Royal Crown helps consumers to stay awake at the movies.
Lauren Bacall brings her special brand of smoky sex appeal to this magazine advertisement for Royal Crown Cola, made as a tie-in with her 1946 film noir The Big Sleep. RC was launched in 1905 by Union Bottling Works—a grandiose corporate name for some guys in the back of a Georgia grocery store. The story is that the drink came into being after grocer Claud A. Hatcher got into a feud with his Coca Cola supplier over the cost of Coke syrup, and essentially launched RC out of equal parts entrepreneurialism and spite. Union Bottling Works quickly had a line of drinks, including ginger ale, strawberry soda, and root beer. However humbly RC Cola began, the upstart had truly arrived by 1946, because The Big Sleep, co-starring Humphrey Bogart, was an important movie, and Bacall was a huge star. She was only one jewel in the crown of RC's endorsement efforts. Also appearing in ads were Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Joan Crawford, Virginia Mayo, Paulette Goddard, Gene Tierney, Ann Rutherford, Ginger Rogers, and others. Bacall flogged RC for at least a few years, including starring in tie-in ads for Dark Passage, another screen pairing of her and Bogart that hit cinemas in 1947. You see one of those at bottom. We can only assume these ads were wildly successful. After all, it was Bacall.
Bogart shows the way for the makers of Congo Crossing.
This poster for Congo Crossing has all the elements—firearms, some romantic nuzzling, and a huge crocodile. The trifecta. So we watched it, and what you get here is a Technicolor adventure set in the fictive West African land of Kongotanga, which sits geographically on the border of Belgian Congo, and is a stand-in thematically for Casablanca. Which is to say Congo Crossing uses the basic set-up of Casablanca—transitory expats and shady types in an ass-end outpost riven by local political tensions and power struggles. Virginia Mayo plays a wanted woman fleeing a murder charge she picked up on the French Riviera, George Nader plays the rakish stud who you aren't sure whether to like at first, and in the supporting cast are corrupt local kingpin Tonio Selwart, killer for hire Michael Pate, and Peter Lorre as the local chief of police. Here are some Casablanca similarities:
Expats desperate to catch the next day's plane to anywhere.
A climactic airport shootout.
A woman greatly desired by two men.
Lots of gun toting guys in tropical suits.
A comedic police official whose loyalties shift where the wind blows.
A moment when one man tells a rival it looks like the beginning of a friendship.
We mention Casablanca as shorthand to give you an idea of the set-up, and now we'll mention The African Queen—another Humphrey Bogart classic—as shorthand to tell you what the middle of the movie becomes. Mayo, Nader, and a few others embark on a boat trip upriver to a jungle hospital. There Mayo realizes she's the target of a killer, and flees farther along the river with Nader, dealing with an ambush, a sexual predator, a swarm of terrible tse-tse flies, a sneaky croc, and a deadly illness. You've seen The African Queen, right? A couple of strong similarities there. The group faces these problems and, unlike their African helpers, come away more or less intact, then the movie disembarks from the river—and The African Queen—to shift back to Kongoblanca, er, we mean Kongotanga, where everything began.
So does a movie that starts and ends kind of like Casablanca and has something kind of like The African Queen stitched into the middle work? Not with this script and budget it doesn't. And though the cast is game and experienced, the material doesn't give them much of a chance to sparkle. We can't call the movie bad, but we certainly can't describe it as recommendable either. And going back to the jungle segment for a moment, why is it that in such films the people born and raised in Africa always get eaten while white folks like Mayo and Nader can snog in the bush and be just fine? That's a rhetorical question of course. Congo Crossing premiered today in 1956.
The forecast calls for a slight overcast with a possible hail of bullets.
U.S. actress Virginia Grey may not be well known today, but she appeared in a large number of movies, more than ninety by our count, including Another Thin Man, Grand Central Murder, Highway 301, and Mr. and Mrs. North. As she got older she then slid neatly into television roles and racked up probably a hundred credits in that medium as well. The shot above is from 1940 and was made when she was filming The Golden Fleecing with Lew Ayres and Rita Johnson.
Answer me honestly. Do men actually like this kind of cumbersome lingerie? No? Me neither. Ahh... that's better.
For a couple of years we were mystified by the identity of the above model, but recently learned that she's Virginia De Lee. There's actually some information out there about her, some of it quite interesting. For example, in June 1957, according to Hollywood columnist Erskine Johnson, she walked into his office dressed as a harem girl, accompanied by a "225-pound giant of a fellow and a four-foot [little person],” unrolled a rug, served him a cup of Egyptian coffee, and announced, “We are here to remind you that the Tyrone Power movie Suez will be on television tomorrow night. It's the premiere performance of a series of Twentieth Century Fox movies on KTTV.”
That's what's called an old fashioned publicity stunt and as far as we know stuff like that doesn't happen these days. De Lee also popped up in the press when famed Hungarian sculptor Sepy Dobronyi said she had a perfectly formed body, so it's possible she modeled for him at some point. She obviously sought stardom, but her only movie role was a minor appearance as a stripper in the b-drama Hell Bound. Whatever fame she has these days mainly derives from the many collectible Technicolor lithographs in which she and that quirky right eyebrow of hers were featured. We showed you a few lithos already, and we have one or two more sitting around. You may see them later.
But she's about to solve it permanently.
This photo of U.S. actress Virginia Huston was made when she was filming her debut feature, 1946's Nocturne. From that auspicious beginning she went on to appear in Out of the Past, Flamingo Road, The Racket, and Sudden Fear. Her online bios are contradictory. Wikipedia notes that she broke her back in a car accident, and her career slowed afterward. That isn't true. Her accident was in 1950, and though she was convalescing for a year, most of her film roles came afterward. Meanwhile IMDB says she pretty much retied after marrying in 1952. That's probably closer to the truth, though without more sources we can't say if she stepped away from cinema by choice, or if her moment was simply over. Whatever the case, this is a cool photo.
I call this next punch the goodnight kiss.
Virginia Mayo wasn't much of a boxer. In addition to being very light, she telegraphed her punches, like this haymaker roundhouse right she's about throw after winding it up from somewhere around Sausalito. Good thing she could act. She appeared in such classic films as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Flame and the Arrow, South Sea Woman, and, interestingly, in 1946 starred in both White Heat and Red Light. That sounds like a must-watch double bill, and despite the hundreds of vintage crime flicks we've seen, amazingly we've never seen those. So our night is all mapped out.
Alright, Mr. DeMille, and Mr. Selznick, and Mr. Zukor, and Mr. Zanuck, and Mr. Warner, I'm ready for my close-up.
This is the second time we've seen U.S. actress Toby Wing. The first was in a 1934 issue of Film Fun, and in fact it was the same negligée and same photo session, so that gives us the approximate date on this image. Wing was born in Virginia in 1915 as Martha Wing. Her career took flight in 1924 when she was only nine years old, and lasted through 1938 and more than sixty films for pretty much every major studio in town. What's unusual about her work is that most of her roles were uncredited. Yet she became an indispensable chorus girl in early musicals, a coveted product endorser, and a staple in magazines. She may not have been the name on the marquee, but by performing well in scores of supporting roles she came to be respected, and even revered. She eventually received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 1960.
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.
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.
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. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
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