What are you staring at, chérie? Have you never seen a hat before?
French burlesque dancer Yvonne Ménard is all smiles, and why not? That thing she wears between her legs probably tickles. Ménard also may be smiling because when these photos were taken she was about as famous as a dancer could be. She had started as a nude mannequin at La Cigale, then joined the cast of Folies Bergère as a replacement for a departing Josephine Baker after understudying the great American star during the 1949 season. Ménard was twenty when she took the lead role—the photos above were made backstage at the Folies shortly afterward. One of the acts Ménard developed showed her struggling against the lure of opium. She wore only her famous glittering leaf, and battled dark male figures only to be eventually carried by them into a smoking pit.
Ménard’s performances were a bit different from Baker’s—she couldn’t sing as well, and her dancing was a work in progress, but she would eventually master various flips and aerial maneuvers, which she once demonstrated for a photo feature in Life magazine. She toured the U.S. numerous times, making stops in New York, Miami Beach, and Las Vegas, and also performed in South America. Somewhere in there she made time to appear on the cover of the third issue of Playboy, in February 1954, and writer Georges Tabet said inside the issue, “Yvonne is the crystallization of Paris. She’s got a petit quelque chose—a little something—that you have to be born with. Chevalier, he has it in his smile. Edith Piaf has it in her voice. This one—she has it all over.”
A Renaissance woman in deep space.
Star Trek featured a range of female personalities, from the innocent Angelique Pettyjohn, to the cerebral Marianna Hill, to the coolly professional Majel Barrett, to the supersexual Yvonne Craig. And of course there’s everyone's favorite yeoman Janice Rand, wilting under Captain Kirk’s lack of attention. And then there’s Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. As played by Nichelle Nichols she was the only fully realized woman on the show, and the most fully realized character after Kirk and Spock. She was African and American, spoke Swahili, was reliable at her job, was self-secure enough to freely express wonder and fear, could fight with deadly ability, could sing and play music, could navigate the ship, make technical repairs, and helm the science station. This is one of the best promo photos of one of television’s most capable characters. It’s post-Star Trek, probably 1974.
Petty woman look my way.
This unusual 1950 promo photo of American actress Joan Caulfield was made for her role in The Petty Girl, in which she starred with Robert Cummings. The Petty Girl was a curious movie—a famous pin-up artist based on actual pin-up king George Petty encounters a shy college professor and becomes both romantically intrigued by her, and determined to have her pose for one of his paintings. We may watch this one and get back to you.
Neyung, willing and able.
Above, model turned actress Lilia Neyung, who appeared in Italian b-movies during the 1960s, including James Tont operazione U.N.O. and Der Sarg bleibt heute zu, aka Death on a Rainy Day. With no bio anywhere online she’s as obscure as it gets, but we like this shot.
Life is a cabaret old chum.
Above, German actress Heidrun Kussin, from the cult classic Vampyros Lesbos and a dozen other films, seen here in character as Gerda from the television mystery Der junge roth, 1974.
She might be a little overdressed for a Caribbean climate.
Canadian born actress Ann Rutherford is probably best known for playing Scarlett O’Hara’s sister Carreen in Gone with the Wind, but she starred in many films, and acted for more than forty years. The photo above was made to promote her role in Bermuda Mystery, a movie that’s little known today but which we decided we needed to see because: 1—we love the Caribbean; and 2—we love mid-1940s mysteries. It took a while, but we finally managed to find a copy. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t set in the Caribbean. It takes place in New York City. But at least that makes Rutherford’s wardrobe appropriate. Why is the movie called Bermuda Mystery? We’ll tell you about it a bit later. 1944 on the photo.
The bad news is I was in such a hurry I forgot my dress. The good news is I don’t care!
This fun promo photo with American actress Nancy Kovack was made for her role in the film Sylvia. Kovack appeared in several movies and many television shows, but is mainly remembered for playing Medea in 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, and for a guest appearance on Star Trek. The image above dates from 1965.
It’s good to be top of the heap.
Above, the iconic Rita Hayworth, star of such films as the incomparable Gilda, as well as The Lady from Shanghai, Cover Girl, and the musical You Were Never Lovelier, seen here looking comfy at the height of her fame in a photo made at her home, by her rather astonishing pool with its central island and palm tree, in 1945.
Working in Bardot’s shadow.
Thea Fleming, aka Thea Fammy, née Thea Catharina Wihelmina Gemma Pfennings, is a Dutch actress who was packaged as “The Brigitte Bardot of Holland.” We don’t know if that was because of her talent or looks, but in any case she actually spent most of her career not in Holland but in Italy, working under the stage name Isabella Biancini. She was never a big star, no Bardot by any measure, but she made some memorable movies, including Salome ’73, Asso di picche—Operazione controspionaggio, aka Operation Counterspy, and Il nostro agente a Casablanca, aka The Killer Lacks a Name. This great shot is from around 1970.
, Salome ’73
, Operation Counterspy
, Asso di picche—Operazione controspionaggio
, Il nostro agente a Casablanca
, The Killer Lacks a Name
, Isabella Biancini
, Thea Fleming
, Thea Fammy
In tip top shape from stem to stern.
Above is a promotional photo of Italian actress Edy Vessel, who was born in Trieste as Edoarda Wessellovsky, a fact that neccessitated a name change before she achieved reknown in such films as Psycosissimo and Federico Fellini's 8½. This photo from the French magazine Stop dates from 1962.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
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