Vintage Pulp May 28 2009
AS GOOD AS IT GEHETZT
Andre de Toth’s Crime Wave is underrated but essential noir.


Today we have a beautiful promo poster for Von der Polizei gehetzt, aka Crime Wave, starring Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson and Phyllis Kirk. This is truly great ’50s noir for various reasons, not least of which is director Andre de Toth’s extensive usage of L.A. exteriors as backdrops to the action. For that reason, this isn’t just a great movie, but a document of mid-century Los Angeles in which we see places that are gone and a time that has faded into history. We mentioned back in January when we commemorated the U.S. release of this movie how Hayden got caught up in the American commie hunts of the 1950s and capitulated to HUAC investigators, but we didn’t talk about his acting. This is the film to view if you want to see him in full, type-A, supermacho mode. It’s hard to imagine Hayden—a real-life tough guy who parachuted behind enemy lines in WWII—meeting his match in a bunch of oily HUAC politicians, especially after seeing him burn up the screen in this role, but that’s exactly what happened. Just goes to show everyone has a tipping point. Von der Polizei gehetzt was released in West Germany and Austria today in 1954.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 12 2009
IMAGINARY CRIMES
Sterling Hayden’s hero status couldn’t save him from being called un-American.

Actor Sterling Hayden was a major pulp figure. Before starring in Crime Wave, acting in other noir films, working as a model, and writing novels, he was a genuine war hero. More specifically, he was an undercover agent with the COI, the American intelligence agency that predated the OSS, and during WWII he ran guns to Yugoslavia and parachuted into fascist Croatia. Despite being decorated for these and other death-defying missions, he later found himself in the crosshairs of the House Un-American Activities Committee for daring to associate with communists. Though he was innocent of any crime, HUAC threatened his career and reputation, and so under pressure Hayden eventually named names. It was a capitulation that haunted him to the end of his life. We’ll have more on Hayden in the future. Crime Wave premiered today in 1954.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 09
1948—Paige Takes Mound in the Majors
Satchel Paige, considered at the time the greatest of Negro League pitchers, makes his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His career in the majors is short because of his age, but even so, as time passes, he is recognized by baseball experts as one of the great pitchers of all time.
July 08
1965—Biggs Escapes the Big House
Ronald Biggs, a member of the gang that carried out the Great Train Robbery in 1963, escapes from Wandsworth Prison by scaling a 30-foot wall with three other prisoners, using a ladder thrown in from the outside. Biggs remains at large for nearly forty years.
July 07
1949—Dragnet Premiers
NBC radio broadcasts the cop drama Dragnet for the first time. It was created by, produced by, and starred Jack Webb as Joe Friday. The show would later go on to become a successful television program, also starring Webb.
1973—Lake Dies Destitute
Veronica Lake, beautiful blonde icon of 1940s Hollywood and one of film noir's most beloved fatales, dies in Burlington, Vermont of hepatitis and renal failure due to long term alcoholism. After Hollywood, she had drifted between cheap hotels in Brooklyn and New York City and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A New York Post article briefly revived interest in her, but at the time of her death she was broke and forgotten.
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