People really otter learn to be more careful.
The scene on the cover of this famous issue of Men magazine always struck us as absurd. In fact, animal attack covers from vintage mens magazines tend to be more funny than frightening. But it seems as though reality has strong sense of irony.
In Singapore a couple of days ago, Graham George Spencer, a British resident of that tropical island-state, was attacked by otters at the Gardens by the Bay botanical park, where several colonies of the animals live. Spencer was swarmed by a bevy of otters that managed to knock him off his feet and bite him twenty-six times. He summed up the ordeal with: “I actually thought I was going to die.”
That's no hysterical claim. Wild otters can grow to be five-and-a-half feet in length, which, frighteningly, is longer than both of the Pulp Intl. girlfriends. Spencer was saved thanks to the intervention of a friendwhose yelling startled the otters, giving Spencer the chance to get to his feet. Those crazy animals then chased the pair all the way to the visitors center, where they barked otter epithets, heaved rocks though a window, and spray painted the walls with the phrase, “Immigrant go home!” Spencer received medical treatment for injuries to his ankles, legs, rear end, and pride, and also got bitten by more than $1,000 in medical costs. All because he wanted to have a healthy walk in the park. Next time maybe he'll spend his day drinking pints at the pub like a normal Brit. Next up: weasels rip somebody's flesh.
Gardner and MacMurray juggle love and danger in wartime Malaysia.
We talked about the 1947 war adventure Singapore in August. Here's a beautiful Italian poster for the film, on which co-star Ava Gardner takes front and center, with Fred MacMurray lurking in the background. There are several Italian promos. This one is by Zadro, who painted a number of other brilliant pieces, but about whom little is known today. We'll get back to him. And you can read more about the movie here.
So, this will shock you—I can tell you it shocked me—but I realized I've wanted to shoot you since our very first date.
Marian Marsh was born in what is now Trinidad and Tobago, but which was at the time of her birth part of the British West Indies. She started life as Violet Krauth, but for Hollywood changed her name. She appeared in such films as The Road to Singapore, Crime and Punishment, In Spite of Danger, Murder by Invitation, and the horror classic The Black Room. All worthy achievements, and she also founded a nonprofit called Desert Beautiful, which had a mission to preserve the environment of Palm Desert, California, where she lived after retirement. The organization lasted for about fifty years, which is quite good for a nonprofit. The above photo, made back when she was interested only in murder, is from the 1931 drama Five Star Final.
Murder mystery explores the turbulent years of pre-Malaysia Singapore.
We grabbed this beautiful hardcover copy of Suddenly, at Singapore from Scottish publishers William Collins, Sons & Co. for two reasons. First, the cover art is by the legendary Barbara Walton, one of the great illustrators of the mid-century period, and the title promises exotic thrills. Though we're lucky enough to live in an exotic land ourselves, we never get tired of tales set in Asia, Africa, or the Mediterranean. And speaking of exotic, Gavin Black is a pseudonym far less exotic than the author's real name—Oswald Wynd. Why use a pen name when you're named Oswald Wynd? Beats us, though the fake name does sound more real.
Anyway, Suddenly, at Singapore involves the Harris Brothers, two adventurous anglos born and raised in Singapore who own a shipping company that, in addition to legit cargos, transports black market weapons around the Java Sea in a fleet of Chinese junks. The story opens with the older brother Jeff being murdered, and younger brother Paul vowing revenge—as soon as he figures out who ordered the killing. He's also involved in an as yet unconsummated martial affair, and is trying to send his wife back to the U.S. to get her out of his hair. The two plotlines eventually braid together, and pretty soon the hero and both his women are in all kinds of difficulties.
This was a quick read, decent not great, but with nice local color derived from Black's/Wynd's time spent in the region. The story takes place before Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak merged into Malaysia, and Black channels some of the political tension and economic lawlessness that prevailed during that time, but doesn't delve into it in a detailed way. He would do that later, though—we gather that this was the first of numerous Paul Harris thrillers. We also hear from those in the know that Suddenly, at Singapore is the worst of the lot, so we may try the second book Dead Man Calling when we get the hankering for South Seas craziness again.
I call this one Robbie, the second one Chip, and the third one... well I forget. But they're all great!
Above are three promo photos of U.S. actor Fred MacMurray, two from his film noir Singapore, and one of unknown provenance. While MacMurray made his name in deadly serious films such as Double Indemnity and Pushover, many fans remember him better as the affable father from the television series My Three Sons, on which he starred from 1960 until 1972, as the show chronicled the life of a widower and his three sons Robbie, Chip, and Mike. Why was he a widower? We don't think it's ever revealed, but perhaps a firearms “accident” had something to do with it.
If at first you don't succeed, fly back to Malaysia and try again.
In the movies good girls always seem to fall for bad boys. In the World War II drama Singapore Ava Gardner is the former and Fred MacMurray is the latter, a smuggler of jewels. The two hook up in the titular locale, and when Gardner learns her new love is a crook, she accepts it with a rhetorical shrug. She asks merely if Fred is what the authorities suspect him to be, receives an affirmative answer, then asks if he can't sell jewels legally, receives the answer, “Yes, but at a quarter the price,” and that's it. She doesn't trouble her mind beyond that point, which we consider a major failing of Seton I. Miller's script.
It isn't the only failing. When it comes to areas of love and desire, the dripping melodrama of the dialogue puts MacMurray and Gardner in tough spots, and neither comes out unscathed. The good news is that in other areas Singapore fares better. The film weaves the tale of how MacMurray's plan to smuggle priceless pearls is cut short when the Japanese unexpectedly bomb the city. The love story, the smuggling plot, and the bombing are all told in reminiscence, bracketed front and rear by MacMurray's return five years after the tragedies and errors of his previous stint there. Now, with the city recovering from conflict, MacMurray tries to put together the puzzle pieces of the past.
We love old Hollywood's foreign fetish, its eagerness to set films in exotic locales. When it works well, as in Casablanca and its deft usage of Morocco, the result is magic; when it doesn't, as in, say, Miss Sadie Thompson and its setting of Pago Pago, the bells and whistles are a glaring reminder of missed opportunities. Singapore falls somewhere in the middle. We get to see a bit of Singapore when it was still part of Malaysia, which is interesting, but the most exotic sight to be seen is still Ava Gardner. For us, she was reason enough to take the trip. But just barely. Singapore premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
One Wong makes everything right.
This fun poster was made for the 1978 action flick Cleopatra Wong, aka They Call Her...Cleopatra Wong, and it's signed by someone named Eddie Damer. We can find zero information about Mr. Damer, which we like to think is because he moved into another career after being paid for his artistry in handshakes, backslaps, and a rubber check. Which is to say, Cleopatra Wong is a not a b-movie, but z-movie, a riff on the blaxploitation classic Cleopatra Jones. It was put together by Filipino producer Bobby A. Suarez and made in English with Singaporean actress Marrie Lee in the lead role as an Interpol agent tasked with busting an international counterfeiting ring. These counterfeiters are bad people. They're centered in a Hong Kong nunnery, where they're forcing the nuns to host the operation, and plan to kill them when they've outlived their usefulness. Only Wong and her intrepid team can stop these fiends. There are some positives here, including effective location shooting and Lee's kung fu, but there's also clunky direction, atrocious acting, and a script that must have been written on a typewriter with seven missing keys. The movie sank with barely a ripple upon release, but was revived on the Asian festival circuit in the early 2000s and now is considered a schlock classic. It certainly has all the hallmarks, and overall we think it's worth watching, but you may want to soak your frontal cortex in alcohol beforehand. Cleopatra Wong premiered in Singapore this month in 1978.
And life flows along with a smile and a sarong.
American actress Dorothy Lamour, who we shared a nice promo photo of back in 2011, changed onscreen fashion with a constant array of sarongs that caused her to be dubbed "The Sarong Queen.” She first wore one in 1936's The Jungle Princess, and from there donned the distinctive garment for Her Jungle Love, Road to Singapore, and a score of other movies. This shot was made while she was filming the John Ford adventure Hurricane. Parts of the production took place on Tutuila Island in American Samoa, which is why some sources say the photo was made there, but it was really shot on Santa Catalina, in the Channel Islands off California. It dates from from 1937.
Monroe may wobble but she won’t fall down.
Marilyn Monroe shows up just about everywhere, and here she is yet again where we didn’t expect to see her—fronting a Malaysian film publication that appeared today in 1953. The magazine, called Filmalaya, is in English, which marks it as aimed at the British colonial community that occupied the upper stratum of society in Malaysia and Singapore. The cover photo is from a publicity series made when Monroe filmed the movie Niagara in Ontario, Canada in late 1952, and let’s just assume her perch is not as precarious as it seems and there’s a handy ledge or lawn behind her in case she goes heels up. But if she does, there are other stars in the magazine, such as Joan Collins, Betty Grable, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner, and Nat King Cole.
Filmalaya represents an interesting snapshot into colonial society, as in the article about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in London, which describes the thrills and excitement in Malaysia during the event. Doubtless, the mood around the Commonwealth probably seemed festive when viewed from inside the colonial bubble, but we doubt actual Malaysians were particularly moved. Needless to say, this magazine is rare, but luckily items from Asia are often a bargain, so this cost a mere six U.S. dollars. While the inside is nothing special visually speaking, that doesn’t matter when the magazine has this great cover and is such an informative slice of history. We’ve uploaded a few of the best pages below. Enjoy.
If they aren’t in your city already, they’ll be there soon.
We would love to have been part of this. Yesterday Mexico City had their annual La Marcha Zombie, or Zombie Walk, with the goal of setting a new record for the number of zombies (held by Buenos Aires, which had assembled 25,000 shambling undead just a few days earlier). As you might deduce, zombie walks are growing more popular globally, and have been staged in places as far flung as Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Mar de Plata, Exeter, Santiago, and Singapore. According to Wikipedia, the first walk was held in Sacramento, California in 2001, and now hundreds of cities have them. Perhaps in a decade or two, social scientists will tell us the complex reasons behind the rise of zombie walks, i.e., the trampling of individuality in the modern world, the rise of ravenous greed and the death of caring, etc., and that, ironically, one day sooner than most people think, the masses will rise up and destroy the elite few that have enslaved them. Okay, maybe that last part is just what we think. But complex reasons aside, from our non-scientific perspective, we’d do a zombie walk just because it looks fun. And do you think there’s any zombie sex going on afterward? Why of corpse there is.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
1962—Marilyn Monroe Sings to John F. Kennedy
A birthday salute to U.S. President John F. Kennedy takes place at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. The highlight is Marilyn Monroe's breathy rendition of "Happy Birthday," which does more to fuel speculation that the two were sexually involved than any actual evidence.
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