Mario’s Mara & Bruce

mara corday by mario chavez

Actress, showgirl and model Mara Corday above (who I believe is still with us at age 89, and who I got to see being both fetching and wicked in an old 1959 Peter Gunn episode rerun Saturday night ) and below, Bruce Wayne by artist and illustrator Mario Chavez. Sorry, but the rather prominent ‘gams’ Wayne’s ogling aren’t actually identified by the artist.

bruce wayne by mario chavez

Gunn’s Hart

Lola Albright 1

Lola Albright played Edie Hart, jazz club chanteuse and girlfriend to Craig Stevens’ private eye Peter Gunn in the 1958 – 1961 ABC TV series of the same name. Actually, her real name — Lola Albright — almost sounds better for a quirky little jazz club singer than her made-up character name. And it was the actress and singer’s real name.

Loal Albright 2

Lola Jean Albright was born in Akron, Ohio in 1924, juggling small-time singing gigs while modeling in Chicago until a talent scout lured her to Hollywood in 1947. Two years in she got her first break alongside Kirk Douglas in 1949’s Champion, but continued to toil in small parts, B-movies, Westerns and television roles, still working as a model on the side, which included posing for well-known pin-up and ‘good girl art’ painter Gil Elvgren. In 1958 she was cast as Edie Hart in the new Blake Edwards produced ABC series Peter Gunn, doing her own singing in nearly forty episodes, nominated for an Emmy in 1959, while recording several successful record albums. During Peter Gunn’s third and final season she fell for the actor/musician portraying the piano player at Mother’s, the little bohemian jazz club private eye Peter Gunn used as his unofficial headquarters, and the two were married from 1961 to 1975. Albright passed away at age 92 in 2017.

A Cold Wind In August

If you get a chance to catch some Peter Gunn episodes, check them out. Hopefully they’ll be the dark, suspenseful and gritty ones, which are a real treat. As is Lola Albright’s breezy performances…and her singing, if you’re fortunate enough to view one in which she performs.

Lola Albright 3

Raymond Leech

Raymond Leach 1

There seems to be something shared among some UK figurative painters. An affinity for times gone by. The ambience of the taverns and dance halls populated by small time grifters and crooks. Peering into dark bedrooms inhabited by estranged lovers.  Scottish painter Jack Vettriano embraced this somewhat ‘noir-ish’ retro world years ago when he abandoned bright sunlit seashore and resort ballroom scenes.

Raymond Leach 2

UK painter Raymond Leech often dwells in similar milieus, though doing so with an entirely different level of draftsmanship and more visibly soft and ‘painterly’ brushwork.Leech’s bio’s say his affection is for the Cornish Newlyn School of art, like paintings by Stanhope Forbes. And that may be the case with Leech’s charming harborside seascapes. But the darker, brooding paintings shown here probe something quite different, but before drawing too many comparisons between Scottish painter Vettriano and Norfolk bred Leech, keep in mind that it’s unwise to fixate on details like the men’s white shirts and suspenders or even the vaguely 1930’s – 1950’s environments. Shared visual cues in both painters’ work are apparent, but dwelling on them is akin to comparing two artists including red barns in their landscapes or sailing ships in their maritime paintings.

Raymond Leach 3

Leech was born 70 years ago in Great Yarmouth, the eastern most point of England jutting out into the beginnings of the North Sea. As a teen he studied both fine art and graphic design at Great Yarmouth College of Art, and like so many artists, started his career as a designer. But growing skill and increasing success with his paintings eventually directed him to pursue a fine arts career. Not restricted to easel work, Leech works interchangeably in oils, watercolor and pastels.

Raymond Leach 4 Heartbreak Hotel

So, what do UK painters like Jack Vettriano and Raymond Leech really share? Both depict figures sharing the same spaces though they’re often remote and disconnected. Desire is evident, but unfulfilled, love an illusion in scenes that suggest it’s really just for sale. There’s a faux nostalgia (though not sentiment) for undefined mid-twentieth century cinema-style settings and a generous bit of peekaboo voyeurism. But what they may share the most is the fine arts world’s reaction: Disdain or outright dismissal from critics, for them and for most narrative artists, save for the cynical few tricky enough to cloak their figurative work in some sense of irony.

See the next post for additional pieces by UK artist Raymond Leech.

Raymond Leach 10

 

Trapped (1949)

Trapped 4

Until recently, Richard Fleischer’s 1949 film noir Trapped was relegated to grainy DVD’s mostly seen on sale racks and in cut-out bins, the poverty row Eagle-Lion Films production being in the public domain. Newly restored by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film and Television Archive, with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Trapped can now be properly viewed and reassessed as much more than a forgettable low-budget B-movie, and clearly part of the classic postwar noir canon (if cult fans hadn’t already positioned it there).

Trapped Poster

Produced by Bryan Foy, expertly living up to his previous status as the “King Of The B’s” at Warner Brothers and by ’49 in charge at Eagle-Lion, newly restored Trapped received a proper presentation on TCM this past weekend, with Noir Alley host, Film Noir Foundation founder and maestro of all-things-noir Eddie Muller providing an engaging overview of the stories behind the film.

Trapped 1

Think of Trapped as a precursor to William Freidkin’s 80’s neo-noir To Live And Die In L.A., with convicted counterfeiter Lloyd Bridges, in his first real leading man role, here furloughed from prison to assist the Feds with the retrieval of a set of near-perfect $20 bill plates. But Bridges escapes and a dizzying set of double-crosses unfolds. Halfway in, I was ready for any G-Man to be revealed for a crook, and for any counterfeiter to flip out a Treasury Department badge.

Trapped 2

What I wasn’t ready for was just how good twenty-one year-old actress Barbara Payton could be in her own breakout role, playing a nightclub cigarette girl and Bridge’s girlfriend/accomplice. Her sexy, gritty performance (with an undercurrent of weary vulnerability) captivated audiences 70 years ago, along with some Warner Brothers bigwigs who immediately put her under contract. But Payton’s success was short-lived, her penchant for fellows, booze and brawling ending her career only a few years later, with poverty, scandals and arrests in the years that followed, right up to her untimely death at only 39 in 1967.

Trapped 3

“Cigarette Girls”: Smoke And Guns

Smoke And Guns

Her bio says that Oakland librarian Kirsten Baldock actually worked as a cigarette girl during her first year in San Francisco. I didn’t realize that even was a job during our lifetimes. But let’s assume her cigarette girl gig was slightly less dangerous than the one she imagined for her urban noir graphic novel Smoke And Guns (AIT/Planet Lar, 2005 trade pb). Drawn by Brazilian artist Fabio Moon, Smoke And Guns imagines a Sin City style urban nightmare divvied up into districts serviced by licensed gangs of cigarette girls like The Chinatown Dolls and The Grand Avenue Belles. They may look, act and sound like ‘working girls’, (very well-armed working girls, that is) but they sell cigarettes, not sex, and when Scarlett breaks the fragile peace by selling smokes on another gang’s turf, all hell breaks loose.

Smoke And Guns Page -

Baldock’s idea’s an imaginative one, and her dialog is a treat, while Moon’s straightforward black and white brushwork-style draftsmanship is a good example of comic art pages being ready-to-shoot storyboards for a film. This may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie that I still see on some comic shops’ graphic novel shelves. If you spot it, check it out.

Smoe And Guns Page

Black Garters of Death

startling detective feb 1949 copy

Anyone thinking things were safer back in the ‘good ol’ days’ oughta think twice. Evidently a fellow couldn’t even go the picture show back in 1949 without running into a movie-mad blonde wearing black garters of death. So, just keep walkin’, dude…

EQMM: An October Anniversary

llery Queen Mystery Magazine May 1957

Not quite eighty yet, but damn close. Crime Reads’ 10.1.19 masthead notes that Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s first issue debuted 78 years ago this week on October 1, 1941. Technically it was titled Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine then, losing the ”’s” in 1991, I think.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine January 1966

The pseudonymous writing team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee who’d been publishing under the pen name “Ellery Queen” since 1929 had already tried and failed with one magazine in 1933: Mystery League. Still determined to give the reigning crime fiction pulps some high-quality competition, they gave it another go in 1941, and this time things clicked. That first issue with seven short stories, including pieces by Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich, sold 90,000 copies. Helmed primarily by Dannay, who continued as editor till his death in 1982, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine started out as a quarterly, then bi-monthly, and went monthly in 1946.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 2

I recently took a chance on an Ebay mixed lot of EQMM back issues, the buy-now price not much more than the big box’s postage. I’ve been burned and burned bad a couple times on Ebay, and yes, a few went in the trash, too demolished or mildewed to hold onto. But I still ended up with an assortment of issues from the 1950’s through the 1990’s, and will probably try my luck again soon. And I usually buy the current issues, edited by Janet Hutchings for almost thirty years now. Sure, I like some issues better than others, but I’ve never had one that disappointed, and consider nearly 200 digest-sized pages with that wonderfully tactile and nostalgic newsprint paper for a mere $7.99 a genuine bargain.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine December 1951

From that first issue that sold for two-bits 78 years ago with Hammett and Woolrich, consider some of the talent that’s appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine over the years: Jorge Luis Borges, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Patricia Highsmith, Stephen King, W. Somerset Maugham, David Morrell, Manly Wade Wellman, P.G. Wodehouse…oh, and Phyllis Diller (seriously). To say nothing of how many incredible emerging talents who got their first major credit in EQMM. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine is now the longest running mystery fiction magazine, and has teamed up with Black Mask to include that publication’s material in each issue as well. I’ve never submitted, and doubt that I ever will, but you can call me a fan, ‘cuz I truly am. 78 years is quite a legacy.

Elery Queen Mystery Magazine

Grande’s Got A Gun

Ariana Grande Complex 1

I’d be fibbing if I claimed to know a lot about singer/songwriter/actress Ariana Grande, other than knowing she’s a major pop star, and had a long run playing endearing and quirky Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious and then on Sam & Cat before mega-stardom beckoned. Hey, I’m not pop culture-clueless, y’know.

But all it takes is a purse-sized pistol and trenchcoat to turn any celebrity – even the adorable ones – into a noir-ish femme fatale or ‘stiletto gumshoe’, and here’s Grande doing just that for Complex magazine (from 2013, I think).

Ariana Grande Complex 3Ariana Grande Complex 4Ariana Grande Complex 2Complex Magazine Cover

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