Nothing a little dying won't fix.
Narrated from the deck of a boat floating on the crystalline Caribbean, The Root of His Evil is the tale of a money-hungry femme fatale who rises from greasy spoon waitress to NYC union organizer to wealthy woman, all by age twenty-four. James M. Cain originally wrote this tale way back in 1938 as “The Modern Cinderella,” and immediately sold it to Hollywood, where it spawned the 1939 movie When Tomorrow Comes. He ended up suing for copyright infringement when the filmmakers borrowed a scene from another of his novels without paying for it. You can read details of that incident here if you're inclined. Some Cain fans love The Root of His Evil; the more prevalent opinion is that it isn't among his best. We'll say this much—there's no focus on crime here, just on questionable deeds. But we like the cover of this Avon paperback. It's less sophisticated than some good girl art, but strikes the right tone. It appeared in 1952 and is uncredited.
Don’t think too hard, my sweet. You might hurt that pretty head. Now off with the pants.
From Chicago born author Edmund Schiddel comes The Other Side of Night, a chronicle of the troubles and trials of a group of diverse New Yorkers on a particular New Year’s Eve. The menagerie includes an heiress, an aging beauty, a morbidly obese woman, a facially disfigured vet, a nymphomaniac, and a piece of Ivy League man candy. Schiddel was gay, and while he does feature a gay character here, his participation is minimal. We gather this was the norm for Schiddel, inserting gay secondary characters, but never focusing on them in the narratives. He was more interested in peeling back the tawdry layers of accepted society with occasionally controversial results. The Other Side of Night appeared in 1954, and the cover art, which we love for the expression on the male figure’s face, is uncredited.
New neighborhood, new view, same Pulp Intl.
Well, we're back. Our internet guy went missing for a few days, but funny things about jobs—if you want to actually get paid you usually have to show up eventually. So in the end he got us hooked up. We don't know how things resolved with the guy in the shoe store, who lost a gigantic pane of curved plate glass that probably cost $5,000, but we did notice he invested in a video surveillance system, which he now has pointed right at the front windows. Despite these conflicts, and the fact that our building is a relic, we've actually moved to swankier district and feel a bit like Marilyn Monroe in the above shot made today in 1955 showing her peering off the balcony of the Ambassador Hotel in New York City. Our view here from the third floor isn't quite that good, but it's a pretty nice pedestrianized street where we can people-watch shoppers and listen to musicians playing, and we're still only three blocks from the beach. Also, we're next door to the internet provider, and are told our speeds should be the fastest in town. We would think the speed is the same everywhere in town, being a digital signal and all, but what do we know? In any case, between the new flat and the strong signal the world seems to be our oyster. We'll see how long that lasts.
When the sun goes down in the city.
Hotels, museums, and restaurants are all important aspects of travel, but what you really need to know is where to score hookers and cocaine, right? Or is that just us? Above, assorted covers from MacFadden-Bartell’s famed sleaze series After Dark, published late 1960s and early 1970s, and which purports to tell readers where and how vice can be found in different cities, as well as the unique variations that exist in each place. Don’t leave home without one. And a pack of condoms.
, New York City
, Rio de Janeiro
, Hong Kong
, MacFadden-Bartell Corporation
, William Hopson
, Lois O'Conner
, Colin Ross
, William Fitzpatrick
, Andrew Harris
, Roberto Orsi
, Ogden Fox
, Norman Nash
, Phil Lewis
, Jean de Ballard
, Philip Marnais
, Allen V. Ross
, cover art
, cover collection
Get your filthy mitts off her this instant! I told you before—under my rules everybody gets a piece!
This issue of Adam was published this month in 1977. It has a nice cover featuring a tussle on the Hudson River with New York City in the background, and Bernie Sanders looking very pissed off. And really who can blame him? This situation is inherently unequal and there’s no need for it because, clearly, there’s more than enough to go around. The story being illustrated here is Mike Rader’s “The Man They Killed at the Waldorf,” about a murder plot with national security implications. This is probably one of the last stories he published in the magazine, and it’s certainly one of his most fanciful, involving a weather control device, a kindly professor, Russian spies, and a murderous femme fatale. Also in this issue you get the usual assortment of great illustrations and pretty models. The final photo feature is called “Irish Eyes,” and for some reason we prefer that last shot upside-down, maybe because there’s a Dorian Gray sort of weirdness to it. Scroll to see what we mean. Go on—Bernie would want you to.
Romance between two musical geniuses hits a few unexpected sour notes.
Classical musicians separated during the chaos of World War II are reunited in New York City, but the woman neglects to mention to her fiancée that she's acquired a lover and sugar daddy who happens to be a world renowned composer. Bette Davis gives a confident turn as a gifted and successful pianist, while Paul Henreid as her cellist fiancée and Claude Rains as the jilter lover are both excellent. The latter two actors also featured in Casablanca, and Deception bears some similarities to that earlier film in two ways—Henreid is lost during war and presumed dead, leading his love to turn to another; Rains is a caustic smartass, something he does really well.
Another aspect of Deception we enjoyed was how much work went into making Davis and Henried perform like master musicians. In Davis’s case, she fakes it on piano just long enough to pass the eye test, while Henreid had a hidden cellist insert his arms through a modified jacket and play the parts blind. It’s an, um, deceptively simple solution that worked perfectly. Deception didn’t perform well at the box office when released in 1946, but time has been kind to it, and criticisms have waned. At the very least you may want to watch it to get a gander at Davis’s spectacular loft apartment.
How far would you go to get the perfect shot?
A freelance photographer who has spent his career documenting the mean streets of New York City, always arriving in the aftermath of terrible events, finds himself presented with the opportunity to photograph a gangland massacre at the instant it occurs. One crime family has decided to wipe out another and Joe Pesci's Leon Bernstein, aka the Great Bernzini, knows where and when it will happen. He wants up close photos and the only way he can get them is to be in the restaurant where the killings will happen. After two decades of seeing his photography ignored by the art world, he thinks pulling off this feat will make everyone take notice of him. Bernzini is reckless the same way Jimmy Stewart is in Rear Window, but in less cartoonish fashion because we’re taken inside his thought process and made to understand it.
There's more here of course—love, loneliness, social status, musings about art—but the shootout and whether Bernzini is crazy enough to shut himself in a room where one stray bullet could end his life is what the film is really about. The Public Eye, which appeared in 1992, was a clear influence (along with the French film Man Bites Dog), on the acclaimed 2014 thriller Nightcrawler, but this one is a period piece, set during 1942. While the historical details are convincing, director Howard Franklin and cinematographer Peter Suschitztky don't aim for a true noir look. The filmscape is dark, but not technically stylish. Still it's good, and it benefits from Pesci, who has a way of inhabiting roles to the extent that you can't imagine anyone else playing them. He makes the movie work.
You know what? I know we’re supposed to be disaffected and rebellious and all that, but I’m actually quite satisfied at this moment.
Two hard-luck juvenile delinquents find each other and fall in love in the slums of New York City, but can they keep it together when their surroundings threaten to destroy them? That's the basic idea of Yield to the Night. Author Jack Karney specialized in this, writing about East Side gangs in many novels, including Work of Darkness, Cry Brother Cry, Cop, and Tough Town. 1960 copyright on the above, with Rafael DeSoto cover art.
Sensational crimes with a side order of sex.
This issue of Best True Fact Detective which hit newsstands this month in 1950 came from Newsbook Publishing Corp. out of New York City. The magazine had some fantastic covers, but most were uncredited. Some of the artists that worked for the magazine around 1950 include greats like George Gross and Fred Rodewald, but this is the work of Howell Dodd, a fact we discovered with a bit of research. This is great work from him, and you can see more of his output here and here.
Inside the magazine you get various procedural stories sexualized by the editors with blurbs like, "Sex-Starved Women are Coffin-Bait!" and photo captions like, "Officers saw the body of a young girl who in life had been a raving, desirable beauty!" Beyond morbid, if you ask us, but the actual stories are professionally written and informative, with art consisting of photo-illustrations posed by professional models. Has anybody written anything substantive about this bizarre subset of the modeling industry? If not they should, because it's fascinating.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1920—Negro National Baseball League Debuts
The first game of Negro National League baseball
is played in Indianapolis, Indiana. The league, one of several that would be formed, was composed of The Chicago American Giants, The Detroit Stars, The Kansas City Monarchs, The Indianapolis ABCs, The St. Louis Giants, The Cuban Stars, The Dayton Marcos, and The Chicago Giants.
1955—Williams Wins Pulitzer
American playwright Tennessee Williams wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his controversial play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which tells the story of a southern family in crisis, explicitly deals with alcoholism, and contains a veiled subtext concerning homosexuality in southern society. In 1958 the play becomes a motion picture starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.
1945—Germany Announces Hitler's Death
German radio in Hamburg announces that Adolf Hitler was killed in Berlin, stating specifically that he had fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany. But in truth Hitler had committed suicide along with his mistress Eva Braun, and both bodies were immediately thereafter burned.
1960—Powers Is Shot Down over U.S.S.R.
Francis Gary Powers, flying in a Lockheed U-2 spy plane, is shot down over the Soviet Union. The U.S. denies the plane's purpose and mission, but is later forced to admit its role as a covert surveillance aircraft when the Soviet government produces its remains and reveals Powers, who had survived the shoot down. The incident triggers a major diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
1927—First Prints Are Left at Grauman's
Hollywood power couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who co-founded the movie studio United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, become the first celebrities to leave their impressions in concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, located along the stretch where the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame would later be established.
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