She's a mean green fighting machine.
This photo shows German actress Renate von Holt, who appeared in a grand total of four films during her short cinema career, including Heißer Sand auf Sylt, which we wrote about here. The shot came from the West German magazine Caballero, and according to those folks von Holt was in reality Baroness Renate von Holzschuher. We checked it out and the gents at Cabellero are correct. She was minor royalty, a famed presence in society circles, a denizen of the hottest nightspots in Europe, fluent in six languages, and for ten years the companion of Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis. Even royalty can become obscure with the passage of time, though. There isn't much on von Holt even on German sites. Well, we're happy to raise her profile. The photo is from 1968.
She's great. But you know how they say dance like no one's looking? She can dance only when everyone's looking.
A few days ago we shared a book cover inspired by a 1948 Life magazine photo. We wanted to show you a more direct inspiration from that shot. Here you see Tony Calvano's The Hellions, from 1965 for Greenleaf Classics, published by its sub-imprint Leisure Books. Calvano was in actuality Thomas P. Ramirez.
The art on this is by Robert Bonfils, and he basically copied the dynamic figure in the Life photo, and did so brilliantly, making changes to her hair (more and wilder) and bikini (smaller and flimsier). The result is an illustration that's a real eye-catcher. You can scroll down a few posts if you want to see the Life shot in a larger size. It was part of a photo essay on a performative youth movement called Activationism, centered in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Except for a few quaint customs she clings to, she's a typical conservative society lady.
Love at first sight, and marriage on first night. At least a few mid-century writers worked this theme, and readers seemed to buy it. A few descriptions of how beautiful the woman was and voilà—hearts and wedding bells. But whether it actually worked as a device depended upon plot and writing skill. Eric Hatch, in his 1952 novel The Golden Woman, uses the exotic surroundings of Port-au-Prince, Haiti to weave the spell needed to make readers believe a fantastically rich young virgin named Yvette du Chambrigne and a naval officer named Walter Moore meet, fall in love, and marry over the course of a night and day. The romantic but reckless decision brings them into conflict with the Haitian elite, as Yvette has defied her powerful father's wishes to marry her off for political gain to a cruel army general named La Borde.
Yvette is Haitian, but she's also white. Well, near enough to count, though as Hatch writes the character, her smidge of African blood makes her—in some mysterious way that must have made sense to readers back in the day—primitive. We know, we know. We didn't write the thing. We just work here. Hatch's protagonist Walter Moore says he wouldn't care if Yvette were fully and visibly black, but since she's by any realistic measure fully and visibly white, he would say that, wouldn't he? Whether the young lovers are culturally compatible becomes a key question of the story, and this brackets a central plotline in which Moore becomes swept up in—you guessed it—revolution. We've read a few books now that have used the same idea. In this case, Moore basically leads the revolution. While riding a horse. And carrying a sword. While under the protection of the voodoo god Mala. Sounds silly, right? It is. But we have to admit it's also fun. Eric Hatch is remembered today for his books 1101 Park Avenue (filmed in 1936 as My Man Godfrey) and The Year of the Horse (filmed as The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit). With The Golden Girl he reminds readers that if you got one drop of ink in the milk, the milk was perceived to be fully ink. Even today, someone who is three quarters white and one quarter black is going to be seen as black. The Golden Woman is, in the Year of Our Division 2023, a reminder that ideas around "purity" still predominate—even if unconsciously—for many people. But leaving that fraught discussion aside and judging the book solely as a thriller, it's worth a read, absurd though the story may be. If you're interested in island adventures in general, or Haiti in particular, we say go for it. The art on this Gold Medal edition is by Barye Phillips, influenced by a Life magazine photo from 1948, which you see below.
Fredi was ready for Hollywood but Hollywood wasn't ready for equality.
U.S. actress Fredi Washington, née Fredericka Washington, who you see here in a candid style backstage shot, had only six credited motion picture roles despite her talent, which makes her a prime example of what black performers endured during the long apartheid era in Hollywood. Her most notable film was 1934's Imitation of Life, a rare integrated drama in which she co-starred with Claudette Colbert, Rochelle Hudson, and Alan Hale. Her limited cinematic choices were one reason why in 1937 she became a founding member of the Negro Actor's Guild, and tirelessly advocated for equality in film and the theatre. Today Washington is remembered for her activism, but also as a pioneer in a field that barely acknowledged her existence, while Imitation of Life is considered a groundbreaking achievement. This photo is undated, and though some sources say it's from 1940, that would be after her film career ended, so we suspect it's from around 1935.
Minuit puts the country's hospitable reputation to the test.
Ever since we discovered a while back that the U.S. tabloid Midnight was actually a spin-off of Montreal based Minuit we've been looking around for issues. We finally had some luck. This example hit Canadian newsstands today in 1968, and on the cover is British actress Mollie Peters, or Molly Peters. Inside, various Hollywood stars are spotlighted in unflattering ways. Edy Williams was allegedly attacked by a lesbian; Paul Newman resorted to transcendental meditation to cut down on his drinking; Jason Robards, Jr. broke everything Humphrey Bogart related in Lauren Bacall's house; Robert Vaughn paid off his extensive gambling debts and cancelled his credit cards; Janet Margolin allegedly ate a pound of ground beef every day for health reasons; and Ursula Andress attacked Anita Ekberg in a Paris restaurant for making eyes at Andress's boyfriend Jean-Paul Belmondo. There's also a note on Babsi Zimmermann, who Minuit claims just refused a nude role in a French film. We noticed the blurb because of her name, which seems too good to be true, and familiar too. We looked her up and she did exist. It turns out she was better known as Barbara Zimmermann. She changed her stage name after the release of her first film, a counter-culture sexploitation romp called Heißer Sand auf Sylt, aka The New Life Style (Just to Be Love). Maybe she wanted a fresh start because the movie was such a stinker. We know it was bad because we wrote about it, which is why her name sounded familiar. She's naked as a donskoy cat in it, so Minuit's claim that she refused the French movie makes sense if she wanted to rebrand herself. The change still has people confused. Currently IMDB has separate entries for Babsi and Barbara. Minuit reserves special attention for U.S. actor George Hamilton, who had been generally targeted by tabloids for avoiding military service in Vietnam. Why him? We wrote about the reason a long while back, and if you're curious you can check. Minuit wryly informs readers that, “George Hamilton somehow managed to break his toe the day after he received a notice to report to the U.S. Army recruiting center. This gives him an interesting three-month [deferral]. It's clever, isn't it?” Obviously, toes heal. Hamilton eventually received a full deferral for other reasons.
Also in this issue, Minuit editors treat readers to a story about a man cut in half by a train. We feel like it's urban folklore, but there are photos—for any who might be convinced by those—and a long story explaining how a man named Regerio Estrada caught his wife Lucia in bed with another man, beat him unconscious, and tied him to a train track to await the next express. Do we buy it? Not really. The internet contains only a fraction of all knowledge and history, but we think this tawdry tale is so bizarre that it would have found its way online. There's nothing. Or maybe we're just the first to upload it. Anything is possible. We have additional colorful Canadian tabloids we'll be sharing in the months ahead. You'll find eighteen scans below.
Any port in a storm—except maybe this one.
This French poster for the British made film Port Afrique was painted in a style that made us certain it was the work of Constantin Belinsky. But nope—it's signed by André Bertrand, and it's a very nice piece. As the art indicates, the movie is a North African adventure, a vehicle for Italian rising star Pier Angeli, and it can be described with one word—exotic. The filmmakers turned the E dial up to 11, location shooting in Tangier to create a fictional city of Port Afrique that's part Berber, part French, and part Spanish. Casablanca comparisons are inevitable, but solely in terms of exteriors Port Afrique is greatly superior. There's simply nothing like the real thing. The movie is also shot in color, which adds to its appeal, even if it detracts a bit from its noirish ambitions.
As in Casablanca, much of the action in Port Afrique revolves around a bar, in this case Le Badinage, which seemingly can afford to have more performers than customers. The bar's beautiful chanteuse—there's always a beautiful chanteuse—is played by the elfish Angeli, who's stuck in town without a passport and suffering under the attentions of the proprietor Nino. The threat in his overtures is unspoken but clear—no punani, no passport. Into this situation arrives a wounded American pilot with the unlikely name Rip Reardon, played by future b-movie stalwart Phil Carey. After his onscreen run he would find himself in soap opera purgatory as Asa Buchanan on One Life To Live, but here he gets his chance to help anchor a big drama. Shortly after Rip arrives his wife turns up dead. The cops call it a suicide, but Rip decides to take the investigation into his own hands, with all the usual twists and turns.
Port Afrique has a lot of problems. The script is clunky and improbable, the motivations of its characters murky, and the chemistry between its stars lukewarm. Carey ended up on soap operas for a reason, clearly on display here. He has little range, and none of the heft needed for his role. As for Angeli, she never became the superstar her advocates intended, and again, you can see why. She's better than Carey for sure, yet she still lacks the fire her role needs. But here's the thing—we think, for serious film buffs, the movie is worth watching anyway. It looks amazing, from the cinematography to the production design, and its goal of being a Technicolor noir is worth examination and discussion. But casual film fans may want to steer clear. After premiering in the U.S. in 1956 Port Afrique reached France today in 1957.
Getting a vaccination can really be a Hasso.
Above is a photo of Swedish actress Signe Hasso from her 1945 spy thriller The House on 92nd Street. We think that if the COVID shot givers looked like Hasso there'd be very few holdouts. But the shot she gives, sadly, is not of the helpful variety—though it was probably easier to administer than convincing some Americans to get their jabs. First the guy's smacked out of his chair, then kicked across the room until he's insensate.
Hasso was born Signe Larsson in Stockholm, was acting in Swedish films by age eighteen, made the leap to Hollywood seven years later, and from that point added many highlights to a career that would turn out to be long and distinguished. Among her notables: Heaven Can Wait, Johnny Angel, and A Double Life, as well as television roles on shows such as The Green Hornet, Magnum P.I., and The Fall Guy.
For the record, we think skepticism against government is healthy. Hell, in a couple of the countries we've lived it's a survival trait. But believing that tens of thousands of scientists are aligning with governments to betray the global population for nebulous goals of control is an outlandish fantasy. Healthy skeptics can be convinced with evidence; unhealthy skeptics can never be convinced, and that's a psychological disorder.
You know, young lady, I used to have one exactly like that but I used it so much it eventually wore out.
This is a rather amusing shot of professional celebrity, sometime actress, and buttcrack innovator Vikki Dougan's caboose being checked out by an older woman at a Los Angeles social event. You know the story by now. Aspiring star Dougan and her agent were looking for a way to garner publicity, and because so many actresses were wearing low cut dresses that showed cleavage, they cooked up the scheme of having Dougan appear in public with dresses that were low cut in the rear. Thus her nickname: the Back. These dresses would at moments even dip to buttcrack level, which was scandalous, but effective in terms of getting Dougan's name into the tabloids. She soon had the most famous back—and crack—in Hollywood. And of course who can forget the time she showed her girlfur? We certainly can't. The above shot has been nicely colorized, and dates from 1957. Many sites say 1956, but it's part of a photo series made by lensman Ralph Crane for Life magazine and published in ’57. We have an uncolorized shot, slightly different (notice the interested woman isn't wearing glasses in that one) below. We'll have more from Miss Dougan soon.
How do you get famous in Hollywood? Start with good usage of punctuation.
Chili Williams née Marian Sorenson, seen in a nice shot above, was a U.S. model who appeared in a 1943 issue of Life magazine in a dotted bikini, received 100,000 pieces of fan mail, and became known as the Polka-Dot Girl. Subsequently she was almost always photographed in dots. She might as well have had a permanent case of measles, so dominated her life was by dots, but thanks to them she was discovered by Hollywood. Her cinema career didn't quite take off, though, so she next posed covered with commas, indicating that she wasn't done yet. And when that failed she posed covered with ampersands, which she felt was a bolder way of saying she wasn't done yet. And finally, having hit rock bottom, she posed with money signs in a clear cry for help. Later she was arrested for breaking and entering. Only one of the four previous sentences is true. Can you guess which one? Anyway, by the mid-1950s Chili was out of Hollywood, but many excellent photos like the two here survive.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage
, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
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