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
She started her career with a fright but later laughed her way to the bank.
This shot featuring Canadian actress Barbara Kent nicely captures the spirit of Halloween. Kent was born Barbara Cloutman, and began her rise to stardom by winning the 1925 Miss Hollywood Beauty Pageant. Her first parts were in Prowlers of the Night and Flesh and the Devil, but her later roles were usually comedic in nature and were her most popular films. In all, she appeared in thirty-six productions, which sounds impressive until you wonder how well she might have done had this black cat never crossed her path.
Undercover but not inconspicuous.
Above, Canadian actress Alexis Smith, née Gladys Smith, in a Universal International Pictures promo shot made in 1950 for her cop thriller Undercover Girl. She also appeared in Conflict, Of Human Bondage, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, and more than fifty other films.
Special edition Boogie Nights poster is an explosion of color.
This promo for Boogie Nights was made last year for a Paul Thomas Anderson film retrospective hosted by the company Mondo, which markets limited edition screen printed posters for classic and contemporary films. The artist is the Japanese illustrator par excellence and constant enigma Rockin’ Jelly Bean. You can see this poster around the web with little difficulty, but we have a friend in Los Angeles who actually owns one and it really shocked us how off the colors are on every scan we’ve seen online. The above image, as oversaturated as it may seem, is close to correct. Even so, what appears as red is fluorescent magenta on the real poster, and the pale teal colors are closer to bright turquoise. Compare it to the shot below, which comes from the Mondo blog. The mild skin tones of the presenter tell us the colors of the entire image are true. Which means this is one blazingly garish poster, no? We love it. We could get one for as little as $300.00, but that’s still too rich for our blood. We wanted to share the image anyway, though, because Boogie Nights made its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival today in 1997.
Tabloid reveals the secret of successful marriages.
Above, a cover of the Montreal-based tabloid Midnight from today in 1965 with June Wilkinson on the cover and a header offering readers some marital advice. Our advice is never take advice from a tabloid. We’ve featured Wilkinson here quite a bit. You can see all those posts by clicking her keywords just below.
Monroe may wobble but she won’t fall down.
Marilyn Monroe shows up just about everywhere, and here she is yet again where we didn’t expect to see her—fronting a Malaysian film publication that appeared today in 1953. The magazine, called Filmalaya, is in English, which marks it as aimed at the British colonial community that occupied the upper stratum of society in Malaysia and Singapore. The cover photo is from a publicity series made when Monroe filmed the movie Niagara in Ontario, Canada in late 1952, and let’s just assume her perch is not as precarious as it seems and there’s a handy ledge or lawn behind her in case she goes heels up. But if she does, there are other stars in the magazine, such as Joan Collins, Betty Grable, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner, and Nat King Cole.
Filmalaya represents an interesting snapshot into colonial society, as in the article about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in London, which describes the thrills and excitement in Malaysia during the event. Doubtless, the mood around the Commonwealth probably seemed festive when viewed from inside the colonial bubble, but we doubt actual Malaysians were particularly moved. Needless to say, this magazine is rare, but luckily items from Asia are often a bargain, so this cost a mere six U.S. dollars. While the inside is nothing special visually speaking, that doesn’t matter when the magazine has this great cover and is such an informative slice of history. We’ve uploaded a few of the best pages below. Enjoy.
, Niagara Falls
, Marilyn Monroe
, Joan Collins
, Betty Grable
, Rhonda Fleming
, Ava Gardner
, Nat King Cole
, Queen Elizabeth II
Not exactly Canada’s greatest export.
Here’s another typical cover of the tabloid Midnight. We tend to think of this as a U.S. publication but it actually had offices in both Chicago and Montreal, and was printed in Canada, which presumably makes it a Canadian paper first and foremost. This issue appeared today in 1964 and the imprint had by this point been around for eleven years. We have no idea when it died but we’ve never seen an issue past 1969. We’ll have more from Midnight later, including some complete scans.
She may well have been wild, wicked and willing but we doubt she ever said it to Midnight.
Above, a Midnight from today 1966 with cover star Nobu McCarthy, wild, wicked and willing. Or so Midnight claims. Born Nobu Atsumi in Canada of Japanese extraction, McCarthy won the 1955 Miss Tokyo pageant, and later parlayed a chance Los Angeles encounter with a talent agent into a television and theater career dotted with film roles. As far as Midnight’s suggestion of availability goes, McCarthy was already married with children by 1966, and probably already too well-known to have to stoop to cheap publicity techniques on the covers of second rate tabloids. Which means we’re putting this quote entirely on the editors. After many years on screen and stage, McCarthy died of an aortal aneurysm while filming Gaijin—Ama-me Como Sou in 2002. Below is a still of her from her first credited film role in the 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy The Geisha Boy.
, Gaijin—Ama-me Como Sou
, The Geisha Boy
, Nobu McCarthy
, Nobu Atsumi
, Jerry Lewis
Whatever gets you through the night.
Paul Anna Soik is another great pulp artist who we hadn’t gotten to previously, but better late than never, especially when we’re talking about this particular cover. The scene is London's Soho district near Charing Cross Road, and he presents an image of two listless souls in an urban night infused with streetlight glare, marquee glow, and a sort of carnivalsque seediness. We know the location because the Palace Theatre is in the background. The book is a realistic look at vice and prostitution, and we can assume the woman here is a hooker, though an improbably upscale one to be soliciting. But Soik lived in Canada, so maybe he wasn’t all that familiar with London street trade. This is a Harlequin book, and Soik was basically a Harlequin house artist who painted numerous covers during the company’s early years. This one, which we think is one of his best, appeared in 1955. We’ll have more from him later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
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