Femmes Fatales May 26 2019
LAW OF THE LETTER
I'll give you one more chance to get it right. It's spelled without a “y” but pronounced like there is one.


Bette Davis was born with the first name Ruth, but nicknamed Betty from childhood. As an actress she changed the spelling to Bette after Honoré de Balzac's La Cousine Bette, and people mangled the pronunciation routinely until she became a huge star. Speaking of letters, this promo photo is from her 1940 drama The Letter, based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham. Remember how we talked about how outward looking Hollywood was during its golden period, how it set so many films in exotic corners of the world? The Letter is another prime example. It's set on a rubber plantation in Malaya. Thanks largely to Davis's golden touch the film was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Score. It won nothing, but we assume the film is good anyway. We'll watch it and report back. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 12 2018
TROPICAL DEPRESSION
*sigh* Maybe I should have left this outfit back home and packed a raincoat instead.


We talked about the 1953 Rita Hayworth film Miss Sadie Thompson back in December. The source material, written by W. Somerset Maugham, first appeared in the literary magazine The Smart Set in 1921 as “Miss Thompson,” and was published by Dell as Rain in 1951. This edition has beautiful cover art from Victor Kalin, belying the dark story Maugham weaves inside. The movie sticks reasonably close to the book, so if you want to know more about the plot you can check here

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Vintage Pulp Dec 23 2017
SADIE ANYTHING
Hayworth hits land and a storm soon follows.


Party girl Rita Hayworth is bound for New Caledonia to start a new job, but makes a stopover on Pago Pago along the way, where her wild ways make a splash at a military garrison and nearby village. A pompous missionary who was on the same boat seems to think Hayworth was run out of Honolulu because she was a prostitute. He has no problem spreading this rumor, but is the point to punish her, save her, or bed her? In style Miss Sadie Thompson is classic Hayworth, with her fun-loving ways raising eyebrows and smiting men around the heart, but in execution the movie falls short of her best. No fault of Rita's, though. She makes the film worth watching, even if it's pretty much guaranteed to leave you going, “Huh?” when the credits roll. Maybe the real value here is the lesson the movie provides about the perils of censorship. Read the W. Somerset Maugham source material and you'll see what we mean. Miss Sadie Thompson premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.

I really don't want to think about what I did in Honolulu.

But I want to think about it. I'm thinking about it right now. That's why I'm using a hat to cover my little missionary.

Sadie comes.

And Sadie goes.

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Vintage Pulp May 6 2014
SHUDDER ISLAND
Avon turns over a new Leaf for a Maugham classic.

Above, pulp art treatment for W. Somerset Maugham by Avon Books for its Modern Short Story Monthly line. The Trembling of a Leaf was a collection of six tales set in Samoa, Tahiti and Hawaii, and dealing the essential incompatibility of colonial Europeans to island life, and a bit about the nature of travel, something Maugham would return to for his immortal novel The Razor’s Edge. It was originally published in 1921 with a more conservative cover, and Avon produced this sexed-up edition in 1946.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 30 2012
CLOSE SHAVE
Hmph. You’re absolutely right, baby. That new razor left no sign whatsoever of your chick-stache.

Above, the cover of Pocket Books’ 1946 edition of W. Somerset Maugham’s classic novel The Razor’s Edge, with Troop art seeming to depict the moment a woman triumphs over her unsightly facial hair. It’ll grow back, of course, but 5 o’clock is hours away. Kiss her you fool! Seriously though, this is one of our favorite books, and it’s probably at least 25% percent of the reason we keep wandering place to place, country to country. It isn’t pulp, but it’s a damn good read. Highly recommended. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 18
1968—Olympic Committee Suspends Carlos and Smith
The U.S. Olympic Committee suspends African-American track & field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos for saluting the crowd with raised, gloved fists during a medal ceremony at the Mexico City games. The salutes represented the black power and civil rights movements in the United States. Both athletes also received their medals shoeless to represent black poverty.
October 17
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
October 16
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
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