Vintage Pulp May 24 2024
TEA DURING WARTIME
She must be more of a coffee person.

This cover for The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which was came in 1949 from Popular Library, could have been painted by Rudolph Belarski. It's funny we're guessing, because we just said his art is instantly recognizable. Oh well. Usually he managed to place his signature where it wasn't easily covered by publishers, but not always. He was collaborating with Popular Library a lot during this period, and it looks like his work, but without his signature we can't say it's him—or really anyone else. But while the cover is officially by an unknown, it does fit into our collection of women being toted hither and yon on mid-century paperbacks. You can see those here.

The novel was first published long before the paperback—way back in 1931. The story is set in China, and follows Megan Davis, who has traveled there during a time of civil war to marry a medical missionary. Turbulent circumstances lead to her being assaulted by a crowd and presumed dead. But she's actually rescued and placed under the protection of the anti-communist General Yen Tso-Chong of the book's title. The general plans to take the utmost care of Megan because her safe return will be a propaganda coup. But while in his villa he and Megan discuss their different cultures, religions, politics, and views of current events:

“In capturing the city of Nanking the troops of General Chen Chien got a little out of hand. War, you know, does not bring out the best qualities of tolerance and self-control; that is one reason why we Chinese are so unfitted for it.”

“But what was the incident?”

“A number of people were shot and some were killed, missionaries largely, Doctor Williams of the Nanking College, some ladies, the British Consul too, I believe.”

“Shot by Chinese?”

“By troops, yes.”

“But that is an outrage!” cried Megan, overwhelmed with anger. “We are not at war with you!”

“No? Well, at any rate your gunboats, in retaliation, fired on the unarmed, civilian population of Nanking, killing hundreds. But after all, why should you and I talk about it?”

“I don’t believe they fired on the civilian population, or if they did, they must have been forced into it.”

The General shrugged his shoulders.

That's a very appropriate exchange for our current times, but Megan and Yen's verbal jousting is interesting only to a point. In the end Zaring Stone is restrained enough to leave the politics unresolved, and brings the book to perhaps the only conclusion that fits. Now that you know the plot, you may be pondering the cover and asking yourself, "Who's the studly Anglo carrying the damsel in distress?" He doesn't exist in the narrative. It's General Yen who saves Megan. But Popular Library, we suppose, didn't want a Chinese man to star in that role on newsstands. Welcome to 1949.

In any case, Hollywood liked the 1931 hardback enough to adapt it into a 1933 film directed by Frank Capra, with the always amazing Barbara Stanwyck in the lead. We'd normally be leery of any
movie made during that time depicting Chinese people (the title role is played by Danish actor Nils Asther), but you gotta give Stanwyck and Capra a shot, right? Like, it'd be neglectful of any cinephile not to watch it. So we'll let you know when/if we circle back to it.

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Intl. Notebook Nov 15 2015
LET'S REVUE
Ciné-Revue's clever mix made it one of Europe's longest running celeb magazines.

This issue of the Belgian magazine Ciné-Revue was one of our treasures from last year's trip to the Saint-Ouen flea market in Paris. Inside you get too many stars to name (and too many pages to scan), but the highlights are Marlon Brando, Susan Denberg, Marilyn Monroe, and Nadja Tiller. On the cover is British actress and pop singer Minnie Minoprio, who during the early 1970s starred in several films, all considered obscure today. But that was Ciné-Revue's m.o.—giving equal exposure to both lesser lights and the biggest stars. And of course the obscurities were usually required to get naked, justifying their positioning on the covers and in the centerfolds. Monika Käser, who you see below, is a perfect example. We can find nothing about her. Her only moment in the spotlight—insofar as we can determine using the internet to research her—seems to have been the photo below. But Ciné-Revue's formula worked—it began publishing in 1944 and is still around today (though the days of centerfolds are gone). This issue hit newsstands today in 1973.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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