The Naked City Nov 30 2022
ALLAH THE MONEY
I'll tell you one thing. After today we won't complain so much when someone steals a couple of our towels.


The two photos above show an LAPD detective and two witnesses re-enacting a robbery (notice the detective is aiming a gun in the top photo) that occurred today in 1951 at the Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Two gunmen had gotten away earlier in the day with a bundle of cash. Newspaper accounts differ about how much. The San Bernadino County Sun, in its evening edition published later, pegged the amount at $1,073 ($12,275 today), but the Los Angeles Times morning edition printed the next day claimed it was $500 ($5,731). The Times is probably a more reliable source, and with more time to get the amount right we'd tend to think its report is correct, but $500 is a conveniently round number, whereas the $1,073 reported by the Sun is very specific. Either way, we imagine the terrified hotel employees surrended every dollar on hand.

The reason the story caught our eye, though, is because the Garden of Allah was one of the most famous hotels in Los Angeles at the time. The Spanish revival complex consisting of a main building, villas, restaurant, bar, pool, and landscaped grounds, opened in 1927 and quickly became a favorite stopover for Tinseltown glitterati. Everyone from Lauren Bacall to Orson Welles spent time or stayed there, and the place was described by one resident as in “continual tumult” because of all the intrigues, disturbances, and minor scandals. But all of its celebrity history and architectural significance amounted to nothing among the ranks of those who sought so-called progress, because like so many other Hollywood landmarks, this iconic property fell to the wrecking ball when it was demolished in 1959 to make way for a bank.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 29 2022
UNBOTTLED BLONDE
You can love her but you can never trust her.


A while back we said we'd skip the 1954 Orrie Hitt novel Cabin Fever because we had several other Hitt books awaiting our attention. But the cover art for 1959's Tawny enticed us, so we bought it and—turns out we didn't pass on Cabin Fever after all, because Tawny is Cabin Fever published under a new name. It was also published yet again in 1974 as Lovers at Night. Lesson: watch out for re-titles in vintage literature. But it's okay. Hitt is interesting if erratic, and since this is an early effort from him—possibly only his third, though we can't be sure because he published four books in 1954—we were curious to have a look.

Tawny follows the travails of Danny O'Conner, who takes a job managing a sprawling lakeside roadhouse/casino/cabin complex called the Flying Red Rooster and quickly becomes romatically entangled with the boss's omnivorous wife, the eponymous Tawny Stone. She hates her husband but divorcing him would mean losing her stake in the business she originally financed. You'd think this would lead to the usual murder-the-husband scheme, but Hitt twists the plot the other direction when the husband approaches Danny and says that he wants Tawny to die or disappear.

So the question is who tries to kill who? Or maybe they both take a whack at homicide. We ain't saying. In the end, though, you still have juicy adultery and a sinister murder plot. We've read a lot of books along those lines, often by better writers, but we've read them by worse writers too. In the hands of a top stylist Tawny might have been a real barnburner. As it is, we can call it readable but not special. The art on this Beacon Signal edition (it was also published by Softcover Library in 1969) is by an unknown, which is too bad because it's one of the better covers on a Hitt novel. The far less tawny original painting appears below.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2022
FIXED RIGHT UP
For every job there's a perfect tool.


In Ed Lacy's 1961 boxing drama The Big Fix, the fix is defnitely in, and in the worst way possible. Tommy Cork, a thirty-something middleweight boxer who in his prime battled Sugar Ray Robinson, becomes the pet project of a dilletante boxing manager who promises that with the best training, diet, and promotion Cork can reach the top again. Sounds good, but Tommy has unwittingly become the focus of a deadly scam, a plan to find some desperate boxer with a reputation for ugly losses, make a show of training him for high profile bouts, all the while taking out a life insurance policy on him, then having a hammerfisted accomplice kill him in the ring. Since the murder will happen before a crowd, there will be no suspicion of foul play, particularly for a pug known for fighting stubbornly and hitting the canvas hard.

But nothing is straightforward in Lacy's hands. Tommy's wife May, hopeful for a better life, gets into trouble with violent numbers runners, an aspiring writer sees the couple as the perfect pathetic characters to be the focus of a novel, an ex-boxer cop starts to get wise to the murder scheme, and other twists come from nowhere to infinitely complicate the tale. Despite the subplots, as readers you know the only fitting climax is one that takes place in the ring, and Lacy pushes the story inexorably toward that showdown, hapless Tommy facing off against a man who plans to kill him with a relentless assault, or if possible a single blow. If he's going to have help, he'll need to provide it himself. As usual, Lacy tells a good story. He's reliably full of excellent ideas. That also goes for Ernest Chiriacka, who painted the eye-catching cover.
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Femmes Fatales Nov 28 2022
RETRO VISION
If only you could see the world the way I see it.


Above: an amazing shot of Austrian actress Marisa Mell made while she was filming the Italian drama Una sull’atra, aka Perversion Story in 1969.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 27 2022
IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES
Seventy-five minutes of movie time never went so slowly.


Above you see a poster for Hold Back Tomorrow, a movie written and directed by Hugo Haas, the man behind numerous low budget noirs, usually with Cleo Moore in a leading role. This effort is more of a melodrama than a film noir, but Haas and Moore dutifully collaborate once again, with Moore introduced to the audience when despondency over her descent into prostitution prompts her to jump off a bridge. Her suicide attempt is thwarted by a passerby and she returns to her lowly room, pretty much beaten by life.
 
Next the audience meets the world's most annoying death row inmate John Agar, who, when promised a last wish by the warden, asks for several ridiculous things, most importantly a woman to keep him company. Just like that two prison officials go to the local dance hall, catch wind of Moore, ask her to keep Agar company, and conduct her, bedraggled and knackered from her near-death experience, to the penitentiary.

Most of the remainder of the film consists of Moore-the-suicidal and Agar-the-soon-to-be-executed getting to know each other in the cozy confines of his cell. Agar sums up the tedium of this with his hilarious line: “Shut up! I didn't ask for a psychiatrist. I asked for a girl!” Nevertheless, Moore keeps digging into that restive brain of his, and the two trade insights, debate finer existential points, talk of their pasts, fall in love, and get married by the prison priest before Agar is marched off to the death chamber for his just desserts. Oops—spoiler alert.
 
The movie is exactly as cheesy as it sounds, and isn't a mandatory watch when there are scores of better period films from which to choose. Seriously—state authorities lock a suicidal woman in a cell with a convicted strangler? Come on. But don't take our word for it. Try it yourself and see if you feel like tomorrow can't come fast enough. Hold Back Tomorrow opened this month in 1955.

I wore my best dress. I hope this isn't too festive for death row.
 
So I hear you're a strangler and dead man walking. That's fascinating. I'm a dancer and part-time hooker.
 
My time in prison has taught me that strangling was always just a cry for help and a substitute for snuggling.
 
Do you think we're in command of our own destinies, or do you think we were always meant to be in such a bad movie?

Screw destiny! I believe in free will and I'm outta here!

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Intl. Notebook | Musiquarium Nov 26 2022
ABBE'S DAY OUT
Okay, my dear. Let's get you back indoors. You've provided Italy more than enough spank bank material for one day.

We recently showed you Abbe Lane on one of her album covers, but we've brought her back today because of this fun photo and the ones below. Lane was once deemed by Italian television authorities to be too sexy for broadcast. That's right—in Italy. So you can imagine the excitement when she donned this striped bikini for a photo shoot on the Lido in Venice, Italy during the summer of 1956. The proprietary arm belongs to her husband, Spanish bandleader Xavier Gugat. We think of the couple as the Beyoncé and Jay Z of their era, which is to say, Lane is waaaay too pretty for Cugat. She was also thirty-one years younger than him, which just goes to show what talent can do for a man:

Xavier: You have inspired me, baby. I will write a song about you.

Abbe: You've already written me dozens, Xavier. All that cha-cha stuff is getting a little old.

Xavier: Music is just one of my abilities, cariño. Did I ever make you my authentic paella Valenciana with garrofó and rabbit? I almost became a chef, you know, but music beckoned.

Abbe: Men have cooked for me before. Yves Montand once made me a chocolate and pear soufflé. It was an exquisite grace note in a magnificently composed dinner, and that wasn't even really the dessert.

Xavier: Yes, that Yves. How urbane of him. How about I give you a purifying seaweed mask and a pedicure? I am a bit of an amateur aesthetician, and I love your feet.

Abbe: My skin—in case you haven't noticed—is perfect. Several men told me that today, and a cabana boy named Guido gave me a foot rub. You were snorkeling at the time.

Xavier: Grrr... I see. Well, I could paint your portrait. I am quite a good artist. I spent some time studying egg tempera at the Reial Acadèmia Catalana.

Abbe: I could never sit still that long again. Marcello Mastroianni painting me nude last year was quite enough. Day after day, hour after hour in that... well, frankly provocative pose he wanted. You were on tour, but I knew you wouldn't mind.

Xavier: Is that so? Well, fine, but I was at his house just a month ago. Why did he not show me this painting?

Abbe: I don't know. It's hanging right in his bedroom. So he tells me.

Xavier: *sigh* No meal, no skin care, no song. I guess I am just an old man unable to impress you any longer. When we get back to the villa I will simply take out the garbage, then finish reading that book I was—

Abbe: Take out the garbage? Oh, sweetheart. Tell you what—you do that and I'll put on the g-string and thigh-high boots you like and meet you in the bedroom.

The lesson from that day in Venice is that, for a wife, the ultimate turn-on is a husband who's willing to do chores. Cugat spent eleven years with Lane before they finally divorced in June 1964. She was married again before the year was over, which was a pretty fast rebound and remarriage even for Hollywood. Meanwhile, a few years later Cugat married Spanish singer and dancer Charo, who was his junior by fifty-one or forty-one years, depending on who you believe. Either way, music, cooking, and even chores are all fine, but maybe Cugat's real talent was for bedazzling younger women.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 25 2022
LINGERING TENSION
At this point she has no idea which way to turn.


Above is an alternate promo poster for Tension, with cool upside down imagery of a figure representing star Audrey Totter. We say “representing” because it doesn't really look like Totter, but it's her alright. It was modeled after a promo photo. The movie also starred Richard Basehart and the incandescent Cyd Charisse. We talked about this last year, so if you want to know more, click here. And if you want to see more of Totter click here, or Charisse (a must), click here and here. Tension premiered today in 1949.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 24 2022
A FATAL BLOW
Southwest Florida gets obliterated but most of the wreckage is human in MacDonald disaster drama.


The three weather based thrillers we've discussed—A Town Is Drowning, Tropical Disturbance, and Death at Flood Tide—represent a minor fraction of the total in mid-century fiction. It's no surprise, then, that an author as prolific as John D. MacDonald also tested the waters. Murder in the Wind, also known as Hurricane, came in 1956 during the more fertile, less censorious period for MacDonald, and presents readers with a disparate selection of people who all hole up in an abandoned house during a hurricane named Hilda. Eventually the house is swept away entirely, but the story is never less than solidly grounded and engrossing. If your time is limited you might skip this one in favor of The Damned, which is a close cousin, conceptually speaking, but otherwise Murder in the Wind is a necessary read. You get all the fulfillment you'd want from a disaster drama.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 23 2022
STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT
New and improved Picchioni dance tights! They'll never tear a seam, even if your body does!


Italian illustrator Franco Picchioni conceived a balletic cover pose for John J. Everett's Assi allo sbaraglio. If we tried this position everything we have would split down the middle, up to and including our pride. The title of the book translates to “aces in disarray,” so we'd be suffering from asses in disarray. But speaking of stretched to the limit, let's stop with this strain of thought before it wears out completely. John J. Everett was a pseudonym, of course, but we don't know for whom, and his novel is part of Edizioni MA-GA's Il Cerchio Rosso collection, though we can't pinpoint the year. Nothing is working for us today, but we'll bend over backwards trying to find more info. 

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Femmes Fatales Nov 23 2022
CLOAKED IN MYSTERY
She's always been considered a very capable woman.

What's the difference between a cloak and a cape? Is it that capes are short and cloaks are long? Is it that cloaks always have hoods? Those distinctions don't stand in the way of companies looking to sell the things. We found many capes with hoods in online stores that were called “hooded capes,” and we found many long garments we thought would be called cloaks but which were categorized as “long capes.” Well, whatever you call it, Rosalind Russell makes good use of it in this shot made for her 1936 drama Trouble for Two.

Russell was one of the great actresses, winning, amazingly, every Golden Globe Award for which she was nominated—five. Conversely, she was nominated for four Academy Awards and got shut out. Such is life. But she received a special Oscar in 1978 for her humanitarian work. She specialized in comedies such as the 1940 smash hit His Girl Friday, but she also starred in several notable dramas. The most interesting for our purposes is probably the 1948 murder tale The Velvet Touch. We plan to check that out and report back. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
December 04
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
December 03
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
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