Politics, show business, and sports collide in one of the U.S.'s oldest magazines.
We've shared lots of issues of The National Police Gazette, but this September 1959 cover, more than others, neatly emphasizes the magazine's three focus areas—politics, celebrity, and sports. Dishing on political figures and celebs was typical for mid-century tabloids, but Gazette's devotion to sports made it unique. And its favorite sport was boxing. Every issue we've seen has reserved a chunk of pages for the sweet science.
In this case the scientist is Sugar Ray Robinson, and the story about him discusses the rivalry he had with Carmen Basilio. The two fought twice when Robinson was in decline at the tail end of his career. Sugar Ray lost the first bout—considered by boxing historians to be one of the greatest fights ever—and a year later won the second. Every boxer declines, but Robinson's career record stands tall—he fought two hundred times and tallied 173 wins, 108 of them by knockout. But for all that hard work he ended up—as boxers often do—flat broke.
Police Gazette was launched in 1845, as incredible as that seems, and was still going strong more than a century later when this issue appeared. We have about twenty-five scans below and seventy-five more entries on Gazette in the website comprising many hundreds of pages. The easiest way to access those, as well as numerous other mid-century tabloids, is via our tabloid index located here.
That's no lady—that's Brigitte Bardot.
Above, an iconic poster painted by Giorgio Olivetti for the 1957 Brigitte Bardot comedy Una parigina, originally released as La Parisienne. The Bardot figure here was the first femme fatale graphic ever used as the symbol of Pulp Intl., which some of you may remember. Olivetti painted two promos for the film. The second one, just below, is less famous, but still beautiful. We talked about this movie over the summer, and in short it's Bardot running around Paris creating Monroesque chaos among the male population, though with a winkingly more adult subtext than in your average Monroe romp. In other words, there's a hint here and there that Bardot actually gets laid. We don't think that ever happened in Marilyn's comedies. If you're curious about the movie, or interested in seeing the nice U.S. poster—which also features Bardot in her famous red dress—have a look here.
Being diplomatic is one way to get what you want. And then there's Bardot's way.
This is one of the most classic of Brigitte Bardot's movie posters, with the smiling superstar holding an Eiffel Tower in her hands, implying that all France is her plaything. That much is undeniable. It was originally titled Une parisenne, but for its English language release it was given the slightly different title La Parisienne, and in it Bardot does what Bardot always does—stops traffic, generates previously undiscovered quantum states of chaos, and flips reality upside down. This time around she plays Brigitte Laurier, the prime minister's stubborn daughter, in love her father's assistant, who tries as hard as he can not to get involved with her. Why would he resist Bardot? Because she's too young, and he already has a (married) girlfriend. He finally marries Bardot through a set of crazy circumstances, but refuses to give up his mistress, which of course leads to a jealous Brigitte taking matters into her own hands. This is a classic French style sex comedy, with confusion, mistaken assumptions, and people sneaking into each other's beds, all in service of teaching the lesson that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Focusing on the poster for a moment, you can see it's a high quality piece of art, but it's attributed to nobody. We checked around and came up with zip. You'll notice it says La Parisienne was Bardot's first big picture. We doubt that—it was her eighteenth movie. We can find no evidence anywhere that this one was different budgetwise than her other headlining efforts. Possibly, “big” is a reference to the plot's focus on international politics and diplomacy. The film does seem to have a larger scope, and take place against a larger backdrop than usual. So maybe that's it. Or maybe the American distributors meant that it was the first of Bardot's films to receive a big promotional push in the U.S. We just don't know. But here's what we're sure about: after a successful run in Europe beginning in late 1957, La Parisienne premiered in New York City today in 1958.
The statue was for the public. The photos were strictly private.
Hungarian artist Sepy Dobronyi puts the finsihing touches on what was for a while possibly the most famous statue in the world—his stylized sculpture of Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg. Dobronyi made it by using nude reference photos he'd shot of his subject, and it was those photos, more than the statue, that interested the public. Ekberg was one of the world's biggest stars at the time and the idea that nude shots existed was flogged by the tabloids and helped burnish Dobronyi's reputation as a sort of jetsetting artist. His depiction of her became known as the Ekberg Bronze. He went on to sculpt Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner, Beverly Aadland, and Jayne Mansfield, though as far as we know no nude photographs were involved in those efforts.
Dobronyi sold and collected many works and used his fame and fortune to become a traveller and adventurer, visiting nearly ninety countries and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Actually, he's probably worthy of a book or movie at some point, but then so are dozens of nearly forgotten Hollywood figures. He died in 2010 and as far as we know his Ekberg reference nudes never turned up, though we imagine they'd be worth plenty. But Dobronyi was a gentleman—other Ekberg nudes appeared over the years but he never revealed his and may have destroyed them at some point. We talked a bit about the Ekberg Bronze previously, which means you can learn a few more details of the story by clicking this link.
Bardot uses smooth moves to solve a murder.
Brigitte Bardot graces a black Clément Hurel promo poster for Voulez-vous danser avec moi, and a Belgian poster as well, where the film was known by both its French title and as Wilt jij met mij dansen? In English it was called Come Dance with Me!, and in it Bardot indeed dances, but also pouts, flirts, schemes, and sleuths. It all starts when she weds a dentist. The couple are in love, but within months they're in constant marital conflict. The husband goes out one night and gets fishhooked by Dawn Addams, though he doesn't go all the way. Doesn't matter though, because it looks like he did in the photos shot by sneaky ass Serge Gainsbourg, who's photographing everything through the French doors—or as the French probably call them, the doors.
Nearly cheating makes the dentist realize how good he has it with Bardot—duh—but blackmail rears its ugly head when his almost affair shows up with the heavy petting photos. Though it may not sound like it, Voulez-vous danser avec moi is a comedy, or perhaps a dramedy. It's generally considered lesser Bardot, but is there really such a thing? It's satisfyingly wacky like Bardot films tend to be. For example, when Addams turns up dead, Bardot connives her way into a position at Addams' dance studio in order prove her husband is innocent of murder. The rest of the film is basically a caper comedy with dance numbers. Lesser Bardot or not, we suspect it'll get the job done for you just fine. Voulez-vous danser avec moi premiered in France today in 1959.
You're annoyed? I'm the one who's a human armchair.
This is a classic piece of tabloid art. Brigitte Bardot is pictured on this National Enquirer published today in 1962 reading what is supposed to be a tabloid paper and looking annoyed. The art suggests she thinks the press is lying about her, reporting fake news, as it were. And being the tabloid press, it probably was. Below you see the photo Enquirer cropped to get the cover. In it, Bardot sits on her younger sister Mijanou's lap between takes on the set of the 1959 comedy Voulez-vous danser avec moi?, aka Come Dance with Me, in Nice, France. Sis looks just as bothered as Brigitte, but she was probably just bored, since she wasn't appearing in the film. She did act in more than a dozen movies of her own, though.
In the Swede Swede summertime.
It's been a while since we've had a legit nudie magazine on the site, but we don't want to neglect them because they figure strongly in pulp fiction. How many novels, for example, feature actress wannabes who do a little nude modeling, or have illicit rolls of negatives floating around that need to be retrieved from shady cartels? The Big Sleep—both the written and filmed version—is probably one of the most famous examples. And who can forget the fact that magazine posing boosted the careers of actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Christina Lindberg?
So above and below you'll find some scans from Kavalkad, a Swedish publication that ran from 1949 to 1968, with today's example dating from 1965. It's quaint by modern standards, like something you'd tease your grandpa with after finding it in his garage, but it was quite racy for its time, with kvinnor (women) showing frontal nudity years before U.S. magazines dared to follow suit. Sweden's more permissive attitude about such matters made for an active underground for Swedish porn in the U.S. If you got caught selling it that was your ass—but if you could get away with it there was plenty of money to be made.
Inside this issue you'll also find some non-nude photos of Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale. Kavalkad, like many magazines of its ilk, began with more of a focus on celebrities, and in fact there were numerous issues with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, as well as other mainstream stars like Debra Paget, Peggie Castle, and Rossana Podesta. All the issues are collector's items these days, though not exorbitantly priced ones—at least not yet. We may revisit Kavalkad later. In the meantime we have twenty-plus scans below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1930—Selassie Becomes Emperor
Haile Selassie I, whose birth name Tafari Makonnen and title "Ras" give the Rastafarian religion its name, is proclaimed emperor of Ethiopia. Selassie would become one of the most important leaders in African history, and earn global recognition through his resistance to Italy's illegal invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Selassie died in August 1975 under disputed circumstances.
1984—Marvin Gaye Dies from Gunshot Wound
American singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, who was famous for a three-octave vocal range which he used on hits such as "Sexual Healing" and "What's Going On," is fatally shot in the chest by his father after an argument over misplaced business documents. Gaye scored forty-one top 40 hit singles on Billboard's pop singles chart between 1963 and 2001, sixty top 40 R&B hits from 1962 to 2001, and thirty-eight top 10 singles on the R&B chart, making him not only one of the most critically acclaimed artists of his day, but one of the most successful.
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
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