What a perfect day. It's days like this that make me glad we invested early in cryptocurrency and retired before thirty.
Above is a Charles Binger cover for John D. MacDonald's 1959 novel The Beach Girls. At this point, we know anything he wrote pre-Travis McGee is going to be good, and even the McGee books are mostly entertaining despite the main character's off-putting social judgments. The Beach Girls is a bit different from other MacDonalds we've read, largely written in a sort of round robin style where the final words of each chapter lead mid-sentence into the first words of the next, but with a change in first person point-of-view. The book cycles through numerous characters via this interesting trick before settling into standard third person narration for the finish.
The story deals with the inhabitants of a marina in fictional Elihu Beach, Florida, some of whom are friends, others enemies, some longtime residents, others newcomers, and how jealousy and resentment lead to a shocking act of violence. From the earliest pages you know this event is coming, and as the book wears on you become pretty sure who's going to be the unfortunate though deserving recipient, and who's going to be the giver. The main question becomes whether MacDonald will subvert these expectations and throw readers a curve. We'll just say it wasn't a predictable tale.
The only thing we don't get is why it's called The Beach Girls. The nearby beach area of the town is mentioned only a few times, no scenes are set there, and the book has an ensemble cast, with the women no more important than the men. There are groups of tourist women that pop up here and there, but they don't impact the story at all. Oh well. The title is a mystery, but an unimportant one. We'll get back to MacDonald a bit later. These 1950s efforts of his have been very worthwhile.
When is a terrible movie a must-watch? When it stars Ursula Andress.
Colpo in canna, for which you see a promo poster above, starred Swiss goddess Ursula Andress during the height of her nudie period, as you'll soon see. She plays a flight attendant paid by a stranger to deliver a note. Sounds legit, right? She has no idea she's delivering this message to criminals. These crooks don't react well. They rough her up and force her to act as bait to find the writer of the note, but she hooks up with a hot circus acrobat who lends a hand—and his bed—as Andress is chased all over Naples by two gangs and the cops.
Crowdsourced sites like IMDB call Colpo in canna an action adventure, which is why we watched it. But it's actually an action comedy, and anything ostensibly comedic from Italy during the 1970s should strike fear into your heart. That fear will be realized, as ludicrous oompah brass music and ragtime numbers accompany pratfall interludes and fights played for laughs. It's torturous.
The only reason to endure this patchwork of stolen Benny Hill routines is for Andress, who most people would be happy to stare at for hours fully clothed, but who here, at thirty-nine years old and looking as breathtaking as ever, has five—or was it six?—nude scenes. In the same way a milkshake is just a delivery system for a sugar high, this film is just a delivery system for an Andress high. She'll leave you dizzy, possibly even stunned. Colpo in canna premiered in Italy today in 1975
Bartender, give me another. And put a shot of optimism in this one.
Above: a promo shot of Ann Sothern made when she was filming the interestingly named 1942 flick Panama Hattie, which was based on a Broadway production of the same name. She plays a saloon keeper, which is sort of pulp, but it's a musical romance, which ain't pulp. That's probably why she looks so sad.
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.
Above you see a U.S. promo poster for the crime drama I, Mobster, starring Steve Cochran in a rags-to-riches, innocence-to-corruption tale of a neighborhood kid who becomes a top man in the mob. The film was based on a 1951 novel of the same name published anonymously, but later identified as coming from the typewriter of Joseph Hilton Smyth, who also wrote Angels in the Gutter. The early plot driver is the mob's attempt to extort cash payments out of a powerful trade union. The plan is to offer services as “outside labor relations experts.” Cochran, as an ambitious footsoldier, expands the mob's vision, its areas of interest, and its profits. Pretty soon he's riding high, high, high. But it can't last. Of course not.
The film has the usual elements from this sub-genre: the round-the-way girl who offers redemption, the wailing mom who implores her son to go straight, the unimpressed father who eventually disowns him, the mob boss who's worried about his brash number two, and the ticking bomb—i.e. the seeds of destruction planted earlier. Here it's a little boy who knows Cochran killed a man. He grows up and becomes enfolded in the mob too, which places him in perfect position to blackmail Cochran. But Cochran is a tough cookie. It may take more than an ambitious twenty-something to bring him down, and it may be that the true seeds of destruction were planted earlier and elsewhere.
While the plot elements may be typical, the cast isn't. Cochran is a good, intense, underrated screen presence. Robert Strauss is perfect as Cochran's right hand man and steadying influence. The radiant Lili St. Cyr spices up the proceedings midway through with a burlesque routine. And the stunning Lita Milan is excellent as the good girl-turned-mob moll. In addition, the film is solidly directed. You often see I, Mobster, described as an early Roger Corman movie. Does a director's twentieth movie count as early? Corman knows what he's doing here. His road forked into the dark woods of schlock, but helming this production, with a low budget, he managed to squeeze out a solid b-mobster flick. There's nothing fresh in it, but with this cast freshness isn't needed. I, Mobster premiered today in 1959.
Don't play coy, baby. Would you rather be with a gangsta like me or some accountant from fuckin' donkeyville?
That's what I thought.
Wilkinson's tongue lures the reading public.
Is the tongue really the strongest muscle in the human body? Maybe or maybe not, but it's certainly powerful here. This cover of National Bulletin published today in 1968 features England born model and actress June Wilkinson, owner of Hollywood's favorite exhibitionist internal organ, making newsstand browsers have thoughts that tighten their underwear. This tongue-out look was Wilkinson's trademark. Miley Cyrus is a mere millennial copycat. Too bad the cover shot is juxtaposed against blocky text about mom rape. But remember, these tabloids were part fiction. The mom story... Well, no thirteen-year-old hired men to do that. And if you look inside, it's a cinch that no anthropologist told the tabloid public she ate—and loved!—human flesh, no random daughter confessed to needing her mom to test out her boyfriends in bed, and no abortionist charged a year of sex instead of money for his services. These are cheapie tabloids, with virtually no staff, and no scruples.
The key to making fakeness work was to write stories people wanted to believe. To aid that mission they mixed in scattered factual pieces, such as the story on serial killers, including Richard Speck. He really did rape and murder eight student nurses in one night. It's a crime that sent a collective shock through America that has never been matched, at least until the era of mass shootings arrived. But importantly, it's also so bizarre and horrible that it serves as a gateway for Bulletin stories that sound more plausible but are actually fiction. Veteran breaks kitten's neck? Woman kills husband with rolling pin? Both probably happened somewhere, sometime, but did Bulletin really employ staff to travel out to woop woop and interview these people, or pay stringers for the stories? Not a chance. But that's why we love these old tabloids. They prove that nothing is new, even in 2022. It's all been done before, just not as fast, and not as glittery. Nineteen scans below.
The clock strikes trouble in Dick Powell crime thriller.
Above is a beautiful poster for the vintage film noir Johnny O'Clock, which starred Dick Powell at the height of his fame, and was probably greenlighted due only to his presence. The plot and script could be better, but Powell and his co-stars Evelyn Keyes, Thomas Gomez, Ellen Drew, and Nina Foch are all excellent, and the result is a twisty little noir that starts with power games inside a casino operation, but evolves into the suicide of a casino hatcheck girl, and an investigation by a cop working from a mistaken set of assumptions. Keyes plays the showgirl sister of the unfortunate suicide who jets into town, her arrival nudging casino manager Powell from indifference to curiosity about the death. Not that Powell has much of a choice in the end—the cops become extremely interested in him when the suicide turns out to be murder, his main rival turns up dead, and he's suspected of both crimes.
So the movie eventually falls into the familiar pattern—Powell needs to uncover the truth even as the cops are trying to put him behind bars; Keyes has the hots for a gangster though she's presumably old enough and smart enough to know better; Powell has gotten along fine without a conscience for years, but now Keyes is pressuring him to make the right choices; and finally there's that old film noir obstacle jealousy, ultimately the deciding factor in so much. But familiar as these ingredients may be, Johnny O'Clock manages to mix them into a decent movie. It isn't the best from the film noir cycle, but it's worth the time to watch it. As a side note, you know those old cartoons where a gangster flips a coin over and over, flipping it and catching it with the same hand? This is probably the movie where it originated. Powell is a master with that coin. And he's a master of film noir too. Johnny O'Clock premiered today in 1947.
Informer digs for Hollywood dirt but comes up empty.
Above is the cover of a National Informer published today in 1974, and unlike other issues, this one has an actual, real life, major celebrity inside—none other than Paul Newman. How did he end up inside a cheapie sex tabloid? Good question. Reading the story—which discusses his relations with female fans—you get the sense that the magazine managed to get itself admitted to a press junket interview session, at which a group of journalists together ask questions of a star. We've participated in ones with Ron Perlman, David Caruso, Renee Zellweger, and others. Group sessions with small and lesser known press outlets saves the stars and publicists time, and the promotional companies aren't terribly discriminating as long as the publication has the right credentials.
But even if you don't know how press junkets work, you'd notice that Informer's interview doesn't read like a one-on-one sit-down. It's a few basically innocuous answers from Newman. Informer journo Tex Harmon wants to tell readers that Newman is slinging dick all around Hollywood, but can't because he has only a few quotes with which to work. So he writes an article with a mildly sexual slant, calls it a day, and probably hits the local watering hole for whiskey shots. Newman does talk about his wife Joanne Woodward a bit, but respectfully. You can read the whole piece yourself below.
Elsewhere, Informer offers up its usual style of quasi-journalism, with the claim that illicit affairs can be good for marriages, a piece on a woman who was a sex slave of the mob, and a chat with a Dutch policewoman named Anita Hausmann who encountered a flasher in Amsterdam who was “letting it all hang out.” Hang isn't the word we'd use for him, but whatever. Informer also has its usual set of predictions from Mark Travis, and of course there are photos of pretty young models. We've gotten good at identifying them, but this issue is tricky. Andrea Rau is in panels six and seven, but the rest we're blanking on. Feel free to give us an assist if you have any answers.
Update: Karin Peterson is in the last panels.
It's both appropriate *grunt* and ironic *gasp* that ballroom dancing *argh* is going to give me a hernia!
This 1955 Berkley Books cover for Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is one of the most striking art pieces of the paperback era. It's uncredited, incredibly. Still, the image succinctly gets to the core of McCoy's story—exhaustion in a dance contest, but metaphorically, exhaustion in the contest of capitalism. It revolves around a set of young people who enter a dance marathon in an attempt to win a $1,000 prize. The entire story, more or less, takes place during this dance-a-thon, which goes on for weeks. Those who quit early get nothing. Those who suffer long enough may profit a few measly dollars. Only a vanishingly small percentage desperate enough to exhaust themselves to the point of physical disintegration—in this case one couple—have a chance to come away with the prize.
Some reviewers say the book is a metaphor for life rather than capitalism. Well, that too, but what makes it an obvious capitalism critique is the constant parade of celebrity guests paraded before the dancers. They show that wealth is real, function as suggestions to the dancers that the obstacle is not the rules for victory, but the will to succeed, though the odds are staggeringly, cruelly against them. Oh yes, it's a metaphor for capitalism, alright. The American Dream—generally defined as a decent salary, home ownership, sufficient family and leisure time, and retirement—increasingly really is just a dream. This fact makes mid-century capitalism critiques prescient by definition, but They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is more on target than most. And purely as a piece of fiction it's a total winner.
Leather seats. Power steering. Custom hood ornament. This car comes absolutely loaded.
Hitomi Kozue's reaction to this Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III is a bit over the top, but we guess she's a real car lover, and flexible too. These photos came from a 1974 issue of Heibon Punch, weird color balance and all. When Kozue wasn't moonlighting as a human hood ornament she starred in such films as Jitsuroku onna kanbetsusho: sei-jigoku, aka True Story of a Woman Condemned: Sex Hell, and Shiroi mesuneko: mahiru no ecstasy, aka White Female Cat: Ecstasy at High Noon. In her normal state—as opposed to getting freaky on a Rolls—she seems to us too elegant for raunchy softcore roman porno flicks, but that's where she made her reputation, appearing in twenty-eight in four years before moving on to parts unknown. We have a lot of material on her in the site, but if you need to be pointed to some nice entries, check here, here, here, here, and here. And believe us, there will be more coming.
You know, instead of sitting around watching the clock we can try being naked in the day. Just once. Could be fun.
Puerto Rican illustrator Rafael DeSoto's cover work is always recognizable, not only because he often painted rosy-cheeked women on glowing backgrounds, but because his characters often had knowing or sly looks on their faces. On this piece for Jon Cleary's 1955 war drama Naked in the Night, you see the standing woman and sitting man sending sneaky nonverbal signals to each other and get the feeling that, come naked time, the brooding brunette won't get to join in the fun. That's classic DeSoto. He was a singular artist. See a few more secretly amused expressions here, here, and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
1946—CIA Forerunner Created
U.S. president Harry S. Truman establishes the Central Intelligence Group or CIG, an interim authority that lasts until the Central Intelligence Agency is established in September of 1947.
1957—George Metesky Is Arrested
The New York City "Mad Bomber," a man named George P. Metesky, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut and charged with planting more than 30 bombs. Metesky was angry about events surrounding a workplace injury suffered years earlier. Of the thirty-three known bombs he planted, twenty-two exploded, injuring fifteen people. He was apprehended based on an early use of offender profiling and because of clues given in letters he wrote to a newspaper. At trial he was found legally insane and committed to a state mental hospital.
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