Sometimes you find what you're looking for without even trying.
Yesterday, we were running a bit behind and didn't comment on our vacation. We have time today. We did indeed run across some interesting items. In fact, we stumbled upon an entire comic book convention, the 26 Salón Internacional del Cómic de Granada 2021, with guests of honor that included Howard Chaykin and an assortment of accomplished Spanish artists such as Jaime Martin and Pedro Cifuentes. Chaykin looked a little bored in his booth, indulging various fans with autographs and anecdotes, but that's the gig. When it happens to bring you to a beautiful plaza in an amazing city, you can only thank your lucky stars. There were about sixty or seventy booths total, we estimated, so we wandered around and picked up a few vintage items we'll share later.
We hear Tarifa is terrific this time of year.
Hello. And goodbye—but only briefly. We're taking a little break, heading to a place called Tarifa. It's not far, but after pondering ambitious ideas about going to Italy, Croatia, and Malta, we decided a short trip was best to get back into the swing of travel for pleasure. It's been a couple of years (the move doesn't count—that was back breaking, shin barking work). We don't know much about Tarifa, just that a few friends like it. Will there be pulp there? Only the kind that comes in a mimosa, we're betting, but you never know.
As we've noted before, Spain is one of the countries that actually did generate a fair amount of pulp style art, and it's also a country where you occasionally stumble upon a used book store that has a lot of old crime novels. About the time the pulp craze was in full swing, Tarifa looked like what you see in the photo below. Even if there's no pulp to befound there these days, and despite it modernizing a bit from its quaint form of yesteryear, we expect to have (careful, socially distanced) fun. We'll be back in four or five days. As usual we're linking to a few posts for your enjoyment, and this time, for a change, they're all books. A picnic with a special treat. The shortest car trip ever. The unparallelled work of Giovanni Benvenuti: here and here. It's true, we like to make fun of sorority girls, as evidenced here, here, and here. Fraternity boys are also favorite targets, as we show here, here, and here. A match made in pulp heaven: Robert McGinnis and Carter Brown. And here are thoughts about cowboy fashion, what a real cowboy drinks, what a real cowboy eats, what's a noble ending for a cowboy, whether a cowboy really needs a horse, and whether higher education makes him less of a real cowboy, or more. Everybody sing along—you know the words. Knock down drag out fighting in mid-century art.
And finally, proof here
that the female of the species can be more deadly than the male.
Tropical storm conditions combine with shark migration to form deadly sharkicane
We're circling back to Peter Cheyney's novel Dark Bahama to show you a couple of Spanish covers from Ediciones G.P. These came in 1953 and 1958 respectively and are, sadly, uncredited. And the bad news keeps coming—there's no hurricane in the novel, therefore no sharkicane. Sorry. You can read about the book here.
Demongeot heats up and cools down.
There are Bardot people and there are Demongeot people. We're Demongeot people. Well, not really, because there's no need to make a choice. But we like French actress Mylène Demongeot quite a bit. Like Bardot, she made many romantic comedies, but also succeeded in dramas and was nominated for a BAFTA in 1957 and two César awards in 2005 and 2007. What's more she's still working. Her latest film is this year's Maison de retraite. The above issue of the French pop culture magazine Cinémonde features Demongeot on the cover keeping cool with a Spanish fan. She's one of the hottest stars in French cinema at this stage, in July 1960, with hits like 1961's Les trois mousquetaires and 1962's Copacabana Palace just around the corner.
The magazine also offers four pages of Demongeot inside, including a photo with the interesting caption, “Mylène Demongeot – une flamme pure de l'enfer,” which means “a pure flame of hell.” We assume that's a compliment. Another of the photos is our favorite of Demongeot. It shows her in some sandy niche of Torremolinos, Spain playing guitar (or seeming to) during the filming of The Singer Not the Song. Are you feeling a sense of déjà vú with her and this magazine? That may because we've featured her in two other issues. You can see those here and here. If you aren't Demongeot aficionados we recommend watching Bonjour Tristesse or Upstairs and Downstairs. Also, for those of an aesthetic mindset, you can see her at her most beautiful here and here.
Lange novel has plenty of friction but not enough heat.
This photo cover was made for the 1968 thriller Zero Cool, written by John Lange, who was in reality a guy named Michael Crichton. Zero Cool is a fantastic title for a crime novel, but there's little else to suggest Crichton would become the zillion-selling author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, except possibly a flair for gimmicky ideas. In this case, several unlucky people are dispatched by a means unknown, their bodies torn as if they had been attacked by a madman wielding a scalpel. The truth of how these killings are accomplished is classic Crichton—i.e. high-concept and probably impossible. The deaths are ancillary—the main plot involves an American doctor in Spain coerced into performing an autopsy, and forced to insert an unknown object into the body. This act leads to dangerous repercussions, but there's no heft or menace to the narrative, which means we can't recommend the book. For Crichton and crime, you're better off with later, more accomplished efforts like The Great Train Robbery and Rising Sun. In Zero Cool he's just warming up.
Don't hate the Playa, hate the games.
Playa prohibida was a Mexican-Spanish co-production filmed on Mallorca, starring Rossana Podesta, that premiered in Mexico today in 1956 and reached Spain the next year, in March 1957. Above are the Mexican and Spanish posters, both quite nice we think. They're differentiated by the fact that one gives second billing to Carlos López Moctezuma, who was Mexican, while the other gives second and third billing to Spanish actors Fernando Rey and Alfredo Mayo.
Podesta plays a woman living in a beach town, and everyone thinks she's daft. When she's found on the beach standing over a corpse and looking guilty, the cops want to pin the crime on her, but a screenwriter passing through takes up the mystery and—with the help of his story construction skills—tries to figure out what happened. He narrates a significant part of the film, but other characters apply voiceover too, including the allegedly mad Podesta. The puzzle is eventually solved, and as you'd expect it's layered with jealousy, greed, betrayal, and all the usual games.
If you're thinking this sounds a bit familiar, that may because the setting bears some resemblance to Podesta's 1953 Mexican made thiller La red, in which she was also a somewhat enigmatic woman living in a small seaside community. We suppose when Mexican filmmakers thought "exotic beach beauty" Podesta came to mind, and why not? Just look at her. Her presence alone makes Playa prohibida worth a viewing, at least for us. And possibly for you too. For the moment—i.e. while the link lasts—you can watch it on YouTube and decide for yourself. Spanish required.
Should she stay or go? The chair may be the factor that tips her one way or the other.
This rare poster of U.S. actress Candice Bergen was printed and distributed in 1972 by a company called Nats Co-operated Reproduction. The shot was made in 1968 by famed photographer Terry O'Neill. There are other photos from the session. A couple even feature the same weathered beach chair that looks set to snap at any moment like something made from chopsticks, but as far as we know only Nats Co-operated used a color shot of Bergen in this particular pose. We've seen a black and white on Getty Images, but never one in color until this treasure. The beach, incidentally, immediately looked to us like our occasional stomping grounds the Balearic Islands, and sure enough, when we checked it turned out Bergen sat for this when she was filming The Magus in Mallorca. Another shot from the session appears below.
Red eyes at night, Merle take warning.
Above, a great Spanish poster for the Andre de Toth thriller Aguas turbias, better known as Dark Waters, with Merle Oberon as a woman living in a bayou mansion inhabited by dodgy relatives who may want to kill her. The film premiered in the U.S. in 1944 and reached Spain this month in 1946. The poster is similar to the U.S. version, but the predominant color was changed to a bright red-orange, including—weirdly—Oberon's eyes. In our opinion the poster is actually creepier than the movie. You can read about it here.
They always faint from shock. Then I read them my poetry and they realize they've misjudged me.
The lagoon is lovely, dark, and deep, but I have miles to go before I creep. Frost, in case you didn't know. This is a poster for the Creature from the Black Lagoon from Spain, where it was called La mujer y el monstruo, and premiered today in 1954. See more creature stuff here, here, and here. And something related here.
It's a marriage that goes from bad to worse.
Ever since the term “gaslighting” became an accepted part of the American lexicon we've been meaning to watch the original version of Gaslight. Finding this Spanish promo poster spurred us to finally screen the film. There are those who think any old black and white mystery or thriller is a film noir, which is why you'll occasionally see Gaslight referred to as part of that genre. But it's actually a melodrama falling into an unofficial category of mid-century films we like to call, “Don't Trust Your Husband.” Other entries in the genre include Rebecca, Dial M for Murder, and Sorry, Wrong Number. Based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight tells the story of Bella, a woman living in early 1900s London who, because small items in her house are constantly missing or misplaced, thinks she's losing her mind. But it's her creepy spouse Paul who's orchestrating all of this. He intends to have her declared insane, which is part of a larger scheme having to do with—of course—money.
On one level Gaslight is a drama about paranoia and the betrayal of marital trust. On another it's an unintentionally humorous examination of Edwardian values. Humorous because we doubt most women—either when the film was first released or today—would have been successfully manipulated in this way. If it were the Pulp Intl. girlfriends they'd both be like, “Do you think I'm stupid? Stop moving shit around the house.” But poor Bella is little more than a possession during the time in which she lives, and lacking the agency to question her husband she mostly swoons. But help eventually arrives from an unlikely quarter. Gaslight was remade in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman, and the original compares poorly to that excellent version, but it's still a quality film well worth viewing. It premiered in the UK in June 1940, and in Barcelona, Spain as Luz de gas today in 1942.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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