Vintage Pulp Jul 10 2023
THE ROAD TO LEVANT
If you let yourself be free what amazing things you'll see.


Nudism or naturism is yet another staple of mid-century publishing. Numerous magazines were devoted to the practice, and many novels we've read, such as Marriage Can Wait, Murder Doll, High Red for Dead, and of course, the immortal Nudist Camp, feature nudism. It's also featured in some pretty fun movies, such as 1962's Blaze Starr Goes Nudist. So when we saw this poster for Isle of Levant, one of the seminal nudism movies of the 1950s, we decided to have a look.
 
The film was made by Swiss director Werner Kunz and originally titled Lockender Süden. In its English language version it's professorially narrated by E.V.H. Emmett. The story told is about a trio of young Danish women and their dog who take a road trip through Germany, Switzerland, and France to arrive in the Côte d'Azur and get naked on Île de Levant.
 
It's largely a travelogue, but it's also pretty interesting from purely historical and architectural perspectives. Aided by the familiar visual of a crawling line on a map, you see the sights as the trio passes through Hamburg, the Rhine Valley, Rottenberg, Zurich, the Rhône Valley, Avignon, Cannes, Nice, Saint-Tropez, and Le Lavandou, all before the era of modern mass tourism, in a classic Fiat 600 Multipla, with its rear engine and backward front doors.

As for the nudism, Kunz makes you wait for it. About forty minutes into the sixty-eight minute exercise the girls hit the island and their clothes hit the sand. At first, many people wear g-strings, but later there's nothing. As is typical for such films, the nudists are the best-looking examples from far and wide. Activities range from volleyball to hiking to sketching to snorkeling to boating, but as this is a lifestyle film, there's no sex nor hint of it.
 
Because nudism isn't—and wasn't then—considered sexual by its practitioners, there are a few brief shots of naked children. We live in a country where naked children on beaches are not a strange sight and we pay them little mind, but in terms of filmed reality, this is where things acquire a double layer. Selling films of naked children changes everything. Though these nudism flicks were ostensibly educational, and the nudists themselves agreed to appear as a way demonstrating the advantages of their lifestyle, a large percentage of the actual consumers of the movies—surely—got off on them. And for a small subset, thence, nude children.

In a sense, the nudists of the era, despite the purity of their beliefs, were exploited by filmmakers, who knew—again, surely—that the money that flowed in was from seekers of knowledge about nudism and seekers of boners over naked women and men. As for pedophiles, though they were a segment of society that were basically never thought about by the populace at large back then, we suspect the filmmakers were aware of them. In any case, nobody is unaware today, which is why those shots now stand out in neon.
 
But if you wear your shiny happy 1950s glasses, Isle of Levant is worth a gander. It's a historical curiosity, and one that made us nostalgic for an era in which we never lived. Because they were uncredited, we'll never know who the trio of roadtrippers were, but we had an overwhelming sense of time passed and innocence lost watching them. And we thought: To have made that journey with them from Denmark through the Rhine Valley to the idyllic Côte d'Azur would have been so very fun.
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Femmes Fatales Jun 6 2013
FRENCH GRAD
Do you know the way to Saint-Tropez?

This rare and amazing shot shows French actress Geneviève Grad, who is rare and amazing herself. She made many films, including the spy thriller OSS 117 prend des vacances, but is well known for the Gendarme de Saint-Tropez series, in which she appeared from 1964 to 1968. This image was made in 1963. 

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Intl. Notebook Feb 20 2011
STOP REWIND
French starlet Brigitte Bardot turned heads in Saint-Tropez more than half a century ago.

Continuing the process of cleaning off our French shelf, we have an issue of the pin-up magazine Stop. This one, issue #18 from 1962, is devoted entirely to Brigitte Bardot, and inside you get studio and outdoor photography of the legendary sex symbol, plus production stills from several of her films.

The cover image of her in front of the Eiffel Tower is iconic, but the image in panel sixteen, just above, is one of the most famous ever made of her. It was shot by Willy Rizzo in Saint-Tropez during the 1956 production of Roger Vadim’s
Et Dieu… crea la femme, aka And God Created Woman, and it pretty much sums up the quality of Bardot’s sex appeal.

Saint-Tropez was just a sleepy seaside village back then, so you can imagine what all those crusty fishermen in the cafés thought the first time they saw this woman walking barefoot along their waterfront.
Mermaid? Tramp? Angel? Waif? Bardot had all those elements and more, which is a large part of why—in addition to her copious talent—she became such a transcendent star.

Today she remains in the public eye, if controversially, and it’s ironic that someone who once united people in their appreciation of her beauty,
acting and singing is now such a polarizing figure. The above photo isn’t the only image that survives from that famed Rizzo session, so just for the fun of it, we’ve posted a few more below to help you dream about springtime.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 29
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
May 28
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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