The Case Of The Singing Skirt.

1963 the case of the singing skirt

If we can trust online translations (which we probably can’t), this 1963 Dutch edition of Erle Stanley Gardner’s 1961 Perry Mason novel The Case Of The Singing Skirt reads “The Girl’s Secret In Leotard”.  Well, that’s what I got, anyway. Which might make sense since the model in Dutch photographer Philip Mechanicus’ cover photo doesn’t appear to be wearing a skirt at all. To be fair, many U.S. paperback editions of Gardner’s Perry Mason novels showcased peculiarly steamy covers for their wildly successful mysery/courtroom potboilers. This one? A low-rent California gambling den’s cigarette girl and aspiring songstress who witnesses a gambling debt payoff winds up pinned with a murder rap…Perry Mason to the rescue.

Singing Skirt Group

Block & Pochoda In Mystery Scene.

mystery scene 164

You’ll find Ivy Pochoda (These Girls, 2020) and Lawrence Block (Dead Girl Blues, 2020) in the current Mystery Scene magazine, issue 164. Pochoda nabs this issue’s cover, and is treated to an excellent four-page profile by Oline H. Cogdill. Lawrence Block appears with “A Burglar’s Future”, a Bernie Rhodenarr story from the new The Burglar In Short Order 2020 release. Honestly, there’s not a page to be skimmed over in this particular issue, even including a review (the lead review, that is) for the novel I just finished, Pip Drysdale’s new The Sunday Girl (see an upcoming post for that one).

Virginia Kellogg’s Dark Stories In Lurid Color.

White Heat 1949

Film posters for three postwar classics with stories and/or screenplays by writer Virginia Kellogg: Raoul Walsh’s White Heat (1949) with James Cagney and Virginia Mayo, John Cromwell’s Caged (1950) with Eleanor Parker, and a foreign poster for Anthony Mann’s under-rated noir gem T-Men (1947), a non-U.S. version just ‘cuz I like the pulpy style of that particular poster.caged 1950T-Men 1947

At Crime Reads: Virginia Kellogg

T-Men 1947

I still haven’t worked my way through all of the Crime Reads articles I’ve saved, and they just keep flinging more at me. FYI, if you get the itch to scroll backwards through Crime Reads’ site, you’d best allocate a lot of time. You’ll get lost there, albeit happily so.

Case in point: Last week’s article by Chris McGinley, “Virginia Kellogg: The Forgotten Screenwriter Behind A String Of Classic Noirs”. It’s tagged “She wrote some of the greatest crime movies in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Today we know almost nothing about her”.

Crime Reads

Native Californian Virginia Kellogg (1907 – 1981) originally worked as a Los Angeles Times reporter, then a secretary and script girl, penning a couple early screenplays as far back as the pre-code era. But her important work would come later in the postwar era, with projects like T-Men (1947), White Heat (1949) and Caged (1950), those last two earning her Oscar nominations. Now White Heat and Caged are surely familiar faves for anyone popping in here, but Anthony Mann’s faux-documentary styled T-Men is a real treat, with a complex story by Kellogg (screenplay by John Higgins) and visuals that could be used as a how-to textbook on the classic film noir style.

T-Men 1947 2

Head to Crime Reads (link below) for Chris McGinley’s article, and then I challenge you to not start scrolling online or rooting through your disk shelves for one of these three films. Me? I’ll go with T-Men, a movie with more shades of ‘dark’ than you’d think is possible to capture on film.

https://crimereads.com/virginia-kellogg-the-forgotten-screenwriter-behind-a-string-of-classic-noirs/

Sometimes They Got It Right.

Startling Detective 1952

Given a choice, I’ll always go for illustration over photography when it comes to vintage pulp fiction and true crime magazines and paperback covers. Frankly, I’ve never really gotten into the whole true crime magazine arena anyway, finding the oldies a little ho-hum and most of the ‘modern era’ stuff really, really creepy. (Though that’s based on browsing only a few issues, to be fair.)

But, I’ll be the first to concede that the genre boasted its share of nifty covers, many of the artists working interchangeably between the mystery/crime fiction titles and true crime mags. The photographers? Well, they were usually a bargain-basement lot shooting on the cheap in low-rent set-ups with models who definitely hadn’t just come off Vogue assignments. Still, there are some good ones, and the March 1952 issue of Startling Detective magazine happens to be one of my favorites.  I may have no interest in reading about the “Murder Trail Of The Roving Rapist”, “Irma’s Night of Horror” or any of the other gruesome stories inside, but Fawcett art director and art editor Al Allard and Phil Cammarata got got it right for that issue.

The Noir Style.

The Noir Style

Alain Silver and James Ursini’s 1999 Harry N. Abrams/Overlook Press The Noir Style is a frequently seen bookstore sale rack and remainders table staple, and that’s where I got mine, the $50.00 (when published 20 years ago) oversize 244-page hardcover still in a shrink-wrap and for only $12.99. Now I can’t vouch for the trade pb edition, but this sumptuous hardcover, designed by Bernard Schleifer, is almost an objet d’art with 170+ duotone photos on matte coated stock, as nicely produced as any coffee table art monograph you’d buy in a museum store.

The book’s title and the glamorous cover photo might mislead you into thinking The Noir Style is about the costuming and wardrobe design of so many memorable film noir femmes fatales and heroines. But no, Silver and Ursini (supported by additional material from Robert Perforio and Linda Brookover) provide a glorious overview of the ‘look’, the ‘style’ and the visual motifs of both classic film noir and more contemporary neo-noir (well, ‘contemporary’ for a book published in the 1990’s). It’s packed with familiar and not-so-familiar images of memorable characters and stars, scenes and set designs, all crisply reproduced and accompanied by a generous amount of text chronicling the roots of film noir, the genre’s evolution, various noir themes (from a visual perspective) and more.

Film Noir Readers

Silver and Ursini have practically made a cottage industry out of film noir books of one sort or another, only a few of which are shown here, and it should be no surprise that I have a few. But they’ve also partnered on books about horror cinema, vampire films and other subjects. I’m usually cautious with film noir non-fiction books, having been burned by a few overly academic (make that downright snooty) ones determined to filter the genre through the author’s personal perspective, Marxist, feminist or other “ist”, which sometimes make sense and often times does not. But if you see The Noir Style at some puzzling low price on a bookstore’s sale table (particularly the hardcover!), snatch it.

Film Noir Books

Femme Noir.

Femme Noir 6

In a preceding post I mentioned a list of comics missed or overdue for a revisit that has accumulated while the shops have been shuttered the past few months. They still are closed, around here at least, but are expected to re-open soon. All the same, while I’m blessed with several nice stores very close by, they’re woefully light on indies, being strictly focused on the capes-n-tights crowd from the majors. But one off the beaten track shop will come through, I know, and that’s where I’ll mine the bins for Christopher Mills and Joe Staton’s Femme Noir.

Femme Noir 1

I have several back issues, but grabbed them at random and not in sequence, and really want to hunker down with the whole series. Bursting out of Port Nocturne’s deep dark shadows in always-energetic artwork, Mills and Staton’s Femme Noir seems like a genuinely pulpy comic treat based on the disjointed storyline I’ve gleaned from what I have. The Dark City Diaries, Blonde Justice and Dead Man’s Hand…now there’s a bunch I need to acquire, whether in individual issues or trade reprints. Counting the days (or a couple weeks, depending on what I hear).

Femme Noir 3Femme Noir 4Femme Noir 5

Just Ask Eddie.

Ask Eddie

A Film Noir Foundation email blast tells us to “Ask Eddie”, promoting an upcoming live stream Facebook page where questions can be posed to that master of all things noir, Eddie Muller.

I think I need to stay away. Or at least, keep my questions to myself. After all, is it even possible to sift through the hundreds (thousands?) of questions I’d love to ask the main man himself? But don’t think I won’t be swooping in to snoop.

Want to know more? You know where to go, fellow film noir friends.

www.filmnoirfoundation.org

A Well-Dressed P.I.

vogue 1951 via the retro housewife

You’d rightly assume this 1951 Vogue magazine photo is supposed to be a postwar ‘career gal’ art director or photo editor reviewing contact sheets. But I prefer to imagine a stylish ‘stiletto gumshoe’ going over steamy pics from the prior night’s no-tell motel stakeout on an adultery case soon to go really bad. From The Retro Housewife at www.the-retro-housewife-01.tumblr.com

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