More From “Mac” Conner…

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While working at his family’s New Jersey general store, McCauley “Mac” Conner (1913 – 2018) started his art training during the Depression through the International Correspondence School, later attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and New York’s Grand Central School of Art. While still there he was drafted into the Navy during WWII, stationed in New York and assigned to produce training materials. Once discharged, he began his illustration career in earnest, opening The Neeley Studio with two partners, quickly in demand as a go-to artist for the Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and other glossies along with multiple advertising accounts.

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Editors and art directors relied on Conner’s work to be up-to-date right down to the details of the season’s fashions from hemlines to accessories, and though many regard Conner as an expert with female subjects (and thus, numerous romance story assignments) he actually enjoyed mystery and crime story projects. His 1950’s era work (the examples shown here) are mostly gouache, ink and graphite on board, and are dramatically different from his later work, Conner intentionally reinventing himself during the 1960’s when he witnessed the rapid decline of magazine and advertising illustration work, which was being supplanted by photography. He turned to carefully rendered and less stylized painting and quickly became popular with romance paperback publishers like Harlequin and Warner. In his well-deserved retirement, Conner continued painting, turning to portraiture. Mac Conner passed away at 105 in 2018.

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“Mac” Conner And The Mad Men Aesthetic.

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McCauley “Mac” Conner (1913 – 2018) often said that he considered himself a storyteller more than an artist, and didn’t care if his work ended up hanging on a wall in a museum or in the trash.

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As it turned out, the successful postwar era illustrator’s work did indeed end up hanging on museum walls in the Museum Of The City Of New York’s 2014 retrospective, “Mac Conner: A New York Life” which showcased a generous selection of his prodigious output, linking his subjects and style to the so-called “Mad Men” era and aesthetic.

More of the artist’s work follows in the next post…

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The Master’s Birthday: Raymond Chandler

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I’m still merrily working through Barry Day’s 2014 The World of Raymond Chandler – In His Own Words (scroll back a couple posts) as the master’s birthday rolls around: July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959…and born right here in “the jewel on the lake”, no less.

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It’s a good thing I’m not really a collector (though admittedly acquisitive) or I’d definitely go broke tracking down the many, many different editions, both domestic and foreign, of Chandler’s works, such as these cleanly simple but handsome Penguin Australia book covers that I stumbled across when snooping for visuals for this birthday post.

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The Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators.

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Pulp magazine and vintage paperback collectors have done a darn good job of tracking down writers’ pen names and identifying cover artists’ unsigned works. But the artists and illustrators who banged out the black & white interior spot illustrations – surely for starvation rates that wouldn’t buy a cup of java and a sinker – sadly will remain anonymous for the most part, with very, very few ever credited, and even the pulp experts often stumped. I sometimes think of them as the anonymous residents of the Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators, such as these examples pulled from a couple issues of Spicy Detective magazines from 1940.

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Noir City.

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Hot off the press (or the drive, I suppose): The new issue of the Noir City e-magazine from The Film Noir Foundation. This came in while I was at the day job, and it just wouldn’t do to start browsing right away (even if I am the boss). But you can bet I’ll be picking up edibles at a drive-thru after work and hunkering down in front of the laptop to pore through 80+ pages of goodness in just a few hours. More to follow after I’ve had a chance to digest it all.

Go to The Film Noir Foundation’s site to learn more, contribute and get your mitts on a copy: www.filmnoirfoundation.org

 

 

 

 

Mario De Berardinis.

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Espionage, horror and Euro-sleaze film poster illustrations (and layouts) by Italian illustrator Mario De Berardinis (1931 – 1977).

The De Berardinis surname just seems to go along with artists for some reason, with the 1950’s – 1970’s era Italian poster, digest and paperback cover illustrator on one hand, but also Rosetta De Berardinis, a Washington D.C. abstract painter, and of course Olivia De Berardinis, the popular glamour and erotic art illustrator, though none are related in any way to my knowledge.

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In His Own Words.

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The World of Raymond Chandler – In His Own Words, edited by Barry Day, is a profusely illustrated (200+ images) 2014 hardcover I stumbled across in my first return visit to a favored used bookstore just a few days ago. Things were rearranged for more open space (which runs contrary to the typical used bookstore ambience, doesn’t it?) with masks required, limited occupancy, one person per aisle/cubicle and they’re only buying books by appointment, no walk-ins. But it was an odd time of day, I was one of only two customers, and it sure was nice to leisurely browse after being away since early March.

In addition to the one James Ellroy novel I don’t have (Clandestine, 1982) I found this Chandler book tucked away in the Memoirs section, and what a treasure it is. Though not a biography, it runs chronologically, the writer’s early years covered mostly through his own correspondence from that period, while his key novel, pulp and screenwriting years are addressed via a mix of excerpts from his own work, juxtaposed with more correspondence and miscellany. Chandler’s thoughts on the art and craft of writing (most of those quite cynical) and fellow mystery/hard-boiled wordsmiths are some of the best parts of this book.

Browse backwards at “The Stiletto Gumshoe” and you’ll understand what a find this book is for me. I honor both of the U.S. hard-boiled mystery granddads, i.e. Hammett and Chandler, but favor Chandler by far, indulging myself with multiple rereads. I don’t turn to him for plotting guidance, Chandler’s plots puzzlingly mixed up at best, but for the music of the language, the endless array of Chandler-esque bon mots and his ability to somehow be gritty and poetic at the same time (something I desperately wish I could succeed at).

Yes, I’m well aware that Raymond Chandler and a host of mid-twentieth century writers have undergone some well-deserved scrutiny and inevitable reassessment of late. But, for good or bad, I’ve chosen to compartmentalize them along with the bulk of sixty to ninety-year-old films, pulp fiction, comics and vintage paperbacks, digesting the material in context of its own time, reluctant to evaluate the work through a 2020 lens. After all, while I can benefit from easy access to reams of modern scholarship, that doesn’t mean I’ll look at Rembrandt, Dante, Michelangelo or Shakespeare through contemporary filters either. For more about that, just follow the link below to an old January 2019 post about Raymond Chandler, The Annotated Big Sleep, Megan Abbott and more. But while you do, I’ll just continue to savor some of the master’s own words.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/01/03/the-annotated-big-sleep-and-uneasy-feelings-of-complicity/

Happy Birthday, Natalia.

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The incredible Natalie Wood (Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko) would be 82 today, if I’m counting right, born on July 20, 1938, and gone tragically and much too soon in 1981. Seen above during dance rehearsals (for West Side Story or Gypsy, I’ll assume) and below in 1963, from a series of publicity shots done during the filming of Love With The Proper Stranger.

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Liebes Leben.

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From Liebes Leben (Love Life: Scenes With Irene), the award-winning photo series book by German photographer and photo-journalist Roswitha Hecke, which followed model and lady of the night “Irene” through the streets of Zurich and Rome, Hecke’s dark and often gritty images interspersed with excerpts from Baudelaire poems.

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A Cigarette Break.

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Time for a smoke while the boys conduct business?

Curt Aldrich was a pseudonymous house name used by Nightstand, Leisure and other paperback publishers for sleaze titles, and credited as the author of 1965’s Bedtime Standin, for which the unusually dark-hued Robert Bonfils cover art is shown here (Bonfils typically a fan of the brightest hues on his palette).

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