Vintage Pulp Oct 23 2020
SWAMPED AT WORK
A trapper's job turns into a battle of wits and a test of survival.


The movie Swamp Water is based on Vereen Bell's 1941 novel of the same name. We read the book a while back and loved it, so having a look at the movie adaptation was mandatory. Jean Renoir directs a heavyweight cast: Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Dana Andrews, an eighteen-year old Anne Baxter, and even John Carradine. Brennan is the key character, playing a murder suspect hiding in the Okefenokee Swamp. He's considered an all-time great actor, and here he plays a backwoods good ole boy, mouthing dialogue like, “I bet I been cottonmouth bit a dozen times.” When we heard that line we had to laugh, because it prefigures his famous soliloquy from 1946's To Have and Have Not about being “bit by a dead bee.”

There's more excellent dialogue in this. Our favorite line: “It's gettin' so I don't expect nothin' from you 'cept a bossified tongue and a cussin' out.”

While the script is fun, we didn't think Bell's book would be easily adaptable and we were right. One of the pleasures of the novel is its extensive focus on the geography of the swamp, but there was no way that could fit into the film. The air of deep foreboding and mystery is also missing. For those and other reasons what you end up with is a so-so old movie made from an excellent old book. The script closely follows the source material, so if you want to know a bit more about the plot, we posted a short write-up on the novel here. Swamp Water opened across the U.S. in November 1941, but before its national debut had a special premiere in the town of Waycross, Georgia, where much of the movie was made. That was today, 1941.

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Intl. Notebook Sep 29 2020
BURLESQUE HUMORESQUE
This is the best Laff you'll have all day.


We've posted three issues of Laff magazine over the years, and we return to that publication today with an example from this month in 1946 featuring starlets, showgirls, and burlesque dancers of the highest order. You get Jane Russell, Adele Mara, Vera Ellen, and Myrna Dell, amongst others, but the winner in these pages is Acquanetta, aka the Venezuelan Volcano, who gets a striking tropical themed centerfold photo. In addition, you get a bit of sports coverage—specifically baseball, which is appropriate with the MLB playoffs starting tonight—as well as numerous cartoons.
 
These cartoons—the laffs in Laff magazine—tend to be sexist by today's standards, but then so is this entire website, really, which is an unavoidable side effect of focusing on vintage fiction, art, and photography. We hope the historical significance of the material overshadows all else. In any case, we included the cartoons despite their mostly lame humor, due to the fact that they're high quality illustrations well worth seeing. All that and more appears here in forty-plus scans and zooms, and you can see the other issues of Laff by clicking its keywords below.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 25 2020
LEADING LIGHTS
Can you name the five stars in the constellation Ludlow the Genius?


Above you see five pin-up paintings that came from the brush of Mike Ludlow, an artist we featured the first time only recently. He rose from humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, to become an acclaimed figure that at his zenith painted portraits of major actresses for Esquire magazine. That's where all these pieces were originally published, and if you haven't identified them all, they are, top to bottom, Anita Ekberg, Gina Lollobrigida, Virginia Mayo, Denise Darcel, and Betsy von Furstenberg. All these stars have been featured on Pulp Intl., and you can see interesting posts on them at the following links: Ekberg, Lollobrigida, Mayo, Darcel, von Furstenberg.

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Hollywoodland Dec 28 2019
INSIDE HOLLYWOOD
The more things change the more they stay the same.


Above is a cover of the U.S. tabloid Inside Story published this month in 1955. There's a lot in this magazine, but since we keep our write-ups short we can't cover it all. One story of note concerns Betty Furness, an actress and pitchwoman whose squeaky clean image Inside Story claims is false. This is a typical angle by mid-century tabloids, the idea that a cinema or television sweetheart was really a hussy, lush, ballbreaker, or cold fish. Furness receives slander number four, with editors claiming she has “ice bound emotions,” “a cold, cold heart,” and is, “tough and tightfisted.” It's interesting that sixty years later resistance to a woman being anything other than a nurturer really hasn't diminished all that much, as many women with high public profiles would confirm.

Another story concerns the death of actress Virginia Rappe and the subsequent arrest of Fatty Arbuckle. In short, Rappe died after attending a party thrown by Arbuckle, with the cause of death attributed to either alcohol induced illness or rape and sodomy with a Coke bottle. Arbuckle went to trial three times before winning a final acquittal, though certain details of the death remained murky. The case was muddied by the influence of sensationalistic journalism, as publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst's nationwide chain of newspapers deemed sales more important than truth. The Coke bottle, for example, was entirely fabricated, but Hearst was unrepentant. He'd fit into the modern media landscape perfectly today, because for him money and influence justified everything.

And speaking of money, a final story that caught our eye was the exposé on the record business, namely the practice of buying spins on radio. The term for this—“payola”—was coined in 1916 but not widely known until the ’50s. Inside Story helps spread the terminology with a piece about pay-for-play on national radio stations. Like the previous two stories, this one feels familiar, particularly the idea that the best music rarely makes it onto the airwaves. Those who engaged in payola understood that people generally consumed whatever was put in front of them, therefore what was the point of worrying about quality or innovation? This remains a complaint about entertainment media today, but repetition still rules. To paraphrase the famed colloquialism: If you ain't going broke, don't fix it. We have thirty-plus scans below.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 12 2019
MUTHERLY LOVE
They don't have much in the way of maternal instinct but they make up for it with eagerness to please.


In the nudie flick The Muthers, which opened this month in 1968, two groups of people located somewhere in Southern California between No Budget and No Inhibitions spend an inordinate amount of time putting the ’60s ethos of free love to the test. You have the teens, who party and get laid, and the mothers, who do the same, but with more skill. The movie is just a lighthearted little softcore romp, quaint by today's standards, but notable for the fun attitude it brings to the proceedings. The plot, such as it is, eventually coalesces around one teen's feelings of neglect and tendency toward self-destruction, and the title derives from the fact that for some reason she can't spell “mother” properly.

But don't let our suggestion that there's a plot scare you—this flick is just one long sex scene after another. None of it is explicit, or even frontal for that matter. Mainly the performers just grind and wiggle. But it's still pretty stimulating because one of the moms is Virginia Gordon. For those unfamiliar, Gordon was an in-demand nude model, who, like a fine reposado tequila, just got more golden and more potent as time went by. She's in her thirty-second year in this film, and her body makes every other performer, including those twelve years younger than her, look like walking cookie dough. Safe to say your muther—or mother, even—never looked like that.
I know—you can't take your eyes off them, can you?

Grinding is how I keep my muscle tone. Three-hundred fifty reps to go.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 10 2019
CRIME AMERICAN STYLE
Four U.S. authors make their mark on France and on film.


Above, four covers from Éditions Ditis for its La Chouette collection, circa late 1950s. All of these were originally published in the U.S. and translated into French after being adapted into films. The first three were turned into the film noir classics Sudden Fear, A Kiss Before Dying, and Black Angel, while the fourth became the French crime thriller Bonnes à tuer, which is known in English as One Step to Eternity.

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Vintage Pulp May 23 2019
TRAIN OF EVENTS
Last stop—the city morgue.


Watching lots of movies eventually brings everything your way. The promo poster for Grand Central Murder lured us, and we found ourselves watching an archetypal Sherlockian whodunnit, complete with the villain unmasked in the final moments. When a Broadway showgirl is murdered on a private train car the police gather a gaggle of suspects and go through each of their stories trying to uncover the killer. Among the detainees—her escaped convict boyfriend, her sad sack ex-husband, her jealous co-worker, her phony psychic stepfather, her theatrical understudy, and others, including the convict's lawyer, played by lead actor Van Heflin. Various alibis and reminiscences are shown in flashback until the killer is revealed via a monologue that wraps everything up nice and neat. We wouldn't call the movie screamingly thrilling and funny like the poster does, but it's okay if you like mysteries, and the mass transit backdrop is actually kind of interesting. Grand Central Murder premiered in New York City today in 1942.

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The Naked City May 7 2019
TO GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE WE GO
She always said his biggest problem was that he was pig-headed. Turns out she was right.


When you achieve something rare you want others to know. Usually these are minor things, like breaking 200 on bowling night or perfectly poaching an egg, and the subsequent boasts are basically harmless. But even people who do terrible things—and really should keep their mouths shut for the sake of self-preservation—will still at the very least hint at their accomplishments. Such was the case with 67-year-old Virginia Hayden, above, who regaled her grandson with tales of how useful pigs can be. Just like in those mafia movies, she explained how pigs will eat every part of a human body, except the cranium.

Visits to gran's house must have been heartwarming affairs. Picture her possibly baking chocolate chip cookies and making pleasant smalltalk, dispensing ageless wisdom like, “Did you know that if a woman were to kill her husband and feed his body to pigs, they would eat every part of that fat, hairy body, apart from the exceptionally hard cranium, which never seemed capable of letting through the things his wife told him, for example to pick up his damn socks and wash a fuckin' dish once in a while? Did you know that, my sweet?”

*ding*

“Oh, good. The cookies are done.”

Rewind a bit from that cozy scene. In 2011 Hayden's third husband Thomas flew to Mexico for medical treatment and never came back. In early 2012 an unidentified cranium, with scalp and hair attached, was found near a rural Pennsylvania road. Nobody put cranium and hubby together until 2017, when Thomas Hayden's daughter, who had been estranged from her dad for more than a decade, contacted police with suspicions that his supposed one-way trip to Mexico was something other than it seemed.

Long story short, Virginia Hayden was arrested last week on suspicion of murder.

The lesson here may be that talking about heinous crimes will sometimes indicate how informed one is in esoteric areas of knowledge, but other times will indicate that one has, in fact, committed heinous crimes. Now some of Hayden's other wise utterances take on a darker tone. For example, she used to mention how stabbing a corpse before sinking it in water would keep it from floating, and how giving a person a heavy snootful of nitroglycerine spray could trigger a heart attack. Hayden's second husband died of a heart attack. And her first? He was a suicide. At the moment there's no indication foul play was involved in either death, but we'll bet you a batch of chocolate chip cookies the police are looking into it.

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Femmes Fatales May 4 2019
LITTLE MISS GUNSHINE
There's not even the slightest glimmer of hope.


Virginia Christine prepares to ventilate someone's cranium in this crop of a promo photo made for her 1947 film noir The Invisible Wall. We haven't watched this yet, but we will, because we have a copy of this flick in some hard drive or other. You probably haven't heard of Christine, but she had a fantastic career during which she appeared in about fifty films and numerous television shows, moving constantly between the two realms like few performers have ever managed. Some of her cinematic highlights include Robert Siodmak's The Killers, Jack Webb's Dragnet, Sam Newfield's Murder Is My Business, and Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The full version of the above shot, which includes her blissfully sleeping target, appears below.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2019
KISS OF DEATH
The courtship is dangerous, but the engagement is murder.


A Kiss Before Dying should perhaps be titled “A Xanax Before Dying,” because Robert Wagner and co-star Joanne Woodward both perform as if they've gotten into the medicine cabinet. They play a young couple that accidentally conceive. Wagner envisions his life's ambitions going up in a haze of diapering and 6 a.m. feedings, so he decides to get rid of the baby. Abortion is out of the question, of course, so he tries gently nudging Woodward down a set of bleachers at the local university. When her tumble fails to produce the desired miscarriage, Wagner decides to up his game with a pharmacological solution—and murder.

Best exchange of dialogue, as Wagner parts one evening with an unsuspecting Woodward:

Woodward: “Goodnight.”

Wagner: “Good-bye, baby.”

The attraction in this film is Wagner, who's so smarmy and eely he might make you laugh out loud—at least until you realize how brutal he's prepared to be. Only in a vintage movie can a guy be so obviously evil yet have nobody take notice. A sign around his neck reading, “I think about nothing but homicide 24/7,” would have been ignored. But of course Woodward, while remaining studiously oblivious to her mortal peril, is harder to kill than expected.

Each year the Noir City organizers try to get audiences to take a fresh look at a few non-noir films, but their choices have occasionally been dubious. A Kiss Before Dying is a solidly but unspectacularly directed Deluxe Color production that lacks pretty much any noir iconography, but in terms of script and characterization it's a good fit for the festival. Plus Mary Astor plays Wagner's mom, and she's noir enough to satisfy us any day of the week. Put this in the flawed-but-interesting bin.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 06
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
December 04
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
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