|Hollywoodland||Mar 25 2022|
Don't fool around on Donna Mae.
We're back in Los Angeles County divorce court, a place that got so much celebrity usage during the mid-century period it probably could have benefitted from a VIP section. Above you see famed burlesque dancer and model Donna Mae Brown, aka Busty Brown, attending a spousal support hearing today in 1960. Brown performed throughout the U.S. but was based in L.A., headlining at the New Follies, Strip City, and other popular nightspots. Busty wasn't her only alias. The era was all about unwieldy nicknames meant to generate free publicity, therefore she was also known for a while as “Miss Shape of Things To Come,” and “Miss Anatomy.”
In this case, what was to come was monthly support. She was seeking funds from her second ex-husband Maynard Sloate, a high powered agent whose clients included Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Dinah Washington, and who later went into club ownership—including the aforementioned Strip City—through which he trafficked such stars as Anita O’Day and Redd Foxx. At the end of the day Brown, who had initiated divorce proceedings due to Sloate's various infidelities, won fifty dollars monthly, and twenty percent of her ex's gross earnings as support for herself and her children.
The notably slender Brown, who's a brunette above and below, but earned her fame as a platinum blonde, was one of the bolder models of her era, going topless in magazines, baring all for nudie film loops, and getting truly revealing for underground photo club shoots. The latter practice even got her arrested in 1953. The trio of poolside shots below give you a sense of how far she was willing to go, but they're not among her most explicit photos, because there's only so far we're willing to go. If you poke around online you might find those images. She's also fifth in a collection of photos we uploaded a few years ago.
I'll admit there are a couple of aspects of marriage to Donna that I'll really miss.
Los AngelesDonna Mae BrownBusty BrownMaynard SloateRedd FoxxCount BasieElla FitzgeraldSarah VaughnDinah WashingtonAnita O’Dayburlesquenudity
|Hollywoodland||Mar 24 2022|
He's a complicated man—nobody understands him but his mechanic.
This is about as chill as you can get. The above shot, which has been floating around online for a while now, was first published in Custom Bike-Chopper, aka Custom Chopper, in 1976, and shows the legendary Isaac Hayes astride his turbocharged Kawasaki chopper on a sunny Southern California day. With the sandals and socks, it's like he never left his sofa. His bike has one-of-a-kind handlebars, a filigreed gearbox, a gold-plated roller chain, and more. It's extravagant, but the guy wrote the massive hit song, “Theme from Shaft.” He had to do something with all that royalty money. As the lyrics explain, nobody understands him but his woman—who we assume built his bike.
We've talked about Hayes before. He starred in a number of films, but of the ones we've seen so far, the most interesting is the 1974 blaxploitation flick Truck Turner. We talked about it at length a while back, and long story short, it's terrible but amusing. He also appeared in the fun John Carpenter b-movie Escape from New York in 1981, and was a running character on the animated show South Park. We'll get back to Escape from New York later, probably. In the meantime, you can see U.S. and Italian Truck Turner posters here and here, read our thoughts about the film at the first of those links, and check out a promo image of Hayes in considerably less relaxed mode here.
ShaftEscape from New YorkSouth ParkTruck TurnerCustom Bike-ChopperCustom ChopperIsaac HayesJohn Carpenterblaxploitation
|Hollywoodland||Mar 18 2022|
Ann-Margret's reputation was a problem. But her reputation for what?
This should spice up your Friday. Above you see Swedish bombshell Ann-Margret on the cover of a National Enquirer published today in 1962. The editors wanted to match Ann's face with the, “I'm worried,” header, and used a promo shot of her dancing. Wild facial expressions were a specialty of hers. Winks, grins, grimaces, and more were her stock in trade, deftly demonstrated in the shot below. But regarding the above image, we don't think she looks particularly worried. Pained, possibly. Worried, no. We didn't buy this item, so we can't tell you for sure what she's supposed to be worried about, but considering the year, the article probably discusses her trying to make the transition from singer/dancer to serious actress. It was something she talked about in interviews. In the end she managed it easily. On the other hand, maybe Enquirer is hinting at something else entirely. Either way, the photo is rare.
|Hollywoodland||Mar 11 2022|
Early movie magazine celebrates a pantheon of Hollywood stars long gone.
Above and below are the cover and a selection of pages from an issue of Pantomime magazine published exactly one hundred years ago, today in 1922, by New York City based Movie Topics, Inc. We don't share much printed material from the pre-1940 pulp years because it tends to be rare to find, a bit expensive to buy, and not as visually dynamic as what came afterward. Luckily, there's a selection of items like these on Archive.org, and that's where this particular discovery originated, part of a collection of eighteen issues available for free download.
There isn't much information available on Pantomime. The rise of Hollywood fueled a huge satellite industry of movie and celeb mags, and scores of them were short-lived. It's possible this one was in existence only during 1921-22, during the silent era. It's filled with celebrities whose names have faded from popular culture, such as cover star Mae Murray, who was known as “The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips,” Betty Compson, who we've shown you before, Bebe Daniels, who starred in the first version of The Maltese Falcon, action megastar William Duncan, who appeared in one-hundred fifty movies and short features, and Bryant Washburn, who topped Duncan, accumulating well over three-hundred screen credits.
As you might imagine of a publication from 1922, there's problematic material, in this case an article purportedly written by Pantomime's office boy, Eustace Yodels, but in reality written by the editors in what they imagined was African American vernacular, filled with racist phonetics. Apparently the piece is part of a series, an assumption we make because the subhead says it's “another” discourse by Yodels. We've uploaded a snippet below, but if you ever need to do research on racist tropes in old magazines, pull this one off Archive.org and read the whole shameful thing for yourself.
Pantomime also published fiction—official, aknowledged fiction, unlike the above. This issue has Sign of the Trident, which is two chapters of Herbert Crooker's novelization of the Ruth Roland cinema serial White Eagle. For any visitors unfamiliar with the concept, serials were films shown one chapter per week in cinemas. They came on before the main features, and each chapter ended with a so-called cliffhanger. Pantomime was a weekly, so each week it published a fictionalization of what was showing in the movie house. All that for a cover price of ten cents. Inflation-wise that would be about $1.67 today. Not a bad value.
New York CityPantomime MagazineThe Maltese FalconWhite EagleMae MurrayBebe DanielsWanda HawleyRuth RolandBetty Compson
|Hollywoodland||Feb 10 2022|
Elaine Stewart gets fat for the only time in her life.
This photo shows actress Elaine Stewart preparing for a bath scene in her 1958 thriller High Hell, in which she starred with John Derek. Make-up artist George Claff is applying a layer of grease paint, which is basically animal fat, sometimes with pigments mixed in. We guess it must have helped keep Stewart warm in the water. Maybe someone else has a better explanation. That's ours. In any case, handling Stewart's hot legs must have been the highlight of Claff's career. We imagine him returning home that evening:
Mrs. Claff: “How was work today, honey?”
George: “Work? Um... Why? What did you hear?”
*later makes love to wife with wild abandon she hasn't known since they were first married*
Mrs. Claff: “Wow! What got into you?”
George: “Nothing. I just realize I love Elaine— Er... I mean... um... I love a-laying... you... Just a-you.”
Below you see the result of Stewart's extensive grease paint preparation. De Niro? Hah! Stewart fattened up for a role long before him. Is it our imagination or is supporting actor Patrick Allen looking inside the barrel while on the verge of tears? It's understandable. Look here.
|Hollywoodland | Intl. Notebook||Jan 26 2022|
The king of tabloids sets its sights on the Queen of Greece.
Every month when Confidential magazine hit newsstands, we imagine Hollywood celebrities receiving the bad news that they'd made the cover, and going, “Shit.” This issue published in January 1964 features Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, and Jill St. John. The first three members of that group probably took the news in stride, since they were all tabloid staples by then. St. John wasn't quite at their level, but her links with Sinatra kept her in the scandal sheets for a while too.
A person who wasn't used to Confidential's attentions was Frederica of Hanover, who at the time was Queen Consort of Greece—which is just a fancy way of saying she was married to the King of Greece. Confidential says she was a Nazi, a pretty serious charge, needless to say. Was she? Well, her grandfather was Kaiser Wilhelm II, as a girl she was a member of Bund Deutscher Mädel, which was a branch of the Hitler Youth, and she had brothers in the SS. Also, back in 1934 Adolf Hitler wanted to link the British and German royal houses, and tried to pressure Frederica's parents into arranging for the seventeen-year-old girl to marry the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII. And as Queen Consort she made a habit of meddling in Greek politics in ways that made clear she was not a fan of democracy. None of that is a particularly good look.
She had defenders, though, who believed that for a person in her position it would have been impossible not to have been a member of certain groups and to have socialized with Nazis. It's interesting, isn't it, how the rich and powerful always benefit from a special set of excuses? People can't really expect her to have made a stand, can they? But the excuse is hollow. As a high ranking royal she could have avoided anything she wished. Membership in organizations when she was a little girl is one thing, but as an adult she could have denounced Nazism with damage to her reputation the only potential result. A damaged reputation is no small thing, but if we expect resistance from people who'd have been imprisoned or shot for doing so, we should probably expect the same from people who would have suffered mostly dirty looks.
Confidential focuses on Frederica's July 1963 visit to England. The visit was no big surprise—Frederica, her husband King Paul of Greece, Queen Elizabeth, and her husband Prince Philip, were all related. They were all direct descendants of Queen Victoria. Monarchy is a funny thing, isn't it? The visit triggered a protest of about three thousand British leftists that was violently broken up by five thousand police. The protestors carried banners that said, “Down with the Nazi Queen.” After mentioning this fiasco, Confidential delves into Frederica's history, some of which we've outlined above, then loops back to the protests, which she blamed on the British press. But she had already reached a level of notoriety that usually brought out protestors who loudly booed her, particularly in Greece. She eventually retreated from public life, became a Buddhist, and died early at age sixty-three.
Confidential's unexpected exposé on Frederica wasn't out of character for the magazine. It was the top tabloid dog in a very large kennel. It had an expansive staff, serious reporters, hundreds of informers spread across the U.S. and Britain, and published stories about heavy hitters from all sectors of society. It had a regressive political agenda, as its article filled with terrible slander against gays and lesbians makes clear, but even with its rightward slant it took pains to keep its reporting framework factual. That makes it a priceless source of contemporaneous info about public figures, particularly of the Hollywood variety. We doubt we'll ever stop buying it, because we never know who we'll find inside. Twenty-plus scans below.
GreeceGermanySpainBarcelonaHannoverConfidentialElizabeth TaylorRichard BurtonFrank SinatraJill St. JohnFrederica of HanoverFriederike LuiseQueen Elizabeth IISteve McQueenJames DeanMarlon BrandoWilliam HoldenCapucineFrancisco FrancoEdward VIIIAdolf Hitlertabloidnazislgbt
|Hollywoodland||Jan 22 2022|
Wilkinson's tongue lures the reading public.
Is the tongue really the strongest muscle in the human body? Maybe or maybe not, but it's certainly powerful here. This cover of National Bulletin published today in 1968 features England born model and actress June Wilkinson, owner of Hollywood's favorite exhibitionist internal organ, making newsstand browsers have thoughts that tighten their underwear. This tongue-out look was Wilkinson's trademark. Miley Cyrus is a mere millennial copycat. Too bad the cover shot is juxtaposed against blocky text about mom rape. But remember, these tabloids were part fiction. The mom story... Well, no thirteen-year-old hired men to do that. And if you look inside, it's a cinch that no anthropologist told the tabloid public she ate—and loved!—human flesh, no random daughter confessed to needing her mom to test out her boyfriends in bed, and no abortionist charged a year of sex instead of money for his services. These are cheapie tabloids, with virtually no staff, and no scruples.
The key to making fakeness work was to write stories people wanted to believe. To aid that mission they mixed in scattered factual pieces, such as the story on serial killers, including Richard Speck. He really did rape and murder eight student nurses in one night. It's a crime that sent a collective shock through America that has never been matched, at least until the era of mass shootings arrived. But importantly, it's also so bizarre and horrible that it serves as a gateway for Bulletin stories that sound more plausible but are actually fiction. Veteran breaks kitten's neck? Woman kills husband with rolling pin? Both probably happened somewhere, sometime, but did Bulletin really employ staff to travel out to woop woop and interview these people, or pay stringers for the stories? Not a chance. But that's why we love these old tabloids. They prove that nothing is new, even in 2022. It's all been done before, just not as fast, and not as glittery. Nineteen scans below.
National BulletinJune WilkinsonYole MarinelliMarley SandersonEdy WilliamsEdda SorensenDonna BellCarol HillElsa RineRichard SpeckCharles WhitmanAlbert DeSalvoDavid OverdorfLeo HeldRobert Smithtabloid
|Hollywoodland | Sex Files||Jan 20 2022|
Informer digs for Hollywood dirt but comes up empty.
Above is the cover of a National Informer published today in 1974, and unlike other issues, this one has an actual, real life, major celebrity inside—none other than Paul Newman. How did he end up inside a cheapie sex tabloid? Good question. Reading the story—which discusses his relations with female fans—you get the sense that the magazine managed to get itself admitted to a press junket interview session, at which a group of journalists together ask questions of a star. We've participated in ones with Ron Perlman, David Caruso, Renee Zellweger, and others. Group sessions with small and lesser known press outlets saves the stars and publicists time, and the promotional companies aren't terribly discriminating as long as the publication has the right credentials.
But even if you don't know how press junkets work, you'd notice that Informer's interview doesn't read like a one-on-one sit-down. It's a few basically innocuous answers from Newman. Informer journo Tex Harmon wants to tell readers that Newman is slinging dick all around Hollywood, but can't because he has only a few quotes with which to work. So he writes an article with a mildly sexual slant, calls it a day, and probably hits the local watering hole for whiskey shots. Newman does talk about his wife Joanne Woodward a bit, but respectfully. You can read the whole piece yourself below.
Elsewhere, Informer offers up its usual style of quasi-journalism, with the claim that illicit affairs can be good for marriages, a piece on a woman who was a sex slave of the mob, and a chat with a Dutch policewoman named Anita Hausmann who encountered a flasher in Amsterdam who was “letting it all hang out.” Hang isn't the word we'd use for him, but whatever. Informer also has its usual set of predictions from Mark Travis, and of course there are photos of pretty young models. We've gotten good at identifying them, but this issue is tricky. Andrea Rau is in panels six and seven, but the rest we're blanking on. Feel free to give us an assist if you have any answers.
Update: Karin Peterson is in the last panels.
|Hollywoodland||Jan 7 2022|
Poitier heads to parts unknown after a long and unique career.
Above is a photo of one-of-a-kind actor and cultural icon Sidney Poitier, who died yesterday aged ninety-four in the Bahamas, where he was born and lived much of his life. He starred in a couple of our favorite lightweight movies, including 1961's Paris Blues and 1992's Sneakers, but this shot is from 1967's unforgettable and topical drama In the Heat of the Night, one of many landmark movies in which he starred. He changed the game. That's really all you can say. See another cool shot of him here.
|Hollywoodland||Jan 4 2022|
Not just another one bites the dust.
Scared you there for a second, didn't we? Well, breathe easy, because this isn't a piece of ambush gore like you sometimes stumble across online, but a harmless promo image featuring none other than Humphrey Bogart. This was made when he was filming his 1951 thriller Sirocco and reveals a major plot point. In fact the final plot point. Hope we didn't give anything away. Interestingly, the shot was never used in the flick—Bogart bites the dust offscreen. And after all the work the makeup department did on this, blood from the ears and everything. Well, they still got paid for their time. You can read what we wrote about the film here.