Esther Williams learns that privileged pretty boys can get very ugly.
The Unguarded Moment is one of those films that, although it's basically a lifetime old, is amazingly topical in 2020. The subtext of this mystery concerns whether a person is redeemable, whether they deserve forgiveness for their errors. When a high school football star stalks his beautiful thirty-five year old teacher, sends her provocative notes, breaks into her house, and even physically accosts her, the script positions him as someone who can be redeemed. He's just frustrated, confused, and acting out behavior taught to him by his terrible father. You know the sentiment by heart, because it still pervades today (though not for the non-white or non-privileged): “He has his whole life ahead of him and it's a shame to ruin it over one youthful mistake.”
Surprisingly, Esther Williams herself becomes this wayward soul's main advocate, despite the peril and fear she's endured. It's a noble turn for her character to take—and an unlikely one. Barring interruptions, Williams would have been raped. That's not our opinion. The script leaves no real doubt. The plot contrivance of giving this almost-rapist a break didn't sit well with us, but leaving that aside, it's interesting to watch Williams negotiate this role. It was a leap for the former Olympic swimmer and longtime musical star. The idea was to nix the singing and water ballet and get her into meatier roles, and sure enough, the only singing and dancing she does here is singing the praises of her attacker and dancing around her duty to assist the law.
The film wasn't well received by the public, though we aren't sure if the reticence had to do with performance, casting, subject matter, or something less tangible (a feeling of overall creepiness, perhaps). Even so, we think it's pretty well made, and Williams as an angel of mercy is worth watching, if only for the discussion her role might engender. Our girlfriends didn't like it at all. But for our part, we'll watch just about anything that has brand name stars in it, and Esther Williams, around this period, was about about big as they came. Watch and debate. After a special in premiere in Los Angeles, The Unguarded Moment began its nationwide run today in 1956.
Marriage to a savage jungle woman is all fun and games until you get on her bad side.
This is a fantastic cover for John Saxon's, aka James N. Gifford's The Tigress, for Novels, Inc, 1952. This poor guy in the art. Takes abuse at the office all day then comes home and has to take more from his wife. Well, it's better than when she ignores him, or worse, perches on the kitchen counter and stares unblinkingly at him for minutes at a time. That's just plain unnerving. But she's worth it, because at her best she's a real pussycat. This cover, sadly, is uncredited.
Update: Some online sources now think this art is by Walter Popp. We'll go with that.
You can't keep a good moonshiner down.
Home brew and rednecks, fast cars and dusty roads, shotguns and lots of banjo music are what you get in Moonshine Country Express, all of which is probably abundantly clear from a glance at the U.S. promo poster painted by John Solie. You also get star Susan Howard, b-movie stud John Saxon, and support from Playboy centerfold Claudia Jennings, which means all the ingredients for a good time are here. The protagonists are righteous, the villains wily, and there's never any doubt that the family oriented 'shiners are going to upend the unctuous local strongman in this nearly scriptless flick about a daughter trying to sell her murdered father's stash of a-grade whiskey. We could say there's a metaphor here for small business versus big conglomerates, or liberty loving sovereigns versus the corrupt and connected, but we'd be making that shit up. It's just a mindless chase movie. It's hard to believe it would take another two years before this highly profitable formula finally moved to television in the form of 1979's The Dukes of Hazzard. We like to think Moonshine County Express was the eureka moment when someone realized it would work. If you watch this one, expect no more and no less than a Dukes episode in long form, but without the confederate flag, mercifully.
Just a woman and her will to survive.
This cover for The Passionate Tigress by John Saxon, aka James Noble Gifford, has art signed “Border.” We’ve never heard of him or her before, and as you can imagine, we can’t possibly hope to isolate a person with a name like that using internet searches. The people at the Greenleaf Classics website think this could be Ernest Chiriaka, and we agree the resemblance is uncanny, but absent confirmation this illustrator goes in the mystery category. 1959 on this.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
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