If you can't tame them join them.
We've been meaning to get to Untamed Youth for a long time because we know it's considered one of the cheesier movies from its era. And who can resist a quality cheese? Since it premiered today in 1957, we decided to give it a screening, and it turns out the film's reuptation is deserved. It stars Mamie Van Doren and Lori Nelson as beautiful sisters railroaded into a hicktown jail. In court, the county judge, who seems as though she'd possibly be lenient, instead sentences the sisters to thirty days of hard outdoor work on a farm. We quickly learn this is a free labor racket engineered by a wealthy rancher who pursued and married the judge, then put the idea in her head. Call it a case of private enterprise exercising undue influence over the judiciary to enable advantageous economic ends. You know—business as usual in America.
But none of that is important. What matters is that Untamed Youth is indeed one of the best bad movies we've seen. Interwoven into the plot is the theme of hipster rebellion, embodied by proto-rock music. For this reason dance parties break out at any and every moment, complete with choreography, air guitar, and bad lip synching even Milli Vanilli would be ashamed to call their own. Van Doren, with her swinging pelvis and wacky dance hands, is more like a mime than a Mame. Golf prodigy Jeanne Carmen plays the standard mean girl—whose fire goes out after one solid punch in the face from Nelson. And Eddie Cochran sings and dances through a couple of numbers, one of which, “Cotton Picker,” goes on waaay too long. The movie is so bad that Mystery Science Theater 3000 took put it through the wringer back in 1990. What makes the movie special is the dialogue, which contains too many accidental laugh lines to count. Our favorite is when John Russell, as the evil Mr. Tropp, is mentally slavering over the money he's going to make with his forced labor, and goes, “Don't you see honey? After this harvest I'll be rich. And next season, I'll be wealthy!” We also got a kick out of Pinky, the camp cook played by Wally Brown, who stops the music to make an announcement, then tells the kids it's okay to start dancing again with this jaw-dropper: “Intermission over! Back to your African antics!” Yup—these old movies often have anachronistic clunkers like that. This one is a disaster, but Van Doren, Nelson, and others shake, rattle, and roll their way through it, and you can tell they had fun. We had fun watching it, and we suspect you will too.
They fought the law and the law won.
Indeed guns don't argue. Rarely have truer words screamed from a movie poster, and we've come across few titles more fitting for a crime film. What you get here is a narrated docudrama about how U.S. federal agents began to carry guns, and use them. In the past they hadn't been authorized to do so, but faring poorly against machine gun-toting gangsters like Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde changed that. Pretty soon we see g-men picking off criminals like tin ducks in a shooting gallery, and the narrator drones lines such as, “Like flies to a sticky bun the curious clustered at the sound of the excitement.” Mmm... sticky buns.
The movie was edited together from three episodes of the moralizing 1952 television series Gangbusters and released on the national b-circuit in September 1957. It's as slapdash as it sounds, cheap as single-ply toilet paper, clumsily scripted, and hilariously acted by the likes of Jeanne Carmen, Myron Healey, and Lash La Rue. We recommend giving it a pass unless you want to subject it to the Mystery Science Theatre treatment—i.e. watch it with booze and smart-ass friends. But even if the movie purely sucks, we had to show you this poster. It's quite a nice item. We have a zoom on selling point Jeanne Carmen below. Guns Don't Argue premiered in the U.S. this month in 1957.
This little baby doesn't fire bullets. It fires sequins. Ready to look fabulous?
B-movie queen Jeanne Carmen brandishes a prop machine gun in 1957 in this promo image made the film Guns Don't Argue. Carmen looks handy with a gun, but her true weapon of choice was a golf club. She was a famous trick shot artist. She was also a master baster.
Jeanne Carmen shows off her golf form. Her playing partners get fairway wood.
These items show Jeanne Carmen, model and b-movie actress, fronting The Reluctant Golf Pupil and Par Golf in 8 Steps, albums of golf instruction by Joe Novak punctuated with comic interjections from Reginald Owen. Though these seem like different albums, they're the same, just issued a year apart. Inside both you get liner notes written (allegedly) by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who were known to spend time on the links.
Carmen spent time on the fairways as well. She was nationally known as a trick-shot golfer, a skill she had picked up starting a decade earlier. She toured the U.S. pulling stunts such as using rubber shafted clubs and nailing drives off tees clenched between the teeth of supine (and terrified) male volunteers. So while these images appear often online, we've rarely seen it noted that Carmen was an appropriate choice for a cover star.
There's more to her story, including chapters involving gangster Johnny Roselli, friendships with the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe, and hook-ups with Elvis Presley and (of course) Frank Sinatra. We may get back to her later. In the meantime, if you want to see a really nice swing check out Ana Berthe Lethe on the course here.
Clearly they have consent issues.
Monsters may be horrible but you can't fault their taste. To borrow a line from one of their number, they're automatically attracted to beautiful. It's like a magnet. We wonder if it's possible their need is an unconscious manifestation of the id of male Hollywood screenwriters. Or were the writers deliberately making commentaries about male power, nuclear paranoia, and environmental degradation? Well, those are questions for smarter people than us. We take monsters at face value. Maybe that's not what we mean—some don't even have proper faces. What we mean is we judge them as individuals. Most monsters are direct, like Pongo, above, trying to impress Maris Wrixon in the 1945 movie White Pongo, while some, on the other claw, are more circumspect. But the language barrier usually sabotages their delicate efforts. “I know an independently owned café that serves a killer macchiato,” comes out as a series of glottal grunts. “I loved La La Land too and I think the naysayers are mainly joyless jazz purists,” comes out as a sustained sodden hiss. Even if these vocalizations could give a true indication of the inner depths of a monster's personality, women generally wouldn't give them a shot anyway, because despite what they say, looks really do matter. What's a monster to do?
This Island Earth, with Faith Domergue.
The Time Machine, with Yvette Mimieux.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Julie Adams.
The Alligator People, with Beverly Garland.
The Man from Planet X, with Margaret Field.
Robot Monster, with Claudia Barrett.
The Beach Girls and the Monster, with Sue Casey.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas, with Jeanne Carmen.
The Day of the Triffids, with Janette Scott.
It! the Terror from Beyond Space, with Shirley Patterson.
I Walked with a Zombie, with Christine Gordon.
From Hell It Came.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf, with Dawn Richard.
It Conquered the World, with Beverly Garland again crushing a monster's hopes for love and fulfillment.
El retorno del Hombre Lobo, aka Night of the Werewolf.
Empire of the Ants, with Joan Collins.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space, with Gloria Talbott.
The Wolf Man, with Evelyn Ankers.
Liberace experiences tabloid wrath at its most merciless.
It was in this July 1957 issue of Confidential that journalist “Horton Streete’ infamously outed cover star Liberace in the most vicious and dehumanizing way with an article entitled “Why Liberace’s Theme Song Should Be ‘Mad About the Boy’.” We’ve talked about it before. Streete willfully attempted to damage the singer’s career by spinning a shocking tale of how he attacked a young, male press agent. The article refers to Liberace as Fatso, Pudgy, Dimples, and other, less flattering monikers.
Here’s a rule you can count on—when a journalist or on-air personality constantly refers to someone by other than his or her name or title, it’s a hit piece. Liberace was horrified and sued Confidential. California Attorney General Pat Brown had already managed to win an indictment of the magazine two months earlier. Owner Robert Harrison was about to spend his entire summer in court. He took these legal threats to heart and publicly promised to stop publishing stories about the private lives of Hollywood stars.
Up until then Confidential had been as reckless as a magazine could be. This issue accuses Gary Crosby of punching a woman in the face, and Eartha Kitt of trapping her friend’s boyfriend in her penthouse. An extraordinary story about boxer Jake LaMotta suggests the he got a bumrap in his morals trial. LaMotta was serving time for bedding a 14-year-old. Prosecutors had convinced a jury that the incident with LaMotta was a primary cause of the girl later becoming a prostitute. Confidential rides to the rescue, claiming that the girl’s father had already deflowered her, therefore LaMotta could not have had any influence on the girl’s fate. How’s that for a principled stand?
These early issues of Confidential are a cesspool of journalistic ethics, no doubt, but they’re also a visual treat. Using black, red, blue, and yellow, plus the white of the pages themselves, the designers put together a bold and gaudy package that would influence every other tabloid on the market. The layouts on Kitt, Liberace, Alan Dale, and Lex Barker are among the most eye-catching we’ve seen from the period. Elsewhere you get Anthony Quinn, and a host of other stars. We have a bunch of scans below. Remember, you can always see more from Confidential and other tabs by visiting our tabloid index at this link.
The two guys Top Secret tried to portray as enemies actually kinda liked each other.
As usual, there is an array of interesting teasers on the cover of Top Secret. The squaw in question at left is Jeanne Carmen, who was a famous blonde pin-up, but who was naturally brunette, and had played the role of a Native American girl named Yellow Moon in the cheesy western War Drums. So that’s the source of the squaw reference. Whether Elvis actually stole her from Sinatra, we can’t say. It’s possible any woman in Hollywood would have to be stolen from Sinatra, the guy got around so much. And as if to prove the point, he would later have a fling with the cover star here, Sabrina, aka Norma Sykes. We talked about their tryst in this post from earlier this year.
Anyway, the bit that really caught our attention was not the alleged Elvis-Carmen-Sinatra triangle, but the story about Ingo Johansson being doped. Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson was a world champion boxer who had won the heavyweight crown from Floyd Patterson a year earlier. In the March 1960 rematch, Patterson put Johansson’s lights out with a blow so vicious that Johansson was left twitching on the canvas. It was a definitive victory, just as Johansson’s earlier win over Patterson had been, but in 1960 white-black boxing matches were overtly racially divisive, and so Top Secret took advantage by suggesting that perhaps Patterson’s camp managed to slip the Swede a mickey. That question was answered in the March 1961 third match between the two, when Patterson again knocked Johansson out.
After their careers were over, Johansson and Patterson became good friends and even flew to visit each other in their native countries every year. Top Secret could well have done a story on that, but of course harmony doesn’t sell magazines. So while in the U.S. civil rights strife raged through the rest of the sixties and into the seventies, two guys who once made a living beating the living shit out of each other quietly proved that, given a chance to see each other’s similarities rather than differences, people tend to get along just fine.
I can't wait until everyone sees how plump and juicy these are.
Promo photo of American actress Jeanne Carmen circa late ’50s. Carmen earned the moniker “The Queen of the B Movies” by appearing in such fare as Untamed Youth, Monster of the Piedras Blancas, and The Devil’s Hand.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
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