When the Belle rings it's time for everyone to get it up.
Above is a Japanese poster and a pamphlet front for the French sexploitation flick Laure, aka Forever Emmanuelle, which premiered in Japan today in 1976 after opening in Italy nine months earlier. We watched it, and first of all the movie looks great. It's crisp, bright, and colorful—three things you really want when Annie Belle is the star. We gather that the palpably high budget was due to an infusion of big studio money from Twentieth Century Fox via Cinecittà Studios, as they tried to cash in on the 1970s sexploitation phenomenon. None of this means the movie is good.
Emmanuelle flicks are chaste and atmospheric, more romance than raunch, and Laure is no exception. Belle plays a highly sexed minister's daughter running wild in the Philippines, from Manila to the jungly outer reaches. There's a plot having to do with searching for the isolated Mara tribe, but the movie is more a series of swinger lifestyle lectures and sexualized vignettes, such as when Belle drops her skirt so she can walk around in public wearing nothing but a shirt that flashes her muff, and when she gets laid in a bamboo hut that's being dragged through the woods by a dozen Filipino workers. She's wanted by everyone whose path she crosses, but it's Al Cliver who piques her interest, thanks to his unwillingness to attempt caging her or cooling her hot blood. At one point he announces, “Jealousy is an obscenity.” It takes quite a man to watch the woman he loves have explosive orgasms with every stranger who happens along.
Of special note is a co-starring turn from Thai/French personality Emmanuelle Arsan, who in 1959 anonymously published the book Emmanuelle, source of the film franchise. Or at least she was thought for years to have been responsible for the book. Her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane is now considered the author. Arsan was also credited with directing Laure, or at least co-directing it, but that was Rollet-Andriane again, whose name isn't on the film for reasons too involved to go into here. Well, it's definitely Arsan playing the role of Myrte, adding to the film's visual allure by looking great naked at age forty-four. She can't act, but she's good at giving wise looks and secretive smiles. She's easy to buy as the source—or at least inspiration—for Emmanuelle, because she's a very sexy woman. Despite all the film's beauty, we aren't going so far as to recommend it generally, but for lovers of globetrotting softcore or fans of Annie Belle it's mandatory.
Documentary charts Marilyn Monroe's climb to the top of Tinseltown.
Completing the third of a triptych of poster for the documentary Marilyn, above we have a U.S. poster made for the movie's premiere there today in 1963. We already shared the Yugoslavian and Japanese posters. They're all similar—the dress and the backgrounds change color but they all have the same image of Monroe in the hands raised pose you see here. And we love the shot. The movie, as we mentioned before, was put together by Twentieth Century Fox to celebrate Monroe, and mission accomplished. It's a must for fans.
Michael Shayne stabs Phillip Marlowe in the back.
Above you see a promo poster for the detective yarn The Time To Kill, a movie that premiered in the U.S. today in 1943 and has a mildly convoluted provenance that will be interesting to pulp fans. Mystery authors Brett Halliday and Raymond Chandler were both popular writers, but Twentieth Century Fox had already made six movies based on Halliday's novels. So they bought Chandler's The High Window and changed the main character from Phillip Marlowe to Halliday's franchise detective Michael Shayne. We don't know if Chandler and Halliday had any sort of rivalry to that point, but we wouldn't be surprised if one started.
Fox had made the previous Shayne flicks in just two years, and they're light in tone, which is one reason we think websites that label The Time To Kill a film noir are stretching. The lead character is not a driven loner, the general sense of corruption is nowhere to be found, and most of the usual noir iconography, such as rain or water, neon, newspapers, sidewalks, etc., is absent. No flashbacks. No voiceover. Nothing. Co-star Doris Merrick is a femme fatale perhaps, but virtually any woman in a crime thriller can fit that cubbyhole. Then surprise—four fifths of the way through its running time the movie shifts gears—Shayne walks into a nighttime murder scene that's draped with shadows and ill portent, but even this is played for laughs when he pratfalls down a staircase. And the ultimate fate of the villain is basically a bad barroom joke.
Director Herbert Leeds had worked on a variety of low budget westerns, comedies, and serials, and was a technician, not a stylist. His spliced in noir sequence is a nice nod to an emerging trend, but we don't think it pushes what is mainly a goofball detective film into noir territory. In general, his were a safe pair of hands tasked with churning out movies at high speed. The Time To Kill is a typically perfunctory Leeds effort—one hour and one minute long, meant to be consumed like penny candy. So we don't think it's a film noir, but hey—we just run a silly website. What do we know? And does it even matter? The Time To Kill is a decent enough distraction, however you categorize it.
Anselmo Ballester helped set the artistic standard in the competitive world of Italian movie illustrators.
Anselmo Ballester is yet another virtuoso poster artist from Italy, where cinema promos were taken perhaps more seriously as art pieces than anyplace in the world. We've documented many of these Italian geniuses, including Mafé, Luigi Martinati, Sandro Symeoni, Mario de Berardinis, and others. Ballester, born in 1897, predated nearly all of his colleagues (only Martinati was born earlier) and enjoyed a fifty year career working for studios such as Cosmopolis, Titanus, Twentieth Century Fox, and RKO Radio Pictures. He also worked in commercial and political advertising. For the titles of the above works just check the keywords below. They're in top-to-bottom order in Italian and English.
Reaching the top isn’t easy. Staying on top is even harder.
Above is a Spanish poster by Josep Soligó Tena for La casa de la colina, which was originally released in the U.S. as The House on Telegraph Hill. The movie tells the story of a Polish concentration camp survivor—played by Valentina Cortese—who upon release takes the identity of her dead friend, and later insinuates herself into the lives of the dead woman’s San Francisco relatives. This identity swap is the classic Hitchcockian MacGuffin, which is to say it initially seems to be the plot driver, but later isn’t important at all. While Cortese’s labyrinthine lie is always a worrisome background element, the movie is really about how she finds herself embroiled in an inheritance mess and a love triangle. We thought this movie was quite good, but you do have to ignore bits like the improbable placement of a child’s playhouse above a sheer drop (in a sense, another MacGuffin, as the threat of falling has no bearing at all on later developments). Highly recommended movie, and it has nice San Fran exteriors as a bonus. The House on Telegraph Hill premiered in the U.S. in 1951, and as La casa de la colina in Spain today in 1952. See more work from Tena here.
Classic style for classic movies.
Catalan painter Josep Soligó Tena spent thirty years under contract to Hispano Foxfilms, the Spanish subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox, and during that time created many beautiful promo posters. Today for your enjoyment we have a collection of some of his best. Yes, we are aware he uglified Grace Kelly (panel four), but he’s had that difficulty before with beautiful women. He’s still excellent, though. Eleven scans below.
Were they selling the movie or only its star?
Do they still run ads in newspapers for motion picture releases? The one above ran in dozens of U.S. papers during the run-up to the release of One Million Years B.C., the Raquel Welch lost world flick that cemented her status as a leading sex symbol. The ad (which seems to promote mainly Welch, since we don’t learn the name of the film until we read the fine print at bottom), appeared today in 1966, and One Million Years B.C. followed in February. Bikinis haven’t been the same since.
Have you ever had a terrible dream and couldn’t wake up?
This West German poster for Der Scharlatan, aka Nightmare Alley shows Twentieth Century Fox pretty boy Tyrone Power in his role as The Great Stanton, a conniving psychic. Power felt constricted by the romance and adventure parts he’d played up to that point, so he bought the rights to William Lindsay Gresham’s novel and dirtied himself up. He plays a lowly carnival barker who realizes that an ingenious verbal code is the key to reaching the heights of fame.
This code allows a seer to work in tandem with an assistant to correctly answer the questions of spectators. “I’m sensing that there’s a Mr. Abernathy here and he’s... wait… it’s coming… Sir, you’re concerned about your wife’s health. Isn’t that right? Well let me tell you, you’ll get good news from the doctor tomorrow!” Though the code’s owners aren’t using it, they plan to sell it to fund their retirement, and that looks to be some years off. This forces Power to either to steal it or sweet talk his way into it. As it turns out, he doesn’t have to do either, but once he has the code and has built an act around it, the fame and riches it brings fail to quench his greed.
Nightmare Alley was not warmly reviewed upon release, but many of those reviews simply found the movie too gritty. Such criticisms tend to make their authors look out of touch. For example, Bosley Crowther was demoted from his position as the New York Times’ main critic in large part for slamming Bonnie and Clyde in three separate articles, despite the film’s obvious quality. Nightmare Alley had similar detractors—it was just too downbeat for some, even for a film noir. But within its fictional milieu it's highly successful. Our world has every kind of depravityand cruelty, and movies that depict them must be judged on their own terms. So ignore the haters—Nightmare Alley is excellent. Power puts on an award-worthy performance, and Joan Blondell and Colleen Gray are great in support. There’s a pivotal moment in the film when it seems possible Power’s character has some actual psychic ability. Too bad he can’t see his own future. Nightmare Alley premiered in 1947, and finally made its way to West Germany today in 1954.
Hush-Hush says they didn’t want her even in the nude, but is that true?
The story probably fueled ten million fantasies. Marilyn Monroe had stripped naked on the set of her last movie Something’s Got To Give. Monroe was eventually fired, the production was scrapped, and the footage was archived, but if it had been released, she would have been the first Hollywood actress to appear unclothed onscreen since the 1920s. It’s interesting, isn’t it, to reflect upon the effect a minority of prudes had on Hollywood? Because of them, Monroe’s unreleased scene, and Jayne Mansfield’s later nude scene in 1963’s Promises, Promises, merely brought American cinema back to where it had already been four decades earlier.
In the movie Monroe’s character is in a pool and calls up to a window where Dean Martin resides. Martin is married and Monroe is disrupting his life, so when he sees her, he tells her to get out of the water. She complies and Martin realizes she’s nude. It's a standard sex comedy oops moment. Monroe began the filming of the scene in a body stocking, then removed that and wore a flesh-colored bikini bottom. After the scene she posed for some publicity shots for several surprised photographers, and during that period removed even the bottoms. Some sources say she also shot the scene nude, but most say the bottoms came off afterward.
Hush-Hush was not the first magazine to break the story of Monroe’s peel down. Life had done that in June 1962, and included a couple of titillating photos. By the time Hush-Hush told the tale Monroe was two months dead. The blurb MM—Even In The Nude They Didn’t Want Her wasn’t strictly true. The production company Twentieth Century Fox most certainly did want her. A hospital stint prior to production had caused her to shed twenty-five pounds, bringing her to a weight she had never reached in her adult life, despite exercise and dieting. The newly svelte Monroe looked good and Fox was getting her cheap—$100,000.
By most accounts, Monroe knew her career was in trouble. She was making one tenth one what Elizabeth Taylor was making at the time, and was determined to remind people they were still dealing with possibly the biggest sex symbol who had ever lived. She knew that if she stripped she might be falling into the same old trap of making it easy for people to not take her seriously, but if her career really was finished she was determined to go down swinging. In the end her stunt was irrelevant. Her health problems had made her thin, but they lingered and caused numerous costly production delays, causing Fox to finally give up and pull the plug. That was June 1962. Two months later she was gone.
Marilyn had a little lamb, but soon she'd have the world.
By now we shouldn’t be surprised where Marilyn Monroe turns up. Still though, we never thought we’d see her befrocked and befrilled, fondling livestock in a field. Yet there she is on the April 26, 1946 cover of the women’s magazine The Family Circle. At the time, Monroe was modeling just about anywhere she could find work, going by her real name Norma Jeane Daugherty. She was twenty years old, one year away from her first film appearance, and two years away from her first minor film contract with Columbia Pictures. The year after that, in 1949, still trying to make ends meet, she posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley. In 1952 one photo from that session ended up on a Western Lithograph Co. pin-up calendar. Monroe was a contract player with 20th Century Fox by then, and the studio feared the photos would cause a scandal. They were wrong. Monroeadmitted posing nude to pay the rent, and the public was fine with it. The next month she appeared on the cover of Life. Said Monroe: “Oh, the calendar’s hanging in garages all over town. Why deny it? You can get one anyplace. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Monroe’s career took off from there, but there’s a modern postscript to the story—namely, with the internet being what it is (a massive repository of misinformation the likes of which we never could have imagined a mere fifteen years ago), there are many shots of Monroe out there that are misidentified as the one that ended up on that 1952 calendar. So we took the liberty of posting a scan of the Life story, with its inset of the Monroe calendar. The shot you see there—and not the several others appearing on assorted websites—is the one that scandalized Monroe’s bosses but was shrugged off by the public. The nude image is pretty small in Life, but the internet being what it is (a massive repository of nakedness the likes of which we could never have imagined—but always hoped for), we were able to simply grab a larger version of Kelley’s shot and post it below so that, for purely academic interest, you can have a closer look. The photo will disappear if we get a cease and desist order, but for now it’s there.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
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