Artists & Models: Robert McGinnis And Shere Hite.

A big thanks to site follower/viewer Art Scott for passing along some intriguing info (complete with links) about revered golden/silver age illustrator Robert McGinnis and sex educator, author and feminist Shere Hite, who sadly passed away not long ago on September 9th, 2020.

An April 2017 Vanity Fair magazine feature by Michael Callahan, “The McGinnis Look”, profiled the artist and his iconic paperback covers and movie posters featuring distinctively stylized femme fatales who became known as “the McGinnis Woman”: long, lithe figures draped (or more likely undraped) in 1960’s-70’s mod patterned apparel. These trademark women appeared on numerous pulpy mystery/crime fiction novels, perhaps as much a part of some series’ appeal as the stories themselves. 

No news there to many followers and visitors of a “noir culture” blog like The Stiletto Gumshoe. The interesting bit of vintage illustration trivia and mid-twentieth century pop culture lore was the revelation that one of McGinnis’ frequently employed models was none other than a young Shere Hite, whose fit frame and wavy red tresses were a perfect match for McGinnis’ evolving style.

Shirley Diana Gregory was born in Missouri in 1942, changed her name to Shere Hite (using her stepfather’s surname after her parents’ divorce) and with her B.A. and a Masters in History under her belt, headed to New York in 1967 to work on her Ph.D at Columbia University. Just another Boho student squeezed into a cramped Manhattan apartment, Hite found work as an artist’s model, not only for Robert McGinnis, but for other pulp and paperback illustrators, such as Norm Eastman. But it’s her work with McGinnis that may be most readily identifiable, often retaining her thick mane of wavy red hair. International renown was only a few years away for Hite, but at that particular time, she was the McGinnis woman come to life.

Hite published a number of works from the mid-1970’s through 2006, starting with Sexual Honesty By Women For Women, then most notably The Hite Report On Female Sexuality two years later, and a follow up on men and male sexuality several years after that. As far back as 1948, Alfred Kinsey, and later, Masters & Johnson in the mid-1950’s, published ground-breaking studies on human sexuality, but Hite’s interview-based research largely discarded those pioneers’ notions about women’s sexual experiences and responses, which were still rooted in male-centric perspectives. From what I’ve read, she endured some nit-picking about her methodology, but my freshman year 100-level sociology and psychology classes certainly don’t qualify me to draw any such conclusions. What’s clear is that Hite played a crucial role in the 1960’s-1980’s women’s movements and evolving understanding of – and attitudes towards – female sexuality. That she was gearing up to accomplish all of this while earning some coin with art modeling gigs, and for well-known names in the mystery/crime fiction publishing arena – is pretty damn cool. 

Follow the links below (with thanks again to follower/visitor Art Scott for those) to Michael Callahan’s 2017 Vanity Fair article on Robert McGinnis and a more recent piece from Air Mail News on Shere Hite and her McGinnis modeling work. It’s enough to make you scrutinize the faces of the people populating all those postwar paperbacks and mid-twentieth century pulp magazine covers a lot closer to see who else we might discover.

https://archive.vanityfair.com/article/2017/4/the-mcginnis-look

https://airmail.news/issues/2020-10-24/a-study-of-female-sexuality

A Losing Bet?

The cover illustration for the February 1971 issue of Real Men magazine might go with the story “He Bet His Babe In A Poker Game…And Lost!” that lurked inside. But with so many so-called ‘men’s adventure’ magazine stories like this particular issue’s “Sex-Hungry Women – Where To Find Them!”, “Give A Dame A Gun And She’s A Killer!” and “I Went To Bed With A Lez…Just To Find Out What It’s Like!” (from ‘an average young wife’, no less), it’s not always entirely clear which story the cover art goes with. Nonetheless, it’s classic 1960’s-70’s style vintage sleaze, and likely could’ve been paired with any of a number of that marketplace’s stories and articles.

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: The Toff.

“The Toff” (the Honorable Richard Rollinson) opens his mail and discovers a beautifully crafted doll of a naked woman – with a dagger plunged into her chest – which lures him into the bizarre world of the Obeah and a dangerous occult mystery. Maybe mystery, crime fiction and the supernatural (or at least the exceedingly eerie) ought to intersect more often. This one’s a pulpy adventure in John Creasey’s long running series of some sixty “Toff” novels published between 1938 and 1977. The piece of cover art above is from a 1967 Hodder & Stoughton UK paperback edition of A Doll For The Toff, though sadly without an artist credit that I know of.

Cover Me.

Well, it won’t be out till November 10th (and who knows if it’ll really be available immediately). But I’ll definitely be pre-ordering Colin Larkin’s Cover Me: The Art Of Pan Books 1950 – 1965. Sure, $45 is steep, but well worth it for a 256 page book with over 300 cover illustrations (bet there’ll be a lot of Sam Peffer examples). I’ll always admit to favoring U.S. postwar pb cover illustration work over the UK, continental Europe and other markets. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them all! Looking forward to this one.

Steffi (and Anita).

Who was Eunice Gray, author of the spicy 1959 ‘romance’ Steffi

Don’t ask me. You can find several Eunice Grays, one an author but surely not of a novel like Steffi. Another was a scientist, another the proprietor of a turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is) bordello, of all things. 

There are more, but I’m not convinced any are the Eunice Gray (if that’s not a pen name) who lucked out with this saucy Clement Micarelli cover art. I’m supposing Micarelli referred to the frequently seen publicity photo of Swedish actress Anita Ekberg (1931 – 2015) in lieu of a model for Steffi’s gouache illustration, but if not, it’s uncanny how similar the poses are. 

Denis McLoughlin.

Several consecutive posts in early August talked about Henry Kane’s late 1950’s ‘stiletto gumshoe’, Marla Trent, the “Private Eyeful” (link below). The paperbacks were graced by cover art from postwar illustration greats like Robert Maguire and Mort Engle, but I did once have a hardcover with much simpler (and a little less leering) art by Denis McLoughlin, which in its way was all the more striking.

British artist Denis McLoughlin (1918 – 2002) was as much a graphic designer as an illustrator, doing spot illustrations for a mail order catalog firm when WWII broke out and he became a gunner at a suburban London Royal Artillery Depot. There he was also ‘drafted’ to do officers’ portraits and produce murals around the base. After the war, McLoughlin began a long association with UK publisher T.V. Boardman, Ltd., his book cover work what he’s best known for, though he also did many magazine illustrations and even worked in comics. Fascinated by the swiftly evolving photo-mechanical color separations processes, McLoughlin was known for eking out striking results with limited colors, something pretty foreign to contemporary designers and illustrators working in a CMYK digital environment. 

Like many of the unsung heroes of the postwar commercial art world, Denis McLoughlin was all too often underpaid for his efforts. In his case it meant being forced to work way past retirement age. Tragically, his eyesight faded in his 80’s, Soon, he began to lose dexterity in his right arm. Fearing he’d be unable to draw and paint, Denis McLoughlin committed suicide using a studio prop pistol that only had one bullet in it. 

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2020/08/01/no-really-where-did-marla-go/

The Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators.

More from some anonymous residents of the “Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators”: Three B&W interior illustrations by (sadly) unidentified artists from the November 1942 issue of Spicy Detective Stories, including “Too Many Clubs” by John Wayne (I’m assuming it wasn’t The Duke) above, and below, “Riddle In Red”, a Robert Leslie Bellem Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective story, and “Dead Girls Can’t Talk” by John Ryan.

Renato Fratini

Born in a small town outside of Rome, Italy in 1932, Renato Fratini studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti de Roma and began his commercial art career in the early 1950’s, originally doing comic strips and spot illustrations for the Guerri Brothers studio. But in 1952 he moved to the competing Favelli Brothers agency, which had a contract with Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, allowing Fratini to work on a number of now iconic European film posters.

He continued doing a lot of film promotion work there and later for other studios throughout the fifties, while also expanding into paperback book cover art. That work led Fratini to London, where he dived into his most productive period, churning out popular film poster, magazine illustration and book cover art assignments in a unique mixed media combining acrylic underpainting layered with inks and gouache. Some bio’s wonder how the artist managed to produce so much work throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, notorious for living it up in the swinging sixties Rome and London party scenes. Sadly, his lifestyle caught up with him, and Renato Fratini passed away at the young age of 41 in 1973. 

35 Suspects, And All On Camera, Apparently.

35 Dolls Of Memphis 1959

“35 Dolls Of Memphis” is a Neil Pritchie story from the January 1956 issue of Stag magazine, which lucked out with this two-page spread duotone illustration by Illustrators Hall Of fame inductee James Bama, well represented in the “men’s adventure magazine” market at that time, his solid run on Bantam paperback covers still a few years away.

“There weren’t enough detectives in Memphis to question all the inmates of Daddy Samples’ harem,” the story’s tease stated, “a collection of luscious females, each a murder suspect.”

Would it surprise us if the Bama art turned out to be the best part of the tale?

Ninety-Nine Candles For The Master: Robert Maguire.

Robert Maguire 1

Let’s honor the postwar master artist/illustrator Robert Maguire (8.3.1921 – 2.26.2005), who only has one more to go before the century mark, and is credited with over 1,200 paperback covers in addition to his work in magazines, advertising and other media. Maguire was attending Duke University when the U.S entered WWII, and ended up in the infantry in the Italian campaign. Once mustered out, he studied at the Art Students League, graduating in 1949 and quickly finding work, first with Trojan Publications’ “pocket pulps” like Hollywood Detective Magazine.

Robert Magure the damned lovely 1955

Sadly, (but very understandably) the Robert Maguire website at ramaguirecoverart.com (a terrific site cataloging the master’s work and showcasing intriguing studio photos, sketches and more) was shuttered not all that long ago. You can still land at the URL, and see for yourself why it had to be taken down. Doubly sad that Maguire’s and so many of his revered postwar era peers’ work has been ‘appropriated’ by the less than scrupulous, showing up with frightening frequency on quickie sex and crime ebook covers and online ‘sale-ables’.

Dames Dolls & Gun Molls

Jim Silke’s 2009 Dames, Dolls And Gun Molls – The Art Of Robert Maguire is a treasured tome in my writing lair’s bookcases.  It would be impossible for me to load up all my favorite Maguire covers here, so only a few will have to do, like The Damned Lovely up above from 1955, The Brass Bed from 1960 and Mona Knox from 1962 below. It’s barely scratching the surface of this talented artist’s many works and diverse styles, but it’s good to remember – and honor – one of the very, very best of the 1950’s-60’s era PBO cover artists, whose work graces so very many mystery and crime fiction classics and quirky cult faves often seen here and at fellow noir culture fans’ sites. I’m sure someone (or someones) much better informed and scholarly than I will have suitable tributes come this time next year.

Robert Maguire 3 The Brass Bed 1960Robert Maguire 2 Mona Knox

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