Shhh! Character assassination in progress.
Above are some scans from an issue of the tabloid Whisper published this month in 1963. We've shared hundreds of tabloids over the years, and we always marvel at them. How would you describe the compulsive need to know what's going on in other people's lives? Is it a from of comparison? Is it schadenfreude? Is it envy? The American Psychological Association calls it natural behavior stemming from the fact that humans are social animals curious about what's going on around them. It's why, according to the APA, we gossip about friends and neighbors.
Your first thought, in terms of tabloids, might be that celebrities are neither friends nor neighbors. However, the headshrinkers tell us they are. People create parasocial relationships with celebrities, and thus the same dynamic exists. And nobody is immune. Condescending remarks about celebrity gossip are liable to come from people inordinately involved with their favorite baseball player, acclaimed author, or television talking head. Some people let celebrity fashionistas suggest what they should wear, while others who consider themselves above such silliness let television pundits tell them who to hate.
We find mid-century tabloids incredibly interesting, even if everybody being gossiped about is long departed. The robust sales of tabloids on auction sites seems to confirm that we aren't alone. In this issue Whisper digs dirt on numerous titans of celebritydom—Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, and others. Editors also let their bigot flags fly by predicting “one of the most sinister trends in history—an organized homosexual drive” to take over the U.S. That one still sells in some quarters. We'll have more from Whisper soon.
Happiness, anger, and ballistics.
These two promo images of famously thin actress Audrey Hepburn were made for her 1964 film Paris When It Sizzles. It's another movie in her romance/adventure mold, along with Charade, How To Steal a Million, and others. There's a Hollywood commandment: Thou shalt not mess with success. For a while, following that rule made Hepburn one of the biggest stars of all.
The many faces of Cary Grant.
Above: two Japanese posters in bright blue and cool brown for the romantic thriller Charade, with Cary Grant as a slippery man of many identities and Audrey Hepburn as his baffled foil. It's one of our favorite films of the 1960s, as discussed here. It opened in Japan today in 1963.
Hepburn has to overcome blindness, bad guys, and the script.
Above are three beautiful posters for the suspense film Gli occhi della notte, which is better known as the Audrey Hepburn classic Wait Until Dark. You've doubtless heard of it. Hepburn plays a blind woman terrorized by a sociopath. The film also starred Richard Crenna and Alan Arkin, and was directed by Terence Young, who had previously helmed the James Bond movies Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball, so there's plenty of star power here, in front of and behind the camera.
And as often happens when a movie supposedly can't miss, this one goes wide of the mark. The main problem is recurring plot unbelievability, perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Hepburn, who lives in a building where there are other apartments, and has an ally who lives in one of those flats, doesn't simply hole up at the neighbor's when the crazy man targets her. She can get there without being seen, but she doesn't take the easy escape available to her.
In real life people don't always see the best solution to a problem, but in a movie, if the filmmakers want the audience to be fully invested, the heroine or hero should make smart choices, which ratchets up the fear when those choices still fail. We wrote an essay touching on that theme a while back. Hepburn's lack of survival instinct is a pretty big issue, but okay, she's great in the film, of course, and if you really immerse yourself it will still scare you once or twice. Just don't let anyone tell you it's perfect. After opening in the U.S. in 1967 Wait Until Dark premiered in Italy today in 1968.
How many secrets can one man keep?
Charade is one of the great romantic thrillers in cinema history, and is a movie you should definitely see if you haven't. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman whose husband is fatally thrown off a speeding train and Cary Grant is a charming but mysterious stranger willing to render aid in solving the murder. But Grant has ulterior motives, as well as multiple identities. Others are interested in the killing too, and it soon develops that they're after $250,000 worth of missing gold.
The movie is great, as legions of fans and critics have agreed, but in addition to its narrative, directorial, and acting brilliance, what we like about it is that the unlikeliness of the May-December attraction between Grant and Hepburn does not go unaddressed. At one point Grant, 59, quips to Hepburn, 30, that he's afraid he'll be arrested for transporting a minor. We love the tack taken in dealing with the romance because it gives the audience credit for being intelligent enough to appreciate the subtleties of life. That's increasingly rare in popular movies—as well as in popular culture.
For example, these days there's talk of such things as “age appropriate” relationships, the inference being that older men should not be with younger women (and possibly vice versa). Horseshit. We can think of little more sexist than assuming women aren't able to make their own life choices. Consenting adults—older/younger, male/male, female/female, other/other—trying to find love will tend to look anywhere they can, and internet tribunals can take a flying leap. We don't say that merely because neither Pulp Intl. girlfriend is age appropriate. We say it because nothing in this life is more important than finding the right partner.
Interestingly, numerous other mid-century films—among them classics like Sabrina and To Catch a Thief—also addressed the presumed incongruity of older men with younger women, and did it in an empathetic, humanistic way. Charade does it more amusingly than most. Grant is initially embarrassed by Hepburn's attentions, but of course she eventually wears him down. The film mixes comedy, romance, and thrills, plus it was made in beautiful locations around Paris, all of which makes it a total winner. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
Oh, nothing. Just peeking through the blinds at lesser mortals. And you?
This is one of the most popular shots ever made of one of the most popular Hollywood figures ever. We usually do rarities here, but we make occasional exceptions. Not a lot more to be said about an image this great. Hepburn is eternal.
Clothes encounters of the Hollywood kind.
We've been gathering rare wardrobe and hairdresser test shots from the golden era of Hollywood, and today seems like a good day to share some of what we've found. It was standard procedure for all the main performers in a movie to pose for such photos, but the negatives that survive tend to belong to the most popular stars, such as Cary Grant, who you see at right. You'll see Marilyn Monroe more than amply represented below. What can we do? She's possibly the most photographed Hollywood figure ever, and she was beautiful in every exposure. But we've also found shots of a few lesser known stars, such as Giorgia Moll and France Nuyen.
Some of the shots are worth special note. You'll see Doris Day as a mermaid for The Glass Bottom Boat, Liz Taylor as a kid for National Velvet and an adult for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Farrah Fawcett in lingerie, Sheree North in both front and rear poses, and Yul Brynner looking like an actual man by sporting a body that had to that point seemingly known neither razor nor wax (he ditched the fur for his actual onscreen appearances). Usually the photos feature a chalkboard or card with pertinent information about the production and star, but not always, as in the case of Brynner's photo, and in Audrey Hepburn's and Joan Collins' cases as well. If the names of the subjects don't appear on the chalkboards you can refer to the keywords at bottom, which are listed in order. We may put together another group of these wardrobe shots later.
The magazine that whispered rape.
Inside Story of August 1957 offers up stories on Elsa Martinelli, Ann Sothern, Clark Gable and others, but the subhead reading “The Night Audrey Hepburn Can’t Forget” is irresistible. So what happened on the night in question? Nothing fun, unfortunately. Fully expecting to read about some wild party or drunken escapade, journo Gwen Ferguson instead tells us that in 1942, when Hepburn was a Dutch teen named Audrey Kathleen Ruston, she was “brutally kidnapped and subjected to terrible indignities” by a Nazi soldier. As is typical for mid-century tabloids, this claim comes not from direct interviews, but rather from a fly-on-the-wall third person account. In this case, the magazine claims she confessed what happened to prospective husband Mel Ferrer, pictured next to her below, because she wanted him to have a chance to rescind his marriage proposal. The implication is clear—“indignities” is a euphemism for rape. Or else why would Ferguson suggest Ferrer might turn tail and run?
In light of all the discussion about rape lately, it’s instructive to go back in time and read such an incendiary insinuation presented so casually in a national magazine, probably by some pseudonymous male editor, if tradition holds true. Looking for corroboration, we found only stories about Hepburn living in constant fear of being kidnapped, but that’s all. In no place we looked did we find any reference to her actually being taken, let alone violated. So we don’t know where Inside Story got its information. That being the case, we have to call bullshit. Inside Story goes on to wrap its dubious claim in the truth by telling readers how Hepburn’s uncle was executed by Nazis—true; how she gave secret ballet performances to generate funds for the Dutch resistance—true; and how she used tulip bulbs to make the flour needed for cakes and biscuits, but went through the war malnourished and underweight—true and true. As for the other claim—if untrue, it’s pretty low, and if true, it’s both low and irresponsible. Even by the standards of mid-century scandal sheets.
There are at least a few things the Swiss aren’t neutral about.
We ran across some issues of a German language magazine called Das Schweizer, which means “The Swiss,” and indeed, the publication originates from Switzerland. We thought only the French, Germans and Dutch produced magazines during the 1940s and 1950s that combined celebrity, photography, fine art, and eroticism. We stand corrected. Above is the cover of Das Schweizer #139, circa 1954, with Yvonne De Carlo, and interior pages featuring Brigitte Bardot looking especially hot, plus Joan Collins, Romy Schneider and others. You also get the great art of Paul Peter, and just for good measure we pulled a couple of scans from another Das Schweizer that had the cover and most of the photo pages cut out, but two more Peter art pieces left behind. Apparently whoever mutilated that issue didn’t see the value in his work. Hah! Philistines. Anyway, since we can’t make a decent post of that one, we added its Peters below (that just sounds wrong, doesn't it?). We can’t tell you anything about Paul Peter because his name is pretty much ungoogleable, if that’s even a word, however we’ll keep digging for facts on him and eventually something will turn up. It always does.
James Dean and his Giant shadow.
The always-wonderful Japanese celeb magazine Screen produced this issue promoting James Dean’s epic drama Giant in January 1956. The film opened the next October, which means the magazine was put together well beforehand. Advance press isn’t unusual, of course, but advance press of this detail in Japan—it didn’t premiere there until nearly a year later in December 1956—suggests just how huge a worldwide star James Dean had become. Sadly, some of that had to do with the fact that he was already dead, killed in a September 1955 automobile crash as Giant was about to wrap. But while nearly all dead celebrities are eulogized as geniuses cut down too soon, Dean is one of the few whose work has actually withstood the test of time. Screen makes room for other stars in this issue, including Audrey Hepburn, who we've posted in panel two. On another note, we’ve shared quite a bit from Screen over the last two years, but if you missed those entries you can see some great covers here, here and here, and see a bit of what's inside here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
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