|Vintage Pulp||Dec 4 2013|
Though we can’t find much online about the making of the 1950 b-budget film noir Highway 301, we have a suspicion what happened during its production. The studio holding the purse strings, Warner Bros., had a look at the rough cut and said there’s no way we’re putting out a movie this intense. How intense is it? Influential New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called it “a straight exercise in low sadism.” So what does a studio do when it has on its hands a movie it thinks is likely to bad vibe audiences right out of the cinema? Simple—tell the audiences before the movie starts how it’s going to end. Get three sitting state governors—W. Kerr Scott of North Carolina, John S. Battle of Virginia, and William P. Lane, Jr. of Maryland—to announce in a prologue that crime does not pay, and that every member of the Tri-State Gang depicted in the movie ended up dead, except for one, who ended up in prison. Was Warner Bros. really responsible for such a blatant mutilation of Highway 301? It’s a very good bet, simply because a screenwriter can’t write a script that counts on the participation of three state governors. But for Jack Warner, well, all it would have taken was a phone call to each.
Writer/director Andrew L. Stone deserves a lot of credit for putting this together. He was an experienced hand at this point, but never before had he created something so innovative. Highway 301 ends on a down note with more moralizing, but sandwiched in between is a highly recommendable drama. Flawed, yes, but only due to the intrusion of front office types, we suspect. A re-release without the moral parentheses and intermittent narration would elevate this to classic status. The poster at top is classic in its own right. It was painted by someone who signed it Aziz, and the Arabic script in the lower right corner confirms it was made for release in the Middle East or North Africa, most likely Egypt, but don’t quote us on that.
|Hollywoodland||May 11 2013|
This publicity photo from Warner Bros. shows six members of the studio’s beauty chorus posing on a ladder that was part of a pirate ship being used in the 1933 Busby Berkeley musical Footlight Parade. This is not the first time this movie has been mentioned on Pulp Intl. We shared an excellent magazine cover related to it last year. Among the chorus girls who appeared in the film were nineteen-year-old Dorothy Lamour and twenty-two-year-old Ann Sothern, both just beginning their careers. The women above are not identified, but if we had to guess we’d say Lamour could be third from the top.
|Hollywoodland||Feb 10 2012|
Last time we featured Inside Story, we took a detailed look at the contents, concluded that there was good reason it was a strictly blah tabloid, and decided not to buy it again. But that doesn’t mean we can’t cull them from online, so today we have this February 1957 cover that promises to expose “the amazing James Dean hoax.” Make sure you’re sitting down when you read this. The globe-spanning conspiracy Inside Story uncovered is simply that Dean’s posthumous spike in popularity wasn’t entirely due to sincere outpourings of appreciation by fans, but also because of a deliberate, behind-the-scenes publicity campaign by Warner Bros., who had produced his last movie Giant. Warners had decided that, after dropping $5 million on production, they needed a major publicity angle to have any hope of recouping their investment in a movie whose star had been dead a year and a month. The money quote: “Unfortunately, Dean, living again only for the profits of the movie-makers, will never see a dime of that increased gross…” Well, no, because death will tend to put a crimp in one’s personal finances. At least Inside Story published a nice photo, from East of Eden, below. We have two more issues, with lots of scans, and you can see those here and here.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 5 2012|
Above, a January 1935 cover of the French art/cinema magazine Pour Lire a Deux with cover stars James Cagney and Ruby Keeler from the 1933 Warner Brothers musical Footlight Parade, which opened in France in 1934. Inside you get lots and lots of artsy photos, most of them nude, and most of them great. See ten scans below.
|The Naked City||Jan 4 2012|
Dalton Stevens’ cover for this January 1931 issue of True Detective looks a bit like a horror illustration, but it's actually supposed to represent Robert E. Burns, who in 1922 helped rob a Georgia grocery, earned himself 6 to 10 at hard labor, but escaped and made his way to Chicago, where he adopted a new identity and rose to success as a magazine editor. Years later, when he tried to divorce the woman he had married, she betrayed him to Georgia authorities, and what followed was a legal battle between Georgia courts and Chicago civic leaders, with the former wanting Burns extradited, and the latter citing his standing in the community and calling for his pardon. Burns eventually went back to Georgia voluntarily to serve what he had been assured would be a few months in jail, but which turned into more hard time on a chain gang.
Angered and disillusioned, Burns escaped again, and this time wrote a book from hiding, which True Detective excerpts in the above issue and several others. This was a real scoop for the magazine—it was the first to publish Burns’ harrowing tale. The story generated quite a bit of attention, and Vanguard Press picked it up and published it as I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang, which led directly to Warner Brothers adapting the tale into a hit 1932 motion picture starring Paul Muni. The movie differed somewhat from the book, of course, which differed somewhat from reality (Burns himself admitted this later), but his account cast a withering light on the chain gang system. The exposure helped chain gang opponents, who claimed—with some veracity—that the practice was immoral because it originated with the South's need to replace its slave labor after defeat in the U.S. Civil War.
Burns continued to live life on the run, but was eventually arrested again, this time in New Jersey. However, the governor of the state refused to extradite him. The standoff meant Burns was, in practical terms, a free man. That practical freedom was made official in 1945 when he was finally pardoned in Georgia, and his literary indictment of the chain gang system helped bring about its demise. Well, sort of—it returned to the South in 1995, was quickly discontinued after legal challenges, but may yet be reintroduced as politicians push for more and more extreme punishments to bolster their tough-on-crime credentials.