Hi, I'm Sophia Loren, here to tell you that when I eat eels, I eat Comacchio eels.
We live in a community of old fishermen. We've learned some things. Sophia Loren, we can declare without much doubt, is an old fisherman's dream. Hairy armpits, safety pin holding her shirt closed, mismatched buttons, rope for a belt. All of that indicates an uncomplicated attitude, which old fishermen appreciate. And, most importantly, Loren apparently loves eels. This photo shows her holding aloft a tin of Comacchio canned eels, and before you judge, let us just say that eels taste great. We've never eaten the Italian variety, but we suspect one canned eel tastes very much like another. Please don't send emails telling us how wrong we are and that eels vary greatly depending on which waters they slither through. They're eels. How different can they really be?
Let's focus on Loren. This is one of her most famous photos, and the reason she looks this way is because she's in costume as her character Nives Mongolini from the 1954 film La donna del fiume, aka The River Girl, which was shot in Comacchio, a town famous for its tinned eels. The photo was made by Federico Patallani, and while we've heard it was used for an advertisement, we've never seen the ad, so we're dubious on that. We think it's just a film promo designed to call attention to the fact that Loren filmed in Italy's most famous eel town. But even if it isn't an ad, we bet it caused a spike in eel sales, and possibly caused bald-pitted women to consider ditching the razor. If you can make it look as good as Loren (or Eleonora Giorgi or Kuroki Kaoru) why not? We have another Loren image below from the same session, with her pits covered, for you hair haters.
It was a different flavor of men's magazine.
Zest magazine, with its bold graphics and cover portraits, looks like a classic mid-century tabloid, but its banner tells you it's really a men's magazine. It lives up to its billing in this issue from January 1956—issue number one, actually—with short stories from Michael Avallone and H.P. Lovecraft, real life adventure tales, scare stories (“Is Your Daughter a Sex-Film Star?), glamour photography, and humor.
The Lovecraft tale, “Rats in the Walls,” is called “the greatest horror story ever written.” We wouldn't go that far, but it's freaktacular, like everything Lovecraft wrote. It had originally been published in Weird Tales in 1924, and we imagine that its bizarro mutant/cannibalism themes were pretty shocking back then. The Avallone story, “The Glass Eye,” is novella length. He had already published three novels and was building a reputation as a reliable author of thrillers, which makes his inclusion a nice coup for a new magazine.
The photography in Zest is just as impressive as the fiction. Readers get to see rare shots of major celebs such as Sophia Loren, Sabrina, and Delores del Rio. All in all Zest was a high budget effort, but it lasted only two issues. Why did it fold? No idea on that. Competition in the market was plenty stiff at the time. On the other hand, maybe two issues are all that were planned. We're thrilled to show you one of them, comprising thirty-plus scans below for your Thursday enjoyment.
Sophia Loren applies personal experience to her ideas about marriage.
Above is a cover of Midnight with a nice photo of Italian superstar Sophia Loren, and a header suggesting trial marriages for couples over twenty-one. Did she say it? Quite possibly. Her marriage to film producer Carlo Ponti was an international scandal thanks to popes and others sticking their noses into her private business. But back then they thought it was their right—actually, their holy duty—because divorce wasn't legal in Italy and Ponti was still married. He and his wife had split and had nothing to do with each other, but the Catholic church assured Loren she'd go to hell if she married Ponti. Well, she did it anyway by proxy in 1957 and officially in 1966. So in August 1970, when this issue of Midnight appeared, we think it quite likely that she had some well formed ideas about marriage. In any case, nice cover.
Loren is head and shoulders above the rest.
Our ongoing quest for unusual Japanese material continues today with this cool page featuring Sophia Loren in a photo feature about hats. It's from the magazine Heibon Punch and appeared in issue 10, published in 1964. You know what she needs under that hat? An iridescent wig.
And you think America is polarized today.
The iconic polar bear rug. What can you say about them? Well, it's not a good look nowadays, but back then people thought these sorts of decorations were quite chic. When did that end? Possibly shortly after the three-hundredth Playboy model posed on one, or when many people began to see trophy hunting as the obsession of vain and unsavory millionaires. One of those two. Personally, we blame Hefner. In the shot above Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay take polar bear style to its pinnacle. Just look at that room. Besides the bear they have a copper ceiling, satin curtains, and a white shag rug. It's a pimp's wet dream and all of it must have cost a fortune. We like to imagine what the look on Jayne's face would have been if anyone walked in with a brimming glass of red wine. We bet she'd have turned whiter than the bear.
We have more photos in the same vein below. If you need help identifying the stars, their names are in our keywords in order of appearance. Looking at the entire collection, we tend to wonder if there were three or four bears that ended up in all the photos. You know, like bears owned by certain photography studios or prop departments. Just saying, a couple of them look suspiciously similar. But on the other hand, how different from each other do bears really look? You'll notice that the poor creatures were generally posed to look fierce. But by contrast Inger Stevens' bear, just below, strikes us as a bit reflective and melancholy, which is understandable. Elizabeth Montgomery, meanwhile, gets extra points for wearing her bear. We have twenty-plus images below, including another shot of Mansfield, sans Hargitay.
Users of popular internet platform sent for a nasty Tumbl.
The news broke Monday, and you may already know, that the image aggregation platform Tumblr has decided to ban nudity beginning December 17. After child porn was discovered among the tens of thousands of Tumblr pages, all users must now adhere to restrictions banning photos, videos, and GIFs “that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples” along with any visual content “that depicts sex acts.” Exceptions include breastfeeding images, images related to childbirth, nudity in sculptures, and other fine art. But what is fine art? This is a question we ask here all the time. Are Japanese film posters fine art? Sleaze paperback covers? Screen grabs from popular motion pictures?
Unmoderated sites will always draw problematic users, so conflict around this issue was inevitable. Needless to say, the ban will decimate thousands of users' work, as well as Pulp Intl.'s sidebar. Tumblr says it wants to create an online space that is open and safe, which is a worthy goal. Child porn is a scourge. But any blanket ban on nudity is going to result in the loss of important material. Should this be eradicated? This? This? This? If Pulp Intl. were a Tumblr page it all would be toast, and all our original scans from tabloids and movie magazines would be collateral damage. Though our discussions of nudity and sex are rooted in artistic merit, and are designed to make visitors think about changes in artistic media over the decades, Tumblr would see no nuances.
It's really a shame. Great Tumblr pages like Humungus and Bulles de Japon are now endangered, if not targeted. Burleskateer, the best Tumblr page that had been collating photos of mid-century burlesque dancers, has already preemptively decamped from the digital field. Sites that feature a little nudity but a lot of valuable content will have only two weeks to clean up their feeds, which may do no good anyway because they've possibly already been slated for annihilation. Ultimately, we think Tumblr should have simply moderated the site, but failing that a 90 day period for users to process this issue and, if possible, make arrangements to save the material for possible future usage would have been nice.
The lesson here is never, if at all possible, store content you consider important in other people's computers. That includes the cloud—which is just a fancy name for other people's computers. Which, by the way, happen to be open to cyberattacks, insider theft, and legal liability that you don't have to worry about using an encrypted external hard drive sitting on your desk. Not to mention that the same way Tumblr made a sudden change and left thousands in the lurch, a government could decide to intrude on your activities due to a sudden change in law. While it's true that nearly all internet content is trafficked through third party servers, those are—at the moment anyway—not under threat, and it's easy to move from server to server, country to country. We do it all the time. Well, dark days for Tumblr users, but the internet is a funny place. Where there's a demand there's often soon an answer.
I got your soft jazz right here.
Is Sophia Loren flipping off the camera? Sure looks like it, but we'll give her a pass—in Italy a raised middle finger doesn't mean what it does in the U.S. In fact, though Italians have dozens of hand gestures, we don't think a raised middle finger means anything. In any case we love this image of Loren on the cover of Jimmy Smith's LP Memories in Rhythm. We saw this at lpcoverlover.com recently and gave it a much needed clean-up. You can see the original image here. If you're thinking of the jazz Jimmy Smith who performed on the Hammond B-3 electric organ, it probably isn't him. There were many Jimmy Smiths in music and we have no way of knowing which this one is. We do know the record was pressed in South Africa, if that helps. Didn't help us. But there you go.
Redhead risks serious sunburn to get a base tan.
Belgium's Ciné-Revue is one of the best film magazines of the mid-century era. It's also one of the hardest to scan. Not only do the pages need to be scanned in halves and joined via computer, but the tiny text makes lining the halves up a real challenge. We didn't think about that when we bought a stack of these in Paris several years back, and now the sheer effort involved causes us to doubt we'll ever get them all uploaded. But we managed to carve out a few hours, so today we have this issue from May 1975 with French actress Marlène Jobert doing a little topless boating on the cover, hopefully well slathered in sunscreen. Jobert also features in the beachy center spread wearing even less clothing (and theoretically more sunscreen), but the real star of this issue is Bette Davis, who receives a career retrospective with shots from seemingly every movie she ever made. You also get William Holden, Jane Birkin, Dominique Sanda, Sidney Poitier, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Agostina Belli, a feature on Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and much more, in forty-plus scans.
Everything you want in a woman—and more.
Above we have another cover from the always entertaining National Spotlite. This one appeared today in 1970 and showcases model Tany Kominski. Not to body shame Tany, especially since according to the cover text she's selling herself to the highest bidder, but she must have an enormous head under that mop. We'd go so far as to say impossibly huge, maybe even otherworldly. Hmm. Could it be the bouffant hairdo that was so trendy during the 1960s was invented by aliens trying to disguise their megacraniums?
We know, we know—there's no proof whatsoever of alien visitation to this planet, but a disguise is the most logical explanation for Tany's hairstyle. We've done a little retouching of the cover so you can see what her head probably looked like under that candyfloss, and just how wildly disproportionate it was. Convinced? Well, our mock-up isn't conclusive, we'll admit.
But it makes you think, doesn't it? And we're also convinced Tany wasn't the only one of her kind here on our unsuspecting planet. Below are other possible interstellar visitors, including a malevolent Hayley Mills, Jean Shrimpton, Dolly Parton, and Priscilla Presley, who ruins her disguise somewhat with her psycho alien eyes. You're asking yourself what these creatures want, right? Hey, they're females—they don't even know.
She doesn't want to see, and you probably don't want her watching.
This poster of Sophia Loren was made to promote her drama Donna del fiume, aka The River Girl, and as we observed when we watched the movie a couple of years ago, only in cinema could backbreaking labor (harvesting rice by hand) make someone look like Loren. The poster is what we usually call panel length, which means it's about the right size to hang on a door, for instance in your bedroom. And Loren has exactly the facial expression you'd expect after seeing what you do in there. Columbia maybe should have manufactured a poster of her smiling and giving a thumbs up, but we love this promo anyway because even when Loren looks repulsed she looks great. Donna del fiume premiered today in 1954 and you can read what we wrote about it here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1930—Selassie Becomes Emperor
Haile Selassie I, whose birth name Tafari Makonnen and title "Ras" give the Rastafarian religion its name, is proclaimed emperor of Ethiopia. Selassie would become one of the most important leaders in African history, and earn global recognition through his resistance to Italy's illegal invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Selassie died in August 1975 under disputed circumstances.
1984—Marvin Gaye Dies from Gunshot Wound
American singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, who was famous for a three-octave vocal range which he used on hits such as "Sexual Healing" and "What's Going On," is fatally shot in the chest by his father after an argument over misplaced business documents. Gaye scored forty-one top 40 hit singles on Billboard's pop singles chart between 1963 and 2001, sixty top 40 R&B hits from 1962 to 2001, and thirty-eight top 10 singles on the R&B chart, making him not only one of the most critically acclaimed artists of his day, but one of the most successful.
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
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