Take a walk on the wild side.
Above are three cover treatments for Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street, written by Al Palmer, and first published in 1949 (many sources say 1950, but Palmer’s current day publisher Véhicule Press says 1949). Sugar-Puss was set in Montreal in the debauched red light district centered around Dorchester Street (now René Lévesque Boulevard), and spiced with firsthand observations from Palmer, who was a night-crawling columnist for the Montreal Herald and later the Montreal Gazette. His main character, Gisele Lepine, leaves her small farming town, is swept up in bright lights and big city, and pulled into various dramas involving a newspaper man, a cabaret owner, drug-dealers, and chorus girls. Gisele’s situation soon devolves, bringing her up-close and personal with organized crime, murder, and white slavery (always, in mid-century novels, taken to be somehow worse than mere slavery). The novel was Palmer’s only one, but it has managed to endure among collectors, maybe because it has possibly the best title ever. He also wrote a city expose entitled Montreal Confidential. We like all three of these covers, but even if the first two seem of higher quality, with their splashes of purple and yellow, we think version three manages to capture a feeling of loneliness and alienation. The top piece is by Syd Dyke, the middle one by D. Rickard, and the last is by unknown.
, Montreal Gazette
, Montreal Herald
, Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street
, Montreal Undercover
, Al Palmer
, Syd Dyke
, D. Rickard
, cover art
It doesn’t look like much now, but slap on some paint, scatter some knick-knacks around, and we can open a bed & breakfast and make a fortune.
Initially published in 1953 as House of Lost Women, Frank Haskell’s Boarding House acquired its new title in 1954 when re-published by Cameo Books, and retained the new name on the above 1969 edition from Macfadden-Bartell. Frank Haskell was a pseudonym for author Haskell Frankel, whose real name strikes us as a bit more literary sounding than his moniker, whereas the pen name sounds like it belongs to maybe a high school football coach or a union president. No artist info on this, but it’s unusual and we like it.
A theory of light and shade.
This beautiful promo photo of Romanian actress Tala Birell strikes a film noir note, but because her career flourished before the advent of the genre she never made a movie that can be fully classified as noir, though 1937’s She’s Dangerous comes close. Birell appeared in about forty films, first in Europe, then the U.S., and eventually moved back to Europe where she worked for the U.S. Government organizing theatrical productions in Germany, France, and Austria. You’re thinking what we’re thinking, right? She was totally a spy. Well, perhaps not, but she sure looks like one above. The shot was made for Columbia Pictures after she was signed as a contact player there in 1933.
Caper presents its genteel vision of American eroticism.
Caper is an American nudie mag that was launched in 1956 by Humor Magazines, Inc., of Derby, Connecticut, and ran until 1980. This issue published in January 1960 features cover model Judy LaPree, and interior models Beth Marlboro (in the centerfold), Jamie O’Neil, and the ubiquitous June Wilkinson. Some of the photography is by Ron Vogel, who we last saw contributing images to the Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963, and you also get some pretty nice art, numerous cartoons, and a bit of fiction. As always when we look at one of these magazines, we can't help but note the modern day shift away from gentleness in erotic imagery. It’s still out there, of course. There are hundreds of blogs alone, many run by women and focused on female desire, that remain faithful to ideas of imagination, mystery, and mutual pleasure. But those are simply trampled by the many gigantic outlets that feature near-violent insertions of every known object and organ into every known orifice and crevice.
To be clear, we aren’t knocking explicitness. Explicitness has a place, and in any case it was there long ago—modern porn has only just caught up to the 1930s Tijuana bibles we share here on occasion. No, when we say erotic material has shifted away from gentleness, we’re thinking of the actual, physical aggression of modern mainstream porn. It’s pervasive, and while a curious phenomenon in itself, when lumped with all modern media, we see that heightened aggression is a standard feature of today's America—from argumentative cable news to transgressive horror and procedural novels to the mega-slaughter of modern action movies. We could even go so far as to add non-media aspects of society to the equation. Seen from the wider perspective, nobody could reasonably expect porn to be an exception to the current wave of violent expression, though it would be nice if it were. This early Caper is an interesting—and welcome—reminder just how genteel erotic material used to be.
Everybody who was anybody got inside.
Above and below, scans from the French show-biz and showgirl magazine Paris-Hollywood, issue 26, from 1948. The front cover features Marguerite Chapman, the rear Arlene Dahl, and in between you get Cyd Charisse, Patricia Roc, Martha Vickers, Alexis Smith, Anne Jeffreys, Luce Feyrer, Edwige Feuillère, Marlene Dietrich, and other luminaries. That's quite a collection of celebs. In upcoming years the magazine would spend more time on cabaret dancers, but its early issues were all about international stars. We picked up a few of these in Paris a while back and we’ll get to some detailed scans of those soon. In the meantime, you can see more from Paris-Hollywood here, here, and here.
, Marguerite Chapman
, Arlene Dahl
, Cyd Charisse
, Patricia Roc
, Martha Vickers
, Alexis Smith
, Christiane Ardennes
, Claude Carmoin
, Edwige Feuillère
, Anne Jeffreys
, Luce Feyrer
, Marlene Dietrich
, cover art
So, you know how people sometimes say I'm a handsome woman? Before we get started I should tell you something.
You can always count on Saber Books for pieces of unsuccessful cover art, and here we have another example—Hard Way Back, from 1963. We don’t know who painted the cover, but we do know the femme fatale is supposed to be a real looker. Mission unaccomplished. Author Jack Woodford, who was actually Josiah Pitts Woolfolk, and wrote under such hilarious pseudonyms as Sappo Henderson Britt, was quite a prolific scribe—some of his output includes Unwilling Sinner, Three Gorgeous Hussies, and the terrifyingly titled Hoof Hearted. He also wrote how-to writing books, which may seem strange, but in literature lack of quality has rarely been a barrier to publication, and no one knew more about success in defiance of talent than Woodford. He’s credited as having described one of his books as, “Boy meets girl; girl gets boy into pickle; boy gets pickle into girl.” So there you go, aspiring novelists.
Argentine edition of classic takes art in different direction.
This 1938 printing of H.G. Wells’ 1898 masterpiece La guerra de los mundos, aka The War of the Worlds, leaps right to the top rank of covers we’ve seen. It was published by Buenos Aires based Editorial Tor, a company founded in 1916 by Juan Carlos Torrendell. Despite the demented Mickey Mouse aspect of the fanged alien, and the fact that it’s a completely different vision from any other cover treatment we’ve seen for the book, we think the overall feel of the piece is very much on target. Unfortunately we have no artist info.
It was a wonderful Life.
An ethereal Gloria Grahame poses for a promo photo during a session that would produce a famous cover for Life. Grahame was a true great of acting who starred in the classics It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bad and the Beautiful, Human Bondage, and Oklahoma!, but who we prefer to remember for her film noir roles—among them: In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat, Crossfire, Sudden Fear, and Naked Alibi. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she took the town by storm and made an indelible mark in film. The above photo and cover below are from 1946.
, It’s a Wonderful Life
, In a Lonely Place
, The Big Heat
, Sudden Fear
, Naked Alibi
, The Bad and the Beautiful
, Human Bondage
, Gloria Grahame
, film noir
A prescription for murder.
As long as we’re doing Spanish language pulp today, we might as well share this cover for El siniestro Doctor Crippen, or The Sinister Doctor Crippen, written by Enrique Cuenca for Barcelona based Ediciones G.P., and published in 1960 as part of its low cost Enciclopedia Pulga collection. Eventually, about five-hundred books appeared as part of the collection, including translations of Jules Verne, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and other classic authors. This particular novel is of course based on the strange story of Hawley Harvey Crippen, aka H.H. Crippen, the American physician and fugitive who murdered his wife Cora in 1910 and was eventually hanged in London’s HM Pentonville Prison. Many of the covers we’ve seen from Enciclopedia Pulga are nice, so we’ll try to revisit the collection a little bit later.
, HM Pentonville Prison
, Ediciones G.P.
, El siniestro Doctor Crippen
, Enrique Cuenca
, Hawley Harvey Crippen
, H.H. Crippen
, cover art
British adventure magazine takes readers to the ends of the Earth.
The British men’s adventure magazine The Wide World debuted in 1898 and lasted all the way until 1965. That’s not quite National Police Gazette or Argosy longevity, but it’s still very good. During that entire time, a span encompassing two global conflagrations and various economic fluctuations, it failed to print only four issues—including once when a German aerial bomb flattened its pre-press facility.
The magazine’s founder was George Newnes, who also published The Strand Magazine, Tit-Bits and other titles. With The Wide World he hit upon an audacious marketing gimmick—he assured readers that every word in the magazine was true, and made “Truth Is Stranger than Fiction” the publication’s slogan. This claim was hot air, of course, but that idea—and the conceit that adventurers were a sort of global club that owed allegiance to one another—helped make the magazine a success among readers who considered themselves men of the world, or longed to be.
A strong focus on exotic lands and inscrutable dark-skinned inhabitants resistant to the white man’s ordained incursions likewise played well with readers, as Britain’s colonial era evolved into a post-colonial one. That makes The Wide World a repository of some ugly attitudes, however the magazine also managed such feats as being the first publication to report the death of Butch Cassidy in Bolivia, and publishing stories by many literary notables. Above and below you see a collection of covers, nicely rendered in pulp style by various artists.
, South Africa
, New Zealand
, The Wide World
, Butch Cassidy
, George Newnes
, magazine art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1928—Soviets Exile Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and co-leader of the Russian October Revolution, is exiled to Alma Ata, at the time part of the Soviet Union but now located in Kazakhstan. He is later expelled entirely from the Soviet Union to Turkey, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov.
1933—Hitler Becomes Chancellor
Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany in President Paul Von Hindenburg's office, in what observers describe as a brief and simple ceremony. Hitler's first speech as Chancellor takes place on 10 February. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently becomes known as the Machtergreifung.
1916—Paris Is Bombed by German Zeppelins
During World War I, German zeppelins conduct a bombing raid on Paris. Such raids were rare, because the ships had to fly hundreds of miles over French territory to reach their target, making them vulnerable to attack. Reaching London, conversely, was much easier, because the approach was over German territory and water. The results of these raids were generally not good, but the use of zeppelins as bombers would continue until the end of the war.
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