Is it just me or is our fire, like, totally out?
We've mentioned before that when you see the name Charles Williams on a book buy it. Unless it's the wrong Charles WIlliams. Fires of Youth was published by a fly-by-night imprint known as Magnet Books in 1960 and credited to a Charles Williams, but who was actually James Lincoln Collier, who happened to choose for a pseudonym the name of an actual working, thriving thriller author, for reasons we cannot ascertain. Obviously that created confusion and still does, but this is definitely not the Charles Williams who wrote such great thrillers as Hell Hath No Fury and Dead Calm. Magnet Books didn't last long, and in just a year or two was out of business. In true pulp style, at that point a man named Don Robson, who was languishing in Her Majesty's Prison Dartmoor in Devon, England, found Fires of Youth in the prison library, retyped the entire text, presented it as his own work, and in 1963, with the help of the prison's credulous governor, managed to get his plagiarism published in Britain as Young & Sensitive. The book won the Arthur Koestler Literary Prize, which had been established to recognize creative output by British convicts, but Robson's robbery soon came to light. It's a funny story, and you can read a good account of the tale at this link.
Girls Come First but Lindberg came last.
Above you see a promo poster for the wacky British sex comedy Girls Come First, which premiered this month in 1975. The movie deals with a rich magazine owner named Hugh Jampton who hires a debt-wracked artist played by hunky ex-physique model John Hamill to paint nude portraits of the hostesses that work at the Swinger Club, which Jampton owns. This is a short film, only about forty-five minutes, so that's the entire plot, other than Hamill getting laid. Our main interest in this was determining whether Christina Lindberg is in it. She's not on any cast lists you find online, but she's right in the middle of the poster. Could she be in the film but be absent from cast lists? Absolutely. Thanks to the dreaded internet replication error, she's listed everywhere as appearing in 1974's Teenage Playmates, which she doesn't, so we wouldn't be surprised if she isn't credited for a movie she's actually in. So we took a detailed look and we can say without doubt that—like technical values, genuine laughs, acting ability, and a sense of shame—Lindberg is nowhere to be found here. The producers obviously figured she'd make a great addition to the poster and borrowed her for that purpose.
After getting over that disappointment, we noticed British-Chinese actor Burt Kwouk playing Jampton's chauffeur. His presence is worth mentioning because, in a way, he's a film icon, a sort of symbolic stand-in for stereotyped Asian characters in cinema. He played the bumbling Cato in four Pink Panther films, and here he plays a bumbler named—wait for it—Sashimi. Can you imagine? Kwouk personified the dilemma confronting all actors, but particularly actors of color, throughout film history. In the real world a paycheck is nothing to sneeze at, but the resulting work survives for future generations to ridicule and/or revile. Kwouk said in 1981 about the parts he played, “If I don’t do it, someone else will. So why don’t I go in, get some money, and try to elevate it a bit, if I can?” If Kwouk's work was the elevated version you'll break into a cold sweat imagining what his roles could have been like. In any case, we've solved the Lindberg mystery, and now we'll move on. Below are a couple of shots of Hamill and Longhurst for your pleasure.
You think stardom is easy? Try wearing these all day.
British actress Patricia Roc, seen above, is pretty obscure considering her her extensive filmography. That's mostly because despite appearing in movies such as Circle of Danger and L'inconnue de Montréal, aka Fugitive from Montréal, she made only one Hollywood film—1946's Canyon Passage. The photo makes her look like she's regretting having just made that canyon passage on foot, but it's a cool, unusual shot. If you're thinking Roc is a pseudonym, you're right. She was really Felicia Herold. Yes? No? Maybe? Nah—doesn't do it for us either. Yet another good show business name change.
Continental Film Review ties modern cinema up in a tidy little package.
Above and below, the cover and assorted interior pages from Continental Film Review, with all the rare imagery and erudite commentary from the European cinema scene readers had come to expect. The cover features German actress Brigitte Skay bound with rope, and those of note inside include Anna Gaël, Romy Schneider, Alain Delon, Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, and Edwige Fenech. Skay and Gaël are featured because of their roles in the 1969 sci-fi film Zeta One, aka The Love Factor, which it happens we discussed way back in 2010. Shorter version: Barbarella it ain't. Continental Film Review had a secondary focus on non-performance visual arts. This issue looks at animation from Sweden and talks about some hot illustrators of the time, including Jan Lenica and Per Ahlin, drawing comparisons between them and famed painters like René Magritte. All of that and more in thirty-plus scans.
I'm smiling now, but if another man asks where my on button is located he'll regret it.
These photos show Elmina Humphreys bizarrely costumed as the official Radio Queen for the 1939 Radiolympia trade and consumer show, at which she greeted guests as a personification of the spirit of radio. This was held in London, and was the last Radiolympia before World War II forced a long hiatus. It's likely that Humphreys was a show business hopeful, but we found no mention of her anywhere except in reference to her appearance here.
This has been an amazing first date. Should we masturbate each other?
In this curious photo a British couple sports the latest in respiratory safety gear. You'd probably guess this is from World War II when German gas attacks were a worry, but it's actually from 1953 when the scourge of London was air pollution. We post it today for obvious reasons, and because we're wondering something. Crises sometimes change social mores. Could it be that because of this virus, kissing will be elevated to one stop short of sex, while a little manual-genital manipulation will become how you safely say good night? Or even better, good morning? Hey, our brains are always working overtime around here.
Prison guard gets Cocky, ends up behind bars.
Sexual relations between prison guards and prison inmates aren't that unusual. Stories appear at regular intervals. It takes a good hook to make the story go viral. In the recent tale of the sexual relationship between prison guard Stephanie Smithwhite and inmate Curtis Warren, the hook is a hole—Smithwhite cut a hole in her uniform pants so she and Warren could get down to business without having to strip. These assignations occurred over a period of months at Frankland Prison in Durham, England, where Smithwhite and Warren trysted in his cell, the prison kitchen, and the laundry facility. Smithwhite also reportedly sent Warren a photograph of herself wearing a catsuit, got tattooed with his name, and exchanged more than 200 calls with him thanks to an illegal phone he possessed.
Warren had the nickname “Cocky,” and no wonder. Turning a tough-as-nails prison guard into a slinky catgirl takes skills of all sorts, both above the neck and below the waist. It also takes the right environment. Other stories haven't noted it, but by environment we mean—and this isn't to sell Smithwhite's burning need for Cocky short—there's no possibility she would have felt she could take the risks she did unless there was a generally corrupt atmosphere at the prison. In other words, we bet other guards were breaking rules too. Not necessarily to the extent of cutting a glory hole in their pants to get freaky with prisoners, but when cellphones start making it into cellblocks, you tend to suspect it's because incoming contraband is not a rarity.
Smithwhite's colleagues finally became suspicious and began surveilling her, and they were probably plenty mad too. After all, she had chosen a drug felon named Cocky over all of them. Which, if one were inclined, might cause a neutral observer to draw conclusions about the sexiness quotient of the average prison guard. They finally caught Smithwhite committing the most innocuous of offenses—passing a note. Confronted in his cell, Warren tried but failed to eat the evidence, which we imagine said something like, “I heart drug felons. Do you heart the carceral state? If so check this box. Meooow. Purrrr.”
All these tawdry details came out during court proceedings that concluded this week. Smithwhite denied that the hole in her pants was to there to facilitate access for Cocky, but the sentencing judge said it was hard to imagine why else she'd have a hole there. Smithwhite was then hit with a two-year jail sentence for misconduct in a public office.
Since Smithwhite isn't in the same prison as Warren, the two will need something less like a hole and more like a long tunnel to maintain their affair, but if they split it won't be due to lack of commitment on Smithwhite's part. She's said she hopes the relationship will continue. Warren, meanwhile, was unavailable for comment due to being in the prison laundry room for an unusually long period of time, which will be investigated as soon as Frankland guards locate one of their missing colleagues.
There are no small parts. Only small casting agents.
Above is a lovely shot of British actress Zoe Hendry, who we last saw in 1975's erotic epic Butterfly, and whose other credits read like a cautionary tale of cinematic ambition smashed on the rocks of rent paying reality. She's played, in no particular order, “naked college girl,” in 1974's Confessions of a Window Cleaner, “native dancer,” in 1976's Queen Kong, “topless patient,” in 1978's What's Up Nurse!, and, “other girl,” in 1974's The Man Who Couldn't Get Enough. And who can forget 1976's infamous Nastassja Kinski vehicle To the Devil a Daughter, in which Hendry played “first girl”?
Yes, it's quite a résumé Hendry accumulated, but since she originally got her break on The Benny Hill Show—which made an industry of scantily clad women—her stalwart appearances in sexploitation films are no surprise. But she eventually outflanked one-track-minded movie casting agents by shifting back to television during the 1980s, where she got a chance to act more seriously. Probably got paid better too. Still, we're irresistibly drawn to titles like Queen Kong. Maybe we have one-track minds too, but we have to watch that, right? Right. We'll do the heavy lifting so you don't have to, then report back.
Anytime is the right time for great cover art.
Above, a cover for K. Beerman's Baarnse Moord (Murder in Baarn), painted by Dutch artist Martin Oortwijn. We said we'd get back to Oortwijn and here we are, three years later. He remains, in our eyes at least, a unique talent. We were reminded of him because he illustrated the cover of a Christine Keeler biography, and Keeler is back in the spotlight thanks to the new BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler, which we've been watching. So far so good on that, and we'll try to dig up more from Oortwijn. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1941—DiMaggio Hit Streak Reaches 56
New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in his fifty-sixth consecutive game. The streak would end the next game, against the Cleveland Indians, but the mark DiMaggio set still stands, and in fact has never been seriously threatened. It is generally thought to be one of the few truly unbreakable baseball records.
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
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