When Mansfield makes a promise she keeps it—and then some.
Check out the poster at top for the infamous Jayne Mansfield movie Promises! Promises! It's so garish it almost hurts the eyes, but we think it's top notch, a framable classic made for an important cinematic landmark. Around the time this film was produced, Hollywood, for both financial and artistic reasons, was pushing the boundaries of censorship. There had been nude scenes prior to the advent of the creativity-strangling Hays Code, but from the mid-30s to 1960s there were no naughty bits onscreen. Europe was well ahead in that regard, with late 1950s films such as And God Created Woman taking advantage of greater freedoms to include snippets of nudity by major stars. In the U.S., low budget nudie flicks were being made, but no legit star had crossed the line. Marilyn Monroe probably would have been the first, but her flash in 1961's The Misfits was cut, and 1962's Something's Got To Give was never completed.
Cue Mansfield—also so garish she almost hurts the eyes—suffering from a career slump and deciding to seize the nude crown with both hands. Promises! Promises! falls into that classic American category of the schlub sex comedy, which is to say, the lead male is an unremarkable everyman miraculously paired up with a beauty. This formula holds true in American movies and television even today—think Big Bang Theory or Ross from Friends. The plot deals with two childless married couples on a cruise who get pregnant but suspect it happened because the husbands cheated with each other's wives. It sounds like a ripe concept, but unfortunately the filmmakers forgot one of the main ingredients necessary for a sex comedy—laughs. Promises! Promises! is borderline moronic.
But bad movies often make a mint. The producers' bet that audiences wanted to see Mansfield nude was correct. Sophomoric as the resulting film was, it was a big hit, though only non-U.S. filmgoers got to see the uncensored version at first. That's the one we watched, and the promise of a skinful experience was fully delivered—and then some. While Mansfield doesn't show her girlfur, she's naked as a Jaynebird from every angle, and her bare segments are also shown as flashbacks several times to let audiences relive those golden moments. To say she broke the censorship barrier is an understatement. She splintered it and stomped the pieces while screaming at them to stay down. So if you watch this you'll not only be flirting with a boner—you'll be watching a legitimate historical landmark. What more reason do you need? Promises! Promises! premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
Tabloid dunks readers in a pool of vice.
Exposé for Men is a new tabloid for us, which is saying something, since we've posted about 350 inside Pulp Intl. You can pick your way through those at our tabloid index. Exposé was originally launched as Sensation by Skye Publishing of New York City. The rebranding came sometime in 1959. This issue, which was published this month in 1960, flogs similar themes as other tabloids, including the blaming of women for rape in an article by criminal specialist Robert Mines where he proclaims that “frequently it's not the perpetrator but the victim of a [sex] crime who is most responsible for it.”
You'd think one article of this type would be sufficient, but Exposé offers up another piece called “The Weird Love-Hatred That Binds a Prostitute to Her Pimp.” This time the male expert on female minds is Joseph Le Baron, but at least his reasoning makes sense—i.e. prostitutes feel they need pimps around to protect them from “house dicks, bartenders, [and] vice cops out to shake them down and get tricks for free.” We'll buy that part, but we don't buy that the choice is voluntary, which is how Le Baron makes it sound.
Elsewhere readers learn that women have a natural propensity to lie, Mexico is wonderful because every man can afford a mistress, and insomniacs can't sleep because they're thinking about sex all night. Exposé also has celebrity gossip, including the claim—first we've heard of it—that Diana Dors' 1956 fall into a swimming pool was actually a publicity stunt. Considering the fact that the subsequent brawl generated terrible press we doubt the veracity of this one, but you never know. We do like the photo of Dors wet. Scans below, and more tabloids to come.
Marie McDonald gives her minders the slip in Australia.
Today we’re getting back to what we do well with some scans and tawdry tales from a mid-century tabloid—this time it’s Uncensored, published this month in 1965. There’s quite a bonanza inside. You get stories on Ray Charles’ ongoing narcotics problems, Jack Paar’s runaway ego, the health fad of Finnish saunas, and the astounding “fourth sex” (castratos, in case you’re curious). There’s also interesting coverage of American socialite Hope Cooke’s marriage to Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal of a place called Sikkim, a Himalayan monarchy that is now a part of India. When Cooke married the prince in 1963 she became the second most famous American to marry into royalty (after Grace Kelly). The marriage made her a Maharajkumari, which has a nice ring to it, but the union was not successful. An amusing subhead on Uncensored scribe Aldo Ceruzzi’s article encapsulates the problem: Sophisticated though she is, it’ll take lots of doing to overlook those concubines!
But the story we’re most interested in here is the one on American actress/singer Marie McDonald. We wrote about her before, her infamous nocturnal disappearance from her house, her discovery in the desert, and her weaving a story of abuse and abduction and placing the blameon two “swarthy” assailants. The cops dismissed her story out of hand, but Uncensored gives us a bit of new information on the debacle: But Marie was able to save the $8,000, six-carat diamond ring she was wearing at the time of the alleged snatch. Her unusual safe deposit box was discovered when a doctor examined her for evidence of [rape]. Probing south of the border, he found there were diamonds in them thar hills!
Well, wow. Just wow. And you notice how Uncensored slipped the words “snatch” and “box” into the account? Again, wow. Was that an accident? Noooo. No possible way.
Most of the McDonald story, though, is actually about an incident that occurred several months before this issue of Uncensored
was published in which she escaped from an Australian mental clinic (or “booby barn,” in Uncensored
parlance). The scandalous aspect is not her escape, but the fact that she spent the next forty hours at the home of a “handsome admirer” she had met days earlier. What happened there? The imagination runs wild—with a little help from Uncensored
. McDonald’s ongoing personal difficulties had
years ago overshadowed her career, so readers were probably not surprised to come across yet another strange story about the sex symbol nicknamed "The Body." Seven marriages will have a tendency to turn one into the butt of jokes. But though Uncensored
makes light of McDonald in that cutting way tabloids do, her life was truly no laughing matter—she committed suicide just two years after this issue appeared, in 1965. We will have more from Uncensored
Bold McDonald spun a yarn.
Today we’re back to the mid-century tabloid Exposed, with a cover from this month 1957 featuring Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Yul Brenner, Sid Caesar and Rita Hayworth. In the middle of the cover, you see a shot of a bruised and worried Marie McDonald. The photo was taken just after she was found on January 4 wandering in the desert near Indio, California. The tale soon spread across Hollywood like wildfire—that she had been abducted at gunpoint from her home the night of January 3 by two swarthy men who demanded her rings, her money, and her body. The last demand had a certain resonance. McDonald had gotten famous using the nickname “The Body.” The possibility that two swarthy men—one black and one Mexican—had defiled it was, in 1957, simply incendiary.
McDonald’s story began to fall apart immediately. She claimed rape, but doctors found no evidence. The note left by kidnappers at her house was made up of words clipped from newspapers found in the fireplace. To the cops, it seemed unlikely that kidnappers would, under the circumstances,take the time to make a note from paper and glue. They also learned that McDonald had made three phone calls during the time she was missing—none to police.
But McDonald was in a battered state, with scrapes, bruises, and two broken crowns. And she stuck to her story—nighttime, bedtime, a noise in her yard, a lean out the window, and a man lurking right there with a sawed-off. The noise had been made by a second man to draw her to the window. McDonald said the men took half an hour to make a note and discuss their plans, then bundled her into a car. About the phone calls, she said she barely managed to sneak to the phone and was disoriented and had no idea who to call. When the kidnappers heard the mounting news coverage about the crime, they decided she was “too hot” to keep and dumped her in the desert, sending her tumbling down a 25-foot embankment. And then there was the matter of the unidentified males who had called people close to McDonald with threats.
By January 5, McDonald’s ex-husband Harry Karl was offering up some juicy quotes to the press. Among them: “Marie is a very sick woman. I believe she left of her own accord.” He had received one of the calls from the kidnappers, but wasn’t buying it for a minute. He said, “She has done some very strange things in the past.” Police soon learned that the kidnap tale resembled the plot of Sylvia Tate's comedic novel The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, which happened to be among the books McDonald had in her home. There was little doubt now in the minds of authorities that the whole situation was an elaborate hoax, but McDonald was a celebrity and so the police dutifully arrested suspects, continued investigating, and by January 17 sent the whole messy affair to a grand jury.
The day McDonald arrived to give her testimony she said, “I’m not looking forward to this. I don’t see how I can convince 19 men if I can’t convince the police.” She was right. The grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence of a crime and the matter was dropped. In retrospect, McDonald was probably lucky not to have been prosecuted herself. Perhaps the fact that she had retained Hollywood super lawyer Jerry Giesler helped her there. In any case, the Marie McDonald kidnapping went into the history books as yet another Hollywood conundrum.
McDonald’s career as a popular performer had been more or less finished for ten years, but she had remained on the fringes of the news thanks to her marriages—seven of them—and her many famous friends.The events of 1957 had put her front and center again, but it was the last time, until she died of an accidental Seconal overdose—or was it suicide?—in 1965. Two months later, her husband Donald F. Taylor, overdosed in the same room, using the same bottle of pills.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1946—Antonescu Is Executed
Ion Antonescu, who was ruler of Romania during World War II, and whose policies were independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as countless Romani Romanians, is executed by means of firing squad at Fort Jilava prison just outside Bucharest.
1959—Sax Rohmer Dies
Prolific British pulp writer Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, aka Sax Rohmer, who created the popular character Fu Manchu and became one of the most highly paid authors of his time writing fundamentally racist fiction about the "yellow peril" and what he blithely called "rampant criminality among the Chinese", dies of avian flu in White Plains, New York.
1957—Arthur Miller Convicted of Contempt of Congress
Award-winning American playwright Arthur Miller, the husband of movie star Marilyn Monroe, is convicted of contempt of Congress when he refuses to reveal the names of political associates to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction would later be overturned, but HUAC persecution against American citizens continues until the committee is finally dissolved in 1975.
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
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