were loudly opposed to the proto-fascist senator, but Steinbeck took a different tack, writing that democracies occasionally need a challenge from demagogues in order to evolve, because such dark episodes remind people what democratic ideals really are—i.e. everyone gets to participate, not just self-appointed gatekeepers and purity-testers afraid of change or losing power. The tent of democracy always gets bigger, not smaller. It can't do the latter and qualify as a democracy.
The cover art on this was painted by J.C. Cotignola, whose work appeared on various Argentine and Brazilian publications, but who isn't well known today. Bang up job though. To us the title of the collection somewhat echoes George Orwell's acclaimed Down and Out in Paris and London, another book about knocking around in a couple of big cities. The difference is Orwell was so poor he almost starved to death—he literally ate moldy bread out of garbage cans to survive. Steinbeck was the toast of Paris when he was there. Given a choice, we'd skip the mold and go straight to the toast. Preferably with a layer of rillette de porc on top. Even Apollo the cat would approve of that.
It's nothing a good stain remover won't fix.
Above: a cover for Poupée de chair, 1963, by Hans J. Nordling, from Éditions Baudelaire—not to be confused with the publisher currently partnered with Hatchette. In French “poupée” means doll, and “chair” means flesh, so there's your title in English—"flesh doll." The book deals with a woman trapped in an unconsummated marriage, whose rival for her husband's affections is her own mother. How very French. We like the art on this, which we're going to say with a high degree of confidence was painted by James Hodges. It was cropped from a larger piece, we suspect, because his femme fatale is reaching for a gun you can barely see at lower right. See more from Hodges here, here, and here.
The final element of our airtight alibi is the naked part, so let's get started on that now.
There's nothing quite like settling in for a b-movie, but being pleasantly surprised because it's a-quality. And then there's Naked Alibi, a not wholly successful crime procedural starring Sterling Hayden as a two-fisted cop who sometimes bends the rules, Gene Barry as the man he wants to put behind bars, and Gloria Grahame as a woman caught between the two. The movie features the oft-used film noir gimmick of a trip to Mexico—or at least close by, to a fictional town with the imaginative name Border City. In crime cinema, these trips into or adjacent to Mexico are supposed to represent descents into lawlessness, because everybody knows life is cheap on the border. Co-star Don Haggerty to Hayden: “Watch yourself, Joe. He spots you down there he can rub you and make it look real good.”
Hayden doesn't get rubbed down there or anywhere, sadly. But the trip is worth it anyway because he runs into local chanteuse Marianna, played by Gloria Grahame. Her musical repertoire consists of an unenthusiastically lip synched number with overly precious lyrics, but of course the feminine song and dance routine is even more of a film noir staple than a trip to Mexico. Sometimes these musical bits are good, but in this case Grahame obviously can't sing, and her dance moves are flat hilarious. Plus, her acting will never be mistaken for virtuosic. What she has, though, is a palpable vulnerability that makes her an excellent hard luck femme fatale, in this case one who's grown tired of her abusive boyfriend and is casting a wandering eye toward Hayden as a possible replacement.
Despite mostly passable performances, Naked Alibi is pure b-noir that shows a lack of top tier talent in all other areas. It was directed by television veteran Jerry Hopper and written by Lawrence Roman, successful enough guys who nonetheless were never household names. The entire film hinges on a conceit that was threadbare even during the 1950s—that a criminal won't simply ditch a gun he used to murder someone, but will instead hide it somewhere he can eventually lead the police to. That's a spoiler, but what the hell. We suspect there's a reason this film lapsed into the public domain. Even its trailer is cheesy. What it does have, though, is unusually nice promo material, so we've uploaded a bunch of production photos below, plus a few publicity shots, and three more posters. They're all great, even if the movie isn't. Naked Alibi premiered in the U.S. today in 1954.
Put me down, silly. The expression means I want to spend more time outside the cabin.
According to medical folklore you're actually supposed to starve a fever, but that doesn't work with this cover at all, so feed it is. Orrie Hitt's Cabin Fever was published in 1954. We've read five of his books, and while we don't want to claim that once you've read that many you've read them all, it sure seems like he hits on the same ideas every time. So we aren't going to acquire this one, but that doesn't mean we won't revisit him later. One thing about Orrie—he's a quick read. Harry Schaare art on this.
Some guys just can't catch a break.
The Breaking Point is the second of three Hollywood adaptations of Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not, and it's a very good one. You're already starting from an advantageous point when you have John Garfield in the starring role. He could act, and this part requires quite a bit from him. This was his next-to-last movie—he would be dead two years later, victim of a congenital heart problem, exacerbated by high stress, reportedly from his blacklisting that was the result efforts by commie hunters.
Casablanca director Michael Curtiz is on board here too, and he does a masterful job bringing the story to life. Curtiz, or Warner Brothers, or both, decided to transplant the novel's action from Cuba to Newport Beach, but the theme of a man caught in untenable economic circumstances remains. Those who wanted a reasonably faithful adaptation of Hemingway's story got it in this film. The first version, also called To Have and Have Not, was amazing but had little in common with the source material. The third adaptation, The Gun Runners, was also good but downplayed certain political themes. (There's also an Iranian version we haven't seen and which we'll leave aside for now.) So, which of the three U.S. versions is best? Is it really a competition? They're all compulsively watchable, but this effort with Garfield is the grittiest by far, and the most affecting. It's strange—To Have and Have Not is supposed to be Hemingway's worst book, but with three good movies made from it, maybe it isn't that bad after all. Perhaps because it's a work from one of the most influential authors ever to write in English, the bar was just set too high. Maybe it really is Hemingway at his worst, but personally we think it's very good. The Breaking Point premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Leave it to Nazis to turn phys ed from your favorite class into the worst experience of your life.
This cover of Male from this month in 1967 has cover art of history's worst gym class, painted by the great Mort Kunstler, and leave it to Nazis to ruin the one thing you can get a good grade in just by showing up. Another thing ruined is the magazine. When it arrived it turned out some pages were razored out of the center. Probably the most interesting pages. It's an occupational hazard, we suppose. We generally assume the seller had no idea, as these mags are so often the leftovers of fathers and grandfathers, but if it was in fact deliberate, well then, cocks on their house! That's the saying, right? Or it pox? Doesn't matter. The silver lining was that we didn't have to worry keeping the magazine intact while scanning. We just ripped it apart, which sort of felt good.
There's still plenty of interesting material inside this mutilated Male. There's fiction and fact, art from Gil Cohen and Bruce Minney, plus more from Kunstler, a screed against motorcycles, a lot of pro Vietnam War content, with lots of digs at peace activists and draft fugitives. The magazine works especially hard to convince readers that draftees who fled to Canada faced lives worse than if they'd gone to Southeast Asia. We doubt quite seriously that anything could be worse than dying in a hot jungle for no rational purpose 10,000 miles from home. But maybe we're biased—our fathers were war vets, and they had one wish in life: that the military never get its mitts on us. Also that we never do hard drugs. Well, one out of two isn't bad. Twenty scans below.
Are we safe? Beats me. I don't actually know much about wildlife. I became a great white hunter strictly for the babes.
Instantly recognizable Bill Edwards art of a woman reclining in grass fronts H.T. Lord's 1963 sleaze novel Sin Safari. This was published by Europa Books with one of its rare foldout covers. You see both the folded front and the extended cover here, and you can see another example we shared several years ago at this link. We don't know how many of these fold-outs the company produced, but our guess is a mere five, because that's how many we've seen across a decade of searching.
Turning our attention back to Edwards, his style is usually distinct enough to identify at a glance, but assuming one is unsure and the piece is unsigned, it can be confirmed as his work thanks to his trademark—a mole on his women's cheeks. But he didn't do that 100% of the time, and in fact didn't do it here. Instead he's placed a Band-Aid on her thigh. We don't know what that's about, but he painted Band-Aids on his women at least a few times, giving his work another identifiable element. We'll have more from Edwards and Europa soon.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
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