Alexis: the relentless pursuit of perfection.
Above: Canadian actress Alexis Smith in a promo image befitting her classic looks. We've watched her in such films as Conflict, The Turning Point, and Undercover Girl. There are dozens more from which to choose, ranging from westerns such as Cave of Outlaws to horror flicks like The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. We aren't able to date this photo, but it's obviously from her prime, so call it 1950.
What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The psychologist knows!
We wanted to highlight once again the interesting output of Estudio MCP, which was the marquee under which Spanish artists Ramón Martí, Josep Clavé, and Hernán Pico worked. They created this poster for Retorno al abismo, known in English as Conflict, starring Humphrey Bogart. The movie was made during the height of public interest in psychology and attempts to portray a situation in which a man's subconscious distress manifests in unpredictable ways. The result is pretty hamfisted, but Bogart makes it work anyway because he's Bogart. We talk about the movie a bit more here. After opening in the U.S. in 1947, Conflict premiered in Spain today in 1947.
She likes to chill out, but never so much that she fully lets down her guard.
Above you see U.S. actress Judy Holliday, who debuted in cinema in 1938 and appeared in such films as Adam's Rib and The Solid Gold Cadillac. Her career was going okay until she was named in the red-baiting publication Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and TV as having communist connections. Called before a congressional committee, she refused to name names, but learned that freedom of association was an illusion in 1950s America. Holliday kept working in films until 1960, and died early five years later, at age 43, from throat cancer, in the place where she had been born and spent most of her life, New York City. The photo above was made in 1944, when she was filming Winged Victory.
Which is louder—his shotgun or his wardrobe?
Above you see two posters for the blaxploitation flick Hit Man, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1972 and stars NFL player-turned-actor Bernie Casey as a man from Oakland who blows into L.A. to investigate his brother's murder. His brother ran a used car lot, but had gotten on the bad side of some local criminals. How he did that, who these bad people are, and what they're up to are the questions at the crux of the narrative, and when Casey finally learns the truth he's horrified and infuriated in equal measure, which turns him into a leisure-suited revenant with murder in his eyes and a gun in his hands.
What is neither horrifying nor infuriating is that Pam Grier is in this, which makes it a must watch in our book, and she holds nothing back, sporting a quantum leap forward in afro science, and proving once again that she was a fearless performer. Nevertheless, she and Casey can't make Hit Man good despite their best efforts. But on the other hand, it isn't awful either, and in the middle isn't a bad place to be in b-cinema, considering how deeply terrible the films can get.
Hit Man has a couple of miscellaneous notes of interest. A bit of filming takes place at Watts Towers, Simon Rodia's italo folk art monument that was designated a historic site in 1990. We've seen the place in person and we loved it because its mosaics reminded us of the type you see on modernist architecture in Barcelona. The production photo of Grier in a long black dress, below, was shot at the site. It's one of the most famous images of her, and one of the most badass too.
Hit Man also makes use of a location called Africa America, an open air animal preserve of the type made famous by Tiger King. We can't find any trace online that it ever existed, so there's no way to know for sure whether it was a real zoo, an MGM set, or something in between, such as a private ranch dressed up for filming. But it plays an important role in the plot, as do its hungry lions. If they'd eaten a few of the worst script pages, and a couple of bad supporting actors, and maybe Casey's purple leisure suit, Hit Man might be better than just okay. But lions are finicky like all cats, and most amateur film critics.
Divorce probably would have been the easier option.
Conflict was Humphrey Bogart's follow-up to the crowd pleasing To Have and Have Not, and he takes a dark turn as a man whose bad marriage is complicated by the fact that he's fallen in love with his sister-in-law. He's willing to kill to be free, but his plan goes sideways, as they always do. We won't go into detail except to note that, interestingly, Bogart begins to see the same jumbled pyramidal shape everywhere—in a pile of fallen logs, in an architectural drawing, in the kindling set up to start a bonfire, etc. It's a Hitchcockian touch designed to symbolize the inner conflict of the title, but why exactly is he seeing these things? Is it because he killed his wife? Or because he botched his opportunity and now she's trying to drive him insane? We won't tell you. We'll only say that the winding road toward a resolution is reasonably entertaining, and Bogart can pull even a flawed film to the positive side of the ledger. Conflict, which co-starred Alexis Smith and Sydney Greenstreet, premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
Sørensen throws Playboy fans off her trail.
Tempo was a pocket-sized celeb and pop culture magazine published bi-weekly out of Atlanta and New York City by Sports Report, Inc. We don’t know how long it lasted—this one is vol. 7, issue 9—but we know we’ve never seen one dated before 1953 or after 1958. When Dane Arden appeared on the cover of this one from today in 1956, she was already famous thanks to her appearance as Playboy’s centerfold just the previous month. But she had posed under her real name Elsa Sørensen, and back then that may have kept most Playboy readers from realizing Sørensen and Arden were the same person. We have no idea if that was her intention, or why she’d have wanted to do it, but it’s curious. Our guess is that Playboy wanted an exclusive association with her Sørensen identity, and pressed her to choose a new name for future modeling. Or perhaps she thought of magazines like Tempo as lower class, and didn’t want to diminish her Playboy image. Strange, considering Tempo had been around longer, but possible. Or maybe she simply thought Elsa Sørensen was a little too Danish sounding for Hollywood. But there’s no evidence she ever had an interest in movies, and if she did wouldn’t she have been sacrificing much of the useful recognition she’d gained as a Playboy centerfold? All we can say is it’s one of history’s little mysteries. Hmm… that has a nice ring. Think we’ll claim that one—History’s Little Mysteries™. More Dane/Elsa below, plus Brigitte Bardot, Shirley Falls, Erroll Garner, Sabrina, the Cleveland Browns, Anita Ekberg, et al.
Minor noble causes major scandal.
On the Q.T. labeled itself “The class magazine in its field.” In practice that was less than true. This cover from September 1962 offers teasers about Liz Taylor’s inability to be made happy, the fatal ring beating of boxer Kid Paret, and the inside story about Ivy Nicholson’s suicide attempt. But the banner goes to the nude countess who shocked America. That would be Christina Paolozzi, aka Christina Bellin, who was a New York City fashion model and the offspring of United Fruit Company heiress Alicia Spaulding and Italian conte Lorenzo Paolozzi. The photo was shot by Richard Avedon and appeared in Harper’s Bazaar. Paolozzi was already considered “the first of the ’60s free spirits” by the tabloids, and by stripping for Avedon she became the first recognized fashion model to pose nude, a practice that is now common.
While Avedon earned widespread recognition for the shot, which you see at right, Paolozzi was dropped from the New York City Social Register, shunned by Manhattan’s upper crust, and subjected in the press to what is today sometimes called “body shaming.” Columnist Inez Robb wrote that Paolozzi was “no more favored by nature than the average daughter of Eve,” and added for good measure, “Harper’s Bazaar, with its excursion into overexposure, has unwittingly proved that not diamonds but clothes are a girl’s best friend.” If that wasn’t bad enough, just imagine what people wrote in the comments section. They had those then, right?
In any case, Paolozzi was a bold personality, and she went on to make waves yet again with her many wild parties and open marriage to cosmetic surgeon Howard Bellin, commenting in a mid-1970s newspaper article, “[It’s] just the way life is today—one man is simply not enough.” But she didn’t just spend the years having a good time. She also raised money for hospitals in Cambodia and Gabon, orphanages in Afghanistan, and supported eighteen foster children. In a sense, she gave the shirt off her back. Twenty-eight scans from On the Q.T. below.
Survival of the very fittest.
Above is a photo of American actress Jayne Kennedy from her hilarious television movie Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women. The shot doesn’t begin to do her justice yet she still looks great in it. Kennedy started in beauty pageants before sliding into television roles and blaxploitation flicks such as The Muthers and Big Time, before veering into sports broadcasting in 1978 with The NFL Today. In pageants she was one of the first black women to blaze a trail, winning Miss Ohio in 1970 and making the semis at Miss U.S.A. the same year. In sportscasting she was one of the first women, black or white, to earn a prominent on-camera role, making her a dual trailblazer. Somewhere in there a sex tape leaked to the public, and since it was also one of the first, she can be said to have blazed a trail there too. Both of these shots are from 1979.
Are you ready for some football?
Did you know there was a football team called the Brooklyn Dodgers? This nice little piece of Americana reminds us of that fact. It’s the cover of a program for an NFL game between the Dodgers and the Washington Redskins, played at Ebbets Field today in 1942. The Brooklyn Dodgers football team existed from 1930 to 1944, at which point it became the Brooklyn Tigers for one season, then the next year merged with the Boston Yanks. This move came about due to a decline in the on-field product caused by wartime shortages of players. But before being folded into another franchise and effectively disappearing, the Dodgers helped bring the NFL into the mass media era when its October 22, 1939 game against the Philadelphia Eagles was broadcast on television. That was the first NFL broadcast ever. Another historical note: the unusual Dodgers nickname derives from the fact that through the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were so many trolley lines running through Brooklyn that people from that borough were called “trolley dodgers.” Naturally, this is also the reason the All-America Football Conference team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the baseball Brooklyn Dodgers, both adopted the nickname. Of course, baseball’s Dodgers were the first to do so, by decades. Lastly, on the cover is a photo of Frank Kinard, who played for the Dodgers/Tigers and, just to make the whole name thing even more convoluted, played for the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. You can learn plenty more about the Brooklyn Dodgers at the website luckyshow.org.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1957—Ginsberg Poem Seized by Customs
On the basis of alleged obscenity, United States Customs officials seize 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" that had been shipped from a London printer. The poem contained mention of illegal drugs and explicitly referred to sexual practices. A subsequent obscenity trial was brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore, the poem's domestic publisher. Nine literary experts testified on the poem's behalf, and Ferlinghetti won the case when a judge decided that the poem was of redeeming social importance.
1975—King Faisal Is Assassinated
King Faisal of Saudi Arabia dies after his nephew Prince Faisal Ibu Musaed shoots him during a royal audience. As King Faisal bent forward to kiss his nephew the Prince pulled out a pistol and shot him under the chin and through the ear. King Faisal died in the hospital after surgery. The prince is later beheaded in the public square in Riyadh.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
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