Archive for the ‘films’ Category

Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

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When Brad Pitt celebrated his wedding in Soho’s French House pub

March 14, 2017
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Watched the film Allied on the jet from Sydney to Hong Kong the other day in which the Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard characters get married and celebrate in the York Minster pub. She’s French (in the film as well as in real life) and it’s in London. I thought, can that be Soho? Sure enough it was the York Minister in Dean Street, as became clear from the interior scenes – though it’s amazing how they made it look so big!

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The French House in Soho 

The York Minister was the meeting house for the Free French in London during the Second World War but had gained the nickname ‘The French House‘ because of Gaston Berlemont, the landlord (though he was, in fact, Belgian). De Gaulle is supposed to have written his famous BBC rallying speech there. In 1984, it changed its name to the nickname.

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town magazine drank in the French House, York Minster, in Soho

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town

The Minster was always popular with writers and artists. Also, among the many pictures that cover the walls is supposed to be a photograph of John Taylor, the founder of Man About Town magazine and editor of Tailor & Cutter, the world’s most influential style magazine for much of the past century. I’ve never spotted it though.

I was in The French House a few weeks ago with a couple of friends. Highly recommended is a bottle of the house red and a plate of bread and cheese with homemade chutney. Lunch for three for £30!

It was also The French House that gave me my favourite piece of graffiti, on a theme that has been much in evidence since the US presidential election.

Magazines in the movies: Playboy in Steven Seagal’s Under Siege

December 28, 2016
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Playboy magazine, July 1989, as seen in the film Under Siege

A few weeks ago, it was James Bond reading a copy of Playboy magazine. Tonight, it’s a sailor goggling over a copy with a Playboy bunny in Under Siege. The crew of the US battleship Missouri are anticipating the arrival of the July 1989 Playboy playmate of the month, Jordan Tate. In fact, the playmate that month was Erika Eleniak, who actually plays the Jordan Tate role in the 1992 film. She ‘wears’ a captain’s dress uniform, something that she also does in the movie, when she jumps out of a giant cake in front of Steven Seagal, playing the ship’s cook, Casey Ryback.

Eleniak also had a role in Baywatch, a TV series that later produced another popular magazine pin-up, Pamela Anderson.

It’s far and away the best Seagal film, and was followed three years later by Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which takes place on a train. Watch out for the cameo role for an Apple Newton. This was the US computer company’s first attempt at an iPad-type device, though called a personal digital assistant in the jargon of the time. It featured handwriting recognition and was built around a British-designed ARM chip, the processor powering just about every Apple product since.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

James Bond’s Playboy days

December 13, 2016
Playboy, February 1969, as read by James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Playboy, February 1969, with Nancy Chamberlain on the cover, as read by James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the other night and couldn’t help but notice that, after cracking open the safe of a lawyer who works for Spectre arch-villain Blofeld (Telly Savalas), Bond (George Lazenby) walks off reading a copy of Playboy magazine that he found in the lawyer’s office. He takes a good look at that month’s centrefold pin-up, Lorrie Menconi! On the cover of the US magazine is Nancy Chamberlain. Prominent product placement for the February 1969 issue.

There is a long history of connections between Bond and magazines. In 1962, the first issue of the Sunday Times Colour Supplement (now the Sunday Times Magazine) carried The Living Daylights. Even earlier, The Hildebrand Rarity, another short story, appeared in a 1960 issue of Playboy. And that same top-shelf magazine serialised On Her Majesty’s Secret Service over three issues in 1963, six years before the movie came out.

Yet the links don’t end there. In real life, Fleming worked for the Sunday Times, where his friend Robert Harling, the typographer and editor of House & Garden, was a design consultant from after the war until 1985. Harling had redesigned Admiralty reports and then served with Fleming’s 30 Assault Unit capturing German military secrets during the war. When the hardback books came out, Harling designed the Tea Chest font for the early Bond dust jackets. He is regarded as one of the men on whom Bond is based, and is mentioned in The Spy Who Loved Me (page 47).

Vivienne Michel, the woman at the centre of the novel, gets a job on the Chelsea Clarion, a ‘glorified parish magazine’ that is ‘stylishly made up each week by a man called Harling who was quite a dab at getting the most out of the old-fashioned type faces that were all our steam-age jobbing printers in Pimlico had in stock’.

The film also makes reference to the Bond family motto, The World is not Enough, which, of course, becomes the title of a later movie.

Night of the supermoon

November 14, 2016
Bite Me magazine

Bite Me magazine

The papers are full of talk of a supermoon tonight and how this will not occur again until 2034. The last time I covered this aspect of astronomy was when a copy of the first issue of Bite Me magazine sold for £21, at a time that coincided with the supermoon eclipse. [BTW, this is a difficult post to write, my Mac keeps turning ‘supermoon’ into ‘superman’ – all this talk of AI, but computers are just getting more stupid!].

Hammer Horror film vampire superstar Ingrid Pitt was the main feature of that issue. No such interest tonight, though a set of 10 issues of Bite Me on ebay sold recently for £19.99.

Tonight, it’s all about a “perigee full moon” – when the moon is full and at its closest to the Earth on its orbit. The opposite is an “apogee”, when the moon is at its farthest distance from Earth. Tonight, the moon will appear about a third bigger than when it is at its apogee.  It’s a difficult comparison to make, but the moon certainly looked bigger last night, particularly as it rose. A real harvest moon.

Magazine mantra: ‘No heads above the masthead’

May 9, 2016
Front cover title from Woman's Own from 19 May 1955

Front cover title from this 1955 Woman’s Own magazine overlays actress Dawn Addams

The typographer Dave Farey reminded me of the magazine designer’s mantra ‘No heads above the masthead’ at the recent launch of A History of British Magazine Design. So he immediately came to mind when I saw this front cover design from Woman’s Own dating back to 19 May 1955.

The full magazine front cover from Woman's Own ahowing the Dawn Addams knitted jacket

The full magazine front cover from Woman’s Own showing the Dawn Addams knitted playtime jacket

The actress Dawn Addams is photographed modelling a knitted jacket, but quite what the designer was up to is a mystery.

Were the film star’s eyes deliberately positioned to peer round the letters? Was the photograph cropped to show the most of the jacket? Whatever the intention, the end result is a mess.

Addams was a ‘delightfully vivacious’ British-born actress who had recently married an Italian prince, the ‘darkly handsome’ Vittorio Massimo, and had her first baby.

 

 

David Puttnam and Boxer’s London Life

March 3, 2016
The weekly London LIfe in October 1965 under Mark Boxer

Duffy shot this cover of Vidal Sassoon with the French fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro for London Life in October 1965 under Mark Boxer. Note the very unusual typography for the cover masthead design

Vidal Sassoon and Emanuel Ungaro, shot by Duffy, 1965

Perusing the biography David Puttnam: The Story So Far by Andrew Yule, I came across a section about his work on the weekly listings magazine London Life, which was developed to replace Tatler, in the 1960s.

The book describes how Puttnam, who as a film-maker would go on to have hits with Midnight ExpressThe Killing Fields and Chariots of Fire , was temporarily loaned out to the Thompson Organisation by his employers, the advertising agency Collett Dickenson Pearce (CDP), as managing editor on the magazine.

It should have been a dream team – David Hillman on design, Duffy, Donovan and Bailey as photographic advisers, and Jean Shrimpton as a guest fashion editor, all under editor Mark Boxer, who in 1962 had launched the Sunday Times Colour Supplement – which became the Sunday Times Magazine and formed a symbiotic relationship with CDP. Unfortunately, the assignment turned into a ‘nightmare’ as the launch of London Life ‘ran aground’ because of corporate politics.

The situation turned farcical as the weekly editorial budget of £1200 was cut three weeks before the magazine started functioning to £750. [Puttnam] became convinced that the whole assignment was a political set-up to ‘get’ Mark Boxer, then a great friend and confidant of Denis Hamilton, editor of the Sunday Times and managing director of the Thompson Group, to whom Boxer was seen by many as a threatening heir-apparent. [Puttnam] at one point was even asked to go in and give evidence that Boxer, of whom he was very fond, ‘was showing signs of clinical paranoia’. It was back to CDP, sadder and wiser…

London Life – ‘a comprehensive guide to the entertainment scene: films, theatre, restaurants, night life, music, sport’ – did come out but was hellishly expensive to run and by autumn 1966 Boxer had been replaced by Ian Howard with Tony Page as art editor. After several redesigns it folded in 1967. Boxer would go on to become editorial director at Condé Nast – and for a rejuvenated Tatler as a monthly.

London Life was printed by Sun Printers, Watford, with the covers produced by East Midland Litho in Peterborough. It was published every Thursday from Elm House, 10-16 Elm St, London WC1.

London Life profile at Magforum

Pulp fiction and off-the-shelf thriller plots

December 31, 2015
Miles Jupp on pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his 'Master Book of All Plots'

Miles Jupp expounds on US pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’

Miles Jupp set out on BBC Radio 4 this morning to answer the question: How many stories are there in the world? In Miles Jupp and the Plot Device he investigates the ideas of William Wallace Cook, an American writer of pot-boilers and stories for pulp fiction magazines in the 1920s. According to Cook there were 1,462 plots and he laid them all out in Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’, in 1928.

Any writer stuck for inspiration could leaf through Plotto to discover plots like ‘a ventriloquist, captured by savages and threatened with death, makes an animal talk and is given his freedom’ or ‘a reporter, writing up an imaginary interview as fact, quotes a man as being in town on a certain day. The man, subsequently accused of a crime, establishes an alibi through an interview innocently faked by the reporter.’

Cook hailed his own book as ‘an invention which reduces literature to an exact science’ and it worked for him, turning out up to 50 novels a year. Perry Mason creator Earl Stanley Gardner is mentioned as having ‘borrowed liberally’ from Plotto and Alfred Hitchcock had a copy. Jub reckons that pulp plots cover just about every episode of both Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

Jupp enlists the help of crime writers Val McDermid and John Harvey in his investigation. Harvey has written more than 100 thrillers. McDermid – writer of 40 books – reckons thrillers are character-driven, rather than by plot, which is why Plotto falls down for her. However, she does reckon it has a role in prompting plot ideas.

Such writers filled the pages of the popular weekly and monthly magazines in Britain and the US for most of the 20th century; the serials were then turned into books (and the other way round when the writers became popular). Cook’s output pales into insignificance when compared with the most prolific British writers – Ursula Bloom (560 romance novels in her 91 years), Barbara Cartland (359 romances in 98 years) and King Kong inventor Edgar Wallace, regarded as the most widely read author in the world in the 1920s with 170 novels (but then he died while working on the film King Kong at the age of just 57).  Presumably, they just got on with writing and never read any books!

You can still hear Miles Jupp and the Plot Device on the BBC website. Or, better still, pop into the Edgar Wallace pub off Fleet Street for a New Year pint and listen to it on your laptop.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Magazine cover design: the 3D nose effect

December 5, 2015
José Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac on this Everybody's magazine cover from 10 October 1951. The design has a 3D effect, with the nose appearing to stand proud of the page

This Everybody’s magazine cover design from 10 October 1951 has a 3D effect, with the nose appearing to stand proud of the page

There was a push into 3D photography and films in the 1950s, and this found its way into magazines. Picturegoer used clever cover designs  to achieve a three-dimensional effect and this Everybody’s magazine creates a smile with its trick layout.

Everybody’s was a popular large format weekly magazine that was published by Everybody’s Publications at 114 Fleet Street and printed by Sun in Watford, but later taken over by Amalgamated Press and merged into John Bull. One of the articles in the above issue was ‘Football in French!’ by a 20-year-old Brian Glanville.

José Ferrer is the cover star who had won worldwide praise for his portrayal of the eponymous swordsman-poet in Cyrano de Bergerac, a 1950 black-and-white movie based on the 1897 French play by Edmond Rostand. Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess also translated Rostand’s original play into English. A 1990 French film put Gérard Depardieu in the lead role.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

Magazine cover design – in search of the 3D effect

November 7, 2015
Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 23 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 25 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Nowadays, there are many technical strategies that can be used to give a three-dimensional effect to a magazine cover design, including holograms and lenticular stick-ons.

The first magazine hologram I’m aware of was one stuck on a Venture cover from Redwood Publishing in about 1985. Lenticular imagery has been around at least since publicity postcards for the 1968 film of Alistair Maclean’s Ice Station Zebra, and became popular on magazines in about 2001.

But before these, clever graphical tricks were the only viable approach – I’ve never seen a publisher try the red/green printing with plastic glasses on a cover, though it has been used freqently on inside pages since the 1950s from magazines such as Picture Post.

This cover design on movie weekly Picturegoer from 25 April 1953 is a good example. It’s a complex photomontage and is also self-referential with parts of 10 other covers shown as the background. The main photograph is of the hands holding a black and white publicity photograph of Arlene Dahl, described by IMDB as ‘one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen during the postwar period’. The site lists no less than five of her films in 1953.

Note that the hands appear to be in colour. This is because the cover uses the second special colour for the title box as a tint to give a wash over the hands and a paler tint still over the background. The technique was common on gravure-printed weeklies in the 1950s.

All in all, an ambitious piece of work, though to my mind the title sitting over the photograph is a commercial compromise that destroys the overall visual logic – but then no publisher wants the title to be a subsiduary element when the magazine has to sell on a very competitive news-stand each week. However, as the Picturegoer magazine cover design below from 11 April 1953 shows, many issues did carry a much less prominent masthead.

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead for a Kirk Douglas cover

Inside the Arlene Dahl issue of ‘The national film weekly’ from Odhams Press, the 3D theme continues with a review of Bwana Devil, described as Hollywood’s first full-length three-dimensional feature. The critic’s reaction will be familiar to many people who’ve seen any of the recent spate of 3D films (Gravity being the exception for me): ‘Picturegoers are bitterly disappointed in their introduction to Hollywood’s third dimension. They see a real danger in Hollywood’s giving them eye-straining technical tasters in place of sound, satisfying entertainment.’

>Film magazines

>>See my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design