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.
John Dillinger's body—most of it anyway—to be exhumed in September.
At the request of his family, Great Depression-era gangster John Dillinger will be exhumed from the Indianapolis grave where he was buried in 1934 after being shot down by FBI agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. There's been no official explanation for the request, however the dig should resolve a couple of pieces of Dillinger folklore. The first would be whether it's him in the grave at all—an urban legend that the FBI shot the wrong man has simmered since his death. And the second would be whether there's a cock attached to the corpse—a particularly odd legend suggests that Dillinger had a monster member that was somehow snipped before burial and whisked away by a morbid collector.
The rumor of body part theft is no surprise. Grave robberies had been a problem in the U.S. throughout the 1800s, and while these had waned by 1934, as a precaution Dillinger was buried under scrap iron and slabs of concrete covered by a layer of poured cement. The bit about him being hung like a mule is harder to trace. Some say it was caused by a morgue photo which appeared (if you really used your imagination) to show him with an erection, but being the subject of at least one Tijuana bible certainly didn't hurt either. In the dirty comic “A Hasty Exit,” which we think was published in mid-1934 before his death, Dillinger uses a massive unit to pleasure his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette and her pal Nellie. Of course, everyone in Tijuana bibles had dinosaur dicks, but we're speculating here.
It's possible the public won't find out why Dillinger is being brought back above ground (though DNA testing to prove ancestry seems like a good bet), or whether all the famed gangster's parts are intact. We doubt most people actually care. But for us pulp followers the story is somewhat interesting, because Dillinger is an icon of the pulp era.
As a bonus, the story has also served as a reminder that we have many more filthy Tijuana bibles we need to upload. We'll get to that as soon as we can. In the meantime, while we all wait for that September exhumation to finally settle longstanding urban legends, you can satisfy your historical interest in John Dillinger by exhuming his Tijuana bible here.
Say hello to his other little friend.
This likeness of gangster John Dillinger stands in stark contrast to the highly pornographic Tijuana bible sketches of him and his little friend we shared last week. We figured we’d show Dillinger in a better light, and wearing more clothes, so above you see the cover of Saul Cooper’s Dillinger, painted by famed portraitist Everett Raymond Kinstler, who has created likenesses of everyone from Katherine Hepburn to George H.W. Bush. See more of his amazing work here, and see those racy Dillinger sketches here. You know you wanna.
Even if the folklore is untrue, you have to give it credit for staying power.
The rumor about John Dillinger’s enormous penis has been debunked often enough that we don’t need to bother, but the interesting question remaining is how the rumor got started in the first place. Nobody knows, but this Tijuana bible entitled A Hasty Exit may be the first depiction of Dillinger with an oversized member. Tijuana bibles often starred famous and infamous people, and all the men had enormous rods, because what’s the point of a dirty book otherwise?
But still, this is a curious artifact, considering the folklore surrounding Big John’s dilly of a pickle. It doesn’t have a copyright, but it has for many years been grouped with other bibles dating from the 1930s. We’re putting it at 1934 or after because the Evelyn character here probably is supposed to be Dillinger’s girlfriend Evelyn Frechette, who was unknown to the wider public until her April 1934 arrest. The Captain Tracy character is, of course Dick Tracy. Dilly and Dick get freaky, below. See more Tijuana bibles by clicking here, here, or here.
Once upon a crime in America.
Myron Fass knew how to sell magazines, especially violent, lurid, depraved magazines. Crime Does Not Pay (not the same as the identically named comic book) is a perfect example. Basically it was just a true crime magazine, but with a focus on iconic American crimes and criminals, with a liberal dose of splatter thrown in. Some of the covers were crime scene photos, but examples we’ve seen from 1969 featured beautiful (if extremely gory) paintings that we suspect appealed to readers younger than those who normally bought crime mags. Above, for example, you see the cover of the December 1969 issue (no artist info appears in the masthead, sadly). Below are twenty-five images, including shots of Charles Starkweather, John Dillinger, Al Capone, Bonnie Parker, Lester Gillis on a slab, and more. You can read a bit more about Myron Fass here.
Is it just us, or does the thought of financial institutions being robbed fail to arouse your moral outrage?
Most people think it’s pretty hard to rob a bank, but that perception is mostly a result of good marketing by financial institutions. The reality is, all you need is the huevos. Take for example the Blue Note Bandit. Here’s a guy who has robbed fifteen California banks in four months and shows no signs of slowing down. They call him the Blue Note Bandit because during his first heist he showed the teller a blue note demanding money. Other times the note was on white paper. Sometimes off-white. But the end result was the same every time—he walked with the green.
Except for having a dye pack explode on him after one of the robberies, everything has gone the bandit’s way so far, but of course, the odds of him getting nabbed go up with each foray. We seriously doubt he’ll get away with many more. Back during the heyday of the pulp era bank robbers became folk heroes. Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Bonnie and Clyde. Today, most people are far too responsible to support criminals in such fashion. But isn’t siding with a bank over a bank robber in these interesting economic times a bit like accusing a woman of assault when she slaps the vampire who’s sucking her blood? Just a little moral complexity to get your Monday off to a good start. You’re welcome. And Mr. Blue Note? Quit while you’re ahead and visit sunny Guyana for the next, oh, rest of your life.
Tijuana bibles pushed back against the conservative sexual mores of the times.
Well, we’re glad to see somebody finally went and put together a website of Tijuana bibles. The site is called tijuanabibles.org. Above you see six covers from their collection, and below is the entirety of a raunchy and racially charged Esther Williams bible entitled Get a Li’l Like the Fishes Do. We had doubts about posting it, but whenever we self-censor we end up kicking ourselves later, so this time we decided screw it. We consider ourselves mainly a history site, and censoring history is always a bad idea. Consider that a content warning. Anyway, Esther Williams was of course a famous swimmer who used her skills in an acting career, so the underwater theme of her bible is a play on her many aquatic roles. It was probably printed in the late 1940s, a time during which its IR content would have gotten the hood and noose crowd pretty riled up. But they would have been clueless whom to blame, because, as we discussed before, these American-made books may have been called Tijuana bibles for the sole purpose of misdirecting crusading citizens and curious authorities. For more examples of these little treasures, pay tijuanabibles.org a visit.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
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