Rare Maltese bird migrates to Asia.
Above: a very nice Japanese poster for the classic early film noir The Maltese Falcon, with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Peter Lorre. The movie was titled in Japanese, “colors of Malta,” which we can't see as any better than the original, but whatever. It's a great piece of art. We've talked about the film only briefly, because what more can we offer than the numerous film experts who've reviewed it? However, we do have a lot of associated poster and book art, some of which you may not have seen. We suggest looking here, here, here, and here.
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.”
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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