He kills, robs, and terrorizes—yet still has panache. How very French.
This is one of the oldest book covers we've shared. Fantômas, written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, was originally published in 1911 by Librairie Arthème Fayard with uncredited art. We located a digital translation and were treated to a complex and somewhat episodic novel pitting the titular murderer and thief Fantômas against a clever and determined detective named Juve in a deadly pan-Parisian cat-and-mouse. Juve knows that many crimes committed in and around the city are the work of Fantômas, but catching him—when many believe he's just a figment of fearful imaginations—is another matter.
Fantômas and Juve are both adept with disguises, and a third character disguises himself as a woman. The focus on such playacting makes us believe costumes held a particular fascination for the French at that time. The main surprise for us with this book was how evil Fantômas is. He kills one guy, crams him in a shipping crate, and injects his body with some chemical or other to keep the smell down. He shows his brutality in other instances as well. It's hard to wrap our heads around the fact that French readers embraced a tale that starred a serial killer, but then again the French were traditionally ahead of the artistic curve.
For francophiles Fantômas is probably a can't miss, and while it's perhaps less on target for readers used to structure and action from books written post-1970, it's certainly atmospheric as hell. Successful too—the book sold mountains and Fantômas became a franchise character. We're sorry to give away that he survives this novel, but it isn't as if you have a choice about finding that out, considering this book is referred to in numerous places as Fantômas #1. We wouldn't quite label him #1, but he's pretty fun.
We just can't say no—to René Roques.
Once again we're charting the output of Éditions R.R. and René Roques. His company produced some of the tastiest covers in French publishing, and this one by Jef de Wulf for the novel Choc!, or “Shock!, maintains the high standard. Just click the keywords “Éditions R.R.” below and you can see four more excellent covers.
Adventure magazine takes a look at what the better half is doing.
We've written a lot about vintage men's adventure magazines. Today the tables turn. Above you see the cover of a May 1956 issue of True Woman's Adventures. We're not going to kid you, though—it's still a men's magazine. Easiest way to tell? There are no photos of studs in bathing suits. But even though this women's magazine is really a men's magazine, it at least celebrates rugged women, with stories on bullfighter Patricia McCormick, French aviator Maryse Bastié, and explorer/travel writer Ginger Lamb. We'd like to do a deep dive into their biographies, but it'll have to wait for another day.
Some of the articles here are also written by women, with credits given to Carole Lewis, Jean Mayfield, Christine Herman, and Peggy Converse. This was the debut issue of True Woman's Adventures, but unfortunately, the only one. Was it always intended to be a one-off? We don't know. The cover was painted by George Giguere, whose signature you can see at lower left. Even so, we're amazed Mark Schneider didn't paint it—the style is so close. Check what we mean here. And check out the thirty scans below. As always, we have more adventure magazines to come.
What's really a shame is tomorrow he'll probably tell his buddies how great he was.
We're once again documenting the craze of mid-century publishers sensationalizing literary classics with racy cover art. Today's example is Shame, which is a translation of French icon Émile Zola's 1868 novel Madeleine Férat. It deals with a woman who loves her man but desires his best friend. That sounds exactly like freshman year of college to us, and in real life it was a total drag, but Zola made a literary masterpiece of it. He also achieved something no author would dream of today—he wrote twenty-one novels about two branches of a single family, tracing how environment and heredity were the overriding influences in their lives, even five generations onward, despite the various family members' desires or pretensions to individuality.
Madeleine Férat wasn't part of that epic cycle, and it isn't one of Zola's most celebrated works, though it was made into a 1920 silent film in Italy called Maddalena Ferat, directed by Roberto Roberti and Febo Mari, and starring Francesca Bertini. Ace Books saw it as a moneymaker not just once, but a second time, when it published it as a double novel with Thérèse Raquin on the flip. The pairing represents perhaps the high point of the paperback age in a way—two nineteenth century French literary classics being crammed as a double translation into an impulse purchase meant to tempt people in drugstores and bus stations. It's insanely funny. Also amusing is that Ace wasn't the only paperback publisher to give this book a makeover. But there's an unfunny aspect too—Ace didn't credit either of the cover artists. C'est dommage.
Okay, losers. Each of you compliment my très chic pinstriped suit. The least convincing one gets pistol whipped.
Très chic is a good way to describe not only pin-striped suits on femmes fatales, but covers painted by Jean Salvetti for Éditions le Condor's and George Maxwell's Môme Double-Shot crime novel collection. We've shared five or six, and they're magnifique, including this one for 1952's San bauvures. Maxwell's star character in these was Hope Travers, and hope is exactly what she denies her enemies. She even once put out a cigarette on a guy's face. You can see that cover and others by clicking the keywords Éditions le Condor below.
She's not quite as innocent as she looks.
This Japanese poster was made for Annie Belle's 1976 erotic romp La fine dell'innocenza, and it makes us wonder: Do erotic stars even exist anymore? We don't mean porn stars. We mean stars of erotic films. Have the reactionaries made them extinct, even on late night cable? Well, if so that's terribly sad, because if one believes cinematic sex and nudity are automatically exploitative (or worse, that all nudity in media derives from coercion), in our opinion that person has led a tragic or sheltered life. Sometimes such movies are exploitative, of course, but oftentimes they're life affirming and fun. Just like regular films, there's a range. La fine dell'innocenza, which was also titled simply Annie, falls somewhere in the middle. It has its exploitative elements, but ultimately is about Belle being far too rare and free a bird to be caged by small-minded men. Once upon a time, but not long ago, women struggled and protested and advocated in order to be free birds sexually, to express their sexuality in any way they saw fit after centuries of repression. La fine dell'innocenza is an artifact of that time period. We talked about it a few years ago, and you can read about it at this link.
Revenge is a dish best served with hot lead.
Above is a poster for the French-Italian western Une corde un Colt..., which in Italy was titled Cimitero senza croci and in English was known as Cemetery without Crosses. It premiered in France in January 1969, then opened in Italy today the same year. This falls into the spaghetti western category, with a mostly Italian crew shooting in Spain with actors from France, Spain, and Italy. But before we get too deep into the movie, we want to note that there's a brilliant title song performed by Scott Walker. If you don't know this musical legend, we highly suggest you familiarize yourself with his work. He was a genius who specialized in downbeat pop music that had a cinematic scope. We have all his albums, and they're all great.
The movie is a revenge tale in which French hottie Michèle Mercier seeks to punish the scoundrels who double-crossed and hanged her man. She appeals to her hubby's pal Robert Hossein—also the director and co-writer of this epic—who refuses until it becomes clear Mercier will take on the difficult task herself if she must. So Hossien agrees, and opts for the direct route to revenge by signing on with the enemy, then double-crossing the clan leader by kidnapping his daughter. This turns out to have unexpected consequences, but then that's the thing about revenge—it rarely goes as smoothly as hoped. Just ask Dick Powell. As westerns go, this one has all the required elements—rickety old frontier town, unshaven steely-eyed villains, frilly saloon girls, and so forth. The genre also tends to feature repetitive visual gimmicks, and in this one Hossein always slips on a single black glove when he's about to ventilate someone. He's sort of a reverse Michael Jackson that way, except when he puts on the glove it's everyone else who starts to walk backwards. Ultimately, we suppose Cimitero senza croci asks whether it's better to move on from injustice, or risk one's figurative soul by seeking to personally balance the cosmic scales. It's not quite an Eastwood calibre western, but then again how could it be? For fans of the genre it'll go down like a smooth barroom whisky.
That stocking she thought she lost? It's been under the bed the whole time.
Above is a nicely terrifying cover for Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain's novel Fantômas roi du crime, a police saga starring the recurring character Fantômas, a ruthless master criminal. Souvestre and Allain first dreamt him up in 1911, and saw their creation adapted to television, cinema, and comics. This particular edition, fifteenth in the Fantômas series and published by Chez Arthème Fayard & Cie, is from 1933, but the novel originally appeared way back in 1912 as L'Evadée de Saint-Lazare. We may try this out if we can find a translation somewhere.
It's a yellow banana occasion—no exceptions, no excuses.
This brilliant photo features the famed French burlesque dancer who billed herself as Maria Tuxedo. She appeared onstage at Le Crazy Horse cabaret, and this image was made there probably around 1968. We think it's amazing. There are other frames from this session, which was shot by Giancarlo Botti, and some of those are even in realistic color, but we like this desaturated look best.
Those of you in the know concerning burlesque have noticed that Tuxedo is channeling Josephine Baker. Baker may or may not have been the first to wear a skirt of bananas, but she undoubtedly was the one who made the look iconic. Ironically, the most famous photos of Baker in this mode don't feature her with real bananas, but rather costuming constructed to resemble them. The shots of her with actual bananas—such as the one you see here—are less famous. But the gimmick was indeed made into something lasting by Baker, and Tuxedo was definitely paying tribute when she wore her ungainly accoutrement. Yet she managed to make it look effortless, which shows yet again that, while beautiful women graced all niches of show business, burlesque dancers were special, aesthetically and athletically. We don't think they get enough credit for being some of the most inspiring figures of the mid-century era. But we always do our best to promote them, particularly in the jawdropping examples we've shared here, here, here, and here.
When Uschi dusts the house, she dusts everything.
It's been a while, so today we have another issue of the iconic French nudie magazine Folies de Paris et de Hollywood. This issue is number 400, published in 1968, and the cover features German actress Uschi Glass, better known as Uschi Glas, with a feather duster. Almost identical but more revealing versions of the shot appeared on a couple of other magazines around the same time. Glas has been in too many movies to name, including in 2020, and we've seen none of them. But we have our eye on 1970's Die Weibchen, about a woman who joins a women's health clinic only to discover that it's run by feminist cannibals. We'll report back on that.
Inside Folies de Paris et de Hollywood there are more than twenty models, many of them Parisian cabaret dancers. The striking Belinda and the striking Marlène Funch are actually both the striking Iso Yban. Why did she pose as different women? No idea, but we recognized her immediately. In fact, we have an amazing and provocative image of her we'll show you a little later, if we dare. We love her name, by the way. It sounds like a flexibility exercise. But our favorite model name from the issue is Manila Wall, which is what MB hit when he realized it was time to get out of the Philippines. We all sometimes hit a Manila Wall in our lives. We'll have more from Folies de Paris et de Hollywood down the line. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1926—Aimee Semple McPherson Disappears
In the U.S., Canadian born evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears from Venice Beach, California in the middle of the afternoon. She is initially thought to have drowned, but on June 23, McPherson stumbles out of the desert in Agua Prieta, a Mexican town across the border from Douglas, Arizona, claiming to have been kidnapped, drugged, tortured and held for ransom in a shack by two people named Steve and Mexicali Rose. However, it soon becomes clear that McPherson's tale is fabricated, though to this day the reasons behind it remain unknown.
1964—Mods and Rockers Jailed After Riots
In Britain, scores of youths are jailed following a weekend of violent clashes between gangs of Mods and Rockers in Brighton and other south coast resorts. Mods listened to ska music and The Who, wore suits and rode Italian scooters, while Rockers listened to Elvis and Gene Vincent, and rode motorcycles. These differences triggered the violence.
1974—Police Raid SLA Headquarters
In the U.S., Los Angeles police raid the headquarters of the revolutionary group the Symbionese Liberation Army, resulting in the deaths of six members. The SLA had gained international notoriety by kidnapping nineteen-year old media heiress Patty Hearst
from her Berkeley, California apartment, an act which precipitated her participation in an armed bank robbery.
1978—Charlie Chaplin's Missing Body Is Found
Eleven weeks after it was disinterred and stolen from a grave in Corsier near Lausanne, Switzerland, Charlie Chaplin's corpse is found by police. Two men—Roman Wardas, a 24-year-old Pole, and Gantscho Ganev, a 38-year-old Bulgarian—are convicted in December of stealing the coffin and trying to extort £400,000 from the Chaplin family.
1918—U.S. Congress Passes the Sedition Act
In the U.S., Congress passes a set of amendments to the Espionage Act called the Sedition Act, which makes "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces, as well as language that causes foreigners to view the American government or its institutions with contempt, an imprisonable offense. The Act specifically applies only during times of war, but later is pushed by politicians as a possible peacetime law, specifically to prevent political uprisings in African-American communities. But the Act is never extended and is repealed entirely in 1920.
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