Hollywoodland Mar 21 2024
ON BENDED KNEES
Strange ideas from the minds and lenses of mid-century promo photographers.
A while back we shared a promo photo of Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame from 1953's The Big Heat that was meant to imply oral sex (it absolutely was, and you can see for yourself here). We commented on its weirdness, and noted that an actress would probably not be asked or made to pose that way today. The shot got us thinking about whether there were other kneeling promo shots from the mid-century era, and above you see two others from The Big Heat.
 
Below we have more such shots, and while none are as jarring as that previous promo, they're all interesting. We assumed there would be few if any featuring kneeling males, but we found a couple. Even so, there are probably scores more kneeling actresses that we missed. While many of shots took the form they did to highlight the criminal/victim themes in their parent films, you still have to wonder what else—consciously or not—was in the various photograhers' minds. Anyway, just some food for thought this lovely Thursday. Ready, set discuss!
Rod Taylor and Luciana Pauluzzi swap subordinate positions for 1967's Chuka.

Edmund O'Brien goes for the time honored hair grab on Marla English for 1954's Shield for Murder.

Marilyn Monroe swoons as Richard Widmark snarls for Don't Bother To Knock, 1952.

Inger Stevens and Terry Ann Ross for Cry Terror, an adaptation of a novel we talked about a few years ago.

Kim Hunter soothes an overheated Marlon Brando in a promo for 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire.

George Raft menaces Marlene Dietrich in the 1941 comedy Manpower.

As promos go, these actually make sense. They show three unidentified models mesmerized by vampire Christopher Lee for 1970's Taste the Blood of Dracula.

Glenn Ford is at it again, this time looming over Rita Hayworth for the 1946 classic Gilda.
 
Aldo Ray and Barbara Nichols for 1958's The Naked and the Dead.

This one shows less domination and more protectiveness, as Humphrey Bogart prepares to defend Ida Lupino for High Sierra, 1941.

Humphrey once more. Here he's with Lizabeth Scott for Dead Reckoning, 1947.

This shot shows Brazilian actress Fiorella Mari with an actor we can't identify in a movie we also can't identify.

Shelly Winters and Jack Palance climb the highest mountain together for I Died a Thousand Times, 1955.

As we said, we didn't find as many examples of kneeling men, but we found this gem—Cappucine makes a seat of director Blake Edwards on the set of The Pink Panther in 1963. Does this count, though? While Edwards is subordinate, he isn't kneeling and it really isn’t a legit promo.

And lastly, in a curious example, Hugo Haas seems to tell Cleo Moore to stay in a shot made for 1953's One Girl's Confession

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Femmes Fatales Jul 20 2023
A RIESLING STAR
I was going to have a dry month, but instead I decided to have a dry white wine month.


Above is a killer photo of U.S. actress Barbara Nichols posing in an overcoat and little else. She made numerous memorable promo images, but this one may be tops. She's also posed next to a bottle of Dopff au Moulin riesling, which is a French wine from a family estate that's been active since 1574.
 
We didn't have a copyright on the photo, so we spent some time tracking down the same Dopff label thinking it would be dated, but the moment we saw that wasn't the case, it simultaneously occurred to us that the wine couldn't have helped us because Nichols could be posing with a bottle from years earlier. But since we did the work, and we like its cute little windmill, the label appears here too. If we had to guess on a copyright on the shot we'd say 1958.

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Femmes Fatales May 15 2023
KNITTY GRITTY
My friend likes to knit. She really likes to knit. And you're gonna let her knit you a scarf or you're meat.


Above: a photo featuring Barbara Nichols, gun-toting Shirley Knight, and crafts-ready Constance Ford, made for the 1962 prison movie House of Women. Why does Ford have knitting needles? This probably comes as a surprise to most of you (or maybe we're underestimating knowledge of the prison system, considering one of every five prisoners on the planet are in jail in the U.S.), but in certain American jurisdictions, as well certain places internationally, very young children can live with their mothers in prison. House of Women deals with that strange reality, and makes for an unusual and interesting promo shot. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 4 2021
SWEET AND SOUR
Money is always greener from a distance.


Sweet Smell of Success was a mandatory watch for us. It's considered by many to be a top film noir but we'd never seen it. Well, that's been rectified now, and what a good expenditure of time it was. Tony Curtis plays a New York City publicity agent whose business is falling apart because he's been blacklisted by the most important newspaper columnist in the country, played by Burt Lancaster. Why the rough treatment? Lancaster's sister is dating a jazz musician and he wants the relationship ended. He's trying to force Curtis to do the dirty work—smear the guy, frame him, whatever, just get him out of the picture. Curtis's desperation to climb to the top ranks of agents leads him to try breaking up the pair, but in film noir sleazy decisions have a way of pushing goals farther away rather than drawing them nearer.

Sweet Smell of Success, which had a special premiere in New York City in June 1957, and went into national release a week later, which was today, has a feel similar to another Big Apple drama—the excellent 2019 movie Uncut Gems. Both movies are very fast paced, even borderline chaotic, as desperate bottom-dwellers try to climb to the top of a dog-eat-dog industry while keeping one step ahead of karmic fate. Sweet Smell of Success is the better film largely thanks to Lancaster in one of the all-time heel roles. You'll want to punch his character J.J. Hunsecker—nice, right?—directly in the middle of his face. And you'll want to give Curtis a shaking fit to rattle his teeth. Anything to wake him up to the fact that in a cutthroat game, the most important thing isn't having a razor but lacking a conscience. Noir fans should push this one to the head of the queue.

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Hollywoodland Apr 24 2018
DOLLARS AND NICHOLS
She was a material girl living in a material world.


Above is a 1960 National Enquirer with Barbara Nichols on the cover, and editors claiming she said “men, money, and me” make a perfect triangle. Nichols was never a top star, mainly guest starring on dozens of television shows, but she was a staple in tabloids because she dated many rich and famous men but never married, which is why we suspect Enquirer editors came up with their cover quote. Some of her escorts included Jack Carter, Steve Cochran, Cesar Romero, and Elvis Presley. Nichols died in 1976 aged forty-seven due to liver dysfunction. It had initially been torn in an auto accident a decade earlier and gave her problem the rest of her life. We have a pair of nice femme fatale photos of her and you can see those here, and well as an awesome album sleeve here

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Musiquarium Mar 26 2014
BARBARA UBER ALLES
Barbara Nichols gets a leg up.

Berlin After Dark is an obscure record, but the sleeve caught our eye because the cover star boldly showing every millimeter of leg she possesses looked familiar. Turns out she’s American actress Barbara Nichols. She doesn’t sing on the record, but it was not uncommon during the period when this was released (1962) to use celebrity photos on record sleeves. Four years ago we put together a collection of sixty album covers featuring famous actresses (with the difference that they all actually sang on the records) and you can see those examples here. We also have two great promos of Barbara Nichols, once again showing a lot of leg, here.

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Femmes Fatales Apr 15 2013
MAJOR BARBARA
We thought we’d better share two photos so you could appreciate her fully.

These two eye-catching shots feature American actress Barbara Nichols, née Barbara Marie Nickerauer, who did the usual round of pin-up modeling and beauty contests before earning a running part in the Broadway musical Pal Joey. She later appeared in the film version along with Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak and other notables, and during her show business career became known for playing strippers. Pretty easy to see why. We have no date for these photos, but if we had to guess we’d say 1955 or 1956.

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Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Feb 15 2012
THE TRUMAN SHOW
The National Police Gazette was not so wild about Harry.

The National Police Gazette presents readers with an interesting array of hat wearing Harry Trumans on this February 1952 cover, offering up the president in a fedora, pith helmet, fez, and more. Truman collected hats, but the Gazette’s real purpose here is to call Truman a flip-flopper. Of course, that term didn’t exist in 1952, at least not with regard to politicians, but Gazette journo Tris Coffin claims Truman changes his mind quite a bit, issuing “conflicting orders, one after the other, with a cheerful smile.” Coffin goes on to cite Truman reversing his stance on price controls on meat, anti-trust controls on oil companies, security commissions keeping tabs on American citizens, and more. All very interesting, but what really caught our eye was Truman’s response to questions about nuclear proliferation. He said the U.S. was the only country with atomic bombs, and he’d keep it that way. Of course, that proved impossible, and it remains impossible today, because nuclear weapons are the only true national security. Many IAEA officials expect the number of nuclear states to double within twenty years. In addition, they expect the rise of at least ten virtual nuclear states—i.e., countries that develop the technology to the point where they can make the bombs, if needed, more quickly than an invasion against them can be mounted. We’ve uploaded some Gazette pages below, including a nice pin-up of Barbara Nichols, and a poster of old time boxer Peter Jackson. And since this is the Gazette, editors remind readers for the umpteenth time that Hitler lives.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 28
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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