Okay, my dear. Let's get you back indoors. You've provided Italy more than enough spank bank material for one day.
We recently showed you Abbe Lane on one of her album covers, but we've brought her back today because of this fun photo and the ones below. Lane was once deemed by Italian television authorities to be too sexy for broadcast. That's right—in Italy. So you can imagine the excitement when she donned this striped bikini for a photo shoot on the Lido in Venice, Italy during the summer of 1956. The proprietary arm belongs to her husband, Spanish bandleader Xavier Gugat. We think of the couple as the Beyoncé and Jay Z of their era, which is to say, Lane is waaaay too pretty for Cugat. She was also thirty-one years younger than him, which just goes to show what talent can do for a man:
Xavier: You have inspired me, baby. I will write a song about you.
Abbe: You've already written me dozens, Xavier. All that cha-cha stuff is getting a little old.
Xavier: Music is just one of my abilities, cariño. Did I ever make you my authentic paella Valenciana with garrofó and rabbit? I almost became a chef, you know, but music beckoned.
Abbe: Men have cooked for me before. Yves Montand once made me a chocolate and pear soufflé. It was an exquisite grace note in a magnificently composed dinner, and that wasn't even really the dessert.
Xavier: Yes, that Yves. How urbane of him. How about I give you a purifying seaweed mask and a pedicure? I am a bit of an amateur aesthetician, and I love your feet.
Abbe: My skin—in case you haven't noticed—is perfect. Several men told me that today, and a cabana boy named Guido gave me a foot rub. You were snorkeling at the time.
Xavier: Grrr... I see. Well, I could paint your portrait. I am quite a good artist. I spent some time studying egg tempera at the Reial Acadèmia Catalana.
Abbe: I could never sit still that long again. Marcello Mastroianni painting me nude last year was quite enough. Day after day, hour after hour in that... well, frankly provocative pose he wanted. You were on tour, but I knew you wouldn't mind.
Xavier: Is that so? Well, fine, but I was at his house just a month ago. Why did he not show me this painting?
Abbe: I don't know. It's hanging right in his bedroom. So he tells me.
Xavier: *sigh* No meal, no skin care, no song. I guess I am just an old man unable to impress you any longer. When we get back to the villa I will simply take out the garbage, then finish reading that book I was—
Abbe: Take out the garbage? Oh, sweetheart. Tell you what—you do that and I'll put on the g-string and thigh-high boots you like and meet you in the bedroom.
The lesson from that day in Venice is that, for a wife, the ultimate turn-on is a husband who's willing to do chores. Cugat spent eleven years with Lane before they finally divorced in June 1964. She was married again before the year was over, which was a pretty fast rebound and remarriage even for Hollywood. Meanwhile, a few years later Cugat married Spanish singer and dancer Charo, who was his junior by fifty-one or forty-one years, depending on who you believe. Either way, music, cooking, and even chores are all fine, but maybe Cugat's real talent was bedazzling younger women.
New and improved Picchioni dance tights! They'll never tear a seam, even if your body does!
Italian illustrator Franco Picchioni conceived a balletic cover pose for John J. Everett's Assi allo sbaraglio. If we tried this position everything we have would split down the middle, up to and including our pride. The title of the book translates to “aces in disarray,” so we'd be suffering from asses in disarray. But speaking of stretched to the limit, let's stop with this strain of thought before it wears out completely. John J. Everett was a pseudonym, of course, but we don't know for whom, and his novel is part of Edizioni MA-GA's Il Cerchio Rosso collection, though we can't pinpoint the year. Nothing is working for us today, but we'll bend over backwards trying to find more info.
Sometimes it's better if you don't go all the way.
Above is another case where the foreign promo material for a film surpasses the domestic version, something that happened increasingly as U.S. studios gave up on painted art, while foreign distributors kept on with the traditional ways. These two Italian promos were made for Quando baci una sconosciuta, which was produced in the U.S. as Once You Kiss a Stranger. The film stars the lovely Carol Lynley, so the odds of ending up with a nice domestic poster were high, but Warner Brothers flubbed it. Have a look at their effort below and we think you'll agree it's almost disgracefully bad. Meanwhile the Italian promos were painted by Tino Avelli, someone whose we've highlighted before, and while these don't rise to the level as some of most magnificent posters from Italy, they're still pretty nice.
Once You Kiss a Stranger is a reworking of Patricia Highsmith's 1950 novel Strangers on a Train, but with a woman in one of the leads. These days many would complain that this is evil “gender swapping,” but dramatic plotlines are finite in number, therefore freshening up old material in this way has always been attractive to Hollywood. They're doing it a bit more of late because today there are fewer new ideas than ever, and because ticket buyers—by which we mean the diverse people under age thirty who actually fuel profits—like it and put down good money to see it.
Lynley plays a deranged woman who intends to exchange murders with a golf pro played by Paul Burke. Lynley is about to be permanently committed to a mental institution, while Burke always finishes second in his tournaments to Phil Carey. Lynley offers to solve that problem by killing Carey, and expects Burke to kill her psychiatrist in exchange. Just as in the novel, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 cinematic adaptation, the key to making this plot device work is the protagonist not believing what he's being told. Once You Kiss a Stranger makes that part more realistic than either Highsmith or Hitchcock by simply having Burke agree to anything that gets the tanned and toned Lynley into bed. This is where casting a woman pays dividends. The entire entrapment is now in shorthand because everyone in the cinema understands the visceral need to get inside Lynley. Hell, for her we'd promise to rope the moon. We'd swear an oath while covered in goat's blood. We'd swim a lake of fire. Point is, you can understand Burke's attitude being, “Uh huh... I hear you... murder... understood... can you take off your panties real slow?” However, Burke being led by his dick into trouble is the only improvement Once You Kiss a Stranger manages over what came before. The rest is a pale imitation of two scintillating sources, and done on a level dialogue-wise that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would epically mock. We can't recommend it, but speaking only for ourselves, we'll watch anything with Lynley. Full stop. Once You Kiss a Stranger, with her, Burke, Carey, and the lovely Martha Hyer aged forty-five and looking fantastic, premiered today in 1969.
Italian shockumentary about Africa is all voyeurism and no reflection.
Lately we've been highlighting Italian illustrator Sandro Symeoni's brilliant paperback covers, but today we've decided to bring him back as a poster artist, which is how he first found acclaim, and why we first noticed him. He painted this for the schockmentary Africa ama, which would translate as “Africa loves,” but is known in English as Africa Uncensored. 1970s shockumentaries have an educational veneer, but are mostly about cultural titillation and making viewers in modern countries lose their lunches, as practices such as male and female circumcision, animal killing, and scarification are filmed unflinchingly and up close.
This genre of movies, particularly popular in Italy, showed all this and did it with zero self awareness, considering modern powers didn't just engage in torture and killing during their empire building, but industrialized it. It takes efficiency to slaughter millions. Of course, pointing out that indisputable fact makes people angry in this anti-truth age, so we'll move on and note that Africa ama was mostly the brainchild of brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni, a couple of guys we've run across before for their archaeology work. See what we mean here. Africa ama premiered in Italy today in 1971, and if you dare you can watch it here while the link lasts.
Gratuitous sex and Violenza.
Seems like time for another cover from Italian illustrator Franco Picchioni, so here's his always excellent work on Patrick McRoy's Violenza in nero, from 1966 for publishers Edizioni MA-GA as part of its Il Cerchio Rosso collection. Haven't we seen this pose from Picchioni before? Well, never mess with success. He even painted the same undergarment (a strapless teddy, we think). McRoy is an obvious pseudonym but we can't track down his real name. Anyone with knowledge, feel free to enlighten us. And not just about books. We're mixed up on a lot of stuff these days.
The man with the ebony gun.
Above is an Italian poster for the 1972 blaxploitation movie Black Gunn, which starred the one and only Jim Brown, along with Brenda Sykes and Martin Landau. In Italy it was titled Pistola nera spara senza pietà, which translates to, “black gun shoots without pity,” a clumsy phrase, but one that fits the movie. There's no release date for Italy, but it probably played there during the summer of 1973. We talked about it last year and shared a Japanese poster built around a photo-illustration, to which the above hand-painted effort serves as interesting contrast. The artist is uncredited.
Don't look at the human. He can't help you. We're taking over this town, and that means you answer to us now.
We've circled back to Italian illustrator Franco Picchioni again because we love his style, and he delivers once more on this cover for Requiem per un giornalista. Obviously, “giornalista” is Italian for “journalist,” so feel free insert your own quips about the press at this point. The book was written by Obvious Pseudonym, and it's copyright 1970 for Edizione MA-GA, a company that took cover art seriously after many other publishers had thrown in the towel. This is nice work from Picchioni. We also found a cleaner piece of the art. It isn't that different, except you get to see the always neglected Rat no. 3, who was covered by text on the final version. You can see more from Picchioni by clicking his keywords below.
Haiti gets hit by hurricane Anita.
These two posters for Al tropico del cancro, aka Tropic of Cancer, were painted by Italian master Renato Casaro, and really demonstrate his artistic range, as they're stylistically different from the other poster he painted for the film. We have plenty of Casaro in the website, so if you want to see more just click his keywords below, or if you're pressed for time, you can see what we think is his best work here and here. He isn't the only person we want to highlight today. The movie stars Anita Strindberg, yet another luminous actress to come out of Sweden, and she plays a wife who travels to Haiti and is soon caught up in tropical sensuality, hallucinogenic drugs, and voodoo. It's unabashed exploitation ranging from the sexual to the cultural, and Strindberg is the main reason it's watchable, as you see below. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.
I'm not devious or Machiavellian in the least. But a Machiavellian person would say that, wouldn't they?
Fifteenth century philosopher and diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli popularized the belief that powerful men—and particularly politicians—are often amoral, and perhaps should be that way, an idea that gave rise to the term Machiavellian. Amazingly, some of his genes funneled down the centuries directly into the person you see above, Italian actress Nicoletta Machiavelli. She earned—or deviously maneuvered—her way into more than thirty films, including Se tutte le donne del mondo... (Operazione Paradiso), aka Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, Matchless, Navajo Joe, and Les seins de glace, aka Someone Is Bleeding.
The photo was shot by Angelo Frontoni, and comes from 1965. Below you see a couple of unretouched alternate frames Frontoni made during the same session, but with Machiavelli showing an impressive treasure trail. Will those ever come back, you think? No? Well, they should. About her famous ancestor Machiavelli once said that she was proud to be his descendant, and quipped that she was, “Machiavellian in the cradle.” She also claimed that to her, at least, the term didn't mean to behave deviously or sociopathically at all. But then she would say that.
Whatever the background color she was always red hot.
Above are three images of Tunisian born Italian actress Claudia Cardinale made by Italian photographer Angelo Frontoni. It's difficult to imagine European cinema without Frontoni. He photographed everyone, and he blurred the line between mainstream photography and erotica by collaborating with magazines like Excelsior and Playmen. Cardinale is pretty racy here by her standards. She worked with Frontoni many times over the course of her career, which began during the late 1950s and continues today, encompassing such films as 8½, The Pink Panther, Blindfold, Les pétroleuses, Fitzcarraldo, Once Upon a Time in the West, et al. These shots don't have a copyright date that we could find, but based on appearance we'd say they're from the late 1970s. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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