Early movie magazine celebrates a pantheon of Hollywood stars long gone.
Above and below are the cover and a selection of pages from an issue of Pantomime magazine published exactly one hundred years ago, today in 1922, by New York City based Movie Topics, Inc. We don't share much printed material from the pre-1940 pulp years because it tends to be rare to find, a bit expensive to buy, and not as visually dynamic as what came afterward. Luckily, there's a selection of items like these on Archive.org, and that's where this particular discovery originated, part of a collection of eighteen issues available for free download.
There isn't much information available on Pantomime. The rise of Hollywood fueled a huge satellite industry of movie and celeb mags, and scores of them were short-lived. It's possible this one was in existence only during 1921-22, during the silent era. It's filled with celebrities whose names have faded from popular culture, such as cover star Mae Murray, who was known as “The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips,” Betty Compson, who we've shown you before, Bebe Daniels, who starred in the first version of The Maltese Falcon, action megastar William Duncan, who appeared in one-hundred fifty movies and short features, and Bryant Washburn, who topped Duncan, accumulating well over three-hundred screen credits.
As you might imagine of a publication from 1922, there's problematic material, in this case an article purportedly written by Pantomime's office boy, Eustace Yodels, but in reality written by the editors in what they imagined was African American vernacular, filled with racist phonetics. Apparently the piece is part of a series, an assumption we make because the subhead says it's “another” discourse by Yodels. We've uploaded a snippet below, but if you ever need to do research on racist tropes in old magazines, pull this one off Archive.org and read the whole shameful thing for yourself.
Pantomime also published fiction—official, aknowledged fiction, unlike the above. This issue has Sign of the Trident, which is two chapters of Herbert Crooker's novelization of the Ruth Roland cinema serial White Eagle. For any visitors unfamiliar with the concept, serials were films shown one chapter per week in cinemas. They came on before the main features, and each chapter ended with a so-called cliffhanger. Pantomime was a weekly, so each week it published a fictionalization of what was showing in the movie house. All that for a cover price of ten cents. Inflation-wise that would be about $1.67 today. Not a bad value.
Getting Mary-ed was one of the most important decisions of her life.
Above you see a Paramount Pictures promo image of U.S. actress Mary Astor made around 1930. Astor is remembered by movie fans for her role in 1941's The Maltese Falcon, but she had been in film for more than twenty years by then. We often note show business name changes. Astor's real name was Lucile Langhanke. Would she have been as successful using that name? There's no way to know, but we doubt it. To us, Langhanke sounds like a cut of meat. Like something from the middle ages. Gimme a langhanke and an ale! And a roasted Maltese falcon too! Acting is hungry work! But instead she appropriated the family name of a strain of British royalty and her career took flight, so it seems Mary made the right choice.
Explain to me again this theory about sparing the rod.
Above, a really nice shot of Bebe Daniels as the femme fatale Ruth Wonderly from the The Maltese Falcon—the 1931 version with Ricardo Cortez and Thelma Todd. If you haven't seen it you should. It's goofy, but definitely worth a viewing just for the purposes of comparing to the game changing 1941 version.
I hear the falcon is nice and all, but darlin’, these ankle strap pumps of yours are to die for.
Of the many covers for Dashiell Hammett’s classic The Maltese Falcon, this version painted by Stanley Meltzoff is one of our favorites. It’s from 1945 and is a dust sleeve for a paperback, a rarity that explains why it goes for $100 and up, generally. We’ve even seen it listed for $250. Beneath the Meltzoff sleeve is a cover by Leo Manso, the famed collagist and abstract artist, which he first painted for the 1944 paperback edition. You can see an example of that here. The Meltzoff sleeve was supposedly controversial at the time due to the Brigid O’Shaughnessy character removing her bra. We didn’t notice that at first, to tell you the truth—our eyes moved right to that triangle of darkness where we see Sam Spade’s hands as he assesses a pair of red pumps. Lovingly, we think. Almost like he wants to keep them. Or are we reading too much into this one?
Photo sessions make me nervous and then I look uneasy or stressed, so please wait until I’m smiling before you—
Actually, American actress Gladys George did tend to look worried in many of her photos. Not her fault—it’s just the way her face was built. But she coincidentally suffered from numerous worrisome ailments during her life, including throat cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis. You may remember her as Iva Archer in the classic noir The Maltese Falcon, but she also appeared in Madame X, They Gave Him a Gun, and The House that Jazz Built, among more than forty other films. She eventually died early from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Way down Argentine way Bogart fronts the era’s definitive detective novel.
Leoplán was an Argentine magazine published by Ramón Sopena’s eponymous company Editorial Sopena from 1934 to 1965. This issue features a complete Spanish language reprint of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and is fronted by a nice Manuel Olivas painting of Humphrey Bogart and the bird. It’s from 1949.
Is worth a fortune in the pocket.
Above, a rare copy of Dashiell Hammett’s classic 1930 detective story The Maltese Falcon, the Panther Books edition, 1957, with cover art by John Vernon.
Ever seen a $75,000 book? This is what it looks like.
You really can’t discuss pulp and San Francisco without mentioning The Maltese Falcon. Written by San Fran resident Dashiell Hammet and published by Knopf in 1930, the book’s protagonist San Spade became the archetypal private eye as he haunted the Bay area trying to solve his partner’s murder. The first edition has since become one of the Holy Grails of book collectors, which probably explains why the international auction house Sotheby’s sold a copy of the novel’s first pressing for $75,000. Before you say, “You’re shitting me,” we’ll add that 75K was actually lower than their upper end estimate of $90,000. The 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston is considered by most cinema experts to be the first real film noir, and Bogart said it best when asked in the movie exactly what the falcon was. His answer: “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
Twilight of the flapper age.
The French erotic magazine Beauté may look familiar to you because we shared another copy of it a while back. That one was from 1937 and was called Beautés. This one, with a stylized twilight time photo-illustration, was published in 1933, when the Depression was in full swing. Perhaps that’s why the cover subject, who has a flapper/party-girl aspect, looks so weary and jaded. If her face rings a bell, that’s because she isn’t just any flapper—she’s Mary Astor, whose forty-four year screen career included turns in Dodsworth, The Maltese Falcon, The Hurricane, Across the Pacific, and The Great Lie. We have no idea why Beautés dropped the “s” from its name. Nothing was dropped from inside, though—it’s erotica as only the French were able to do it. Nine scans below, including a great shot of Muriel Evans, star of numerous films between 1928 and 1940.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Hollywood Black Friday
A six month strike by Hollywood set decorators becomes a riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios when strikers and replacement workers clash. The event helps bring about the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, among other things, prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns and requires union leaders to affirm they are not supporters of the Communist Party.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
The newspaper Pravda is founded by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles living in Vienna. The name means "truth" and the paper serves as an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991.
1957—Ferlinghetti Wins Obscenity Case
An obscenity trial brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the counterculture City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, reaches its conclusion when Judge Clayton Horn rules that Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection Howl is not obscene.
After a long trial watched by millions of people worldwide, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson subsequently loses a civil suit and is ordered to pay millions in damages.
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