Cosby and Culp go all out in gritty detective thriller.
Hickey & Boggs is not a good name for a movie unless it's a buddy action/comedy. You'd never look at the title and think: hardcore crime thriller. It makes us think of one time when we were brainstorming with an actor friend, trying to think of the worst possible title for an action/buddy comedy, and we came up with "Jackson and Frisbee." But title notwithstanding, hardcore drama is what you get with Hickey & Boggs. The plot, courtesy of future 48 Hours director/co-writer Walter Hill, follows two down-at-the-heels dicks played by Bill Cosby and Robert Culp as they're hired to locate a missing woman who somehow may hold the key to recovering $400,000 in loot from a bank heist. In typical detective movie fashion, Cosby and Culp deal with cops, crooks, and ambushes as they work their way to the center of a mystery that progresses from danger to personal tragedy.
You'll sometimes see Hickey & Boggs described as a modern film noir, but it doesn't fit the brief. The two detectives are cynical, broke, and alienated, and there are several night sequences, but we're not sure if those elements are enough to automatically make a noir. There's very little high-contrast cinematography, no flashbacks, no narration, no shadowplay, no dream sequences, no extremely skewed angle shots, and no legit femme fatale. Getting into specific iconography, there's no rain, no silhouetting, no mirrors or blinds, no smart aleck bartenders or cab drivers, and virtually no sexual innuendo.
If Hickey & Boggs is a film noir then scores of other 70's crime movies are too, from Serpico to Magnum Force. And if the net is that wide then film noir is a pointless distinction. The American Film Institute, whose categories are expert-derived, calls Hickey & Boggs a drama in the action and detective sub-genres. And, yes, they do categorize neo-noir. Hickey & Boggs didn't make the cut. It's very good, though. It takes an unblinking look at the unglamorous side of Los Angeles and de-mystifies the private dick business—for about the umpteenth time, but very effectively just the same. As long as you're willing to watch Cosby—and we're not suggesting you should be—it's worth your time. It premiered today in 1972.
Tracy and Castle try to avoid a watery grave in low budget crime thriller.
Above is a rare poster for the 1947 drama High Tide, which starred Lee Tracy and Don Castle as an editor of a fictional Los Angeles newspaper and a private investigator who crash while driving on what is presumably the Pacific Coast Highway, and find themselves immobilized in the wreckage. Trapped and thinking they're doomed to drown when the sea rises, they discuss the events leading up to their mishap. It's a b-movie all the way, a mere seventy minutes long, with stock footage, day-for-night shooting, and mise-en-scène on the more static end of the spectrum, but the story is interesting and the film noir flourishes are fun.
Some of the dialogue scores too: “He's having a slight attack of rigor mortis right in the middle of my living room floor.” That's not bad. We know, of course, that Tracy and Castle didn't just drive off the PCH but crashed for a reason pivotal to the plot. No spoiler there. It's an assumption you'll have made just reading the film's synopsis. We can't recommend High Tide strongly because it's too bottom bin to be really exciting, but it might give you intermittent pleasures anyway. It's certainly instructive in terms of making a workable movie with very little money. It premiered today in 1947.
I've spotted him. He's in front of that rear projection of the main lobby of Union Station. Hey, that's strange. That looks like our rear projection, only reversed. The rear projection of Los Angeles is lovely tonight. But not as lovely as you, my dear. Driver, step on it. We've got to outrun that projectionist.
What goes up must come down.
Funiculars in their most primitive form date back to Germany's Hohensalzburg Castle in the 1500s. The famous 1880 Italian song “Funiculì, funiculà” was written to commemorate the opening of the first funicular on Mount Vesuvius, and helped spread awareness of such railways. Angels Flight was the first funicular in Los Angeles. We stumbled across this shot made today in 1959 of the venerable tram and liked the way it captures the steepness of the ascent/descent, and makes clear how much strenuous climbing the railway saved pedestrians. Its name, by the way, is spelled correctly here, without an apostrophe. As we've noted before, Angels Flight was featured in several vintage books, including Lou Cameron's 1960 novel Angel's Flight, and in a score of vintage movies. Some of those we didn't mention in our previous discussion of this subject: Cry of the Hunted, The Glenn Miller Story, The Indestructible Man, The Turning Point, and The Exiles. The tram gets only cameos, but with the exception of The Indestructible Man all those films are good-to-excellent, so maybe watch them anyway.
This place is so unspoiled. It'd be perfect for an ecolodge with Mayan saunas and an infinity pool.
Once upon a time, when headshops were the rage, some sold posters for the entertainment and edification of young male customers, as we discussed not long ago. This one was printed in 1972 by Platt Poster Co. of Los Angeles, and is titled “Lady Barbara.” Actually, though, the model is Swedish beauty Annika Salmonsson, who usually posed under the name Anita Hemmings, and appeared in scores of magazines. She's previously appeared in Pulp Intl. too, inside a 1977 issue of the Aussie men's magazine Adam. Though the poster is faded from hanging on some horndog's wall for years, it's not so damaged that Salmonsson's marvelous beauty doesn't shine through. We'll bring her back in a bit. Until then, see her in that Adam here, and on a paperback cover here.
He was an innocent bystander. The stander part doesn't apply anymore.
The only information accompanying the above image, which is from the Los Angeles Police Department photo archive, is that an unidentified bystander was shot to death during a botched jewelry store robbery. That was today in 1932. The photo came to public notice when it was exhibited back in 2019 by L.A.'s Lucie Foundation, along with more than 80 other images.
Fame may fade but Hollywood never completely forgets.
Along with the joys of celebrity are packaged the pains of public life, especially professional failures and personal disasters. Lynn Baggett—sometimes Lynne Baggett—was a rising actress who had accumulated many uncredited roles between 1941 to 1946, had a two year span of no work, then finally scored a major part in the 1949 film noir D.O.A. She was only twenty-six when that occurred, but it didn't put her career on firm ground. She had another speaking role in 1950, and one in 1951, but it was around then that continual domestic problems began to catch up with her.
She had been involved with producer Sam Speigel since 1945, and had married him in ’48, but the relationship was tempestuous. In 1951 Speigel claimed that Baggett trashed the house they shared, and that she deliberately slashed six Picassos. The next year he filed for divorce, claiming that she had cheated multiple times, including with film director John Huston. At that point her show business career waseffectively finished, but her celebrity was not. The photo just above is from early 1954 and shows her in Santa Monica Superior Court during her drawn out fight for spousal support. She hadn't acted in three years.
Six months later she was driving from a party when she crashed into a car filled with young boys, injuring four and killing nine-year-old Joel Watnick, who'd been ejected entirely from the vehicle. Baggett sped away from the scene, and it took two days for police to find her car at a repair shop, and subsequently track her down. The photo at top shows her on the day of her arrest, which happened to be the same day Watnick was laid to rest. That was today in 1954. It was nationwide news.
Baggett was charged with manslaughter and fleeing the site of an accident, but was convicted only of felony hit-and-run, for which she was sentenced to 60 days in jail and placed on three years of probation. A term that lenient today would cause an uproar audible on Mars. But if Baggett got off light in court, she paid heavily in life. In 1959 she attempted suicide, and in 1960 she was found dead in her apartment from an overdose of barbiturates. Whether her death was suicide is not officially known.
Hollywood, due to its nature of fairy tale successes, tends to produce spectacular falls from grace, disputed facts, and apocrypha. Baggett's story is more clear-cut than most. She'd suffered from depression, marital strife, and career disappointment. Many articles about her suggest that a bad ending was inevitable, and maybe it was. Maybe she even predicted it. When arrested, she said about fleeing the accident, “When I went back and saw the boy lying there, I knew he was dead. I didn’t know which way to turn. You don’t know what something like that does to you. I wish I’d been killed instead of the boy.”
Yeah, gimme a Carlsberg. And when you get a chance can you put out more peanuts?
The above photo, another one of those shots that could only have been made during the 1950s, shows the interior of the Santa Monica watering hole Chez Jay, which owner Jay Fiondella opened 4th of July weekend 1959 with showgirls and a rented elephant in attendance. The elephant, according to stories, dented the bartop when one of the models annoyed it. Chez Jay exists today and the bar supposedly still has the dent. Later clients who were less disruptive—and only slightly less, we imagine—included Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen, who along with other celebs visited the bar partly due to a no paparazzi rule. You know what's most amazing about Chez Jay? We lived in L.A. for four years and never went there. And for those of you who don't know us, we do bars. Well, next trip maybe. By the way, elephants prefer Carlsberg because one of its logos features an elephant (and a swastika, but we'll set that aside for now). Drink up!
And now, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, I'm overdue for a flight on Wacky Backy Airlines.
In Hollywood, everything is a photo op—even one's own embarrassing release from the stifling clutches of state confinement. Above you see a progression of three press photos made today in 1949, featuring famed stoner Robert Mitchum being freed from the lock-up after his marijuana conviction. Mitchum makes the most of the moment, looking dapper and unruffled despite PTSD over some terrifying episodes in the prison laundry and a few narrow escapes from damage to that pretty face of his. Actually, we have no idea what he went through. We suspect it was reasonably untroubled, but probably only Mitch and his ganja dealer ever knew the truth.
These shots are a follow-up to our look at Mitchum going into jail on February 9. He was supposed to serve sixty days, but earned an early release for good behavior and unshakable cool. We don't know if an early release was also granted to... to... we've forgotten her name—that chick he got caught smoking with who was sent to jail the same day. Anyway, just look at ole Never-Let-Em-See-Ya-Sweat. Doesn't he look great? The hair. The perfectly tailored suit. The roguish gleam in his eye that says he's going to get miiiiiiiles high as soon as he gets home. You know what we love about Mitch? Nothing could keep him down for long.
Automobile fatalities in L.A. increase by one.
This macabre image, which showed up online a while back thanks to an exhibit of one hundred years of Los Angeles Police Department photos, shows an LAPD detective regarding a muder victim whose throat was cut while he was in his automobile. There's no information about who the victim was or why it happened, but it's an arresting image of a grisly end. The shot was made by Leon Driver, who when he arrived in L.A. from Texas in the early twenties was arrested for vagarancy, but by 1925 was one of the earliest official photographers employed the LAPD. He made this photo today in 1929.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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