Femmes Fatales Dec 12 2014
WORRY DOLL
Photo sessions make me nervous and then I look uneasy or stressed, so please wait until I’m smiling before you—

Actually, American actress Gladys George did tend to look worried in many of her photos. Not her fault—it’s just the way her face was built. But she coincidentally suffered from numerous worrisome ailments during her life, including throat cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis. You may remember her as Iva Archer in the classic noir The Maltese Falcon, but she also appeared in Madame X, They Gave Him a Gun, and The House that Jazz Built, among more than forty other films. She eventually died early from a cerebral hemorrhage. 
 
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Femmes Fatales Dec 4 2014
HOLY FOCH
Thou shalt not mispronounce her name.

When your name is Nina Foch you probably get used to introducing yourself only to have people say, “You need a what?” Not us, though. We’d never be that juvenile. Film buffs will remember this Dutch actress as Bithiah, the woman who in 1956’s oft-broadcast spectacle The Ten Commandments finds Moses and raises him as her son, but she also played in pulpier fare such as The Return of the Vampire and Escape in the Fog, and important noirs like Johnny O’Clock and My Name Is Julia Ross. This shot was made in 1944 as a promo for her role in Cry of the Werewolf.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 29 2014
WIFE IN THE FAST LANE
Woman on the Run is a real rollercoaster ride.

General consensus on this public domain film is that it’s better than expected and we watched it and agree. It isn’t about a woman on the run but rather the woman’s husband. She’s looking for him, though, and that’s what the movie revolves around. There’s a very effective rollercoaster sequence at the climax, but otherwise the movie has two main pleasures—Ann Sheridan’s jaded wife character that softens by the end of the film, and the extensive location shooting. In fact, there’s so much external scenery that the film doubles as a tour of mid-century San Francisco, which might be enough reason alone to watch it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 8 2014
BROWN IS THE NEW BLONDE
Diana Dors dirties her golden locks for another turn as a woman behind bars.


The excellent promo above for Le femme et le rôdeur, aka The Unholy Wife was created by Roger Soubie, one of the best French poster artists of the mid-century period. His art drew us to the movie, which we watched only to discover Diana Dors in identical grime mode as in her prison drama Yield to the Night. Not only do both productions feature Dors locked down with her blonde tresses gone brown due to lack of available dye, but both involve her being on death row for murder. Since The Unholy Wife was the next film she did after Yield to the Night we can only assume her initial foray into crime and incarceration was such a success it needed to be repeated. Like almost exactly. Unfortunately, two visions of a bruise-eyed Dors about to receive state-sponsored revenge were too much for audiences, and her repeat excursion was roundly panned.

And sadly, we must agree. Dors is living in California and is married to a Napa winery baron, but since she’s also sharing her affections with a hot young lover, she soon ponders murdering her unsuspecting hubby for his estate. When we lived in Berkeley, just south of the California wine country, we rarely pondered anything more than sunlit grapes and a nice Schug Syrah. But okay, The Unholy Wife is a film noir, which means Dors is no more happy with her heaven-on-Earth existence than a Wall Street stockbroker is with his untaxable Cayman Islands shadow fortune. Both inexplicably want more. Dors starts the film in prison and tells her story via flashback, so we already know her schemes backfired. If only the same were true for stockbrokers. The Unholy Wife premiered in England in the summer of 1957 and premiered in France today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 3 2014
THE BIRDMAN OF ARGENTINA
Way down Argentine way Bogart fronts the era’s definitive detective novel.

Leoplán was an Argentine magazine published by Ramón Sopena’s eponymous company Editorial Sopena from 1934 to 1965. This issue features a complete Spanish language reprint of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and is fronted by a nice Manuel Olivas painting of Humphrey Bogart and the bird. It’s from 1949.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2014
MASTERFUL KEY
Glass Key paperback art is tops thanks to another Italian master.

Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake’s film noir The Glass Key, which was Hollywood’s second try at Dashiell Hammett’s novel, premiered this month in 1942. To be exact, it opened yesterday in New York City and throughout the U.S. on October 23. The poster most often seen online is the theatrical release version we showed you several years ago, but alternates were produced and two of them appear below. What we really wanted to share, though, is this great paperback cover from UK-based Digit Books. It’s from 1961 and features the art of Italian illustrator Enrico de Seta, who we’ve mentioned before. If you haven’t watched The Glass Key we recommend it, and if you haven’t read the book, just know that it was Hammett’s personal favorite. 

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Intl. Notebook Aug 13 2014
LAST BACALL
Slipping into darkness.

Lauren Bacall appears here in what may be her most famous publicity image, gazing from the darkness with a knowing, mischievous, heavy-lidded look she made her trademark in The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and To Have and Have Not, three films that were a sort of informal trifecta of film noir. She also appeared in Key Largo, less a noir than a melodrama, but still excellent. All co-starred Humphrey Bogart, who she married in the middle of this run of films and remained married to until his death in 1957. Bacall joins him more than half a century later, aged eighty-nine.

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Hollywoodland May 26 2014
DARK COMPANION
He wasn’t very tall, but he cast a long shadow.

Above, Humphrey Bogart in a promo shot from 1941’s High Sierra, a movie that examines the futility of greed and violence (at least for those with no power or connections). It was more or less the fortieth film Bogart had made, and further cemented his bankability before he truly broke out as a leading man later the same year with The Maltese Falcon. Also, you can once again thank W.R. Burnett—he wrote the novel and collaborated on the screenplay.

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Femmes Fatales Mar 24 2014
DOW WOW
The eyes of March.

Peggy Dow was born Margaret Josephine Varnadow in March 1928 and came to widespread notice in her second feature, the film noir Undertow. She had earned a seven-year contract with Universal International Pictures and it’s certain they thought they had a big star on their hands, but after three years in movies she abruptly quit to marry an Oklahoma oilman and settled into family life and motherhood. She may not be well remembered today, but we’re pretty sure this promo photo will stick in the mind. It was made in 1949. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 18 2014
A HARD DAY'S NIGHTMARE
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. The code allows a seer to work in tandem with an assistant to correctly answer the questions of spectators. You know the drill: “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, she’s already on the mend. 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.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 19
1984—Britain Agrees to Cede Hong Kong
Great Britain signs over Hong Kong to China in an agreement stipulating that the colony be returned to the Chinese in 1997. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang, while political groups in Hong Kong push futilely for independence.
December 18
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
December 17
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.

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