1957 crime farce offers Slim pickings—at least until Dominique Wilms comes along.
We were busy little beavers last night. We watched a second vintage drama. At least, we thought it was a drama. Above you see an Italian poster for Slim Callaghan... il duro, which was originally made in France as Et par ici la sortie. It had no English title since it never had an English language release, but it was adapted from a novel by British author Peter Cheyney, who made a career of imitating American hard boiled detective novels. As many reviews of his fiction note, the vernacular was tricky for a guy who'd spent little if any time Stateside, making for some clunky prose at times.
When you watch Et par ici la sortie, it's clear that French filmmaker Willy Rozier picked up on the quirkiness of Cheyney's writing and decided to inject heavy doses of comedy into his film version. Thus in addition to gunplay there's a cream pie fight, a slapfest of attrition between Dany Dauberson and Pascale Roberts, a comedic brawl on a passenger airliner that almost results in a crash, and another brawl features that hoary vaudeville classic—seltzer water sprayed in the face. Much of this is hilarious, though not in the way Rozier and Co. intended—you'll laugh out of amazement.
The plot involves a Scotland Yard detective who is the virtual double of a criminal arms dealer, and decides he can infiltrate and bust the arms gang by relying upon this resemblance. But the arms dealer likewise realizes the resemblance and embarks on his own scheme to take advantage. Sounds positively scintillating, doesn't it? Erm... maybe not. But the movie isn't a total loss. Dominique Wilms gets a co-starring role here as the femme fatale Myrna de Maripasula. Think she isn't reason enough to watch? Think again. Et par ici la sortie premiered in France today in 1957.
The FBI stretches its jurisdiction all the way to Morocco in 1953 thriller.
Above, two beautiful Italian posters for F.B.I. divisione criminale, originally titled La môme vert de gris, but known in the U.S. as Poison Ivy. The film was based on a Peter Cheyney novel also named Poison Ivy, and starred Eddie Constantine as an American G-man in Morocco, and Dominique Wilms as a femme fatale known as—you guessed it—Poison Ivy. We talked about the movie at length in May, so if you're curious have a look here.
French crime drama throws Caution to the wind.
Here you see two posters for the 1953 French crime drama La môme vert de gris, which was called Poison Ivy in the U.S. This was adapted from a 1937 novel by Peter Cheyney that featured his recurring character FBI agent Lemmy Caution, who onscreen is played by Eddie Constantine. When two million dollars worth of gold goes missing Constantine is sent to Casablanca to determine its disposition and identify all malefactors involved. He finds himself pitted against a criminal mastermind of sorts, and a hive of henchmen that occupy a nightclub, a yacht, and a hideout in Casablanca's old quarter. Constantine deals with all comers by applying the time-honored advice: when in doubt, punch them out.
Film buffs the world over associate Casablanca with the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, but the city you see here is different from the one made famous by Bogart and Co. ten years earlier. The Casablanca of this film is a maze of L.A.-style roads, white skyscrapers, and an industrial port the size of Long Beach. We checked population figures and learned it was already a major city of more than 500,000 people during the early 1940s, which means that Casablanca's village feel is really just a clever cinematic fantasy. Poison Ivy's Casablanca is real, and the many location shots mixed into the movie prove it.
That's Dominique Wilms on the top poster, and she's the reason we watched the movie. In this, her cinematic debut, she plays a femme fatale named Carlotta de la Rue, which of course indicates that she's a woman from the street. If that isn't enough to warn the men away, her friends call her Poison Ivy. Why? Because she burns. Hopefully that's meant figuratively, and above the waist. A character bringing so much heat must of course perform a torch song, which she sings with detachment, while the lyrics—as they usually do—indicate deeper issues: “I wander with my sorrow, along with my memories, looking for my old joys, which I've seen fade and die.” See? She just wants to be loved, assuming a man isn't thwarted by her acid tongue, that ironic right eyebrow, and the barbed wire encircling her heart.
The movie is certainly watchable, though it's nothing special aside from its exotic setting. But you have to appreciate the French love for U.S. crime fiction. In fact, director Bernard Borderie got the band back together and cast Constantine, Wilms, and her prehensile eyebrow in the next Caution movie, 1954's Les femmes s'en balancent. Constantine and Wilms also co-starred in 1957's Le grand bluff, another Caution adaptation, but helmed by Patrice Dally. Constantine went on to make Caution the signature character of his career. Wilms, who at age ninety is still out there somewhere, had about a dozen more roles before leaving cinema behind, but we think she had “it,” and will definitely check out some of her other work.
Can you keep a secret? I'm way ahead of my time.
Above is a fantastically beautiful Serge Jacques photo of Belgian actress and model Dominique Wilms that dates from the early 1950s. Wilms appeared in films such as Poison Ivy, Banco à Bangkok pour OSS 117, and Les femmes s'en balancent, aka Dames Don't Care. Looks like Dom don't care either, as this is a very provocative nude for a working actress of the 1950s. Just a glimpse of pubic hair was enough to get photographers and vendors sent to prison, even in France, where Jacques was based. The shot surfaced years after it was made, we suspect, and we should rejoice that it saw the light of day, because daring Dominique is all that and a box of hot tamales.
I want the cash, the jewelry, and the licensing fees or I'll blow your brains out.
We're back to charting Horwitz Publications' unlicensed usage of celebrity images for its paperback covers. We've already talked about Joan Collins, Senta Berger, Elke Sommer, Lili St. Cyr, and others. This time the company borrows Belgian actress Dominique Wilms. The image chosen was originally used as a promo photo and the basis of the promo poster for her 1953 film debut La môme vert de gris, aka Poison Ivy. We're convinced now that Horwitz, which was based in Australia, did this because copyright agreements were lax or nonexistent regarding image licensing across international borders. And even if some rules were on the books, it's very possible Wilms and her management never saw the above cover, and if they did decided it wasn't worth a legal fight. The Horwitz guys were sneaky bastards. But as we've asked before, why bother? Wilms was so obscure at this point that Horwitz gained nothing from using her face. Don't get us wrong—she has a great face (and everything else too). But Horwitz could have simply used local models and produced identical results. That's the part we'll never get. But we've queried an expert about stolen paperback imagery and we'll share his answer soon.
Note: Very soon. See here.
Twelve signs of the Zodiac.
Not long ago we showed you the cover from one installment of a French pulp series called Les aventures de Zodiaque. That was a lovely piece of art, but the series had modest beginnings. Above and below are one dozen fronts from the series’ early days, when it was being published in Montreal by Éditions PTE under agreement from the French parent publisher Éditions de Neuilly. These are all from the early 1950s.
Edit: Writing six years later, we realize now that these are not random women on these covers. They're celebrities. Or at least, we assume so, because we recognize Belgian actress Dominique Wilms on the fifth cover below, the light brown one. If we identify others we'll update this little addendum, but don't count on it, because if, like Wilms, the other women are French or Belgian, well, we're not as good on those actresses as we'd like. But we'll sure try. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
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