Soviet propaganda takes aim at the U.S.
Conflict and propaganda go hand in hand. During the Cold War the U.S. and Russia both produced political art bashing the other side, and some of that art has reached collector status today. We have an example above and below—a Soviet pamphlet featuring ink drawings by famed illustrator Alexander Moiseevich Zhytomyr attacking various aspects of the U.S., including capital punishment, mass incarceration, and nukes. Though the pamphlet was printed in 1964, most of the content is from earlier, generally the late 1940s. Basically, it's all pretty much self-explanatory, and timely too, considering many Americans are now highly critical of the same elements of their own country that the Soviets attack here. Whatever your politics happen to be, these pieces are all objectively quite nice. Have a look below.
Ready for some stimulating reading?
Above, a beautiful pin-up style cover painted by Jef de Wulf for Tania et le démon by Yvan Nikitine, published by Brussels based Éditions Aphrodite. This is a collection of romantic verse from the Russian poet Yvan Nikitine, not to be confused with the famous 19th century Russian poet Ivan Nikitine, nor the 17th century Russian painter and author Ivan Nikitin. We had trouble figuring all this out, because apparently Nikitine/Nikitin is like Johnson or Jones in Russia, but we think our Nikitine wrote eighteen volumes of poetry over the years, was made a knight of L'Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and is alive and retired in Agen, France. Maybe we should just just focus on the art. Nice, yeah? 1959 copyright.
Some women are trouble. But some trouble is worth it.
Above you see a poster for the game changing film noir Gilda, which opened today in 1946 with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in the starring roles as a casino owner's wife and a gambling drifter. This promo is different from the three we showed you some years back, so we thought we'd upload it just to further bolster our visual documentation of this classic. The piece was painted by the storied Russian born artist Boris Grinsson, who we've discussed only briefly but will certainly get back to. As for Gilda, it's been exhaustively covered by virtually every film writer far and wide, so we've got nothing to add. Watch it.
Who, him? He'll be fine in a minute or two. Everyone who eats here reacts that way when they see their check.
Author Igor B. Maslowski was born in 1914 in Smolensk, Russia, which his parents left to settle in Poland, where Maslowski grew up. After studying French in Warsaw, he went to Paris to study law, and in 1935 he became a reporter for French radio. Later he became a film and theater critic, and from there he moved into writing fiction under his own name and the pseudonym Renée Gaudin. Above you see a very nice cover for his mystery Le jury avait soif, with unattributed art. The book was published by Éditions le Bruyère for its Collection la Cagoule in 1950, and the title in English means “the jury was thirsty.” However, the type of jury here is not a judicial one, but a literary one, convened to select the winner of a prize, a pursuit that's disrupted when one of the panel turns up dead. Pretty soon someone else is dead, and someone else, which in a way isn't a surprise, because the world of literature is actually pretty cutthroat. Aspiring novelists beware. Below, as a bonus, you see a cover of the same novel from Éditions du Chardon's Collection le Carillon, 1954.
Nazis bite off more than they can chew in the bitter Arctic.
The Nazis got around. We've already talked about their forays to the South Pole. Why not the other end of the Earth too? Last week Russian scientists stumbled across a secret Nazi military base in the Arctic that had been constructed in 1942, subsequently abandoned and forgotten. The base is located on the island of Alexandra Land, 600 miles from the North Pole, and was codenamed Schatzgraber, which in German means “treasure hunter” or "treasure trove.” It was a tactical weather station used for the crucial task of planning troop movements during the German invasion of Russia, which began in 1941 but quickly turned from an invasion into a military quagmire that cost Germany four million dead and any chance to win the war. The occupants of the base were evacuated by submarine in 1944 after they ate undercooked polar bear meat and contracted trichinosis, a very nasty illness that can cause uncontrollable diarrhea, inflammation in the whites of the eyes, and swelling of the heart. Considering Russia's symbol is the bear, it's a bit ironic. According to reports, more than 500 historically significant items have been found at Schatzgraber, including documents that may shed light on yet another dark corner of the Nazi empire.
Monroe, Curtis, and Lemmon give jazz a swing.
On this promo poster for the Marilyn Monroe comedy Certains l'aiment chaud, aka Some Like It Hot, it looks like Russian illustrator Boris Grinsson went a little strong on Monroe's wink, making her look like she got a splinter of glass in her eye, but Monroe actually looked that way in the promo photo used as the basis of the art, which you can see at right.
You know all about this movie, so we won't bother to go over it. We'll just mention, if you haven't seen it, don't be surprised that it's in black and white. There are so many color production photos from this one—like the several we've shared below—that we even forgot. And we'd seen the movie several times, though not in about ten years. When it opened with documentary style footage of a car chase and shootout followed by a title card reading “Chicago, 1929,” we were thinking, “Ah, this is where it shifts to color.”
But of course it didn't, and we suddenly remembered that this was a later black and white production, made the same year Technicolor films such as Ben Hur and North by Northwest hit cinemas. According to our research, Monroe actually had a stipulation in her contract that all her films had to be in color, but director Billy Wilder wanted black and white because the heavy makeup worn by Curtis and Lemmon—who spend most of the movie disguised as women—looked green in Technicolor. He lobbied Monroe and she finally agreed her co-stars could not be green.
Does Some Like It Hot fit under our self-defined umbrella of pulp? Of course—there are gangsters, the aforementioned shootout, and it's about two jazz musicians on the run. And few Hollywood figures are more pulp in essence than Monroe. The character of nightclub singer Sugar Kane is one of her better creations. Sit back and enjoy. Some Like It Hot premiered in the U.S. in February 1959, and opened in Paris as Certains l'aiment chaud today the same year. Another promotional poster by Grinsson appears below, and you can see the very different West German promo poster here.
If you're hearing this it's already too late.
This curious photo shows a bit of pulp-era technology—the acoustic mirror or acoustic locator. It was used to detect the approach of aircraft. The examples above and below are from Japan, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and other countries, and date from the 1930s to the eve of World War II, when they were replaced by radar systems. Apparently, these worked quite well, picking up engine noise from miles away. But as aircraft became speedier the effective range of the devices decreased—enemy planes would reach the site where a mirror was located within a minute or two of being detected. At such speeds, a spotter with a good pair of binoculars and decent visibility would see the planes the same time a mirror heard them. But before airspeeds increased these were the surest way to detect an oncoming aerial attack or reconnaissance flight, particularly at night. In addition to portable mirrors, some countries used cast concrete to construct massive versions that had a twenty-mile range. Great Britain built the last set of these in 1943 when fears surfaced that the Germans had developed a means to jam radar. Built to endure weather and time, some survive and have become tourist attractions. We have ten more crazy acoustic mirror designs below for your enjoyment.
All I really wanted for Christmas this year was Russia. Sigh. This holiday sucks.
Adolf Hitler and cohorts enjoy an uproarious 1941 Berlin Christmas party, where the mood may have been somewhat subdued due to the fact that attempts to crush Russia had so far failed at the cost of more than 800,000 German casualties. The photo was shot by Hugo Jaeger, one of the Führer’s personal photographers, and didn’t come to light until published by Life magazine in 2010.
On the first day of Christmas the Gazette gave to me—a Hitler.
Just in time to ruin everyone’s Christmas shopping, this National Police Gazette from December 1960 splashed Adolf Hitler’s face on its cover along with an inset of Swedish actress May Britt (who could hardly have appreciated the inclusion). George McGrath’s story minces no words, opening with this: Indisputable evidence that Adolf Hitler is alive and living in the Argentine has has been uncovered by the Police Gazette. Although this new information is in the hands of government intelligence chiefs, the United States and its allies are not lifting a finger to catch the runaway Nazi dictator.
By now you’re familiar with the basics: Hitler sent his possessions ahead to Mar del Plata, Argentina eighteen months before World War II’s end, later escaped Europe by u-boat, and set up shop with some of his top brass to begin plotting a return to the global stage. This particular version of the story managed to cleverly sneak in a shot at the Soviet Union, claiming Nikita Khrushchev didn’t want Hitler found. Considering the many millions of soldiers and civilians the Russians lost defeating the guy, that makes zero sense, but hey, this Gazette was published during the Cold War—Russia had to be blamed for everything.
This makes the twenty-second Hitler Gazette cover we’ve posted of twenty-nine we’ve found so far. Each story adds a little bit more to the labryrinthine tale of his daring dash to South America, but this is the first story we’ve seen claim that his capture would divide the Allied nations. Why? Because some would want him executed (obviously), while others would want him forgotten (not so obviously). The only rationale given for the latter position is that Hitler’s capture would open old war wounds. That’s pretty hard to swallow, but also beside the point. The point was magazine sales and the editors undoubtedly achieved that. We’ll have more from the Gazette later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
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