It could have been worse. They could have flown United.
This chaotic West German poster for Der söldner des syndikats caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One was its sheer garishness, and the other was because the unknown artist depicted diminutive Mickey Rooney all swoll up like a Marvel Comics superhero. It just screams cheeseball classic, so we had to check out the film, which is known in English as 24 Hours To Kill. When a plane makes an emergency landing in Beirut the flight crew learns that one of their number (Rooney, decidedly un-swoll and unheroic) is hunted by a criminal smuggling syndicate he's double crossed. The repaired plane leaves in twenty-four hours, and the crew decide to protect Rooney until that time. Abandoning him is out, because he's a pal, and going to the police is out, because they'd be stuck in Beirut for days or weeks, thus making the syndicate's job easier.
So the plan is to protect Mickey Louse for a day and then jet—if they can manage it. What follows is a series of botched abductions worthy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, ornamented with location shooting in Byblos, Baalbeck, Casio Du Liban, and a Beirut long since reshaped by war and bulldozed for high rises and privatized resorts. Those locations possibly make the movie worthwhile all on their own, and other beautiful sights are provided by co-stars Helga Sommerfield and France Anglade. A minor ’60s thriller, this one feels like a television movie, which means the level of tension is not nearly high enough. Nor the level of action—there's more on the poster than in the film. But even if the art misleads, the movie is entertaining enough. Made in English by the West German production company Grixflag Films Ltd., Der söldner des syndikats premiered in West Germany today in 1965.
Intimidating movie poster Mickey. Not very intimidating movie Mickey.
Fancy meeting an Aryan like you in a place like this.
We've talked about French author Louis-Charles Royer and mentioned the staying power of his novels, which enjoyed many English language reprints throughout the 1950s. Love Camp is Royer doing what he does best, which is exploring sexual niches and conjuring up romance in far flung locales. The story is as the art depicts—women are chosen for the honor of attempting to mate with Nazi soldiers in order to breed a master race. The program was known as Lebensborn, or Fount of Life, and was under control of the SS. The book interweaves the lives of characters brought to a lakeside monastery for some state sponsored bonin'. Some of them fall in love, others struggle with shame, one fights to preserve a female friend's virginity, and so forth, while the doctor who runs the show manages to knock up an eager young recruit only to later reject her and blame her pregnancy on another soldier. It's all exactly as titillating as it sounds, with women paraded naked before men, a lesbian matron having her way with rejected recruits, nude exercise sessions, and other indulgences, all under the dark Nazi aegis. There were many naziploitation books written during the mid-century period, and while it's probably a good thing the trend died, it really did lend itself quite well to exploring perversion and evil. But considering the Nazis' real world toll, such lightweight books can only minimize the horror. The Pyramid paperback you see here is from 1953 with art by Julian Paul.
One thousand and one nights with Marlene.
Above, a photo of German actress Marlene Dietrich, mystical and regal, playing Lady Jamila in the 1944 Arabian Nights style adventure Kismet, aka Oriental Dream. The film is about a beggar who schemes to marry off his daughter to a member of the Baghdad royal court while himself wooing the Queen of the Grand Vizier's harem. It was one of nearly sixty motion pictures in which Dietrich appeared between 1919 and 1979. If you want to check out the dance number depicted in the photo, look here.
Spare the rod, spoil the child.
We ran across this West German poster for Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce, and realized we had a substantial gap in our film noir résumé. So we watched the movie, and what struck us about it immediately is that it opens with a shooting. Not a lead-in to a shooting, but the shooting itself—fade in, bang bang, guy falls dead. These days most thrillers bludgeon audiences with big openings like that, but back in the day such action beats typically came mid- and late-film. So we were surprised by that. What we weren't surprised by was that Mildred Pierce is good. It's based on a James M. Cain novel, is directed by Michael Curtiz, and is headlined by Joan Crawford. These were top talents in writing, directing, and acting, which means the acclaim associated with the movie is deserved.
While Mildred Pierce is a mystery thriller it's also a family drama revolving around a twice-married woman's dysfunctional relationship with her gold-digging elder daughter, whose desperation to escape her working class roots leads her to make some very bad decisions. Her mother, trying to make her daughter happy, makes even worse decisions. The movie isn't perfect—for one, the daughter's feverish obsession with money seems extreme considering family financial circumstances continuously improve; and as in many movies of the period, the only black character is used as cringingly unkind comic relief. But those blemishes aside, this one is enjoyable, even if the central mystery isn't really much of a mystery. Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce opened in West Germany today in 1950.
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.
All bets are off when the Für starts flying.
4 für Texas opened in West Germany today in 1968 after premiering in the U.S. the previous December as 4 for Texas. This was a high powered production, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Anita Ekberg, Ursula Andress, Charles Bronson, and incredibly, The Three Stooges. The movie was terribly reviewed when released, but it isn't as bad as all that. Sinatra and Martin vie for a fortune in stolen cash, and later for ownership of a profitable Galveston riverboat casino, but join forces to deal with Bronson, the villain. Ekberg and Andress are mainly interested in getting married. Critics of the time might not have been dazzled, but today, with Andress the only main member of the cast still living, 4 for Texas emits a strong aura of Rat Pack nostalgia. The poster art is by Rolf Goetze, a prolific illustrator who produced something like eight-hundred promos between 1958 and 1972, of which this one is surely among the best. See another example of his work here.
Wherever celebrities misbehave National Spotlite is on the scene.
This National Spotlite published today in 1968 features cover star Naemi Priegel, a West German television actress and singer who reached the height of her fame during the 1970s. Inside are many interesting Hollywood tidbits, including former child star Hayley Mills allegedly describing herself as a tigress in bed, Marlon Brando beating up two party crashers, Elvis Presley breaking the arm of someone to whom he was demonstrating a karate hold, Richard Burton being pursued by a chorus girl who claimed he fathered her child, Gene Tierney and her husband Howard Lee getting into a public spat, and John Wayne slugging an autograph seeker who mistook him for Robert Mitchum. Was any of this stuff true? We have no idea, but it sure is interesting reading. You can see more in the same vein at our tabloid index, located at this link.
It's not even 4 a.m. Damn. I really need to work on that whole waiting thing.
Rafael DeSoto painted this cover for the 1951 Dell paperback edition of Martha Albrand's 1950 novel Wait for the Dawn. This is one of the author's many romance thrillers, and what you get is a woman living in France who meets the perfect man, only to find out that he's a murderous goon. Pretty much every woman will have experienced that at some point. But this guy isn't all bad—he's rich, and as we know that buys a lot of second chances. Albrand was born in Germany as Heidi Loewengard, and wrote as Albrand, Katrin Holland, and Christine Lambert. In all she churned out around forty novels and was respected enough that an award was named after her, the Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, which was active from 1989 to 2006, then discontinued. You can see a couple more cool DeSoto covers here and here.
Don't worry, dude. I got your back.
The BBC has an interesting report today about a man who has an elaborate full-back tattoo that, though it's attached to his body, he's sold to an art collector. Yeah, that's one's hard to wrap your head around. Let's put in another way. The man, Tim Steiner, earned $161,000 from German art collector Rik Reinking for rights to the piece. As part of the deal Steiner is required to sit shirtless in a gallery three times a year as a piece of living art, which isn't a bad way to make extra cash, we suppose. Especially when some of the exhibitions have occurred at the Louvre in Paris, Civita di Bagnoregio in Rome, the Art Farm in Beijing, and the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania.
And as befits all good art, the exhibitions will continue even posthumously. After Steiner shuffles off this mortal coil, Reinking takes full ownership of his skin, which will be removed so the tattoo can be framed and displayed. Some people, not surprisingly, have called the unusual arrangement ghoulish, but those people perhaps have no idea how strange modern art can get. Steiner, who sees himself as merely a temporary mounting for the tattoo, is happy, if not exactly eager, to be immortalized on museum walls. He considers tattooing the ultimate art form. “Painting on canvas is one thing,” he says, “painting on skin with needles is a whole other story.”
The creator of the piece, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, would doubtless agree. He's known in inking circles, not only for tattooing humans, but also pigs, whose skins he peddles. So Steiner's sell-off of his ownhide isn't really new. The pigs may be getting the better deal, though. They get to root around in mud and slop to their heart's content until they die of old age. Steiner still presumably has to earn a living a somehow. He probably should have had the pigs' lawyer negotiate his agreement.
We like tattoo art, but this skinning business is obviously a practice that's legitimized by social status. Put someone's framed epidermis on your wall at home and you're anything from seriously weird to a psychopath/subject of a murder inquiry; hang it in a gallery and wine swilling upper crusty types call you a collector. But that's sort of an encapsulation of how the entire world works, isn't it? Rob an old lady at a cash machine and you're a thief; take away her pension and you're a politician. Heavy drug usage in the ghetto is a crime wave; heavy drug usage in suburbia is a public health problem. We can do this all day, but we'll move on.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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