There's hard work and then there's Hardy work.
What is it about celebs and gymnastics we like? Maybe just the unusual nature of the photos, the way they depart from typical promo portraits. So today, joining previous bendy celebs such as Danielle Darrieux, Joey Heatherton, and Constance Dowling is French actress Sophie Hardy—yes, again. When we posted her as a femme fatale last month we hadn’t seen this photo yet. It had to be shared. You may also remember Hardy recently fronting a beautiful Japanese poster for The Trygon Factor. This image comes from around the same time as the movie, circa 1968. And the shot below shows her right side up, possibly lightheaded, but none the worse for wear.
McQueen behind the scenes.
At first we thought this was a promo poster for Steve McQueen's 1971 racing thriller Le Mans, which in Japan was called The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the distributors Towa Co. having opted for an English title, perhaps to make the film sound more exotic. But there's a smaller Japanese title at bottom—栄光のル •マン—which means “Glory of Le Mans.” It was while staring at this bit that we saw John Sturges and Lee Katzin credited as directors. But Sturges had nothing to do with Le Mans—Lee Katzin directed it alone.
It finally dawned on us that this poster is for a documentary about the making of Le Mans, using footage from the movie and, we're guessing, the two Sturges films that starred McQueen—The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. So this poster represents a bit of a mystery. It promotes a documentary that was seemingly released only in Japan. Note that it isn't for the 2015 doc Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans. That worthy effort was directed by Gabriel Clark and John McKenna.
No this is a different film. And we're pretty sure it's from the period just after Le Mans played in cinemas, for no other reason than the poster has a retro aesthetic, both in layout and font, that you don't find in Japanese promos after about 1980. But we searched everywhere and found no reference anywhere to a Le Mans doc from that time. Or in fact any Le Mans documentary by Sturges and Katzin. So we throw it to the readership. Got any ideas? Let us know.
Alternate theory: Sturges ended up on this totally by accident. It's a typo, and the poster is in fact for the feature film Le Mans.
, Towa Co.
, Le Mans
, The 24 Hours of Le Mans
, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans
, The Great Escape
, The Magnificent Seven
, Steve McQueen
, Lee Katzin
, John Sturges
, Gabriel Clark
, John McKenna
Good at getting married, bad at staying that way.
National Enquirer isn't a tabloid you think of as being vintage, but it goes back more than half a century, which makes it concurrent with revered publications like Confidential and Hush-Hush. This cover featuring Lana Wood caught our eye because, well, because she's Lana Wood. It also says she had three husbands before age twenty. That's true. She married Jack Wrather, Jr. in 1962, when she was sixteen, followed by Karl Brent and Stephen Oliver. Interestingly, all online sources say the Oliver marriage was in 1967, but this Enquirer dates from a year earlier, in fact from today in 1966. So someone's seriously wrong. Since we have evidence, we're saying all the online sources are mistaken. Wouldn't be the first time.
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
, Sharky's Machine
, Burt Reynolds
, Rachel Ward
, Bernie Casey
, Brian Keith
, Vittorio Gassman
, Charles Durning
, Mark Wahlberg
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
Some people are just terrible at waiting.
From reliably sleazy Midwood-Tower comes Wait Your Turn, published in 1962 and written by John Plunkett inhabiting the Jason Hytes pseudonym. A soldier returns home from two years away and finds that his virginal bride has not only caved in to another man's advances, but has also been set upon by a trio of local lowlifes who aren't remotely finished with her. Besides the elements of voyeurism and sexual aggression, one thing you could always expect from Midwood sleaze was well-executed cover art, and this one is very nice, but sadly it's uncredited. Should we guess who painted it? Well, we could, but we won't bother, because another thing Midwood was good at was hiring artists who could execute its signature style, which means this cover could really be any of several regular illustrators. Luckily, cover credits tend to come out in the fullness of time thanks to the tireless work of numerous aficionados more dedicated and better connected than us. We'll just have to hope something turns up on this eventually.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the barest of them all?
This Technicolor lithograph is entitled “Golden Reflections” and features a model who looks familiar to us—she could be a burlesque dancer or popular centerfold, but we can’t place her. The only thing of which we’re sure is the copyright date—1959. Know who she is? Drop us a line.
I could screw my way to the top but this method is so much more satisfying.
Above you see the covers for the 1958 and 1954 Signet editions of Death Before Bedtime, by Edgar Box, who was in reality literary legend Gore Vidal. This novel is the middle entry of a trilogy—the first is Death in the Fifth Position and the third is Death Likes It Hot. All feature public relations exec/amateur detective Peter Sargeant II, and the story in this one takes place in Washington, D.C., and involves a murdered senator, his promiscuous daughter, his widow, and various figures ranging from pure to corrupt. It owes plenty to Agatha Christie in that the murder—via dynamite, by the way—occurs in a house and everyone who was on the premises is a suspect. Unsurprisingly, there's almost as much sex as sleuthing, but there's also plenty of Vidalian wit. The top cover was painted by Robert Maguire and the second was the work of Clark Hulings.
And they say nobody walks in L.A.
Ingrid Bergman takes a stroll near downtown Los Angeles in this promo photo made in 1967 for a Life magazine feature titled “Ingrid Bergman: A Day on Bunker Hill.” At this point Bergman wasn't acting much, but she was featured in Life several times that year and, as one of the transcendent movie stars of the 1940s, was never out of mind, even when she was out of sight.
Lady, if you don't start cooperating, you're going to be sorry, you hear me? Now for the last time—pull my finger!
The 1959 mystery Crime Cop was written by Larry Holden, which was a pseudonym used by author Lorenz Heller. Why he didn't want to call himself Lorenz Heller is the real mystery, as that's about as writerly a name as one could hope to have. Actually, he did publish under his own name one time when he debuted in 1937, but soon chose new identities, including Burt Sims, which was reserved for his television writing. In this novel cops Flavin and Gilman hunt a strangler. The cover art, which is battered but beautiful (just like us!), is by Harry Schaare.
The queen in her castle.
Jayne Mansfield lounges with one of her dogs and a teddy bear in a very pink promo photo made in 1966. Actually, there are two dogs here—look in the mirror and you'll see her famed chihuahua reflected there. Mansfield had a thing for pink. When she bought her 40-room mansion on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.'s Holmby Hills enclave she had the entire residence decorated in that color, with pink fluorescent lights, pink furs in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain that cascaded pink champagne, and a pink heart-shaped swimming pool. All class, right? She dubbed the place the Pink Palace and it was one of Tinseltown's most famous landmarks. Mansfield died a year after the above photo was made, and the house changed hands several times before the wrecking ball came calling. Conservationists made efforts to save it, but of course this is L.A. we're talking about—change is the city's default setting. The house was razed in 2002
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