They say you can't buy love, but you just have to know where to shop.
Above: a striking if weathered cover for Gilbert Miller's novelization of the 1957 movie The Flesh Is Weak, which is about how a ring of sex traffickers trick naive women into street prostitution. It stars Milly Vitale, and the painting here by John Richards is a very good likeness of her, despite its cartoonish style. We also like the fur. She must have borrowed it from her pimp. To see our other material on this film just click its keywords below and scroll.
Excuse me, Miss? Could you *cough cough* smoke elegantly in the opposite direction?
London born Irene Needham found the need for a new name when she made the journey to Hollywood to become an actress. She chose a pretty cool one—Sandra Storme. Though these days, let's admit, it sounds like it belongs to a porn star. During Storme's short career she made five movies, including 1937's Artists and Models and 1939's Murder in the Night. She looks quite nice in this smoking shot, which is one of more than a hundred we've colllected. We may post a group of those later. We don't have a precise copyright on this one, but it's probably from around 1935.
You can always bank on Andress.
Colpo da 500 milioni alla National Bank was originally made in England as Perfect Friday, and as you can see from the poster, it starred the Swiss vision known as Ursula Andress. That makes it a must watch, and what you get is the type of erotic caper Andress made more than once, as this time she becomes the center of a plot to rob a London bank of £200,000. Her partners are her husband and the deputy bank manager, and she's playing both ends against the middle, so to speak—i.e. doing the nasty with both while telling neither. The heist develops as heists always do, but the real question becomes who she'll choose to run away with in the end.
Andress must have loved making these films. If they weren't the easiest money in cinema history they sure look like it. Every time she got one of these scripts we imagine her going, “Ker-ching.” All she had to do was work in various European capitals, be charming and sophisticated, speak in that impossibly sexy Germanic rasp of hers—and of course strip. In that respect Andress was as reliable as government bonds. Getting naked isn't easy for some, let alone doing it in front of twenty people, but she had a pretty insouciant attitude about it, once saying, “I have no problem with nudity. I can look at myself. I like walking around nude. It doesn't bother me.”
Of course, the anti-nudity set in today's new age of prudishness would claim she said that because it was expected/demanded of her. Well, we have only her words to go by. When a person's own statements are ignored, that makes it mighty easy to turn them into whatever one wishes. There's a lot of that going around today. But we'll show her some respect and assume she said what she she meant. Her face and body got her in the door and kept her at the party, and she was aware of that. While she was a solid actress, she wasn't about to win any awards. At least not with these scripts. Colpo da 500 milioni alla National Bank is a silly little movie but it shows Andress at her best—in every way. For her fans it's mandatory. It had its world premiere in Italy today in 1970.
Victor Mature transports hot merchandise.
One good Victor Mature movie deserves another. Mr. M impressed us so much in Kiss of Death we decided to watch another of his early films. The amazing poster above was made to promote his crime thriller The Long Haul, which is set in Britain and concerns an American ex-soldier who takes a trucking job only to run afoul of an organized-crime syndicate that controls the trucking industry. British star Diana Dors plays the glamorous girlfriend of one of the mobsters, and after a couple's spat she ends up in Mature's truck begging him to drive her to safety. This turns out to be a dangerous decision in two areas—his health, and his marriage.
Because The Long Haul was originally made in Britain it's a bit more frank than the typical American film concerning matters of sex and marriage. There's no vagueness about Mature and Dors doing the mattress dance, which we found refreshing. The family drama sections of crime movies are often throw-ins, but here Mature's marital difficulties really help drive the plot. In the end he needs to deal with these issues, but he also, naturally, has to survive crossing the mob boss, who's not sanguine about losing Dors, nor about other transgressions committed by Mature. It's trouble on two fronts, which makes for a pretty good movie. Decent work from Mature. The Long Haul premiered in Britain today in 1957.
How do you show your man you love him? Show your love to other men.
Here's another amazing and framable movie poster, this time for Le trottoir, which was originally made in England as The Flesh Is Weak. The art is by René Brantonne, who typically illustrated book covers, such as here and here. This is stylish work, very different from what we've seen him do before. It's cartoonish, but captures the mood of the film, an urban drama starring John Derek. Yes, that John Derek, the one who— Or has he been forgotten already? We'll reacquaint you. Derek was an actor, photographer, screenwriter, and director, but he's best known as a sort of Svengali who directed his fourth wife Bo Derek in several erotic films in which male actors got to squeeze and lick her soft parts. In 1984's Bolero he shot Bo in three love scenes, one of which made viewers wonder if there was more than acting involved. That's unlikely, but even so, actual penetration was about the only thing missing, which makes John Derek a different kind of husband indeed.
His partnership with Bo in using her body to make money is even more interesting considering the subject matter of The Flesh Is Weak. He plays London agent who meets naive Milly Vitale and convinces her to attempt resolving his debt problems by selling her womanly favors. Of course, he has no debt problems, and he's no agent—he's a pimp, and chose Vitale to convert to prostitution. She ends up tricked into selling herself because she's in love, and though for some readers that surely seems impossible to comprehend, we read Iceberg Slim's autobiographical Pimp some years back and he confirmed from a firsthand perspective that love was what he often used as a lever. It's hard to imagine but true. And its pretty sad, even in the sanitized version presented in The Flesh Is Weak. Is it worth watching? There's no need to clear your schedule, but overall it's pretty good. There's no known French release date, but it had its world premiere in London today in 1957.
These mystical lion statues are supposed to bring good luck and fortune. I'm making this one my agent.
This elegant photo of June Duprez with a Chinese guardian lion was made when she was filming the drama Calcutta. According to tradition these lions ward off malign influences, and no wonder she's hanging onto it. She was born in England during World War I on a night when Germans were bombing her town. She survived and went on to make a mark in Hollywood, appearing in films like The Thief of Baghdad and Little Tokyo, U.S.A., but due to various factors her career stalled, and she found herself broke and cut off from family money back home due to the chaos of World War II. She made it through this second unstable period—no info on whether the lion helped—but her film career never recovered. Even so, we find her to be an impressive screen presence. We've heard that her best movie may be the 1945 mystery And Then There Were None, so we're going to check that out. This photo is from 1946.
Turns out sharks like the catch of the day too.
As soon as we saw this cover for Peter Cheyney's 1950 novel Dark Bahama we had to read the book. We had to find out if this was a literal illustration. And yep, a guy gets eaten by a shark. The artist here, John L. Baker, painting this for Fontana's 1960 edition, must have really enjoyed creating something different from the usual gun toting studs and chain smoking femmes fatales. The story is different too. In a tale set on the fictional Bahamian island of Dark Bahama, Cheyney creates an array of Afro-Bahamian characters, filling roles from fishermen to police officials, and, surprisingly, writes them with something nearing respect. The addition of a mysterious Belgian character makes for another fun spot of diversity.
The protagonist is Julian Isles, a British detective hired to locate a globetrotting ingenue and rescue her from Dark Bahama before her partying and dubious associations permanently embarrass her family. Isles immediately walks into a murder scene, is suspected by the local cops, begins to think his client has lied to him, and sets about defying orders and expectations to get to the bottom of it all. Getting to the bottom involves working with the aforementioned Belgian cipher, Ernest Guelvada, a tough, romantic, eloquent, and ruthless operative of vague provenance. We thiink he's one of the best characters we've come across in mid-century literature. Just listen to this guy:
“I am delighted to meet you. I am more than delighted to bring a little excitement into your—what is the word—prosaic existence. Yes, goddam it, you will agree with me that there is nothing like a couple of murders to stir the blood of a police commissioner at three-thirty in the morning.”
“You think so? You lie. More than that, my friend, you love her. That I know. When you speak of her I see the look in your eye. I have discovered your secret. I will tell you something else. I also love her. I, Guelvada, who loves every woman in the world, love her at least as much as the other few million.”
“When I go into action, my friend, I like a lot of room and a lot of space. Like great armies I must have room to develop. Like great fleets I must have space to maneuver. You understand? It is for this reason that I do not wish this island to be cluttered up with non-essential women, and at the moment our beautiful Miss Lyon is non-essential. Therefore, she will stay in Miami.”
To us, that sounds like a writer having a very good time with an off-the-wall character. Guelvada's reasons for turning up change Dark Bahama from a mystery to an espionage tale, but we won't reveal the details. We suggest reading it yourself. Cheyney is famous for his Lemmy Caution series, which began back in 1935, but we think he's better here fifteen years later—a better stylist and a better conceptualizer, who's produced a generally better read than we think he was capable of back when he started out. The story is engaging, the femme fatale is fascinating, the secondary characters ring true, the bizarre Ernest Guelvada keeps reader interest high, and the island backdrop adds atmosphere and spice. With Dark Bahama Cheyney gave us more than our money's worth.
Sex scare movie cautions women to keep their vaginas in their pants.
Ukrainian illustrator Constantin Belinsky did special work on this French promo poster for Eva s'éveille à l'amour, which was originally made in England and is better known as That Kind of Girl. The French title translates as “Eva awakens to love,” which sounds nice, but this is actually a sex scare flick starring Margaret Rose Keil as a young Austrian woman in London who dates around a bit and as a result finds herself dealing with serious consequences. She only finds out there's a problem when she's attacked and the police force her to take a medical exam. Did you know that in Britain the euphemism for rape back then was to be “interfered with”? Neither did we. Those Brits are so circumspect. “But I told you he didn't interfere with me,” Keil insists to the cops. Nevertheless, off to the clinic she's sent, where the bad news comes down like a thunderclap—syphilis. This isn't just a b-movie—it's a vd-movie.
Poor Keil caught the clap from her first British lover, and gave it to two more. One of those two probably gave it to his fiancée. And worse, Keil works as an au pair, may have given it to the child she cares for, and has to tell the entire family they need to go to the clinic. Talk about mortifying. But that's the point of scare movies—for you to walk away afraid to have premarital sex/smoke marijuana/peruse a socialist pamphlet. The movie even lifts straight from the puritan playbook about “respecting your body”—i.e. people have premarital sex because they have no self worth. Some people actually believe this even today. It all sounds like a drag, we know, but as moral warning movies go this isn't bad thanks to the slice of London life it presents. Do you need to put it in your queue? We wouldn't say so, but if you do it won't be a waste of time. After premiering in England and other countries in 1963, That Kind of Girl opened in France today in 1964.
I have a natural facility for the carnal arts. What's a girl supposed to do? It seems unfair that I should have gotten a disease from something so fun. Why did the doctor have to call it "fire in the ho"? Was that really necessary? And then he said once the penicillin works he'll call me for a date. Doesn't that violate his hypocritic oath? It's all so confusing.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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