Vintage Pulp Feb 28 2013
A TONDELAYO OF FUNDELAYO
Hapless colonialists in Africa? Bad things are bound to happen.

We had no idea when we watched 1942’s White Cargo that the movie had caused such a stir, but in its day it was more than just a film—it was a cultural phenomenon. The public quoted the dialogue, comedians referenced it in their acts, and journalists used the name of Hedy Lamarr’s character Tondelayo as a descriptive. So what was the movie about? Basically it’s Americans learning that Africa will corrupt them, and Africa plus Hedy Lamarr will corrupt them absolutely. In the original novel Hell’s Playground, Tondelayo was black, but because the American censorship regime known as the Hays Code banned sexualized interaction between black and white characters, she was changed to Arab for the movie. So there’s Hedy Lamarr done up in shoe polish and a sarong she borrowed from Dorothy Lamour, driving the American colonialists batty withdesire. Most transcendent movie characters have a memorable entrance, and when Lamarr emerges from the shadows and torpidly delivers her first line—“I am Tondelayo”—as the camera lingers on her preternaturally glowing eyes, it’s certainly not something you’d easily forget. Nor would you forget her sinuous dance number or the way she slithers in and out of various scenes like an Egyptian cobra. We don’t have to get deeply into the plot. It’s boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, boy is ruined by girl as all the other boys say, “Told you so, dumbass.” It’s pretty funny stuff, but highly charged for the time. Think of it as 1942’s Fatal Attraction—a sexually themed cautionary tale that everyone saw and had an opinion about. More than seventy years later—if you can get past the shoe polish, the ridiculous dialogue, and the needless moralizing—it’s still a fun movie. Is it good? We wouldn’t go that far.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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