The “Oomph Girl”

Ann Sheridan

Clara Lou Sheridan (1915 – 1967) came to Hollywood from Denton, Texas when she was 19, playing mostly bit parts and B-movie roles for Paramount throughout the 1930’s till she switched to Warner Brothers and the roles improved, including Angels With Dirty Faces, They Made Me A Criminal, Kings Row, They Drive By Night and The Man Who Came To Dinner, starring alongside Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and John Garfield. Along the way, she’d changed her name to Ann Sheridan, and Warner Brothers claimed that men voted her the actress with the most “Oomph”…and so marketed her as “The Oomph Girl”, a tag she loathed.

Ann Sheridan 1

Sheridan took a break from movies during WWII to do three grueling years on the road in USO tours, during which time she became one of the most popular service men’s pinups. She went right back to work after the war, but quickly grew frustrated with many of the roles she was offered. Just as noir goddess Ida Lupino began working behind the camera as a director, Sheridan wanted to produce, and she did just that starting in 1949, including the cult classic low-budget 1950 film noir Woman On The Run.

Ann Sheridan 2

In the late 1950’s and in the 1960’s, Sheridan worked mostly for television, and mostly in westerns, her final project the CBS comedy-western Pistols & Petticoats. It was during the 1966-67 season that she was diagnosed with both cancer and liver disease, passing away at only 51, an episode of her TV series airing that same night. Ann Sheridan’s not the first name that pops up when you think of the film noir and crime melodrama greats, but when an actress has gone toe-to-toe with George Raft, Bogart, Garfield and Cagney, and produced one of the classic period’s cult classics, I’d say her ‘noir cred’ is intact.

Ann Sheridan 3

Mrs. Olson’s Got Herself A Gun

Virginia Christine

Virginia Christine from 1947’s The Invisible Wall, a noir-ish crime film by Eugene Ford (with an early appearance by a young Jeff Chandler) about a gambler back in civvies after WWII who returns to work for his syndicate, but manages to lose $20,000 of the boss’ dough…and to kill a mug in the process. I haven’t seen it, but it must be good. After all, just check out the double-bill promo art below: “Booze-Blondes-Bullets, The Direct Trail To Skid Row”. All that a 1940’s crime film needed, right?

Virginia Christine (1920 – 1996) may be better known to retro TV fans as ‘Mrs. Olson’ from over 100 Folger’s Coffee commercials. But Christine was a respected actress who appeared in The Killers (she tested for the lead but lost out to Ava Gardner), High Noon, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Judgement At Nuremberg. Not a bad resume. Hey, she even did a turn in one of Universal’s horror films, 1944’s The Mummy’s Curse sporting a brunette Bettie Page do, no less.

‘Mrs. Olson’ clearly can wield an automatic as deftly as she can a percolator. Love that photo above, a cropped version first seen via Seattle Mystery Books’ new blog (seattlemystery.newtumbl.com), originally from Mudwerks’ Tumblr, till I spotted the full framed image at Pulp International (pulp international.com).

The Invisible Wall Poster - Double Bill

I Was A Hideout Honey

Howell Dodd 1951

As is often the case with vintage pulps, it’s not always clear which of the bloodcurdling or teasingly sexy stories the cover art actually depicts. Face it: Sometimes the cover art was commissioned or purchased without any regard for that issue’s individual stories, or before they were even written.

Here, I’m going with “I Was A Hideout Honey” from this 1951 issue of True Cases Of Women In Crime. The classic Howell Dodd gouache illustration (I’ve also seen it credited to George Gross…couldn’t be, though. Right? Experts, please correct me if I’m wrong!) is crammed full of every genre trope and cliché you can ask for: Cigarette dangling from his lips, a bad guy smirks while he fingers his .45. The end table’s littered with an empty glasses, another cigarette smoking away in the ashtray, so you can almost smell that dingy old room. On the divan, the ‘hideout honey’ herself glances his way, resplendent in her filmy negligee, lacy black slip, coyly fussing with her nylons. Who knows what crime’s gone down already or is about to be committed, but Dodd sure nailed it all with this cover art.

True Cases Of Women In Crime 1951

 

Who’s Rescuing Who? Just Askin’…

CNDA G-Men Detective Nov 1948 copy

Pulp magazine cover illustrations can be beautiful, lurid, hokey or sexy, though they don’t always make perfect sense. Still, it can be fun to decode them. Browse a few and see for yourself if you aren’t occasionally befuddled by just who’s the hero, who’s the villain and who’s the victim. Case in point: The November 1948 issue of G-Men Detective with a colorful action-filled illustration by pulp-maestro Rudolph Belarski (A Canadian edition shown here, I think).

 Scenario 1: Racing to free the woman on the sofa, the woman in the red dress has just removed her gag and is about to untie her friend when the gangster, kidnapper or generic gun-wielding gangsterish bad guy appears. Or…

 Scenario 2: That green scarf wasn’t a gag at all. The fellow with the cigarette tucked between his lips and brandishing the .45 automatic is no gangster. He’s a cop, private eye or generic good-guy, arriving just in the nick of time to rescue the the blonde haired woman in white who’s struggling on the sofa, about to be strangled by the evil woman in red. Or…

Oh hell, you could come up with another scenario for this one.

Sinistral’s Femme Fatale

11 femme fatale by sinistral uk

The UK artist goes by the name ‘Sinistral’, at least at Deviantart. Would love to tell you more, but can’t locate any info, except to say the artist clearly has a way with a femme fatale.

Marta Nael

Black Widow Marta De Andres

Barcelona, Spain concept artist, illustrator and fine art painter Marta De Andres, who uses the professional name Marta Nael, seems far too young to exhibit so much skill and confidence in multiple mediums, from paint and brushwork, to pastels, pencils, pen and digital software. A lot of her work is heroic or romantic fantasy subjects, which are not exactly my thing, but her straightforward figure studies and portraiture are as masterful as they are beautiful, most of them so alive with color, they almost look ready to burst into flame. The artist says her work is “a game of light and color”. In fact, her own fiery red mane looks like it’s right out of one of her paintings.

There’s a lot to browse at her own site (martaneal.com), DeviantArt, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, so while I’m not big on faeries and Amazons, I’ve included several ‘darker’ pieces here” “Black Widow” above, and below, “Daisy Retocardo” and “Lady Death”.

Daisy Retocado Marta De AndresLady Death Marta De AndresMarta Nael Dot Com

Does Everyone Have A Gun?

Warren Louw

I count five in this handsome piece of noir-art by Warren Louw, and I don’t doubt there are more hidden inside suit coats and under skirts. This is one nightclub it’d be best to steer clear of.

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