|Mar 24 2021
|Dec 6 2012
Above is a photo of Manhattan, New York City, in the year 1947, looking from Battery Park toward midtown. Here you see everything—the Staten Island Ferry Building at bottom, Wall Street to the right, the 59th Street Bridge crossing Welfare Island at upper right, and in the hazy distance, the Empire State Building—at that time arguably America’s most recognized symbol. In the aftermath of a war that had destroyed Europe’s and Japan’s industrial capacity, the U.S. was the unquestioned power on the planet, with massive economic might, a military that had taken up permanent residence in dozens of countries, and a growing stock of nuclear weapons. Two years later the Soviets would detonate their first nuclear bomb, shaking the American edifice to its foundation. Meanwhile, all around the world, the seeds of change were taking root. Below is a look at the world as it was in 1947.
Firemen try to extinguish a blaze in Ballantyne’s Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand.
American singer Lena Horne performs in Paris.
The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and the aftermath of the execution of Hisakazu Tanaka, who was the Japanese governor of occupied Hong Kong during World War II.
Sunbathers enjoy Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and a military procession rumbles along Rua Catumbi.
Assorted Brooklyn Dodgers and manager Leo Durocher (shirtless in the foreground) relax at Havana, Cuba’s Estadio La Tropical, where they were holding spring training that year. Second photo, Cuban players for the Habana Leones celebrate the first home run hit at Havana’s newly built Estadio Latinoamericano.
Thousands of Muslims kneel toward Mecca during prayer time in Karachi, Pakistan.
A snarl of traffic near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The city hall of Cape Town, South Africa is lit up to celebrate the visit of the British Royal Family. Second photo, during the same South African trip, the royals are welcomed to Grahamstown.
A wrecked fighter plane rusts in front of Berlin’s burned and abandoned parliament building, the Reichstag. Second photo, a shot of ruins in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter, near Rousseau Island.
A crowd in Tel Aviv celebrates a United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.
Men and bulls run through the streets of Pamplona, Spain during the yearly Festival of San Fermin.
Fog rolls across the Embarcadero in San Francisco; a worker descends from a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Detectives study the body of a woman found murdered in Long Beach, California. Two P-51 Mustang fighters fly above Los Angeles.
Danish women from Snoghøj Gymnastics School practice in Odense.
Tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo demonstrate against the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.
A beauty queen draped with a sash that reads “Modern 1947” is lifted high above the boardwalk in Coney Island, New York.
A woman in Barbados holds atop her head a basket filled with fibers meant for burning as fuel.
Mahatma Gandhi, his bald head barely visible at upper center, arrives through a large crowd for a prayer meeting on the Calcutta Maidan, India.
Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson is hounded for autographs in the dugout during a Brooklyn Dodgers game.
|Apr 23 2012
Here's something wonderful we found on our recent U.S. trip. It's a 1929 woodcut print promoting Harlem's famous Cotton Club. You probably know the Cotton Club was one of America's most prominent speakeasies, if that isn't an oxymoron, and that it hosted some of the greatest jazz luminaries of the age, including Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, George Gershwin, and many others. The place was mob owned, specifically by England-born gangster Owney Madden. If stories about the sheer wildness of the Cotton Club are true, this print certainly captures its spirit. The artist here is E.M. Washington, who was quite well known for his woodcuts, and whose surviving original work goes for a fortune. This particular item is a reprint, which put it well within our price range.
|May 23 2011
Here’s a curious item we ran across at our favorite vintage memorabilia shop. It’s a Japanese promo poster for Viva Las Vegas, which… hey, wait a sec. Where’s Elvis? Where’s Ann-Margret? And who are these imposters? Well, turns out Elvis’s immortal Viva Las Vegas was not the first. The first film of that title starred Cyd Charisse, Dan Dailey and Agnes Moorehead, and was released in 1956. During its U.S. run it was known as Meet Me in Las Vegas, but for its international release the title was changed. Plotwise, you’ve got a flick here with a central gimmick that’s just begging to be recycled in a modern romcom. Get this—Dailey discovers that whenever he’s at the gambling tables he cannot lose as long as he’s holding hands with Charisse. If it sounds intolerably cute, well, what do you expect? It’s a mid-century musical. Actually though, the movie isn’t top notch, due mainly to some less-than-stellar acting in parts, but you do get to see Las Vegas as it was before it became the consumerist dystopia it is today, and you get cameos from Vic Damone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Frankie Laine, Lena Horne and others. Well worth a look.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp
|Mar 10 2011
Though we're just getting around to featuring Inside Story here on Pulp for the first time, it was one of the better-known tabloids on American newsstands. We aren’t sure when it began publishing, but we’ve seen issues dating from 1955. And looking the other direction, we can make an educated guess that it folded in the early seventies, because we’ve seen no issues past 1971. In this March 1956 issue, quite a few celebrities get the smear treatment. Lena Horne’s interracial marriage is discussed, along with Greta Garbo’s suspicious lack of a spouse, and Roy Rogers' goodie-goodie image, and we learn about the dietary tricks of the day as well as a supposed "sex drink" favored by movie stars.
The magazine also examines the June 1906 murder of Stanford White by Harry K. Thaw, a killing committed out of jealousy. The reason Inside Story brings it up fifty years after the fact is because a film exploring the circumstances of the killing had been released the previous October. Entitled The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, the movie starred Ray Milland, Farley Granger, and—as Thaw's wife Evelyn Nesbit—British-born actress Joan Collins. Inside Story informs readers that Collins was chosenfor the role because her beauty merely rivals that of Nesbit. That's quite a claim when talking about a woman as stunning as Joan Collins, but in this case the tabloid may be right. We've included a second photo of Nesbit at left so you can judge for yourself. Inside Story is also correct when it says the facts around the White killing were sanitized for the movie. There's little doubt the truth was too sordid.
Evelyn Nesbit had been Stanford White’s lover before marrying Harry Thaw. Thaw was so tormented by this fact that he would tie Evelyn to a bed and beat her until she confessed in detail every sexual act she had ever engaged in with White. She later testified that she sometimes made things up, because he would beat her more if she had nothing to divulge. Eventually, she claimed that White had a red velvet swing installed in one of his apartments, and he would push her while looking up her skirts, and on one occasion made her ride the swing nude. She also told tales of threesomes and other activities. Thaw, trapped in a classic avoidance-avoidance dilemma, was tortured both by knowing and not knowing about his wife’s past. Since he couldn’t abide either, he lashed out at what he perceived as the source of the problem by shooting White in the head in front of hundreds of witnesses during a play at Madison Square Garden. Problem solved—except for the murder trial. But Thaw and his lawyer contrived a perfect defense, considering the sexual climate of the times. They convinced Evelyn to testify that White sexually abused her when they were together. How this justified a public execution we can't know without reading the trial transcripts, but it worked. Thaw was acquitted by reason of temporary insanity. In 1906 it was, apparently, just fine to be so wracked by jealousy over your spouse's sexual past that you could execute her previous lover.
As if that sordid tale isn’t enough, Inside Story gives readers two love triangles for the price of one. In the Roy Rogers article, what readers discover that “they don’t tell the kiddies” is that the clean-cut singing cowboy may have had an affair with Ella Mae Cooley, wife of bandleader Spade Cooley. At least that was the rumor at the time. But you know how rumors are. Rogers’ image was so antiseptically spotless that the tabloidsmay have taken a certain pleasure in trying to tarnish it with a bit of infidelity. But the mud never stuck, probably because the affair almost certainly never happened.
But nobody could tell that to Spade Cooley. His career failing because of the rise of rock ’n’ roll, and filled with paranoia partly because of his own numerous extramarital shenanigans, he tormented his wife with suspicions for years. When she finally asked him for a divorce in 1962, he said no—by stomping her to death. You see the unhappy couple below, on their wedding day, when neither of them could have imagined how it was all going to end. Cooley went to prison after a sensational trial. Roy Rogers emerged from it all unscathed, and continued his career as America’s most clean-cut singing cowboy. If there’s a lesson in all this, it’s that jealousy doesn’t pay. Unless of course, you happen to publish a muckraking tabloid like Inside Story—then it pays mighty fine indeed.