Maybe it’s the name that keeps people away, because, you know, we’re actually very welcoming here in Tough Town.
Tough Town appeared in 1952 as a reprint of 1946’s The Ragged Edge. It’s the story of three impoverished siblings who are dragged into the seamy side of life in a fictional New York City slum called Marshall Place. There's lots of juvenile delinquency here, a bit of low level mob activity, a couple of fatal shootings, backroom abortion stuff, political corruption, and so forth.
Two of the siblings have a rough go, but one of them vows to clean up the town and eventually makes it all the way to a position as district attorney. This is an attempt at serious literary art by author Jack Karney, who revisited the subject of the pernicious effects of poverty more than once in his novels. But America is, sadly, a much less sympathetic place toward the poor today, and we doubt this story would resonate for modern readers. The cover art is by Frederick Meyer.
Murder always rings twice.
The last book cover we shared was a Dell mapback, so today we thought we’d continue that theme by showing you a double-sided Hank Janson cover from London based Roberts & Vinter, Ltd., advertising Janson’s upcoming novel on the rear. This appeared in 1960 with uncredited art, but was painted, according to a couple of convincing sources, by an Italian artist named Fernando Carcupino, who did work for Digit Books, Mondadori, and other companies. We’ll dig for more info, but these do pass the initial eye test—i.e. they look very much Carcupino’s work.
Be careful about looking for cheap thrills—you might just find them.
This issue of Adam magazine with its nice cover art illustrating Arthur J Bryant’s story “Hey-Day in Hong Kong” appeared this month in 1971. Bryant’s story, which has a convincing sense of firsthand realism, is about an Aussie traveler searching Hong Kong’s red light district for a “yum-yum girl” but ends up attacked by three thugs. Turns out the hooker employs the toughs because she wants any man who purchases her services to prove he’s deserving of her gifts by fighting for her. You haven’t really had sex unless you’ve done it after being punched in the ribs and eye. Try it sometime.
Elsewhere inside you get more fiction, a bit of fact, plus the usual assortment of humor and models, including, notably, nudist icon Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey. The cover art for Adam was painted by Jack Waugh and Phil Belbin. The pieces are always unsigned, but we’re thinking this is Belbin’s work because he was the go-to guy during Adam’s later years. Don’t quote us on it, though. Both Belbin and Waugh have departed this world, and we doubt there’s an Adam archive somewhere definitively crediting the covers. Anyway, we have thirty-four scans below and so many other issues of this magazine tucked away in the website it’s silly. If you want to see them just click here.
Mixing business and family is always a bad idea.
Above, a cover of The National Close-Up published today in 1967, sporting the slogan “Daring Enough To Print The Facts.” That phrase disappeared from later issues, possibly because the magazine shifted, like other ’70s tabloids, from occasionally factual to totally fictional. This particular headline about a mom casting her daughters into prostitution could be true—we found mention of a few stories along those lines from the 1960s. National Close-Up falls into the category of very rare publications—in many years of looking we’ve seen only a few (exorbitantly expensive) issues for sale. But we’ll keep looking.
Always digging up trouble.
We really like this 1944 Dell paperback cover for Dashiell Hammett’s A Man Called Spade. The book contains three Sam Spade stories, plus two other tales. The art is by Gerald Gregg, an illustrator who avoided titillation in his work. While some of his pieces don’t catch the eye the way typical good girl art did, certain pieces—like this one—are really good. The map back by Ruth Belew and four-page Introduction “Meet Sam Spade” by Ellery Queen make this edition highly collectible.
There’s always something doing in Big Town.
Above are two nice posters for the crime drama I Cover Big Town, starring Philip Reed and Hillary Brooke. The movie was one of four features spun off from the radio program Big Town, which aired from 1937 to 1952. I Cover Big Town was the second feature in the series, but since it and the first installment Big Town were filmed pretty much simultaneously, I Cover Big Town somehow managed to hit cinemas first in some cities, and today is listed on many websites as the opening installment of the Big Town quartet. In any case, what you get here is staff from a big city newspaper (the actual metropolis is never named) called Illustrated Press who get involved in various adventures with police and crime figures. In this chapter, which is barely an hour long, an embattled police chief is about to drummed out of his job for letting a murderer slip through his fingers. Ace reporter Lorelei Kilbourne helps the police solve a second murder, along the way uncovering blackmail and embezzlement, leading to the recapture of the first killer, and managing to save the chief’s hide. Strictly average stuff, but we do love the posters. For reasons that elude us, the film was renamed I Cover the Underworld when it was re-released in 1950. As I Cover Big Town it premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
Mario de Berardinis makes the Mos of his considerable talent.
We’ve shared the work of Italian poster illustrator Mario de Berardinis several times and thought today would be a good day to revisit him. De Berardinis began painting movie posters in the late 1940s, but most of his output seems to have occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, when he created scores of brilliant promos, including the iconic Barbarella poster you see above. He usually signed his work Mos, or sometimes Almos, but some pieces bear his full name. He worked until his death in 1977, and his posters today are collectible and expensive. You can see three of our previous posts on De Berardinis here, here, and here.
You know, in my country they’re clear-cutting forests at an alarming rate.
Above, Sucked into Sin, written by Curt Aldrich and published by Greenleaf Classics in 1968 for their Companion Books set. Typical sleaze here, with a story revolving around a woman whose husband leaves for Germany on a business trip for three weeks, prompting the horny neighbors to use the time to corrupt her. It doesn’t take much, and within days wifey's letting the whole neighborhood get on it. But what will she tell her husband? The cover artist for this is Ed Smith.
Jean de la Hire’s truth is stranger than fiction.
The French sci-fi novel L’Invisible was written by Jean de La Hire, aka Espié Adolphem, for Éditions Jaeger et Hauteville’s Fantastic series in 1953. The set-up is ingenious here—basically, H.G. Wells’ famous novel The Invisible Man was a disguised factual account, and this book reveals the truth about the man Wells fictionalized. He develops an invisibility potion, uses it to make a fortune, and later faces a choice between continuing on his path or giving it up for love. The cool cover art is by René Brantonne.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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