Vintage Pulp Oct 16 2019
DRUNK AND DISORDERLY
Cocktails, comedy, and crime make a mix that'll go right to your head.


Above, a fantastic Czech poster for the 1934 romantic comedy-murder mystery The Thin Man, which there was titled Detektiv Nick v New Yorku. This is a photo-illustration, rather than the paintings we love, but it's still, in our book, as good as promo art gets. As far as the film goes, like Casablanca or Chinatown, there's no way to overrate it. Some of the humor is so modern that you'll have trouble believing it was made almost a century ago and wasn't cribbed from an episode of Friends or Seinfeld. Just goes to show that in the infinity of time we don't change as quickly as we think.
 
We adore the boozing party animals at the center of this tour de force—Nick and Nora Charles, played by William Powell and Myrna Loy—whose drunken interactions could easily be the inspiration for Jim and Jules of the hilarious television show Brockmire. Credit the director, actors, editors, and everyone else for this masterpiece, but give the biggest nod to Dashiell Hammett, who wrote the excellent source novel. There's no release date for Detektiv Nick v New Yorku in Czechoslovakia, but figure spring or early summer of 1935.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 22 2019
THROUGH THICK AND THIN
Nick and Nora Charles—never shaken, never stirred, and almost never sober.


1934's The Thin Man is what we like to think of of a palate cleanser. After reading a few less accomplished authors you grab a Hammett because you know he's great. It's pure fun following functional alcoholic Nick Charles and his equally hard drinking young wife Nora as they navigate deception and murder. How much do Nick and Nora Charles drink? At one point Nick wakes up feeling terrible and realizes it's because he'd gone to bed sober. Several cocktail sessions a day is about average. Maybe that's why danger doesn't faze them. Even being shot at is reason for a libation and a quip.

This edition of The Thin Man is a rare one. It's the Pocket Books paperback from 1945, with the type of art that was prevalent on paperbacks during the heyday of pulp. We can't tell you much about the book that hasn't already been written, including the fact that it's less a mystery than a comedy of manners, but there is one aspect that's rarely commented upon. Nick Charles is of Greek descent. His full last name is Charalambides. This was the ’30s, when there was open racism in the U.S. against Greeks. James M. Cain delves into this in The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which the Greek character Nick Papadakis is insulted behind his back and set apart as a non-white inferior.

So in The Thin Man Hammett was portraying Nick Charles not as the upper crust dilettante William Powell made famous in the film version, but as a tough guy outsider. People are a bit afraid of him. Filmgoers were definitely not afraid of pencil mustached William Powell. Hammett wanted the written Charles to possess street cred, to be a person who had been places and seen things others had not. Hammett was going for a different type of detective in more ways than merely his drinking habits. Charles' maverick role is just a little extra flavor in an already entertaining novel. The actual mystery is difficult to follow, but even so we highly recommend this if you haven't read it.

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Hollywoodland Nov 18 2018
FIRST NAME BASIS
Everybody's a friend in Screenland.


This issue of the celeb magazine Screenland hit newsstands this month in 1936 with a nice painting of Jeanette MacDonald adorning the cover. The art on that is by Marland Stone. Inside the magazine are Randolph Scott, Kay Francis, Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, and numerous other stars. Among them are Arline Judge, who was in a boatload of movies during the ’30s, but later became more known for marrying and divorcing seven times, which is high even for Hollywood. Generally, the stars are referred to by Screenland editors only by their first names, which is a clever approach in a magazine that was designed to help fans connect with their favorite celebs. We have twenty-five scans below and a couple more issues of Screenland here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 11 2017
THE LITTLE MERMAID
William Powell discovers a rare species of marine life.


Today we're looking at a decidedly non-pulp movie—Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, a featherweight comedy starring William Powell and Ann Blyth. We watched it because we featured Blyth as a femme fatale last year. She was wearing a mermaid costume in the photo we shared, and an image like that will make one curious. In the movie a fifty-year-old man having a bit of a two-thirds-life crisis takes a Caribbean trip with his wife, stumbles across a youthful mermaid, and falls in love with her. Powell is good, of course, as he is in everything, and Blyth is expressive—which is to say she doesn't speak. Why would she? She's a fish, silly. She does hiss, though. Irene Hervey as Powell's hot wife has a bit of a wandering eye herself, but for an actual man rather than a fantastical creature, and Andrea King plays a woman intent on making the moves on Powell. With all these potential infidelities there's lots of dramatic potential, but this is a family comedy, which means nothing too taxing to the average moviegoer occurs and everyone ends up where they belong—Powell and Hervey recommitted to their marriage, and Blyth recommitted to the sea. Cute stuff. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid premiered in the U.S. today in 1948. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 14
1911—Team Reaches South Pole
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, along with his team Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting, becomes the first person to reach the South Pole. After a celebrated career, Amundsen eventually disappears in 1928 while returning from a search and rescue flight at the North Pole. His body is never found.
December 13
1944—Velez Commits Suicide
Mexican actress Lupe Velez, who was considered one of the great beauties of her day, commits suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In her note, Velez says she did it to avoid bringing shame on her unborn child by giving birth to him out of wedlock, but many Hollywood historians believe bipolar disorder was the actual cause. The event inspired a 1965 Andy Warhol film entitled Lupe.
1958—Gordo the Monkey Lost After Space Flight
After a fifteen minute flight into space on a Jupiter AM-13 rocket, a monkey named Gordo splashes down in the South Pacific but is lost after his capsule sinks. The incident sparks angry protests from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but NASA says animals are needed for such tests.
December 12
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
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