Come on, one more won't kill you.
Jean David is one of the great French illustrators of the mid-century era, and this cover for Kathy Woodfield's 1955 novel Massacres à l'anisette shows him at his best. Woodfield, as we recently mentioned, was a pseudonym for André Hélena, and he wrote this for the Parisian publisher Éditions de la Seine for its Collection Rafale. David was based in Marseilles and was active from the 1940s and onward, working often with Le Méridional, and specializing in small drawings for V magazine. In our opinion he truly shone on paperback covers. Take a closer look below at how beautifully rendered his female figure is. He did far too few book covers. In fact we've seen only a handful. But you can bet that each time we run into one we'll share it here. We think he's great. You can see some of his mini art here, and another brilliant paperback cover at the bottom of this post.
The best hired guns never miss the mark.
Like clockwork, it's time once more for Jef de Wulf, one of the most reliable paperback illustrators of the mid-century era. Every cover he painted, for whatever company employed him, was stylish and unique. He was automatic. Here's an example of him at his best on this 1952 cover for Faudra cracher au bassinet, by André Helena writing as Kathy Woodfield, for Éditions la Dernière Chance's series Le Roman Noir Féminin. We don't know anything else about the novel except that the title translates as “you'll have to spit in the bassinet,” which is French slang meaning to give reluctantly. It only makes sense once you know that “bassinet” doesn't just mean a baby's bed, as it does in English, but also a church collection dish. Eew. We give unreluctantly more de Wulf here, here, and here.
Cardinali sizzles in the south of France.
Our sun is categorized as a G2V type star, and in this blinding photo Italian actress Nuccia Cardinali—sometimes Cardinale, occasionally Karen Carter—is too G2V to be true as she poses for a shot in Cannes, France. Her cinematic career was scant, consisting of a dozen or so films. But that's okay—she personifies summer, surf, sand, and all things good and glowing in this image. It appeared as a centerfold in Ciné-Revue magazine in 1970.
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.
Everyone in Paris hopes for a glimpse of Nico's velvet underground.
Una ragazza nuda, for which you see two beautiful Angelo Cesselon posters above, was originally released as Strip-Tease, and called in the U.S. Sweet Skin. It was an Italian/French co-production starring Krista Nico, née Christa Päffgen, better known as just Nico, future collaborator with the Velvet Underground. Her supporting cast includes Dany Saval, Jean Sobieski, and American jazz pianist Joe Turner playing a character named Sam (IMDB has him incorrectly listed as playing himself). Basically, the movie is the story of an ambitious dancer who can't catch a break, and takes a job stripping at Le Crazy Horse, the famed Parisian cabaret.
Nico goes through the typical stages of becoming the jaded, empty woman viewers have been taught to expect in movies like these. But what isn't typical is the setting. If you're looking for a film with overwhelming Parisian atmosphere this is the one. Streets, cafés, restaurants, the Seine, the wintry countryside, Hippodrome de Vincennes, and the Crazy Horse (or a fictive stand-in) are all on prominent display, and the stripteaseuses are beautifully showcased. And keep an eye out for cameos from Serge Gainsbourg and Juliette Gréco. We just came back from Paris last year and thanks to this flick we're already trying to figure out how to return.
On a technical level, the direction by Jacques Poitrenaud and cinematography by Raymond Pierre Lemoigne both take advantage of the film's many wonderful settings, but the on-camera performances aren't quite at the same level. Nico is a novice actress at this point and it shows, but her minimal emotional range fits with her character. Joe Turner isn't an actor at all and that shows too, but as the conscience of the film his role also works. Some movies are more than the sum of their parts, and Una ragazza nuda adds up to an excellent ninety-five minutes. It premiered in Italy today in 1963.
Hitchcock says no festival for you this year!
The 73rd edition of the Festival de Cannes, aka the Cannes Film Festival, would have kicked off today in the south of France, but was cancelled a while back. It's just one of a wave of event cancellations that will cascade through the year. Festivals as diverse as Burning Man and San Fermin, aka the Running of the Bulls, have also been shelved. But getting back to Cannes, we thought this would be a good moment to commemorate past fests with some historical photos. Above you see Alfred Hitchcock on a boat with the town in the background, in 1972, and below are about fifty pix from the 1940s through 1970s, documenting various iconic moments, and a few quieter ones. Maybe the Cannes Film Festival will back next year, maybe not. At this point, predicting anything is an exercise in futility. But at least we'll always have the memories.
Edith Piaf sings on the terrace of the Carlton Hotel on the iconic Boulevard de la Croisette at the first Festival de Cannes to be held under that name, in 1946. Back then the event took place in September and October, but would shift to May a bit later. Diana Dors and Ginger Rogers arrive at the fest the only way anyone should—breezing along the beachfront in a convertible, in 1956, with an unknown driver. Kirk Douglas holds court on the beach in 1953, and Brigitte Bardot soaks up rays in the foreground. Michele Morgan poses at the first Festival in 1946. Photo ops of this sort were essential sources of publicity for stars, and would soon become opportunities for non-stars seeking to be discovered. Case in point. Robert Mitchum poses with actress Simone Sylva in 1954. Sylva was allegedly not supposed to be there, but shucked her top and photo-bombed Douglas in an attempt to raise her profile. It didn't work. She made only a couple of credited movie appearances after her topless stunt. Romy Schneider and Alain Delon at the 1959 fest. An unidentified model or actress poses in the style of Anita Ekberg from La dolce vita in 1960. This looks like it was shot at Plage du Midi, which is a beach located a little ways west of the Cannes town center.
A unidentified partygoer is tossed into a swimming pool after La Dolce Vita won the the 1960 Palme d’Or. The Festival is almost as well known for legendary parties as for legendary film premieres. Another unidentified model or actress poses on the boardwalk in 1979. Generally, you don't have to be known to draw a crowd of photographers—you just have to be nearly bare. She's wearing lingerie, so that explains the interest, though this is modest garb for a Cannes publicity stunt. It's never a surprise to see a headline-seeking film hopeful strip all the way down to a string ficelle féminin, or thong, which is the limit of what is legal in Cannes Sidney Poitier and Jean Seberg have a laugh in 1961. This was the year Poitier's flick Paris Blues was released, so it's possible he had jetted down from the capital for the Festival. Philomène Toulouse relaxes on the sand in 1962 while a boy practices the classic French look of disgust he'll be using the rest of his life.
Actor Bernard Blier, 1975.
An unidentified bikini wearer boldly enjoys a lunch in a café on the Croisette, 1958.
Natalie Wood aboard a sailboat in 1962. Grace Kelly, 1955. Kelly times two—Grace Kelly and Gene Kelly, hanging out, also in 1955. Sammy Davis, Jr. poses in front of a billboard promoting his film A Man Called Adam, 1966.
Joan Scott gets sand between her toes in 1955. Scott is obscure. She isn't even the most famous Joan Scott anymore. The IMDB entry for the only Joan Scott near the appropriate age is for an actress born in 1920 who didn't begin acting until 1967. The Joan Scott above doesn't look thirty-five, though, and we doubt she would have been the subject of this somewhat well-known photo without parlaying it into a film appearance before twelve years had passed. So we don't think this is the Joan Scott referenced on IMDB.
Sharon Tate, with Roman Polanski, and solo, 1968. Marlene Dietrich brings glamour to a tiki themed bar in 1958. Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock release caged birds as a promo stunt for The Birds in 1963. Sophia Loren sits with husband Carlo Ponti, who was a member of the 1966 Festival jury. Raquel Welch poses on a motorcycle in 1966. Jane Birkin takes aim with one of her cameras in 1975.
Dorothy Dandridge frolics in 1955, when she was promoting her film Carmen Jones. Cinematic icon Catherine Deneuve and her sister Françoise Dorléac in 1965. Dorléac died in an automobile accident a couple of years later.
Robert Redford lounges on the beach in 1972. Based on his outfit you'd think he was in Cannes to promote The Sting, but he was actually there for his western Jeremiah Johnson, which screened May 7 of that year. Sophia Loren waves to well-wishers in 1964. Bogie and Bacall paired up and looking distinguished in 1957. John and Cynthia Lennon in 1965, and John with Yoko Ono in 1971. Every story John told on that second trip probably started with, “When I was here with the first love of my life...” until Yoko smacked him across the mouth. Rock Hudson and bicycle in 1966. Unidentified actresses pose on the beach in 1947. To the rear is the Hotel Carlton, mentioned in the Edith Piaf image, built on the Croisette and finished in 1910. George Baker, Bella Darvi (right—your right, not his), and an unknown acquaintance have a surfside run/photo op in 1956. Jayne Mansfield and Russian actress Tatiana Samoïlova enjoy a toast in 1958. Mansfield probably shared the story of how she once made Sophia Loren stare at her boobs, and Samoïlova said, “Cheers to you—well played, you provocative American minx.” French actor Fernandel, whose real name was Fernand Contandin, on his boat Atomic in 1956. Arlette Patrick figures out a different way to generate publicity—by walking her sheep on the Croisette in 1955. A pair of water skiers show perfect form in 1955, as a battleship floats in the background. Jeanne Moreau, for reasons that are unclear, poses on a banquet table in 1958. Most sources descibe this in such a way as to make it seem spontaneous, but we have our doubts. It's a great shot, though. Two unidentified women take in the scene from the terrace of the Hotel Carlton, 1958. This shot is usually said to portray two tourists, but the woman on the left is the same person as in the bikini lunch shot from earlier, which tells us she's a model or actress, and both photos are staged. Like we said, publicity is everything in Cannes.
Danielle Darrieux and Sophia Loren at the 11th Cannes Film Festival, 1958. Italian actress Monica Vitti chills on a boat in 1968. Aspiring stars catch some rays on the Croisette beach in 1955. The two large posters behind them are for The Country Girl with Grace Kelly, and Jules Dassin's Du rififi chez les hommes, both below. The renowned opera singer Maria Callas, 1960.
Goodis gets down and dirty while Hooks takes it up a notch.
This cover for David Goodis's 1956 novel Down There was painted by Mitchell Hooks, one of the unique talents of the paperback art era. Hooks worked in different modes. Often he utilized the type of line art you'd find in a high quality comic book or graphic novel, such as here and here. Other times he used color blocking for his backgrounds, such as on the above cover and the one you as this link. He also used a lot of color bleeds, an example of which you see on his brilliant front for Madball, the second one at this link. And he worked in a more realistic mode too, when the mood struck. For Down There he mixed techniques, using a bleed in black to impart a film noir feel, and pairing his two figures with his trademark color-blocking. The effect is magnificent. Hooks was simply a highly versatile artist who always managed to surprise, and that makes his work a constant pleasure to seek out.
His cover for Down There fits Goodis like a glove. The novel is the unrelentingly grim story of a man whose piano playing genius saves him from a life of crime and transforms him into a classical music star, but who is inexorably dragged back into the depths of violence and revenge when his criminal brother needs protection. We soon learn that there are two brothers, both crooks, both neck deep in organized crime trouble. The reader catches no breaks—Goodis is matter-of-factly dark, spinning the tale from the point-of-view of an emotionally crippled main character, and crushing hope in heartwrenching ways that make the turning of pages a real effort at times.
Why put yourself through something like this? Well, it's very stylish, so much so that French director François Truffaut fell in love with it and adapted it to film in the form of Tirez sur le pianiste, known in English as Shoot the Piano Player. Truffaut was world famous after winning best director at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival for Les Quatre Cents Coups, aka The 400 Blows, so choosing Down There for his next project says plenty about the book. Goodis was well received by French directors in general. Other adaptations of his work were made by Pierre Chenal, Jacques Tourneur, Henri Verneuil, Francis Girod, René Clément, Gilles Behat, and Jean-Jacques Beineix. That's just remarkable. We'll probably watch some of those films, and you can be sure we'll revisit both David Goodis and Mitchell Hooks imminently.
We're ready to explore the depths of our local convenience store.
We had this contraption sitting around in the wine cellar. Conceived by inventors Alphonse and Theodore Carmagnolle in Marseille, France, it's a deep sea diving suit made around 1878. It's truly amazing—800 pounds, something like 20 little portholes for good vision, and tricked out with more gadgets than Iron Man's suit. But here's the best part—in a lighting stroke of pure genius we realized we could use it as a hazmat suit. So we got it out, oiled its joints, and now the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are going to try and pick up some toilet paper. Yes, both of them. One has to stand on the other's shoulders to make this beast work.
You're asking, why are they going for toilet paper instead of us? Because they use twenty times more than we do. It's incredible. It's like they go into the bathroom and incinerate the stuff, it goes so fast. Now you're asking, why not venture out in their stead as an act of gallantry? We could do that. We really could. In fact, we even kind of want to, just to use that wicked-looking hook on the back of the suit's right paw with ill intent. That will definitely help you keep order in the market: “Line forms after me, virus boy!” But gallantry is so last century. This is 2020, people. We'd get destroyed on social media for it. But we'll be in constant contact with the girls via radio: “Baby, are you receiving? Make sure you get beer. Over.”
On a slightly different note, let's just get this disclaimer out of way: this coronavirus is serious as a heart attack, as far as we're concerned. Where we live a lot of people are dying. We're doing quarantine to the letter of the law. We haven't left the premises in twelve days, but considering how lax people are in this town about behavingsensibly, we aren't 100% confident this thing won't still be rampant months from now. We can see one our of neighbors coming and going like nothing is wrong, and even having friends over. “Baby, still receiving? Hook our neighbor in the neck. Over.” Anyway, while we wait for this to (hopefully) blow over we have to while away these isolated hours some way or other, and this is how—talking shit online. It's the only social life we've got for the time being. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Spy Novelist Graduates from Spy School
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, graduates from Camp X, a training school for spies located in Canada. The character of Bond has been said to have been based upon Camp X's Sir William Stephenson and what Fleming learned from him, though there are several other men who are also said
to be the basis for Bond.
1989—Oliver North Avoids Prison
Colonel Oliver North, an aide to U.S. president Ronald Reagan, avoids jail during the sentencing phase of the Iran-Contra trials. North had been found guilty of falsifying and destroying documents, and obstructing Congress during their investigation of the massive drugs/arms/cash racket orchestrated by high-ranking members of the Reagan government.
1927—La Lollo Is Born
Gina Lollobrigida is born in Subiaco, Italy, and eventually becomes one of the world's most famous and desired actresses. Later she becomes a photojournalist, numbering among her subjects Salvador Dali, Paul Newman and Fidel Castro.
1931—Schmeling Retains Heavyweight Title
German boxer Max Schmeling TKOs his U.S. opponent Young Stribling in the fifteenth round to retain the world heavyweight boxing title he had won in 1930. Schmeling eventually tallies fifty-six wins, forty by knockout, along with ten losses and four draws before retiring in 1948.
1969—Stones Guitarist Is Found Dead
Brian Jones, a founding member of British rock group Rolling Stones, is found at the bottom of his swimming pool at Crotchford Farm, East Sussex, England. The official cause of his death is recorded as misadventure from ingesting various drugs.
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