It's a yellow banana occasion—no exceptions, no excuses.
This brilliant photo features the famed French burlesque dancer who billed herself as Maria Tuxedo. She appeared onstage at Le Crazy Horse cabaret, and this image was made there probably around 1968. We think it's amazing. There are other frames from this session, which was shot by Giancarlo Botti, and some of those are even in realistic color, but we like this desaturated look best.
Those of you in the know concerning burlesque have noticed that Tuxedo is channeling Josephine Baker. Baker may or may not have been the first to wear a skirt of bananas, but she undoubtedly was the one who made the look iconic. Ironically, the most famous photos of Baker in this mode don't feature her with real bananas, but rather costuming constructed to resemble them. The shots of her with actual bananas—such as the one you see here—are less famous. But the gimmick was indeed made into something lasting by Baker, and Tuxedo was definitely paying tribute when she wore her ungainly accoutrement. Yet she managed to make it look effortless, which shows yet again that, while beautiful women graced all niches of show business, burlesque dancers were special, aesthetically and athletically. We don't think they get enough credit for being some of the most inspiring figures of the mid-century era. But we always do our best to promote them, particularly in the jawdropping examples we've shared here, here, here, and here.
This is what happens when you send a dancer to do a killer's job.
This is just ridiculous from Cyd Charisse. She has nowhere near proper shooting stance. Her base is totally off. She doesn't have her firearm properly braced. Where do you even start with this? She isn't going to hit anything. Luckily, she didn't have to rely on marksmanship to make a living. Instead, she danced and acted in numerous hit movies, including Singin' in the Rain, Brigadoon, and The Silencers. This image was made as a promo for her 1956 musical Meet Me in Las Vegas, which was a who's-who of musical talent, including Lena Horne, Liliane Montevecchi, Frankie Laine, the Four Aces, Sammy Davis, Jr., and others. Interestingly, it was also known as Viva Las Vegas, a decade before the Elvis movie. We can already picture Elvis fans raising an interjecting finger, but it's absolutely true. We explained it way back in 2011, and if you check out that write-up you'll also see Charisse in a slightly better shooting stance. She still won't hit anything. But at least she's on two feet.
We should emphasize our best features. On me that's everything, but I can show this without getting arrested.
Our regularly scheduled tributes to German actress Elke Sommer continue with these two images of her taking bare midriff fashion to its furthest limits. As nice as her stomach looks, a rear angle of this would be worth a lot to us. We suspect butt cleavage big time. And that's always a good thing.
I'm hiding right here until every living human has forgotten that terrible, terrible cannibal flick I starred in.
Here we have a photo of an angry—well, is she actually angry, or it more like murderous watchfulness? Anyway, Italian actress Sabrina Siani. She's flown to the most secluded tropical island on Earth, then for good measure hidden herself under a pier until people stop asking her what level of financial desperation she reached that made her star in La Dea Cannibale, one of the worst movies of 1980. We understand she wants to move on, but the world will never forget that film, in part because bad people like us won't let that happen. Look here.
So, this will shock you—I can tell you it shocked me—but I realized I've wanted to shoot you since our very first date.
Marian Marsh was born in what is now Trinidad and Tobago, but which was at the time of her birth part of the British West Indies. She started life as Violet Krauth, but for Hollywood changed her name. She appeared in such films as The Road to Singapore, Crime and Punishment, In Spite of Danger, Murder by Invitation, and the horror classic The Black Room. All worthy achievements, and she also founded a nonprofit called Desert Beautiful, which had a mission to preserve the environment of Palm Desert, California, where she lived after retirement. The organization lasted for about fifty years, which is quite good for a nonprofit. The above photo, made back when she was interested only in murder, is from the 1931 drama Five Star Final.
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.
Afro trend makes Watanabe wannabe cooler.
Consider this the flipside of our post on vintage afros a few days ago. While the afro was seen mainly on black actors and actresses, particularly in the blaxploitation movies we're always watching, many non-black actresses also flirted with the style. Celebs from Jane Fonda to Raquel Welch tried out 'fros, and we've even come across the occasional afro/perm on Japanese actresses. For example, here you see Yayoi Watanabe upping her hipness quotient. She appeared in such films as Ero shogun to nijuichi nin no aisho, aka Lustful Shogun and His 21 Mistresses, and was also the star of scores of memorable promo images, such as this one and this one. Probably, a Japanese actress sporting an afro wouldn't go over quite the same way today, but we like the look, and believe that respectfully experimenting with the styles of other cultures in non-costumey ways is fine. But that's just us. This shot is from around 1973.
The performance was good, but the encore was unforgettable.
We asked you to stay tuned, and quicker than you can say ring-a-ding-ding above is Setsuko Ogawa as promised. Her guitar isn't just for decoration. In addition to her many film credits she released a 1973 single and later sang the theme song of the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick Enka Jôshikô: Kizudarake no Kaben—translation: “petals full of scars”—in which she headlined.
We've seen Ogawa described as the first roman porno star, and that could be true. Her debut film was 1971's Irogoyomi ōoku hiwa, aka Castle Orgies, and it was Nikkatsu's first official offering from its radical new genre, or possibly the second, depending on which source you believe. She starred in another Nikkatsu movie that year, so she was certainly among the genre's first recognizable faces.
The above image was pasted together from two larger shots and put online several years ago. We found full-frame versions of those separate shots, but not at a useful resolution, so two cropped shots stuck together like Siamese twins is what you get. However the resolution on that image is good, so we put it under the digital knife and split it during a dicey operation that took all of five seconds, with the results below. We'll have more from Ogawa at some point.
Hmm... it's always a tough decision. Which of my many talents should I flaunt today?
Above is a photo of vaudevillian, stage actress, movie star, television host, writer, and internationally renowned singer Pearl Bailey. She excelled in all the various areas of her artistic pursuits, but began her career as a nightclub performer, for years touring around the U.S. before her rise to household fame began by appearing in movies, firstly 1947's Variety Girl. The next year she split a platter with Buddy Clark, and went on to release more than two dozen albums. The regal image above is undated, but were we to guess, we'd say it's probably from around the time she appeared in the hit film Carmen Jones in 1954.
The calm at the center of the storm.
Christine Keeler, who died several years ago, was born today in 1942. You've seen this image of her before. It shows her in 1963, infamous at the time due to her relationship with the married British Secretary of State for War John Profumo. You know that episode as The Profumo Affair. While we've seen this shot many times, today it really struck us how nice it is—as is its variation below. They were made by Lewis Morley to promote The Keeler Affair, a film that was never released. But Morley's shot was leaked to The Sunday Mirror, and it exploded over the stuffy British public like a bomb and remains one of the most iconic images of the 1960s. Some websites say Keeler is straddling a chair made by famed designer Arne Jacobsen, but it was actually a cheap copy. We've written on Keeler before—as has everyone else—but if you want to see what we did, you can check here, here, here, and here. We also have one more link for you. If you follow it, you'll see that the above shot is the latest in an ongoing series featuring famous women in unusual chairs. Trust us, it's worth a look.
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