Elaine Stewart gets fat for the only time in her life.
This photo shows actress Elaine Stewart preparing for a bath scene in her 1958 thriller High Hell, in which she starred with John Derek. Make-up artist George Claff is applying a layer of grease paint, which is basically animal fat, sometimes with pigments mixed in. We guess it must have helped keep Stewart warm in the water. Maybe someone else has a better explanation. That's ours. In any case, handling Stewart's hot legs must have been the highlight of Claff's career. We imagine him returning home that evening:
Mrs. Claff: “How was work today, honey?”
George: “Work? Um... Why? What did you hear?”
*later makes love to wife with wild abandon she hasn't known since they were first married*
Mrs. Claff: “Wow! What got into you?”
George: “Nothing. I just realize I love Elaine— Er... I mean... um... I love a-laying... you... Just a-you.”
Below you see the result of Stewart's extensive grease paint preparation. De Niro? Hah! Stewart fattened up for a role long before him. Is it our imagination or is supporting actor Patrick Allen looking inside the barrel while on the verge of tears? It's understandable. Look here.
Every day and overtime on Sundays.
Above: an Australian promo poster for The Flesh Is Weak, the 1957 John Derek/Milly Vitale vehicle we discussed earlier this month. Shorter version: Derek tricks Vitale into hauling her flesh out to the street to work at the oldest profession. There's no Australian release date for it, but it probably didn't play Down Under until 1958. Read more and see the amazing French promo here.
How do you show your man you love him? Show your love to other men.
Here's another amazing and framable movie poster, this time for Le trottoir, which was originally made in England as The Flesh Is Weak. The art is by René Brantonne, who typically illustrated book covers, such as here and here. This is stylish work, very different from what we've seen him do before. It's cartoonish, but captures the mood of the film, an urban drama starring John Derek. Yes, that John Derek, the one who— Or has he been forgotten already? We'll reacquaint you. Derek was an actor, photographer, screenwriter, and director, but he's best known as a sort of Svengali who directed his fourth wife Bo Derek in several erotic films in which male actors got to squeeze and lick her soft parts. In 1984's Bolero he shot Bo in three love scenes, one of which made viewers wonder if there was more than acting involved. That's unlikely, but even so, actual penetration was about the only thing missing, which makes John Derek a different kind of husband indeed.
His partnership with Bo in using her body to make money is even more interesting considering the subject matter of The Flesh Is Weak. He plays London agent who meets naive Milly Vitale and convinces her to attempt resolving his debt problems by selling her womanly favors. Of course, he has no debt problems, and he's no agent—he's a pimp, and chose Vitale to convert to prostitution. She ends up tricked into selling herself because she's in love, and though for some readers that surely seems impossible to comprehend, we read Iceberg Slim's autobiographical Pimp some years back and he confirmed from a firsthand perspective that love was what he often used as a lever. It's hard to imagine but true. And its pretty sad, even in the sanitized version presented in The Flesh Is Weak. Is it worth watching? There's no need to clear your schedule, but overall it's pretty good. There's no known French release date, but it had its world premiere in London today in 1957.
For some men divorce is not a tragedy—it's an opportunity.
If you've never seen one, this is what an AP wire photo looked like back in 1966. The text at the bottom gives newspaper editors the identity of the subject and some basic facts. No identity needed here—this is Ursula Andress, and the photo is the one widely used when newspapers reported that her husband John Derek was filing for divorce in Tijuana, Mexico. This made us smile because the basic idea here was to show that Derek was out of his mind. Perhaps, however he had already established a pattern of moving on to younger, equally beautiful women. He was first married to Pati Behrs, but divorced her when he met nineteen-year-old Andress. She was thirty when they divorced and he moved on to twenty-three-year-old Linda Evans. And Evans was thirty-two when Derek tossed her over for sixteen-year-old Mary Collins, who you know better as Bo Derek. Andress, Evans, and Collins could have been sisters, and in fact they looked quite a bit like John Derek too (see below). But in Bo he had found not just another doppleganger, but an ingénue willing to star in the poorly made sexually oriented films he liked to direct. These included Fantasies (when Bo was sixteen), the almost competent Bolero, Ghosts Can't Do It, and Tarzan, the Ape Man. Bo and John John Derek stayed together until John died, a span of twenty-two years, so it seems wife number four cured him of his habit of trading for younger models. Just an interesting Hollywood factoid to enliven your Monday.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife—unless he says it turns him on.
Here’s an interesting National Enquirer cover from today in 1966, with a scrunched Ursula Andress and a quote from her husband John Derek, who never actually had a problem sharing her, or for that matter any of his spouses—at least artistically. He shot and published nude series of second wife Andress, third wife Linda Evans, and fourth wife Bo Derek, and directed Derek in the softcore bomb Bolero, which contained a sex scene that had filmgoers asking at the time if maybe Bo and her partner went beyond mere acting. John Derek is actually worthy of a separate discussion sometime, so maybe we’ll get back to him. He was also eerily consistent—Andress, Evans and Derek are virtually clones of one another. See below.
She's a lover, not a fighter.
Above are the cover and several interior pages from Spain’s Triunfo, with Swiss actress Ursula Andress, who according to the magazine was the most beautiful woman in the world. Andress was starring opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in the French action adventure Les tribulations d’une Chinois in Chine, based on Jules Verne’s Tribulations of a Chinaman in China, and released in the U.S. as Up to His Ears. The article discusses among other things how Andress injured herself during the first week of the physically demanding shoot, and you can see a scab on her knee and calf, as well as a bandage on her thigh. While she perhaps didn’t have a gazelle’s grace, she did seem to possess a siren’s allure—her rumored affair with Belmondo supposedly ruined her marriage to John Derek, and this may not have been her first affair. However, it seems possible that the marriage failed for reasons other than fidelity, since John Derek did not seem to be a possessive husband (if his willingness to share his fourth wife Bo is any indication). Anyway, not be overlooked is Pamela Tiffin, who appears in the centerfold. We’ll have more on Tiffin later.
Who's gonna ride your wild horses?
Erotic fiction has always been a major subset of pulp literature, and for a while sex was likewise part of American cinema. Bo Derek personifies sexual nudity on film as much as any actress we can remember. She was originally presented to the world by her Svengali husband John Derek, who had also helped his second and third wives, Ursula Andress and Linda Evans, become stars. The difference was they could act. Bo couldn’t.
But Bolero isn’t godawful because Bo acted in it—it’s godawful because John Derek wrote it. Yet for all its flaws, Bolero is a landmark because it’s one of the last full-blown, joyful, erotic American films. From this point forward, nudity in American cinema seemed to consist of either breast-flashing slapstick, or result in severely negative consequences. Cinema sex as an expression of simple joy still existed, but actual nudity was becoming more and more political. Was it AIDS that did this? Was it simply an overdue cultural shift? We can’t say.
Fast forward to 2009 and we have American directors shooting clothed sex scenes, then explaining—as if every other director in town hadn't also shot a clothed sex scene—that not showing skin is much sexier than having actors parading around naked. We disagree, and the stills below prove our point, but we understand that times change. Bolero makes clear just how much. It was one of the worst films of that or any year, but it made sex a celebration. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1984.
I'm afraid that isn't my hand in the small of your back, my dear.
Swiss actress Ursula Andress’ performance as Dr. No’s knife-wielding skindiver Honey Ryder made her a star and set the standard for all future Bond girls. At the time of this publicity photo she was married to John Derek, but we have a feeling Sean Connery didn’t care—and rumor has it Andress didn’t either. She was delivered up from the sea on a clamshell today in 1936.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1946—Antonescu Is Executed
Ion Antonescu, who was ruler of Romania during World War II, and whose policies were independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as countless Romani Romanians, is executed by means of firing squad at Fort Jilava prison just outside Bucharest.
1959—Sax Rohmer Dies
Prolific British pulp writer Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, aka Sax Rohmer, who created the popular character Fu Manchu and became one of the most highly paid authors of his time writing fundamentally racist fiction about the "yellow peril" and what he blithely called "rampant criminality among the Chinese", dies of avian flu in White Plains, New York.
1957—Arthur Miller Convicted of Contempt of Congress
Award-winning American playwright Arthur Miller, the husband of movie star Marilyn Monroe, is convicted of contempt of Congress when he refuses to reveal the names of political associates to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction would later be overturned, but HUAC persecution against American citizens continues until the committee is finally dissolved in 1975.
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
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