George Raft and Ava Gardner are lost in tepid 1946 drama.
A whistle stop, for any who don't know, is a term for a small town, a place where a train pulls in for a few minutes before moving on. 1946's Whistle Stop is based on Maritta M. Wolff's acclaimed novel, published when she was just twenty-two. It was not only acclaimed, but controversial, as its frank language scandalized bluenoses of the era.
In the film, Ava Gardner returns from Chicago to her whistle stop home town and gets tangled up up with her ex, George Raft, who's a gambler and all around shady guy. Tom Conway has feelings for Gardner and hates Raft, and the rivalry leads to big trouble as both try to win Ava's affections. She doesn't help the situation with her fickleness. Each time Raft makes her mad she turns to Conway. Nothing good can result when hearts are used as toys.
This is another one of those old films that, because it has some night scenes and a partial crime focus, is labeled on some sites as a film noir. That's way off and you'll be disappointed if you watch it expecting noir. It's actually a melodrama, with star-crossed lovers, sweet violins, and a dance sequence set to the 1848 folk classic “Oh, Susanna.” Even Variety at the time called it “heavy melodrama.” There's a heist in the film, but heists happened in the movies before, after, and outside film noir. Raft is supposed to take part in the robbery, which as a bonus would result in the death of his rival Conway. Think things work out as planned? Not quite. We wanted to like Whistle Stop, because Gardner is ravishing, but it's not up to the standard of most old films. It premiered today in 1946.
Hmm... it's always a tough decision. Which of my many talents should I flaunt today?
Above is a photo of vaudevillian, stage actress, movie star, television host, writer, and internationally renowned singer Pearl Bailey. She excelled in all the various areas of her artistic pursuits, but began her career as a nightclub performer, for years touring around the U.S. before her rise to household fame began by appearing in movies, firstly 1947's Variety Girl. The next year she split a platter with Buddy Clark, and went on to release more than two dozen albums. The regal image above is undated, but were we to guess, we'd say it's probably from around the time she appeared in the hit film Carmen Jones in 1954.
Sometimes in show business you need to make sure to cover your ass.
This lovely photo shows Doris Mitchell, a New York City showgirl and singer who was a member of Nils Thor Granlund's NTG Revue, a chorus line that was the first of its kind in Las Vegas, originating in 1943 at the El Rancho Hotel and Casino. The NTG Revue eventually came to New York City, where Mitchell presumably joined. But reviews were mixed, with some critics liking it, but a Variety scribe noting Granlund's habit of slapping the chorus girls on their asses, to which they rolled their eyes and drawled scripted quips like, “Ain't he a card?” Granlund was uncouth, but he was also famous and wealthy, so he got away with it. Sound like anyone you know? As far as Mitchell herself, this photo seems to be the only evidence of her career that exists.
Maybe they're angry they weren't invited to the slumber party.
This chaotic scene of terrified earthlings in their pajamas being swarmed by UFOs is one of the cooler vintage book covers you’ll see. Behind the Flying Saucers was Frank Scully's discussion of the origin of extraterrestrials, with a finger pointed squarely at the U.S. government for covering up evidence of their existence. He first aired his views in 1949 in his column in the publication Variety, and the next year expanded upon them in book form. The art, which was painted by Earle Bergey, is from the 1951 paperback edition.
Behind the Flying Saucers was one of the first UFO books and its influence has been enduring. Scully inspired the name of Gillian Anderson’s immortal character on The X-Files, and we’ve seen this paperback online going for as much as $150. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology you don’t have to pay that much, or anything, for that matter, because you can read the entire text online here, or download it just about anywhere.
As to whether any of what Scully wrote was true, like we’ve said before, if aliens could fly here from millions of light years away we’re pretty sure they’d have mastered the ability to go unobserved. We also think that an advanced race—after seeing how we kill each other by the millions, destroy our habitat, tolerate mass starvation, and are locked in a bizarre system of debt peonage designed to enrich an entrenched few—would not only do a screeching U-turn back to the far reaches of the cosmos, but would put up a giant intergalactic advisory sign telling travelers to steer clear of Earth at all costs. But we digress. Since the universe is too vast not to contain extraterrestrial life of some sort, maybe visitors have been here. You never know.
The porn industry welcomed her with open arms. Two years later she was dead.
Above is a cover of Variety magazine published today in 1984 reporting the death of porn starlet Shauna Grant the previous month. Born Colleen Applegate in Minnesota, she became a top-earning adult film performer over her two-year career in Los Angeles, but was also a heavy cocaine user and was ambivalent at best about her work. In fact, despite her popularity with the paying public she sometimes had difficulty acquiring roles because directors were well aware that she had no zest for what she did and they believed it showed in her performances. But her lack of enthusiasm wasn't just for her work—it was for her entire life, which was fueled by cash and parties, but also filled with hangers-on, bad men, and dodgy friends.
At some point she contracted herpes, and though many accounts assume it came from her career, it's just as likely she got the disease from her many outside-the-industry acquaintances, considering the incredibly high infection rates among the general public. In any case, with a drug habit and an STD, as well as an abortion and a broken relationship weighing on her, not to mention a career that she was ashamed of, Grant shot herself in the head with a .22 rifle on 23 March, and appeared posthumously on the Variety cover above. We chose the photo below because she seems so isolated in it, even lonely. A while back we shared an amazing Japanese poster with her, which you can see here, and we'll get back to more promo material from her later. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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