People try to put them down.
This photo was made to promote the 1959 drama The Beat Generation, and shows co-stars Steve Cochran and Fay Spain. The movie also starred the never-to-be-overlooked Mamie Van Doren. While you would think the movie deals with disaffected youth—and in some ways it does—it's largely about middle-aged detective Cochran trying to capture a serial rapist. We watched it five years ago. You can find out what we thought here.
Mamie Van Doren can add value to anything, but even she can't save The Girl in Black Stockings.
This bright poster was made for the b-drama The Girl in Black Stockings. It had its world premiere in England today in 1957 and, in contrast to the art, is a colorless murder mystery set in and around a lodge hotel in a tiny western U.S. town—the kind of place where, you know, “nothing like this has ever happened before.” Lex Barker stars as a Los Angeles lawyer who goes to this arid little stopover for peace and quiet, but discovers a body that's been mutilated as though by a psychopath. A county official warns, “The type that did this—they don't stop with just one.”
Sure enough, more deaths follow and—as doctors are wont to do—Lex inserts himself right into the middle of the investigation. His professional acumen is needed. There are a lot of suspects. Anne Bancroft as the local beauty, Mamie Van Doren as a stereotypical blonde floozy, Ron Randell as a woman hating lodge owner who's confined to a wheelchair—or is he?—and Marie Windsor as his unhealthily attached spinster sister are all under the suspicious gaze of the plodding but tenacious sheriff John Dehner.
Sadly, the mystery isn't compelling and the dramatic aspects of the narrative are blah because none of the characters are interesting. All the main actors have done well in other movies, but here they're hobbled by a poor script, particularly Randell, who's forced to mouth numerous cynical and self pitying soliloquies. Van Doren, who we feel confident saying cannot act, is also bad here. She has a drunk scene that will make you cringe, it's so wooden.
The end result is a dismissable movie that's only barely remembered because it was shot in Utah, which provides some nice scenery, and because it has Van Doren, who was obviously cast to provide a different type of scenery, and achieves that function with ease. We'll always take a look at any film in which she appears. She's no Marilyn. But she's not far behind. Yet even with her presence and some long looks at the Beehive State, we can't recommend The Girl in Black Stockings.
Oh good Lord! She's been murdered and mutilated beyond recognition! Somebody call a doctor! What the..! Don't you knock? I'm in the midst of a consultation here! I can advise you only informally until I hear back from the town's insurance network, Sheriff. But you might start with an immediate canvassing effort and a check for similar crimes in the state going back at least ten years. Actually, knowing there's a killer on the loose and any of us could be snuffed out next doesn't make me horny, Diana. But thanks for thinking of me. Well, Sheriff, turns out the town has a three murder deductible. I'm afraid my hands are tied until a fourth person is slain.
If you can't tame them join them.
We've been meaning to get to Untamed Youth for a long time because we know it's considered one of the cheesier movies from its era. And who can resist a quality cheese? Since it premiered today in 1957, we decided to give it a screening, and it turns out the film's reuptation is deserved. It stars Mamie Van Doren and Lori Nelson as beautiful sisters railroaded into a hicktown jail. In court, the county judge, who seems as though she'd possibly be lenient, instead sentences the sisters to thirty days of hard outdoor work on a farm. We quickly learn this is a free labor racket engineered by a wealthy rancher who pursued and married the judge, then put the idea in her head. Call it a case of private enterprise exercising undue influence over the judiciary to enable advantageous economic ends. You know—business as usual in America.
But none of that is important. What matters is that Untamed Youth is indeed one of the best bad movies we've seen. Interwoven into the plot is the theme of hipster rebellion, embodied by proto-rock music. For this reason dance parties break out at any and every moment, complete with choreography, air guitar, and bad lip synching even Milli Vanilli would be ashamed to call their own. Van Doren, with her swinging pelvis and wacky dance hands, is more like a mime than a Mame. Golf prodigy Jeanne Carmen plays the standard mean girl—whose fire goes out after one solid punch in the face from Nelson. And Eddie Cochran sings and dances through a couple of numbers, one of which, “Cotton Picker,” goes on waaay too long. The movie is so bad that Mystery Science Theater 3000 took put it through the wringer back in 1990. What makes the movie special is the dialogue, which contains too many accidental laugh lines to count. Our favorite is when John Russell, as the evil Mr. Tropp, is mentally slavering over the money he's going to make with his forced labor, and goes, “Don't you see honey? After this harvest I'll be rich. And next season, I'll be wealthy!” We also got a kick out of Pinky, the camp cook played by Wally Brown, who stops the music to make an announcement, then tells the kids it's okay to start dancing again with this jaw-dropper: “Intermission over! Back to your African antics!” Yup—these old movies often have anachronistic clunkers like that. This one is a disaster, but Van Doren, Nelson, and others shake, rattle, and roll their way through it, and you can tell they had fun. We had fun watching it, and we suspect you will too.
West German magazine tears down the wall.
German isn't one of our languages, but who needs to read it when you have a magazine with a red and purple motif that's pure eye candy? Every page of this issue of the pop culture magazine Bravo says yum. It hit newsstands today in 1957 and is filled with interesting and rare starfotos of celebs like Romy Schneider, Horst Buchholz, Clark Gable, Karin Dor, Mamie Van Doren, Ursula Andress, Marina Vlady, Corinne Calvet, jazzists Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington, and many others. This was an excellent find.
We perused other issues of Bravo and it seemed to us—more so in those examples than this one—that it was a gay interest publication. After a scan around some German sites for confirmation we found that it was as we thought. The magazine's gay themes were subtle, but they were there, and at one blog the writer said that surviving as a gay youth in West Berlin during the 1960s, for him, would have been impossible without Bravo. We will have more from this barrier smashing publication later. Thirty-five panels below.
Everyone knows it's impolite to stare. Well, almost everyone.
When you look out your window there may be nobody on the street, but The Girl Watcher has come to the rescue with some time killing imagery to brighten your lockdown. Only two issues of this magazine were ever published, as far as we know, with this one coming this month in 1959. Inside you get plenty of photos by lensman Earl Leaf, including rare shots of Mamie Van Doren, Susan Harrison, June Wilkinson, Danish model Elsa Sorenson (aka Dane Arden), and some unidentifieds. While meant to be humorous, this magazine is textbook mid-century sexism, something scholars could use to fuel semesters of women's studies classes. It speaks of women as prey to be stalked, ambushed, and captured, and while it's not meant to be taken anything close to literal, it still carries a powerful suggestion that male desire trumps female self-determination. In general this attitude has changed for the better since then, with the result that the American mating game has greatly improved. While in general men still look at women almost anywhere, most understand there are unaccepable and acceptable times and places to do so—bars and parties being good examples of the latter. Men look, and always will. Women look too, and always have, more subtly. And increasingly, both look at digital apps—which is not nearly as much fun as in the flesh, but it certainly confers women more power and safety, even if it's inherently restricting in terms of choice. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends would never have chosen us if we'd had to entice them with online profiles designed to sell us as perfect matches, but when randomly thrust into the same social gathering, the concept of perfect did not apply—it was game over folks! Um, forty-plus scans below.
When men were men and Mamie was their obsession.
This is an unbeatable poster for Mamie Van Doren's crime thriller Girls Guns and Gangsters. The title is about as descriptive as they come. Van Doren is involved with a bunch of crooks who want to rob an armored car as it motors casino winnings from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The plan is to shoot its tires—and anyone who gets in their way. While the caper is central, the plot is equally driven by everyone's sexual desire for Van Doren. Gerald Mohr in particular is constantly in her grill, and watching her fend off his persistent advances is squirm inducing. There's a fine line in old movies between desire and violence, so of course he crosses it by slapping her at one point, then trying twenty seconds later to kiss her. And the dude is really surprised to be rebuffed, like, “Huh?”
Put the blame on Mame? No, put the blame on men. They're all bad in this one. Van Doren's husband, Lee Van Cleef, is the worst of them. He breaks out of prison because she's asked him for a divorce. Everyone knows he'll kill anyone who even looks at Van Doren, which is problematic, considering gangster number three Grant Richards has been filling in for Van Cleef, so to speak, for quite a while. What a mess Van Doren is in. The robbery seems easy by comparison, but it wouldn't be a crime thriller if that went off without a hitch. Van Doren doesn't go off without a hitch either, because she isn't an expert actress and she sure as hell doesn't nail her singing numbers. But she's a great presence. That's enough to make an enjoyable movie. Girls Guns and Gangsters premiered in the U.S. this month in 1959.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
Above is a cover of the U.S. tabloid Inside Story published this month in 1955. There's a lot in this magazine, but since we keep our write-ups short we can't cover it all. One story of note concerns Betty Furness, an actress and pitchwoman whose squeaky clean image Inside Story claims is false. This is a typical angle by mid-century tabloids, the idea that a cinema or television sweetheart was really a hussy, lush, ballbreaker, or cold fish. Furness receives slander number four, with editors claiming she has “ice bound emotions,” “a cold, cold heart,” and is, “tough and tightfisted.” It's interesting that sixty years later resistance to a woman being anything other than a nurturer really hasn't diminished all that much, as many women with high public profiles would confirm.
Another story concerns the death of actress Virginia Rappe and the subsequent arrest of Fatty Arbuckle. In short, Rappe died after attending a party thrown by Arbuckle, with the cause of death attributed to either alcohol induced illness or rape and sodomy with a Coke bottle. Arbuckle went to trial three times before winning a final acquittal, though certain details of the death remained murky. The case was muddied by the influence of sensationalistic journalism, as publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst's nationwide chain of newspapers deemed sales more important than truth. The Coke bottle, for example, was entirely fabricated, but Hearst was unrepentant. He'd fit into the modern media landscape perfectly today, because for him money and influence justified everything.
And speaking of money, a final story that caught our eye was the exposé on the record business, namely the practice of buying spins on radio. The term for this—“payola”—was coined in 1916 but not widely known until the ’50s. Inside Story helps spread the terminology with a piece about pay-for-play on national radio stations. Like the previous two stories, this one feels familiar, particularly the idea that the best music rarely makes it onto the airwaves. Those who engaged in payola understood that people generally consumed whatever was put in front of them, therefore what was the point of worrying about quality or innovation? This remains a complaint about entertainment media today, but repetition still rules. To paraphrase the famed colloquialism: If you ain't going broke, don't fix it. We have thirty-plus scans below.
Parisian publisher does erotica as only the French can.
Today we have for your enjoyment an issue of Paris Frou Frou, #46, published in 1956. This was the brainchild of S.N.E.T.P., which decoded is Société Nouvelle D'editions Théâtrales Parisiennes. See, the French understood that smut must wear a fig leaf of intellectualism, which is exactly why we write so much on Pulp Intl. rather than just publish reams of nude photos. Hah, just kidding (did we mention the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are out of town?). The eroticism is just a bonus that comes with all the fiction, film, and art. And it's a bonus that helps our traffic.
Anyway, on the cover of this mag is Austrian actress Nadja Tiller, and the rear features a nice shot pairing yanks Lori Nelson and Mamie Van Doren. With a wrapper like that the inside must be nice, and indeed it is. You'll see Sabrina, the one-name star time has forgotten, as well as U.S. nudist model Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey. If your memory is very sharp you'll recall one of the same Webber photos appearing in an issue of the U.S. magazine Male from 1958 we shared a while back. Mixed in with the celebs is the usual assortment of Parisian showgirls. We'll revisit Paris Frou Frou later.
They say even bad publicity is good publicity.
In this March 1957 issue of the tabloid Behind the Scene editors take swipes at assorted Hollywood icons, among them Yul Brenner, John Wayne, and others. Highlights include the allegation that Elvis Presley's career is mob controlled, that camera clubs are just fronts for porn peddlers, that Hedy Lamarr used Linda Lombard as a body double for Samson & Delilah, and that Lucrezia Borgia is the sexiest movie ever made. Also Mamie Van Doren's “secret weapon” is that anywhere she goes she always wears the least clothing of any woman present.
The shocking tales about Brynner have mainly to do with his claims of being a real life man of action, born on the Russian island of Sakhalin to Mongol ancestors. The truth was more mundane, but the lies helped Brynner establish himself as a star. As far as Elvis goes, he was dogged by rumors of Mafia ties later in his career, but this mention of a connection as far back as 1957 was a surprise to us. As always, people on both sides of the issue are willing to shout their version of the facts to the mountaintops, but nobody really knows who’s telling the truth. We’ll check with Elvis himself on this, since he lives just over in the next town since faking his death in 1977.
The interesting story here is the one about Gail Russell and John Wayne. Their acquaintanceship began when they starred in Angel and the Badman together in 1947, and continued when they reunited for Wake of the Red Witch in 1949. Whether they were more than just friends, nobody really knows. At the time Wayne was married to Esperanza Baur Díaz, and the relationship was marred by drinking and fighting, including one incident when Baur shot at Wayne. When the divorce inevitably came, it turned into one of the nastiest splits in years, with Baur accusing Wayne of being a violent drunk who beat her and fucked around with various women, including Russell, and Wayne accusing Baur of hanging around sleazy dive bars in Mexico, hooking up with strange men, and spending his money to entertain them.
The divorce was in 1953, but Behind the Scene, with this cover, is offering its readership dirt from an event that was still fresh in the public’s minds because it had been such a knock-down-drag-out spectacle. Russell had never weathered the limelight well, and she used booze to cope. Her long term drinking problem was exacerbated by the turbulence surrounding the Wayne-Baur split. Two weeks after the divorce she was arrested for drunk driving. It caused Paramount to decline renewing her contract, and she kind of floated around for a few years, trying to hook on with a new studio but drinking steadily all the while. In 1955 she crashed her car and fled the scene, and in early 1957 she drove though the plate glass windows of Jan’s Restaurant in Hollywood.
With hindsight, it’s clear Russell was in a death spiral, but in the Tinseltown of that day the situation was perhaps not so obvious. In August 1957, Russell was found unconscious in her home, passed out after a drinking binge. Even in Hollywood, she had now crossed the line from being merely a party girl to having a problem. She was persuaded to join AA, but couldn't stop drinking, and in August 1961 was found in her L.A. apartment, having died from liver damage, aged 36, another beautiful star that flamed out. All that and more, in thirty-plus scans below.
Mamie Van Doren makes her mark on a Generation.
We think this is a beautiful promo poster for The Beat Generation, but don't let its colorful nature fool you—the movie is surprisingly dark. It uses the beatnik counterculture as a backdrop, but really has nothing to with it, except to belittle it. Steve Cochran plays a Los Angeles detective chasing after a serial rapist. Through a random encounter, the rapist becomes aware of Cochran and decides to make his wife a victim. Will he get away with it? You'll have to watch the film. We can tell you its most dramatic aspect involves whether a rape victim can obtain an abortion. The never explored details of how she plans to do it don't matter, because we know she'll change her mind.
You can't blame the movie for being predictable in that respect, though. How else was it going to go in the 1950s? The main thing to keep in mind about The Beat Generation is that it was mismarketed—deliberately, we suspect—to trick younger cinemagoers into forking over their cash for a Trojan horse message movie. We're not big fans of that sort of chicanery, but it's well produced, reasonably good, and as a bonus features Fay Spain, Irish McCalla, Robert Mitchum's brother Jim, and Steve Cochran's chest hair. The Beat Generation premiered in the U.S. today in 1959.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1966—LSD Declared Illegal in U.S.
LSD, which was originally synthesized by a Swiss doctor and was later secretly used by the CIA on military personnel, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and members of the general public in a project code named MKULTRA, is designated a controlled substance in the United States.
1945—Hollywood Black Friday
A six month strike by Hollywood set decorators becomes a riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios when strikers and replacement workers clash. The event helps bring about the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, among other things, prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns and requires union leaders to affirm they are not supporters of the Communist Party.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
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