Is there anything sweeter than a beautiful movie palace?
You probably recognize Grauman's Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles. These days it's called TCL Chinese Theatre, because it's owned and operated by TCL Corporation—based in China, ironically. Since we write so often about movies we thought it appropriate to discuss the beautiful buildings in which the films were exhibited. Back in the day these were usually purpose-built structures, though some did split duty for stage productions and concerts. While many of these old palaces survive, nearly all surviving vintage cinemas in the U.S. were under threat at some point. Generally, if they hadn't been given historic protection they wouldn't be upright today.
Other times, if a city was poor, real estate costs didn't rise and old buildings stood unthreatened, usually idle. This happened often in the American midwest, where movie houses were neglected for decades before some were resurrected amid downtown revitalizations. It sometimes happens in Latin America too, although occasionally the formula fails. For example, Cartagena's majestic and oft photographed landmark Teatro Colón, located in the historic section of Colombia's most popular coastal tourist city, was torn down fewer than six months ago to make way for a Four Seasons Hotel.
Some of the cinemas below are well known treasures, while others are more unassuming places. But even those lesser known cinemas show how much thought and work was put into making moviegoing a special experience. The last photo, which shows the Butterfly Theatre in Milwaukee, exemplifies that idea. The façade is distinguished by a terra cotta butterfly sculpture adorned with light bulbs. As you might guess, many of the most beautiful large cinemas were in Los Angeles, which means that city is well represented in the collection. Enjoy.
Paramount Theatre, Oakland (operational).
Cine Maya, Mérida (demolished).
The Albee Cinema, Cincinnati (demolished)
Cooper Theatre, Denver (demolished).
Paras Cinema, Jaipur (operational).
Cathay Cinema, Shanghai (operational).
Academy Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Charlottenburg Filmwerbung, Berlin (demolished).
Pacific's Cinerama Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
York Theatre, Elmhurst (operational).
La Gaumont-Palace, Paris (demolished).
Essoldo Cinema, Newcastle (demolished).
Théâtre Scala, Strasbourg (operational).
Teatro Colón, Cartagena (demolished in 2018).
Teatro Coliseo Argentino, Buenos Aires (demolished).
Pavilion Theater, Adelaide (demolished).
El Molino Teatro, Barcelona (operational).
Fox Carthay Theatre, Los Angeles (demolished).
Kino Rossiya Teatr, Moscow (operational).
Nippon Gekijo, aka Nichigeki, Tokyo (demolished).
Cine Impala, Namibe (operational).
Cine Arenal, Havana (operational).
Teatro Mérida, Mérida (operational, renamed Teatro Armando Manzanero).
Ideal Theater, Manila (demolished).
Odeon Cinema, London (semi-demolished, converted to apartments).
Mayan Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Rex Cinema, Port au Prince (being restored).
Urania Kino, Vienna (operational).
Tampa Theatre, Tampa (operational).
The Butterfly Theater, Milwaukee (demolished).
Around the world in sixty pages.
Exotic Adventures was a men's magazine put out by NYC based Gladiator Publications, Inc. It seems obvious the company had great ambitions, but it managed only six issues before folding. This one came in 1959 with cover art signed “Louis,” whose full identity is not given. In fact, only three people are listed as staff—editor George P. Wallace and two others—so the cover artist wasn't the only hard worker who got short shrift. The individual authors are given bylines, though, as are the men who narrated their "true" tales to biographers.
Exotic Destinations lived up to its name, with pieces set in Kashmir, French Cameroon, Morocco, Honduras, Malaya, and Borneo, and nude models who are supposedly from Japan, Brazil, France, and Germany. It was all printed on glossy paper, which is why you won't see the usual yellowing you get with old magazines, though the printing got a little streaky and inconsistent in the middle pages. Still, taken as a whole Exotic Adventures is a high quality publication, which we snared courtesy of the now idle Darwin's Scans blog. Forty-plus panels below.
She's had it up to here with men.
And in complete thematic contrast to the above, here we have a Japanese poster for the French porn film Le sexe qui parle, aka Pussy Talk. Believe it or not, like Casablanca, this was an award winner—it took the grand prize at the first and only Festival du Film Pornographique de Paris, held in August 1975. Does that mean it's a good movie? Well, it's still porn, so good is relative, isn't it? Plotwise it's pretty simple. Pénélope Lamour's vagina starts talking. What does it say? That it wants air, firstly. Other demands come later. And they are demands, because this organ with a witchlike voice doesn't take no for an answer.
It sounds a bit out there, perhaps, but French filmmakers have a way of infusing anything with intellect, which means there's an underlying social message here. Or are we giving them too much credit? Maybe anything a vagina says would seem packed with metaphor, under the circumstances. This particular unruly organ even talks when Lamour is asleep, which leads to it telling Lamour's appalled husband about its notable past encounters, including with a priest. Her vagina is spilling these secrets because it wants to drive the husband out of her (their) life. Just imagine.
When asked why it started speaking, little Lamour reveals, “We can all speak. It's just that most of us don't feel the need until one day we've had enough.” And we've revealed enough. You'll have to watch it yourself to find out where it all leads. We expect a woman's take on the film would differ greatly from a man's, but in both cases it will certainly generate material for discussion. After opening in France in November 1975, Le sexe qui parle talked its way into Japan today the same year.
That's no lady—that's Brigitte Bardot.
Above, an iconic poster painted by Giorgio Olivetti for the 1957 Brigitte Bardot comedy Una parigina, originally released as La Parisienne. The Bardot figure here was the first femme fatale graphic ever used as the symbol of Pulp Intl., which some of you may remember. Olivetti painted two promos for the film. The second one, just below, is less famous, but still beautiful. We talked about this movie over the summer, and in short it's Bardot running around Paris creating Monroesque chaos among the male population, though with a winkingly more adult subtext than in your average Monroe romp. In other words, there's a hint here and there that Bardot actually gets laid. We don't think that ever happened in Marilyn's comedies. If you're curious about the movie, or interested in seeing the nice U.S. poster—which also features Bardot in her famous red dress—have a look here.
U.S. magazine offers its vision of the world.
Model and singer Corky Crowley stars on this September 1948 cover of See magazine, a publication that came out of New York City and fell squarely into the Life and Look category. We picked this up years ago in the U.S. and never got around to posting it because its large format and the resultant necessity to scan pages in halves and join them in Photoshop deterred us. But we finally had a few spare hours we opted not to spend on a local terrace sipping white wine, and today you have the result.
Inside this monster mag you get photo features, celebs, politics, travel and more. Probably the most interesting feature is the one detailing the transformation of a French typist into a high society dame. It was done as a promotional feature by the magazine Point de Vue and they called it “Cinderella for a Day.” For this installment they chose a woman named Juliet Latifa, who they coiffed, dressed, sent to the swankiest Parisian nightspots, hooked up with the celeb set, then sent packing at the end of the night just like in the fairy tale.
The final photo caption sums it up: “Her 24 hour dream ended, drab normalcy not unexpectedly overtakes Cinderella, but unforgettable memories will serve to bolster her occasionally slipping morale.” Wow—belittle much, See editors? In any case, the photos of Latifa's night out are nice. We wish we could scan all the shots in the magazine but there are more than a hundred and we just don't have that kind of stamina. We managed about twenty pages divided into thirty plus panels featuring Latifa, Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Ingrid Bergman dressed in armor for her role in Joan of Arc, and more.
Being diplomatic is one way to get what you want. And then there's Bardot's way.
This is one of the most classic of Brigitte Bardot's movie posters, with the smiling superstar holding an Eiffel Tower in her hands, implying that all France is her plaything. That much is undeniable. It was originally titled Une parisenne, but for its English language release it was given the slightly different title La Parisienne, and in it Bardot does what Bardot always does—stops traffic, generates previously undiscovered quantum states of chaos, and flips reality upside down. This time around she plays Brigitte Laurier, the prime minister's stubborn daughter, in love her father's assistant, who tries as hard as he can not to get involved with her. Why would he resist Bardot? Because she's too young, and he already has a (married) girlfriend. He finally marries Bardot through a set of crazy circumstances, but refuses to give up his mistress, which of course leads to a jealous Brigitte taking matters into her own hands. This is a classic French style sex comedy, with confusion, mistaken assumptions, and people sneaking into each other's beds, all in service of teaching the lesson that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Focusing on the poster for a moment, you can see it's a high quality piece of art, but it's attributed to nobody. We checked around and came up with zip. You'll notice it says La Parisienne was Bardot's first big picture. We doubt that—it was her eighteenth movie. We can find no evidence anywhere that this one was different budgetwise than her other headlining efforts. Possibly, “big” is a reference to the plot's focus on international politics and diplomacy. The film does seem to have a larger scope, and take place against a larger backdrop than usual. So maybe that's it. Or maybe the American distributors meant that it was the first of Bardot's films to receive a big promotional push in the U.S. We just don't know. But here's what we're sure about: after a successful run in Europe beginning in late 1957, La Parisienne premiered in New York City today in 1958.
The dancers of the chorus line request your attention.
This is the fifth issue of Cancans de Paris we've shared. The magazine is fast becoming a favorite. It has that mix we like—celebs, showgirls, and cartoons. It's similar to magazines such as Paris Hollywood and Gondel, but with a simpler layout and all black-and-white photography. This issue is from July 1966 and features Gila Golan on the cover, and inside are Julie London, Mireille Darc, and others from the acting profession. You also get Sally Ann Scoth, Karin Brault, Juanita Sanchez, and other colleagues from the dancer side of show business. The entire issue appears below in thirty panels, and you can see the other issues by clicking the appropriate keywords at bottom.
Lady Luck shines on Roques book front.
Above is a beautiful cover for La Chance aime le jolies filles, published in 1955 with art by an unidentified genius. The work looks like Jef de Wulf to us, but we won't swear to it because we've guessed wrong before. French book titles can be a bit arcane but not this time—it translates as “luck loves beautiful girls.” Roques was an interesting character. He was both author and publisher of this and other books, running his company out of Boulevard Beaumarchais in Paris. He continually pushed the boundaries of what censors considered acceptable, for twenty years skirting but managing to avoid serious trouble, though books like 1955's Viol and 1957's Dit oui, madame were banned. Roques did not skimp on cover art. Every edition we've seen from his company is beautiful. In fact, one of our favorite fronts ever came from Roques. See that here, and expect more in the future.
She was one Man's ray of light.
This is a fantastic shot. One reason it caught our eye is that we've seen other photos with lacy shadows substituting for lingerie, but this one from 1930 may be the originator of the illusion. The person you see is Lee Miller. She was born in 1907 and became a fashion model in New York City during the late 1920s, before traveling to Paris with the intent of meeting the legendary photographer Man Ray. She succeeded and became his muse, lover, and frequent subject, as evidenced by this photo, which is his work.
Miller was widely acknowledged as one of the great beauties of her era, but modeling was not her career goal. Her plan had always been to become a photographer. Thus in addition to the other facets of her relationship with Ray, she also apprenticed for him. After absorbing what he had to share she eventually went on to shoot acclaimed World War II photos, some of them during perilous live combat, and documented the liberation of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps, helping expose Nazi atrocities to the world.
In mid-1945 she was in Munich shooting images of the immediate aftermath of the war and posed for a nude shot in Adolf Hitler's bathtub. Yeah—Hitler. Her son, Antony Penrose, later said of the shot, “I think she was sticking two fingers up at Hitler. On the floor are her boots, covered with the filth of Dachau, which she has trodden all over Hitler’s bathroom floor. She is saying she is the victor.”
The photo was of course controversial, but Miller was a pure artist, always willing to make observers see the world in a new way—through her trained eye. So while the shot at top could be seen as reductive of a complex and accomplished personality, it actually reveals an important aspect of who she was—a daring, multi-faceted woman to whom convention was merely a challenge. And it's an overwhelmingly beautiful shot besides.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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