This art is both a Sym-ulation and the real deal.
Italian illustrator Sandro Symeoni signed this 1959 Ace Books cover for Peter Cheyney's He Walked in her Sleep just “Sym,” but however he marks his work, we'd know it at first glance. For years we thought he was a movie poster and record sleeve artist only, then we suddenly started finding his paperback covers. All are brilliant. Oh, and speaking of brilliant, this is an awesome title for a thriller. It was originally published in 1946 as part of the Cheyney collection He Walked in Her Sleep and Other Stories, but Ace got hold of it and typeset it to novel length. More from Cheyney and Syemoni soon.
Whatever the problem is Bogart will solve it.
Above are two Italian posters for the Humphrey Bogart film Damasco '25, which is better known as Sirocco, and is yet another Casablanca clone. The U.S. poster even promises flat-out that the movie, an adventure about Syrian freedom fighters and French colonials in Damascus circa 1925, is “beyond Casablanca.” We'll see about that a bit later. These pieces were painted by the great illustrator Anselmo Ballester, whose work we've highlighted here. We'll get back to him later too. Sirocco opened in the U.S. in 1951, and premiered in Italy today in 1952.
They may be cannibals but you have to credit their exquisite culinary taste.
The above poster for was made to promote Sergio Martino's La montagne du dieu cannibale, which was originally filmed in Italy as La montagna del dio cannibale, and in English was known as Slave of the Cannibal God and The Mountain of the Cannibal God. Basically, Ursula Andress ventures into the New Guinean jungle to find her husband, who disappeared during an expedition to Ra Ra Me Mountain, considered by native tribes to be cursed. The movie was actually shot in Sri Lanka, but details, details. Andress is accompanied on her quest by her brother, played by Antonio Marsina, a professor, played by Stacy Keach, and some unlucky locals. Their jungle trek brings on interpersonal strife, native attacks, gruesome murders, eventual capture, and additional gruesome murders, all to the accompaniment of creepy drum and synth music.
You'll sometimes see this movie classified as horror, but it's really a mondo revulsion flick, padded with real animal deaths that most people will find unwatchable. These gross-outs are somewhat balanced by the imminently watchable Ursula Andress, who's forty-two here and looking just fine. We don't mention that in passing. The entire point of this gorefest is to get her tied to a stake, stripped, and caressed by hot native girls. The plot about her missing husband—which morphs into a scheme to get rich with uranium—is just a fig leaf. We don't recommend the movie even with Andress undressed in it, but if you watch it maybe don't eat lunch beforehand. After originally premiering in West Germany, La montagne du dieu cannibale opened in France today in 1978.
Look on the bright side. Yes, you'll be dead. But I may be proof God exists, so maybe you won't be dead forever.
Above, one of about a thousand stunning photos of Swiss actress Ursula Andress, one of cinema's all-time beauties. As we noted way back the first time we posted her, she obviously was delivered from the sea on a large clamshell. There's no other explanation. A higher power had to be involved. This shot was made as a promo for her 1975 made-in-Italy comedic thriller Colpo en canna, aka Loaded Guns. We'll get back to that later.
The temperature in the Amazon just keeps going up.
This remarkable Japanese poster was made to promote a film called 空手アマゾネス, which was originally released in Italy as Le Amazzoni - Donne d'amore e di guerra, and also known in English as Battle of the Amazons, The 100 Fighting Amazons, and Karate Amazons. It was also known in Japan as Karate Amazones, as you can see by looking at the poster. It starred Lincoln Tate, Paola Tedesco, and Solvi Stubing, and that looks like Tedesco on the art getting some relief from the heat by going shirtless. We talked about this movie long ago. Feel free to have a look here. It was originally released in 1973, and reached Japan today in 1974.
James M. Cain spins a tale about an unusual love and an unusual life.
Vintage Ace paperbacks are considered highly collectible for a few reasons, including the fact that the company popularized the double novel. But we like Ace because it often did well with art. This front for James M. Cain's The Moth is about as striking as cover illustration gets. It's uncredited, but we know exactly who it is. It's Sandro Symeoni. How do we know? Because the cover at this link is confirmed to be Symeoni, and there's no doubt the artist is the same as above. Not only is the style a match, but so is the time period. This came in 1958, and Ace used Symeoni's art several times between ’58 and ’60. That makes this paperback a super discovery, because Symeoni, a brilliant Italian artist who specialized in movie posters, rarely painted book covers. It's possible that, as with Arthur Miller's Focus (you clicked the link above, right?) the art was borrowed from one of Symeoni's posters, but if so we don't know which one. Doesn't matter. Sandro kills again.
Moving on to the novel, Cain, one of the towering figures of pulp literature, stretches himself here to tell the life story of a man through his first thirty-five years, spanning the Great Depression, Prohibition, and World War II; his various jobs, schemes, and hustles; and his ups, downs, ups, downs, ups, downs, ups... We're not putting an end on that sentence in order to avoid giving a hint whether he ultimately triumphs or fails. For a time Cain's protagonist works in the oil business. For years he's a hobo riding the rails. For part of his life he's a renowned soprano. But no matter where he goes or what he does, there's a past destined to come full circle to stare him in the face. This is Cain's longest book, but it's pretty involving. Its only flaw—if it can be called that—is that is doesn't surprise. You know which untrustworthy friend will come back to haunt him, and which unlikely love will reappear to offer a chance at redemption. Still, a good read. We recommend it.
All Through the Night is Bogart at his best.
There's no single movie that made Humphrey Bogart a superstar—he built his brand with each outing. But surely All Through the Night was one of his most important pre-icon roles. You see its Italian promo poster above, which was painted by the great artist Luigi Martinati. We've featured Martinati often, and you can see his work here and here. After originally opening in the U.S. in 1942, All Through the Night premiered in Italy as Sesta colonna today in 1949. You can read more about the film here.
Gardner and MacMurray juggle love and danger in wartime Malaysia.
We talked about the 1947 war adventure Singapore in August. Here's a beautiful Italian poster for the film, on which co-star Ava Gardner takes front and center, with Fred MacMurray lurking in the background. There are several Italian promos. This one is by Zadro, who painted a number of other brilliant pieces, but about whom little is known today. We'll get back to him. And you can read more about the movie here.
With warmth and tender loving care you can grow anything.
Above are two photos of actress Monica Strebel, who was born in Switzerland but mostly appeared in Italian films. She also, like many actresses of her era, appeared in photo novels and posed nude in magazines, such as the French publication Io, which is where the above shots originated in 1969. Several of Strebel's films had amusingly unwieldy titles, among them 1970's La lunga notte dei disertori - I 7 di Marsa Matruh, aka Operation Over Run, and the 1971 giallo La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, aka Cold Blooded Beast. Perhaps her most notable role was in 1972's Racconti proibiti... di niente vestiti, aka Master of Love. We have a promo shot from it below. Strebel plays Death in the form of a naked woman, and she and star Rossano Brazzi run away together across an open field. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
*smack* *smooch* You're so beautiful. I'll follow you anywhere. What's your name again? Did you say Lady Death? That's weird but whatever... *nuzzle* *smooch*
What's really a shame is tomorrow he'll probably tell his buddies how great he was.
We're once again documenting the craze of mid-century publishers sensationalizing literary classics with racy cover art. Today's example is Shame, which is a translation of French icon Émile Zola's 1868 novel Madeleine Férat. It deals with a woman who loves her man but desires his best friend. That sounds exactly like freshman year of college to us, and in real life it was a total drag, but Zola made a literary masterpiece of it. He also achieved something no author would dream of today—he wrote twenty-one novels about two branches of a single family, tracing how environment and heredity were the overriding influences in their lives, even five generations onward, despite the various family members' desires or pretensions to individuality.
Madeleine Férat wasn't part of that epic cycle, and it isn't one of Zola's most celebrated works, though it was made into a 1920 silent film in Italy called Maddalena Ferat, directed by Roberto Roberti and Febo Mari, and starring Francesca Bertini. Ace Books saw it as a moneymaker not just once, but a second time, when it published it as a double novel with Thérèse Raquin on the flip. The pairing represents perhaps the high point of the paperback age in a way—two nineteenth century French literary classics being crammed as a double translation into an impulse purchase meant to tempt people in drugstores and bus stations. It's insanely funny. Also amusing is that Ace wasn't the only paperback publisher to give this book a makeover. But there's an unfunny aspect too—Ace didn't credit either of the cover artists. C'est dommage. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Riot Stops Stones Concert
The Rolling Stones play in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but the show is stopped after twelve minutes because of violence in the audience. Some fans are carried away in straitjackets.
Penguin Books is launched by Allen Lane and begins publishing cheap, no-frills paperbacks. Lane's idea of selling books not just in bookstores, but in train stations, pharmacies and corner stores, quickly revolutionizes the publishing market.
1957—Paar Takes Over Tonight Show
Today in 1957 Jack Paar begins hosting The Tonight Show
. During Paar's five year stint, his unpredictable antics
and strong comedic style help turn the program into a ratings juggernaut and a national institution.
1981—Charles and Diana Marry
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer marry at St Paul's Cathedral before 3,500 invited guests and an estimated global television audience of 750 million, making it the most popular program ever broadcast.
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