Ice is nice, but harder than water.
Originally posted August 27, 2016
British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir.
In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.
Shit. I knew moving up to the behemoth division was a bad idea.
Above is a promo image made of Robert Ryan when he was starring in the gritty boxing noir The Set-Up. There's good news and bad news for Ryan here. The bad news is he's losing. The good news is he'll survive because his opponent only kills to eat. The film premiered today in 1949, and you can read what we wrote about it and see more promo images here.
Master of all he surveys.
We wanted to do a small post on Kirk Douglas, who died yesterday at the astonishing age of 103, but we took time to look around for a unique photo. This shot shows him in one of our favorite cities, Donostia-San Sebastian, standing atop Igeldo (or Igueldo), one of the seaside town's several large hills. He's looking toward the Bahia de la Concha with the Torreón de Monte Igueldo at his back. It's a majestic shot, fitting for such an icon, far better than showing him greased up as Spartacus, in our opinion. It was made in 1958 when he was attending the sixth Zinemaldia, aka the San Sebastián Film Festival, which was showing his film The Vikings. We don't generally do posts on Hollywood deaths. Why? Because there are so many. Anyone who loves vintage film knows that significant performers, writers, and directors are dying regularly, and we don't want Pulp Intl. to become an obituary roll. But for Kirk Douglas, one of film's all time greats, a consummate actor, an indispensable film noir bad guy, all the rules must be broken. See another max cool image here.
These are the warmest, slimiest raindrops I've ever felt.
Since we were on the subject of werewolves a couple of days ago, here's a fun promo shot of Claude Rains about to precipitate doggie drool onto Evelyn Ankers in their 1941 horror flick The Wolf Man. Ankers had trouble with other weird creatures too, including ghosts in Hold That Ghost, a vampire in Son of Dracula, an unseen troublemaker in The Invisible Man's Revenge, and a reanimated monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein. All that experience and she never learned to look up. Well, in her defense Rains is unusually sneaky, plus canines don't usually climb trees.
Don't waste your time, sweetheart. You know as well as I do it'll bounce right off.
Who was Irene Manning aiming her gun at a few days ago? Bogart, who's so cool he can't even be bothered to pretend concern. In real life it isn't quite so easy to be hard-boiled with a gun pointed at your center mass. Did we mention the time we spent living in Central America? One day maybe we'll tell you the story of how one of us had a shotgun aimed at our spine, which preceded a home invasion, drawn knives, spilled blood, and retribution involving someone getting shot in the ass. Anyway, concerning Manning and Bogart, now the picture is complete.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
Above is a cover of the U.S. tabloid Inside Story published this month in 1955. There's a lot in this magazine, but since we keep our write-ups short we can't cover it all. One story of note concerns Betty Furness, an actress and pitchwoman whose squeaky clean image Inside Story claims is false. This is a typical angle by mid-century tabloids, the idea that a cinema or television sweetheart was really a hussy, lush, ballbreaker, or cold fish. Furness receives slander number four, with editors claiming she has “ice bound emotions,” “a cold, cold heart,” and is, “tough and tightfisted.” It's interesting that sixty years later resistance to a woman being anything other than a nurturer really hasn't diminished all that much, as many women with high public profiles would confirm.
Another story concerns the death of actress Virginia Rappe and the subsequent arrest of Fatty Arbuckle. In short, Rappe died after attending a party thrown by Arbuckle, with the cause of death attributed to either alcohol induced illness or rape and sodomy with a Coke bottle. Arbuckle went to trial three times before winning a final acquittal, though certain details of the death remained murky. The case was muddied by the influence of sensationalistic journalism, as publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst's nationwide chain of newspapers deemed sales more important than truth. The Coke bottle, for example, was entirely fabricated, but Hearst was unrepentant. He'd fit into the modern media landscape perfectly today, because for him money and influence justified everything.
And speaking of money, a final story that caught our eye was the exposé on the record business, namely the practice of buying spins on radio. The term for this—“payola”—was coined in 1916 but not widely known until the ’50s. Inside Story helps spread the terminology with a piece about pay-for-play on national radio stations. Like the previous two stories, this one feels familiar, particularly the idea that the best music rarely makes it onto the airwaves. Those who engaged in payola understood that people generally consumed whatever was put in front of them, therefore what was the point of worrying about quality or innovation? This remains a complaint about entertainment media today, but repetition still rules. To paraphrase the famed colloquialism: If you ain't going broke, don't fix it. We have thirty-plus scans below.
Chorus line turns to picket line for L.A. dancers.
Today in 1938 a group of Carroll Girls—dancers employed by famed theatrical producer Earl Carroll—staged a protest outside the Musicians Union Hall in Los Angeles, an event discussed in the above clipping from Life magazine. The picketing was the result of a spat between Carroll and bandleader Roy Cavanaugh. Apparently Carroll had reneged on a booking and Cavanaugh had appealed to the musician's union and won their backing. The dancers, caught in the middle, took to the sidewalk to denounce the union for being unwilling negotiate a solution that would let the show go on, and let the dancers get paid.
You will notice in the wider shot below that the meat cutters union Local 421 is in the background. We can't explain that, except to guess that the musicians and butchers unions were located in the same area. You'll also notice a lot of musicians playing. Presumably, they're union guys, and presumably they shouldn't be playing—i.e. helping to publicize the picket against their own union. But then again, nothing will divide your loyalties like a woman. Just saying. Been there, lived that.
All told, this looks like the most entertaining protest in history. We picture an epic barbecue thanks to the meat cutters union, and killer tunes thanks to the (soon to be punished) musicians. We'd love to tell you how the Carroll Girls fared with their demands, but we don't know. However, Carroll's stellar run as a show business impresario continued until his death in 1948, so we suspect that even if the Cavanaugh show didn't happen the dancers got over that speed bump and kept working steadily for a long while.
Who says it never Raines in L.A?
You can't tell with her face all scrunched up, but the person in the above photo is actress Ella Raines, who appeared in such films as Brute Force, The Web, and Phantom Lady. Here she makes a July 1943 cameo in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles, which was famous for its water nymphs that frolicked as guests in the hotel bar watched through plate glass. We've featured the Town House pool before, and those shots are worth a look. Just click the keywords below and scroll.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
1922—Teapot Dome Scandal Begins
In the U.S., Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases the Teapot Dome petroleum reserves in Wyoming to an oil company. When Fall's standard of living suddenly improves, it becomes clear he has accepted bribes in exchange for the lease. The subsequent investigation leads to his imprisonment, making him the first member of a presidential cabinet to serve jail time.
1930—Gandhi Leads Satyagraha March
In India, Mahatma Gandhi raises a lump of mud and salt and declares, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." His words, which were a protest against the British salt tax, mark the beginning of the Satyagraha March, which in turn triggers the wider Civil Disobedience Movement that ultimately culminates in Indian independence.
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