He'll learn any tune you want him to.
The above poster, with its sinister art, was made for the Japanese run of a 1970 French movie titled L'aveu, aka The Confession. It was directed by Costa-Gavras, who often delves into political themes, and here Yves Montand stars as a Czech communist party official named Anton who is one day followed, arrested without warrant, and thrown in jail without charge or access to legal counsel. He thinks it's a mistake but soon realizes party officials suspect him of treason and plan to extract a confession through whatever means are required. He's subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation, and rough treatment, all presented here unequivocally as torture. And indeed when the movie was made there was no doubt what it was. But these days, in the U.S., tens of millions of people and many government officials say it isn't torture—or worse, say it is torture and should be used more. For that reason the film, in the fullness of time, now offers a double lesson—its intended one about a Soviet empire that collapsed, and an unintended one about an American empire making the same mistakes. In L'aveu the state tries to forcibly program Anton; in the U.S. millions have been programmed to accept torture simply because the state has told them to. For us, it was all pretty hard to watch, but it's a damned good movie. It premiered in Japan today in 1971.
You brute! Why don't you enslave someone your own size!
Above, more Down Under goodness from Australia's Adam magazine, with a cover from this month in 1969 depicting a scene from Mark Bannerman's “Murder in Marseilles.” It's a tale of kidnapping and slavery, or as the author constantly puts it, “white slavery.” This is a term you run into often mid-century and pulp literature, and of course the idea is that enslaving white people must be specially pointed out, as it's presumed to be orders of magnitude more evil than just plain slavery. In this case, a “swarthy Algerian” is the villain, and a Marseillaise beauty is the target. Do we need to tell you this plot is foiled? Of course not.
Adam offers another interesting feature—a piece of factual journalism entitled “Wild Girls of the American Suburbs.” It's about apartment complexes for singles, which are described as if they're twenty-four hour sex parties. All of this being well before our time, we weren't sure if such places actually existed, but it seems they did, in locales all over the U.S., particularly San Francisco, the Jersey Shore, Myrtle Beach, and Fire Island. Apparently Los Angeles had a famous one called Villa Dionysus, which we can't help noticing would be initialed V.D. Hopefully a walk-in-clinic was somewhere in the same zip code. Twenty-seven scans below.
Bogart counts down to zero hour.
This striking Roger Soubie promo poster for La maison des otages, aka The Desperate Hours, doesn't leave much doubt about what happens to Humphrey Bogart, but even without the poster there wouldn't be any doubt. Bogart stars, in his last villain role, as an ex-con who takes a family hostage in order to use their home as a hideout. During the Leave It To Beaver 1950s there was no way his character was going to go unpunished for pointing a gun at a kid. Even seeing it in the promo image below makes you cringe a little, doesn't it? But the inevitable consequences of Bogart's actions aren't the point—how he struggles to maintain the constantly evolving hostage scenario is what generates the drama, and the imprisoned family aren't his only problem. La maison des otages is a later noir, but a better one. It opened in France today in 1956.
Come, human female. We will go to my crib and get to know each other better.
Spanish artist Carlos Escobar painted this poster for the sci-fi flick Planeta prohibido, better known as Forbidden Planet, which premiered in the U.S in 1956 and reached Spain today in 1957. Escobar was a master of realistic figures, such as those he painted of Sharon Tate and Beba Lončar, but for this piece he used a more stylized technique to depict Robby the Robot and an unconscious figure we suppose is Anne Francis. We don't remember Robby carrying her in the film, but it's been a while since we watched it, so maybe we've spaced that. But in any case this is a fantastic piece of promo art. We especially love the trippy sky. It reminds us of this time we dropped acid in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Interestingly, French artist Roger Soubie painted an almost identical promo, which you see here also. We can only assume the studio dictated the look of the poster and each artist expressed their personal style with the backgrounds. Why not use the same poster in both Spain and France? We don't know the answer to that. We can't help but think it would have been more economical than paying two artists to reproduce the same basic image. But it's fine with us, because all these years later we have two top shelf promos to admire. As a bonus, we've uploaded a Robby and Anne Francis promo photo below. For a robot, Robby's got game. Leslie Nielsen better be careful or the far reaches of the galaxy are going to get a lot colder.
He looks nice but he's murder on his friends.
What's plein to see here is that the promo poster for the acclaimed French crime thriller Plein soleil is top quality. It was painted by Jean Mascii, who was born in Italy, but worked in France and became one of that country's most prolific and collected poster artists. We'll get back to him later. The movie is excellent. It's based on author Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and features her homicidal hustler character Tom Ripley, star of five novels, and one of literature's greatest psychopaths. Should you be inclined to give Plein soleil a screening you won't be disappointed. It premiered in France today in 1960.
One good turn deserves another, and another, and another...
French illustrator Raymond Brenot, aka Pierre-Laurent Brenot painted many magazine covers and pin-ups, and a few paperback fronts, as well. He also painted sleeves for numerous records. You see a beautiful example above for French trumpeter Fred Gérard's Si nous dansions... en 16 tours. The close-up image shows the unique aspect of the art—its mise en abîme element, or what the Dutch call a Droste effect, an identical image within the image, with infinite repetitions implied.
The title of the record translates to “If we danced... 16 turns,” which is weird because there are actually twenty songs. The tunes cover various dance styles, such as mambo, Charleston, foxtot, etc., and we know what you're thinking. You're thinkingsixteen dance styles must be covered. No—only nine styles are played, so the 16 tours part of the title is a mystery to us. If you know the answer to the riddle, you know how to reach us. But don't expect an immediate response—we'll be busy foxtrotting.
Update: It is incredibly informative having readers from all over the world. The answer came from Jo B. in France, who informed us: "16 tours is the rotation speed of the record in 1 minute."
In a New York minute everything can change.
Casanova à Manhattan is another novel in the dekobrisme style by the author for whom the adjective was coined, Maurice Dekobra. In this one a French count rescues a woman from a concentration camp, marries her, and spirits her away to New York City. He gets a job in a nightclub and she finds work as a chaperone of debutantes. Things go swimmingly until the count's sister-in-law turns up with designs to replace the wife. Dekobra was one of the most famous French authors of the 20th century. You can learn a bit more about him from our previous write-ups on him here and here, but the best way to know him is to read him. The cover art here was painted by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. He painted some of the most romantic covers and pin-ups of the last century, and some of the most erotic. We've been thinking about putting together a collection of his pin-ups, but have been hesitant because they're pretty explicit. Well, stay tuned. We may do it anyway. Meanwhile, check out our collection of paperback kisses here.
New tabloid explodes onto the gossip scene.
When we describe Dynamite as a new tabloid, it's only partly true. It was a new imprint. But its publisher, the Modern Living Council of Connecticut, Inc., was headquartered at the Charlton Building in Derby, Connecticut, which is where Top Secret and Hush-Hush based operations. When you see that Dynamite carried the same cover font as Top Secret and Hush-Hush, and that those two magazines advertised in Dynamite, it seems clear that all three had the same provenance. But unlike Top Secret and Hush-Hush, it doesn't seem as if Dynamite lasted long. The issue above, which appeared this month in 1956, is the second. We are unable to confirm whether there was a third. But if Dynamite was short-lived it wasn't because of any deficiencies in the publication. It's identical in style to other tabloids, and its stories are equally interesting.
One of those deals with Henry von Thyssen, the Dutch born, German descended heir to an industrial fortune, and his wife, Nina Dyer, heiress to a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, back then called Ceylon. The von Thyssen family manufactured steel in Germany, including for Hitler's Third Reich, and came out of World War II unscathed, as big companies that profit from war always do. Dyer was a dilettante famed for making bikinis popular on the French Riveria. According to Dynamite, von Thyssen was so desperate to marry Dyer that he allowed her to keep her boyfriend, the French actor Christian Marquand. Society gossips whispered,but both spouses were fine with the set-up until von Thyssen accidentally ran into Dyer and Marquand in Carrol's nightclub in Paris and was forced to save face by starting a fight. The couple soon divorced, but not because of infidelity, as many accounts claim. What finally broke the couple up was that Dyer dropped Marquand. Dynamite tells readers: “[von Thyssen] has ditched his sloe-eyed Baroness because now she's decided she loves him.”
Interesting, but there are many similar stories about open high society marriages. What interested us, really, was the portrayal of Dyer. Apparently she had at some point been strongly influenced by Asian women. Her husband described her as “soft and feminine and oriental looking.” Dynamite painted this word picture: “She walks as though she has a water pot balanced on her head, her dark, slanting eyes are inscrutable, and her movements are so languorous and cat-like that von Thyssen gave her a baby panther as a companion.” Dyer eventually had two panthers, and was often seen walking them on the Croisette in Cannes. After her marriage to von Thyssen ended she quickly married Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, but that marriage ended in divorce. Over the years she had been given many gifts. Besides the panthers there were cars, jewels, and a Caribbean island. But the one thing money never bought for her was happiness. She committed suicide at age thirty-five.
There's a lot more to learn about Nina Dyer—her modeling career, her adventures in the south of France, her free-spirited ways in the Caribbean, her 1962 E-Type Jaguar Roadster that was found in Jamaica in 2015 and restored for a November 2016 auction, and more. So we'll be getting back to her a little later. We still have about fifty tabloids from the mid-1950s and we're betting she appears in more than a few. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Dynamite is a story tracking Marilyn Monroe's movements around Fire Island during a summer 1955 vacation, a report about Frank Sinatra being barred from the Milroy Club in London, an exposé on prostitution in Rome, a breakdown of the breakdown of Gene Tierney's engagement to Aly Khan (Sadruddin Aga Khan's brother), and a couple of beautiful photos of Diana Dors. We have about thirty scans below for your enjoyment. Odds are we'll never find another issue of Dynamite, but we're happy to own even one. It's great reading.
Your high school was never like this.
Let's double up on the sexploitation today. The Schulmädchen-Report, or Schoolgirl Report series tries to pass itself off as an educational exploration of different aspects of youthful sexuality, but really it's about as informative as an abstinence class, except much more likely to turn you celibate. The third entry, Schulmädchen-Report 3. Teil—Was Eltern nicht mal ahnen, aka Schoolgirls Growing Up, aka Schoolgirl Report Part 3: What Parents Find Unthinkable, is racy stuff, far beyond the pale for casual filmgoers, some of it undoubtedly illegal to film today. To get an idea, consider that the U.S. version of this is twenty minutes shorter than the uncut international version. And yet, it isn't a porno film. There's no actual sex—just relentless stretching of the deviancy envelope, for example a chapter dealing with incest, and another dealing with the sexual urges of two underage kids. So really, the cut version is better because it doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Trimmed, you get a film that's harmless, if occasionally tasteless, but fun in parts. We can't go so far as to recommend it, but doubtless some will like it—the series had twelve iterations, after all, which tells you that it did have redeeming qualities. We, however, shall take a pass on the rest of these. Schulmädchen-Report 3. Teil premiered in West Germany today in 1972.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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