Sometimes you have to look at things from a whole new angle.
How many mid-century actresses began as Playboy models? An absolute raft of them. The 1957 photo above shows Dolores Donlon, who was the magazine's centerfold in August of that year. Donlon was an unusual case. She had been toiling in Hollywood since 1944, landing minor film roles and scattered magazine covers. She managed to earn seventh billing in 1954's The Long Wait, and third in 1957's Flight to Hong Kong, but they weren't major films. When she finally posed nude it was much later than usual—she was thirty-seven. It's hard to determine whether the new tactic directly paid off, but from that point forward she became a well established television actress, racking up more than twenty-five credits on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip and Miami Undercover. It wasn't movie stardom, but it was success. Was it Playboy that made the difference? Probably only she and her agent knew, and neither of them are around to tell us.
The saying goes that no parent should have to bury a child. Somebody didn't hear the saying.
The above Colombia Pictures promo photo of U.S. actress Eloise Hardt first appeared in 1941, when she was still performing in uncredited roles. Her first star turn came in 1947 in the twenty minute short The Luckiest Guy in the World, followed by a role in Homecoming in 1948. But her career in movies never really took off. It was in television that she made her mark, appearing in dozens of series beginning in 1956. Some of those included Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Miami Undercover, and Dr. Kildare. But for all her acting credits, it was for events outside of show business that she seems to be remembered today.
In 1968 Hardt's daughter Marina Habe was kidnapped, murdered, and her body left in the woods off Muholland Drive. Speculation over the years is that one or more members of the Manson Family did the deed. This would have made Habe an early victim, as their famous murder spree didn't occur until 1969, but according to Ed Sanders, author of The Family, members of Manson's circle admitted they knew Habe, and newspaper reports in 1969 suggested the same weapons that killed Habe were used on Sharon Tate. However no arrest was ever made in the murder. As for Hardt, she's still alive and residing in California, which means she's outlived her daughter by nearly fifty years.
Ms. Smith goes to New York City.
Above is an alternate poster for the thriller Undercover Girl, a film we talked about previously on its premiere date, which was today in 1950. Read the other write-up and see the other poster here.
Take a walk on the wild side.
Above are three cover treatments for Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street, written by Al Palmer, and first published in 1949 (many sources say 1950, but Palmer’s current day publisher Véhicule Press says 1949). Sugar-Puss was set in Montreal in the debauched red light district centered around Dorchester Street (now René Lévesque Boulevard), and spiced with firsthand observations from Palmer, who was a night-crawling columnist for the Montreal Herald and later the Montreal Gazette. His main character, Gisele Lepine, leaves her small farming town, is swept up in bright lights and big city, and pulled into various dramas involving a newspaper man, a cabaret owner, drug-dealers, and chorus girls. Gisele’s situation soon devolves, bringing her up-close and personal with organized crime, murder, and white slavery (always, in mid-century novels, taken to be somehow worse than mere slavery). The novel was Palmer’s only one, but it has managed to endure among collectors, maybe because it has possibly the best title ever. He also wrote a city expose entitled Montreal Confidential. We like all three of these covers, but even if the first two seem of higher quality, with their splashes of purple and yellow, we think version three manages to capture a feeling of loneliness and alienation. The top piece is by Syd Dyke, the middle one by D. Rickard, and the last is by unknown.
The cops and robbers go coast to coast in Undercover Girl.
Above, a promo poster for Undercover Girl. The depiction of star Alexis Smith at upper left is modeled directly after the image of her we shared a couple of weeks ago, minus the pistol she was holding. Undercover Girl is about a rookie NYC policewoman detached to L.A. to pose as a Chicago drug buyer, and who joined the force to avenge her cop father’s death. Lucky, then, one of the drug dealers she’s going after was coincidentally responsible. We probably don’t have to tell you her cover is blown later in the film—it’s a standard feature of these deep cover dramas even today. It’s still worth a glance, though, and we’re glad we mixed it into the slate of five horror movies we watched this weekend. Undercover Girl premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Undercover but not inconspicuous.
Above, Canadian actress Alexis Smith, née Gladys Smith, in a Universal International Pictures promo shot made in 1950 for her cop thriller Undercover Girl. She also appeared in Conflict, Of Human Bondage, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, and more than fifty other films.
Rosanna Yanni and Janine Reynaud are the kiss of death in Jesús Franco’s campy spy thriller.
If we had to select our favorite sexploitation director, guys like Russ Meyer, Italy’s Mario Bava, and France’s Just Jaeckin would be in the running, but the top dog might possibly be Spain’s Jesús Franco. Franco has helmed an unbelievable 190 movies, including the one accompanying this fantastic poster painted by Macario Gomez—El caso de las dos bellezas, aka Rote Lippen, Sadisterotica, aka Two Undercover Angels. The camp factor is high here. The heroines are the Red Lips, two ultragroovy superspies played by Rosanna Yanni and Janine Reynaud. The villains are a sadistic artist and his henchmonster, Morpho the werewolf, who are killing girls and taking photos to use as inspiration for paintings. If you haven’t seen a Franco movie, this is a good one to start with. Several shots of Jägermeister are a helpful viewing aid, but aren’t required. El caso de las dos bellezas was released in Spain today in 1969.
He inspired a movie and a book—now he faces life in prison.
Today in Thailand, Viktor Bout took the stand in his trial to fight extradition to the United States for conspiring to provide weaponry to Colombian FARC rebels. Bout, who is a Russian national, allegedly made an arms deal with men he thought were potential customers, but who were in reality American undercover agents. If Thai authorities decide to turn Bout over, he faces charges in America of conspiring to kill U.S. officers, employees and citizens, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.
Bout said in court, when asked his profession, that he is a businessman involved in aviation and construction. However U.S. authorities, as well as the United Nations, claim he is an international arms dealer known as The Merchant of Death who has provided weaponry to warlords and dictators in Afghanistan and Africa, and is so well known that he was the subject of a book, and provided inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in the film Lord of War.
Among Bout’s alleged exploits are the hijacking of 200,000 assault rifles en route from Bosnia to Iraq, and the breaking of an arms embargo to Liberia. Bout said he traveled to Bangkok to relax and to meet with a Thai businessman about an airplane deal, and claimed he was arrested because he is a pawn in an American plot. He denied any wrongdoing, saying, “I did not commit any terrorist acts. The US is trying to use this to cover up its internal problems and prevent good relations between Thailand and Russia.” Bout faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.
Police break up global child pornography ring.
U.S. and E.U. authorities reported yesterday that more than 170 people around the world, including 61 in the United States, have been arrested in a major sting targeting international child pornographers. The operation, called Joint Hammer in the U.S., and Koala in Europe, freed girls who were sexually abused by child pornographers.
The investigation was launched after investigators determined a videotape of child porn found in Australia had been produced in Belgium. A joint EU-U.S. effort exposed a Belgian father who was sexually abusing his young daughters, and employing an Italian photographer to produce images of the abuse. So far 11 children were freed in the U.S., and dozens more were rescued in Europe.
Officials said ringleaders primarily targeted prepubescent females, but added that other groups produce photos and videos of boys and girls of all ages, including infants. Agents are still attempting to locate many victims whose images appeared in photos and videos and more arrests are expected as the investigation continues.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
1969—Manson Followers Continue Rampage
A day after murdering actress Sharon Tate and four others, members of Charles Manson's cult kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson personally orchestrates the event, but leaves the LaBianca house before the killing starts.
1977—Son of Sam Arrested
The serial killer and arsonist known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is arrested in Yonkers, New York. He turns out to be 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz. He had been killing people in the New York area for most of the previous year.
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