We've been seeing each other for a while now. I've decided you can start coming up the front stairs.
Above, a Jim Bentley cover for L.K. Scott's Backstairs, 1953 for Pyramid Books. Bentley also worked for various men's adventure magazines, including Stag, for which he illustrated the James Jones story “The Knife” in December 1957. Jones, you may remember, wrote From Here to Eternity. We'll see if we can dig up more from Bentley later.
Should she stay or go? The chair may be the factor that tips her one way or the other.
This rare poster of U.S. actress Candice Bergen was printed and distributed in 1972 by a company called Nats Co-operated Reproduction. The shot was made in 1968 by famed photographer Terry O'Neill. There are other photos from the session. A couple even feature the same weathered beach chair that looks set to snap at any moment like something made from chopsticks, but as far as we know only Nats Co-operated used a color shot of Bergen in this particular pose. We've seen a black and white on Getty Images, but never one in color until this treasure. The beach, incidentally, immediately looked to us like our occasional stomping grounds the Balearic Islands, and sure enough, when we checked it turned out Bergen sat for this when she was filming The Magus in Mallorca. Another shot from the session appears below.
Better late than never is our motto around here.
We're finally getting back to paperback artist Gene Bilbrew, whose odd style, with its scantily clad women and their muscular butts has become collectible in recent years. We didn't get it at first, but like a lot of art, once you're exposed to it regularly you begin to appreciate its unique qualities. There's clear intent in Bilbrew's work, a deliberate attempt to approach illustration from a different angle, and we've grown to understand that his cartoonish, chaotic, often humorous, and often bondage themed aesthetic is purposeful. In fact, his imagery has become so intertwined with the bdsm scene that in 2019 the National Leather Association International established an award named after Bilbrew for creators of animated erotic art. While it's not exactly a Pulitzer Prize, the point is that Bilbrew's bizarre visions keep gaining wider acceptance. So for that reason we've put together another group of his paperback fronts. You can see more of them here, here, and here, and you can see a few rare oddities here, here, and here.
*psst* I want you to stick your finger in my handhole, only I don't really mean finger or handhole.
The iconic sleaze publisher Midwood Books uses Robert Schultz art twice on covers for John Turner's Take Care of Me and Vin Fields' The Come On, 1963 and 1966 respectively, in which a woman makes clear in her not-so-subtle way what's on her mind. You can make a case that she's not actually simulating sex with her hands. We won't make that case though—we think the slight mispositioning of her finger merely provides enough wiggle room to deny the undeniable, probably a necessary precaution during an era when publishers were occasionally hauled into court on obscenity charges. We think this is a pretty daring piece of art.
Sometimes you need to take a moment.
We know this moment well. Occasionally you need the world to just stop. In fact, we've built our lives around making this feeling last for weeks at a time. The person you see here having some she-time is Lilia del Valle, a Mexican actress—though born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic—who was active throughout the 1950s and ’60s, with this promo shot dating from 1955. She made about thirty movies, including 1952's El bello durmiente, aka The Beautiful Dreamer. Which is what it looks like she's doing here. In that case let's move on and not disturb her.
Dors gets caught short of blonde dye.
We always note that one reason mid-century tabloids have historical value is because of their rare shots of significant celebrities, and here's a perfect example. Diana Dors appears on the cover of a National Enquirer published today in 1960, and in this photo we've never seen anywhere else she's sporting deep black Frida Kahlo eyebrows. Dors was one of the most interesting figures of her time, and the blurb on this Enquirer references her marriage to Dennis Hamilton, a union which led to her being lent as a sexual plaything to various producers and leading actors, and which also gave Hamilton the incandescent idea of hiring photographer Horace Roye to make Dors the star attraction of two racy photo collections. One of those was in 3D, and we bet those batwing eyebrows of hers really jumped off the page. For a bit more about Dors' strange and remarkable life, check here.
Time keeps on ticking ticking ticking into the future.
Above is a poster for the film noir The Big Clock, based on Kenneth Fearing's 1946 novel, with Ray Milland playing a journalist at fictional Crimeways magazine who finds himself entangled with the boss's girlfriend, then in murder when she turns up dead. He had nothing to do with it, but had been seen all over Manhattan with her the night of her death, and is presumed to be the killer though nobody has identified him yet. In classic film noir fashion, Milland's boss sets him to solving the case. But how can he, when he's actually looking for himself? And how can he throw his numerous staffers off the scent while appearing to conduct a legit investigation, yet somehow find the real killer? It's quite a mess.
For casual movie fans, distinguishing film noir from vintage drama can be difficult, but of its many defining characteristics, flag this one: the man who finds himself in a vise that slowly tightens due to what had seemed at first to be inconsequential or random acts. The panting Milland bought in an art shop becomes a potential piece of evidence against him. The cheap sundial he acquired in a bar does the same. The random man he exchanged a few words with becomes a potential witness. And so on. He's the subject of a puzzle that has his face in the center. Other characters are slowly assembling pieces from the edges inward. If Milland doesn't outwit them before they find the piece with his face on it, he's screwed.
In addition to an involving plot, nice technical values, Ray Milland, and a large clock, The Big Clock brings the legendary Charles Laughton to the party, along with Maureen O'Sullivan, a decade removed from her ingenue period playing Jane in Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan movies, all grown up here as the smart, loyal, beautiful wife willing to come to Milland's aid when the chips are down. The film is unique, as well, for its interwoven comedy, unusual in films from this genre. These moments come often, and may seem obtrusive to some, but we thought they fit fine. And that's a good way to sum up The Big Clock. If you're a film noir fan, it'll fit you just fine. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
When they say high school is torture usually they're kidding.
The beautiful Rushia Santô made only a few films during her brief career. One of them was the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede, aka Female Teacher: In Front of the Students. Santô plays a high school teacher, and since her school looks like a prison it's no surprise she experiences a prison style shower rape. The student she eventually accuses of attacking her—Tôru Nakane, who the audience knows is innocent—retaliates by grabbing her and keeping her prisoner over spring break. This being a Nikkatsu film, that imprisonment naturally involves making Santô realize she's a sex maniac, and by the end of the break Santó, the studly Nakane, and his girlfriend Rina Oka are humping like rabbits.
The mystery that isn't a mystery is finally solved in the last part of this 70-minute sprint. There are some weak attempts at humor here and there, such as during a sex scene between Nakane and Oka when he's simultaneously eating a sticky bun and she's eating a banana, but the moment for cinematic discussions of whether some women like to be submissive—still ongoing as recently as in 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey—has definitively passed. As far as we're concerned anything done between consenting adults is fine, but consenting is the operative word. Nikkatsu films often play around with that concept, but these days such explorations are discordant, to say the least. Like all the obscure movies we watch, we're looking for forgotten gems. This is no gem, and maybe just needs to be forgotten. Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede premiered in Japan today in 1982.
Yay! Recess is over! Back to our soul sucking penitentiary of a high school! I have a very bad feeling about this movie.
This absolutely sucks. Next time grandma needs a basket of food I'm telling her to order it from Uber Eats.
Have you heard the story of Little Red Riding with Hoods? It's a classic. Little Red Riding with Hoods leaves her cottage one day intent on buying a gift with a cashier's check. She crashes into a carload of bank robbers, and since their vehicle is now disabled, they steal hers—with her in it. They flee to their hideout, and thereafter are divided over what to do with Red. But the debate is short. They all know she's a witness and must be killed, which makes efforts by the cops a race against time. Crucially, they've lost some of that time because when the cops find out about the cashier's check they think Red has run away to start a new life. But they finally uncover a salesman who's owed for the gift Red ordered, and at that point realize she has indeed been kidnapped and probably doesn't have long to live. How does it all end? Well, we can tell you this—the book could have gone all sorts of places, but in 1957 when Lionel White published it, is there any doubt Red lives happily ever after? You sense it early and grow more certain with each page. But don't yell spoiler at us—Hostage for a Hood is still a good read, foregone conclusion and all.
They say the truth will set you free, but it'll send her to prison.
Written, directed, produced by, and co-starring Hugo Haas, One Girl's Confession is a morality play that ponders the role of fate in people's lives. Imagine a man leaving his house and stopping for a few moments to help a boy retrieve a ball. Ten minutes later a flower pot falls from a highrise balcony and crushes his skull. If he hadn't stopped to help the boy the pot would have missed him by ten feet. Terrible luck. But at his work that day there's a natural gas explosion, which would have killed him anyway.
That's the type of idea Haas plays with. He has Cleo Moore in the lead role as a woman who steals $25,000, wants to use the money to get ahead, but various metaphorical flower pots keep landing on her head. Maybe wealth just isn't in the cards. On the other hand, it's possible the fault, as they say, is not in her stars, but in her self. Helene Stanton plays a crucial support role, tipping the balance of fate at just the right moment, and Glenn Langan plays Moore's love interest.
One Girl's Confession is just a b-movie, but it manages to elevate itself above its ilk thanks to a charismatic lead performer. A seventy-four minute running time doesn't hurt either, as the curtain falls just before as central idea begins to wears thin. You probably have worse movies in your queue, so adding this one can't hurt. Maybe it'll help you avoid a flower pot. One Girl's Confession premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1953—MK-ULTRA Mind Control Program Launched
In the U.S., CIA director Allen Dulles launches a program codenamed MK-ULTRA, which involves the surreptitious use of drugs such as LSD to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function. The specific goals of the program are multifold, but focus on drugging world leaders in order to discredit them, developing a truth serum, and making people highly susceptible to suggestion. All of this is top secret, and files relating to MK-ULTRA's existence are destroyed in 1973, but the truth about the program still emerges in the mid-seventies after a congressional investigation.
1945—Franklin Roosevelt Dies
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while sitting for a portrait in the White House. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt's body is transported by train to his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and on April 15 he is buried in the rose garden of the Roosevelt family home.
1916—Richard Harding Davis Dies
American journalist, playwright, and author Richard Harding Davis dies of a heart attack at home in Philadelphia. Not widely known now, Davis was one of the most important and influential war correspondents ever, establishing his reputation by reporting on the Spanish-American War, the Second Boer War, and World War I, as well as his general travels to exotic lands.
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