Archive for the ‘pin-ups’ Category

Amber the cross-dressing actor

November 25, 2019
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Amber the Actor is a man who has adventures dressed as a woman

The Victorians are often regarded as a frigid lot, but some their magazines took on topics such as cross-dressing and gender fluidity, though they were very niche areas.

These themes developed in magazines such as Photo-Bits, with Amber the Actor by Derk Fortescue being one example. The hero dresses as a woman and has a series of adventures in stories that ran in 1910 and 1911. .

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Amber, left, dressed as a maid

And there were real-life precedents. Vesta Tilley was one of the most famous male impersonators of her era and a star in both Britain and the United States for 30 years. Her real name was Matilda Alice Powles (1864-1952) who had taken Vesta Tilley as her stage name at the age of just 11.

In 1912 she performed as ‘The Piccadilly Johnny with the Little Glass Eye’ at the first Royal Variety Performance. A Victoria and Albert Museum article about the music halls describes how the Queen reacted:

The only embarrassment occurred when Queen Mary saw the male impersonator act by Vesta Tilley appear on stage in trousers and apparently buried her face in her programme. At that time it would have been considered most immodest for a woman to be seen in public wearing trousers. It was only with the onset of the First World War that women ‘were allowed’ to wear them.

Her fame led her to take part in recruiting drives in the First World War, singing the patriotic song, ‘In Dear Old England’s Name‘.

Who does Bonham Carter think she is?

November 21, 2019
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Helena Bonham Carter in the Sunday Times Magazine (November 2)

Is Helena Bonham Carter trying to become the new Joan Collins? That seems to be who she’s aping in this Sunday Times Magazine shoot. As a comparison, the spread below is from Blighty & Parade and was on of several publicity shots of Collins from the 1960 film Seven Thieves that were widely seen in magazines such as Film Review and Span at the time and pop up occasionally since.

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Joan Collins on the centre spread from Parade & Blighty in 1960 (Feb 20)

Bonham Carter was promoting her role as Princess Margaret in the TV series The Crown.

The comparable front covers are shown below.

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Joan Collins on magazine covers since 1951

 

 

 

 

Magazines in the movies: Playboy in Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove

November 7, 2019
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A pilot in Dr Strangelove reading Playboy. The Playmate pin-up has a copy of Foreign Affairs  preserving her modesty

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove is the latest film that’s come to my attention using a magazine on the big screen, in this case – along with the likes of Steven Seagal and James Bond – a copy of Playboy.

Kubrick is famed for his attention to detail and a pilot in the cockpit of a B-52 Stratofortress reading the issue of Playboy from June 1962 is a classic example of this trait. 

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Playboy‘s controversial cover: ‘A toast to bikinis’ 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, to give the 1964 film its alternative title, was making a nod to the atom-bomb reference in Playboy‘s only cover line for June 1962, ‘A toast to bikinis’, and the cover photo of a woman’s torso and her bikini bottom.

Louis Réard, the French engineer who invented the two-piece swimsuit in 1946, named it after Bikini atoll, where the US had just set off the first of 23 nuclear bombs it would detonate there until 1958.

The photo by Marvin E Newman was regarded as controversial and promoted a series of his images on the theme of how bikinis were finally reaching US shores from Europe.

The reference is reinforced by a shot of what appears to be the issue’s Playmate of the Month fold-out pin-up. This shows a woman lying face down on a rug with a copy of Foreign Affairs magazine covering her derrière! If you reckon the appearance of a copy of that esoteric magazine for diplomats  is odd, you’d be right, because the actual Playmate for June was Merissa Mathes, a US model and actress photographed by Glenn Otto.

According to IMDB, the centrefold being read by the pilot of the nuclear bomber was posed by Tracy Reed, the only woman in the film, and specially mocked up. She was billed in some early adverts as ‘Miss Foreign Affairs’, a reference to the scene. In the actual movie, she plays Miss Scott, the secretary to George C. Scott’s character, General ‘Buck’ Turgidson.

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Headline for ‘From Lilliput to Brobdingnad’ by the sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke 

But the filmic links from that copy of Playboy don’t end there, for the issue also contains an article, ‘From Lilliput to Brobdingnad’ by the British science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke. He later worked with Kubrick on the seminal book and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was released in 1968. And 2001 was in turn featured in Town magazine.

Dr Strangelove is an amazing film, shot like most of Kubrick’s later films in Britain, in this case at Shepperton Studios in Surrey. It’s a rare surreal comedy by Kubrick, but, as with all his films, has great characters – such as Peter Sellars as the mad Nazi scientist – and superb dialogue. I love the line in the Pentagon war room – ‘Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, it’s a war room!’ And in the B-52 cockpit as they set out on their gung-ho mission to bomb Russia and the pilot ditches his flying helmet for a cowboy hat (an act repeated in a later apocalyptic movie, Dark Star): ‘At last, nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Ruskies.’

 

This month in magazines: 1950s glamour magazines

February 18, 2017

Beautiful Britons brought girl-next-door glamour to readers (February 1956)

Beautiful Britons  (February 1956)

Spick glamour magazine cover from February 1956, issue 27

Spick magazine from February 1956

Last issue of Span in 1976 Toco number 266

Last issue of Span in 1976, issue  266

Town and Country Publishing (Toco) exploited the demand for men’s magazines in the mid-1950s by launching pocket-format titles that brought girl-next-door glamour to their readers.

Spick, Span and Beautiful Britons were three of the company’s titles. Spick was the first to come out, in December 1953, and was followed by Span the next September. Spick used professional models at first, but encouraged readers to send in photographs of wives and girlfriends. It soon introduced Beautiful Britons pages, which obviously inspired the third magazine of the trio.

However, they slowly lost sales in the second half of the Sixties in the face of competition from more aggressive launches, such as ParadeMayfair and Penthouse.


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

 

 


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.

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

£3300 on eBay for the first Monroe magazine cover

November 1, 2015
Leader magazine led the world in putting Marilyn Monroe on its cover in April 1946

Leader magazine led the world in putting Marilyn Monroe on its cover in April 1946

Can you believe it? A threepenny weekly magazine from 13 April 1946 sells on eBay for $5,100.99 – that’s£3,302 – after 45 bids. Gobsmacking, but it’s true. And the reason? It’s the first magazine to show Norma Jeane Mortenson, also known as Norma Jeane and later pin-up model and Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, on its cover.

That’s four years before her first decent film role in All About Eve and seven years before the Playboy first issue cover.

According to the listing, this is the ‘first solo cover in the world’ of Norma Jeane, with the British weekly predating the April 26 issue of Family Circle in the USA picturing Norma Jeane holding a baby lamb on the cover:

This issue of Leader is a complete 28 page double-staple bound style pulp magazine in very good condition. Cover photo is the same Andre de Dienes ‘M.M.’ photograph which appeared a second time in France only a few months later on the cover of the September 3 1946 issue of Votre Amie (‘Your Friend’). The Leader cover photo was published in black and white, while the negative was flipped and photo colorised for its appearance on the cover of Votre Amie.

The same seller also sold a copy of that Votre Amie cover for £900 on eBay.

Leader was at this time published by Hulton Press, whose other magazines included Lilliput, Picture Post and the Eagle.

>>Leader magazine history

 

Diana Rigg vamps it up as Agatha Christie’s ‘evil’ victim

October 31, 2015

 

Evil victim: Diana Rigg on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine, 28 February 1982

Evil victim: a vampish Diana Rigg on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine, 28 February 1982

Diana Rigg – as Emma Peel in The Avengers – has recently trounced glamour pin-ups Joan Collins and Marilyn Monroe as the most sought-after magazine cover star with an eBay buyer paying £147 for a TV magazine featuring her.

This 1982 Sunday Times Magazine supplement cover is from later in her career when she played the ill-fated temptress Arlena Marshall in a TV version of Agatha Christie’s 1934 detective novel Evil Under the Sun, featuring the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, played by Peter Ustinov.

And how much would this go for? Well, there’s a copy on eBay at present priced at £25.

Beautiful Britons magazine – 1950s glamour still sells

September 26, 2015

Beautiful Britons glamour magazine first issue cover from November 1955

The mid-1950s saw an explosion of men’s magazines after paper rationing was lifted. Many of them used a pocket format and one of the most popular was the monthly glamour magazine  Beautiful Britons.  Two copies of the first issue have sold on eBay recently, one for £29.99 and the other for a hefty £51.

Note the magazine’s motto: ‘The magazine of [EYE] appeal.’

Centre spread from the 1955 first issue of Beautiful Britons

Centre spread from the 1955 first issue of Beautiful Britons magazine

Although the colour was cover, all the pin-ups inside were printed mono. The picture above is from the centre spread. The bikini was a relatively new invention – at least in modern times – dating from 1946 when a French engineer came out with the world’s smallest swimsuit, named after the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll.

The magazine’s publisher – Town & Country, known as ‘Toco’ – already published Spick and Span, both pin-up glamour magazines launched in 1954, in the same format. Many of the pin-up photographs were of unknown models but actresses such as Shirley Ann Field and Joan Collins were a staple for such magazines. All three titles survived into the 1970s.

Initially, the models were not topless, but the market was changed by the advent of Kamera, published by photographer Harrison Marks and his wife, the model Pamela Green. Kamera included topless models. Marks and Green, who also modelled under the name Rita Landre, were involved in the making of Michael Powell’s  controversial 1960 film  Peeping Tom. The horror thriller centred on a photographer who murdered women with a device built into his camera.

>>List of men’s magazines with profiles


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