Rambo va va voom

Natacha Rambova (1897 – 1966) was an American costume and set designer, artistic director, screenwriter, producer and occasional actress. Later in life she worked as a fashion designer and Egyptologist.

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Her mother Winifred Kimball, was married four times, eventually settling on millionaire perfume mogul Richard Hudnut. Rambova was adopted by her stepfather, making her legal name Winifred Hudnut.

Richard Hudnut advertising found here

Rambova was a rebellious teenager. She was sent home from a boarding school for “conduct unbecoming of a lady“. At the age of 17 she fell for 32 year old Theodore Kosloff (who already had a wife and daughter in Europe) and the pair began a tumultuous but short lived love affair. While Kosloff was away on a hunting trip, Rambova packed her bags and called a taxi. However Kosloff returned unexpectedly and caught her leaving; angered, he shot her in the leg. She managed to escape and never reported the matter to the police.

Theodore Kosloff found here

Shortly after this, she started working for Alla Nazimova who employed her as an art director and costume designer. It was on the set of one of Nazimova’s films that Natacha met Rudolph Valentino. They moved in together and devised a plan to sell Valentino’s autograph for 25 cents. This venture kept them afloat between paychecks.

Valentino found here

Natacha took photos of Valentino for a magazine called Shadowland that featured art and dancer photos. The pair were forced to separate (or at least pretend to) as the divorce proceedings for Valentino’s marriage to Jean Acker began. Once the divorce was final, they married on May 13, 1922 in Mexico. However, the law at the time required a year to pass before remarriage and Valentino was jailed as a bigamist. The scandal seriously hurt both their careers.

Jean Acker found here

They worked together on several films, most of which failed to make money at the box office. Natacha specialized in “exotic” effects in both costume and stage design. For costumes she favored bright colors, baubles, bangles, shimmering fabrics and feathers. She also used the effect of sparkle on half nude bodies slathered in paint.

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After her divorce from Valentino, Rambova opened an elite couture shop on Fifth Avenue in 1927. Later she closed the shop and moved to France after meeting her second husband in 1934. Following her second divorce she developed an interest in the metaphysical and published various articles on healing and astrology.

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Natacha believed in reincarnation and psychic powers. Later in life she became an Egyptologist and a follower of Madame Blavatsky, visiting psychics, partaking in séances and automatic writing. In the mid 1960s she was struck with scleroderma, and became malnourished and delusional as a result. She died of a heart attack in 1966 at the age of 69. Her Egyptian antiquities were donated to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and she willed a huge collection of Nepali and Lamaistic art to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Natacha was portrayed by Yvette Mimieux in The Legend of Valentino (1975), and by Michelle Phillips in Ken Russell’s feature film Valentino (1977).

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Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm  Comments (47)  
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the Citizen Kane of stag movies

Burlesque dancer Candy Barr was born Juanita Dale Slusher on July 6, 1935, in Edna, Texas.

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“At age 16, though she appeared much older, she appeared in the most famous and widely circulated of the early underground pornographic movies, Smart Alec. It was the Deep Throat of its day. Film critic, Phil Hall, calls it the Citizen Kane of stag films.

For her signature striptease, she would walk on stage wearing a full Annie Oakley buckskin get-up. By the time her five-minute routine was up, she would have stripped off everything but her panties, pasties, cowboy boots, white cowboy hat and the twin holsters slung low across her hips.

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Offstage, Candy enjoyed hanging out at the Carousel after hours, where owner Jack Ruby became a close friend and father figure. In 1953 she hooked up with Troy Phillips, a nightclub denizen who became her husband and manager. The marriage had fallen apart by the holiday season in 1955, but Phillips was not the sort to walk away without one last dustup.

Jack Ruby and friends

When he showed up at her door Candy refused to answer so he kicked it in and stumbled drunkenly around her apartment. When he got 6 feet away, she leveled the rifle barrel on her husband and pulled the trigger. She hit him in the lower belly near the groin, later claiming her aim was off. The charges were dropped two weeks later, when Phillips acknowledged that he’d been very drunk and ornery.

Candy briefly became the squeeze of Mickey Cohen, the L.A. mob kingpin, whom she met while headlining on Sunset Boulevard. (He was a sucker for strippers; Tempest Storm and Beverly Hills had been in his bed too). Following their breakup she married Hollywood hairdresser Jack Sahakian, the Vidal Sassoon of his day, in Las Vegas in 1959.

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In October 1957, Dallas police detectives knocked at Candy’s apartment door. They told her an informant had tipped them off that she had marijuana.

After a brief give-and-take with the cops, Candy dug down into her bosom and pulled out a pill bottle that contained less than an ounce of pot, the equivalent of the tobacco in 25 cigarettes. Her trial was a spectacle, with men elbowing their way into the courtroom to ogle the stripper and the jury sending her away for 15 years. Some time later, a Dallas police official stated that Candy had been convicted because of her occupation. He said the 11 men on the jury would have been mortified to go home to face their wives after acquitting her.

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On April 2, 1963 — after three years and three months — she walked out of prison carrying a Bible and holding a $5.70 one-way bus ticket back home to Edna. As a condition of her parole, she was barred from working as an exotic dancer.

Jack Ruby, her old nightclub pal, visited Candy after her release and gave her a getting-out gift of two dachshund puppies. The dogs were about six months old when Ruby’s name popped up on every newspaper front page in America. She said she knew nothing, but to this day some view Candy as a cog in the arcane machinery of the Kennedy conspiracy.

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In 1972, she published a slim volume of poetry, “A Gentle Mind…Confused,” some of which she had written in prison. She was lured out of retirement by a $5,000 payday when she posed nude for Oui magazine in 1976, at age 41.

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In 1999, she was named on Playboy’s “Most Desirable” list, and she made Texas Monthly’s list of “perfect Texans.” “Of all the small-town bad girls,” the magazine said, Candy Barr “was the baddest.” Copies of her book of poetry now sell for as much as $3,000.

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Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 8:11 am  Comments (45)  
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no animals were harmed in the writing of this post

When Richard Fleischer was directing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea he came up against a few problems. One of these involved filming Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre being attacked by a shark.

Kirk with Brigitte Bardot

“Since there’s no way to work in the water with a live shark, the plan was to catch and kill one, then hook it up to a cable system so it could be pulled down through the water like a dive bomber. Everyone on the crew had a suggestion about how to kill a shark. The consensus was that you had to whack it very hard between the eyes with a ball peen hammer to kill its brain, then it had to be left out in the sun for a day to make sure it had died.

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We went ahead and hit the shark on the head with a hammer, left the lifeless body on land in the hot sun for 24 hours then prepared to hook it up to the cable rig. At the last minute, I decided to wire its mouth shut with piano wire. The initial footage looked great, then Till Gabbani, the underwater cameraman agreed to use a small camera roped to the shark’s back to get a more sensational shot of the faked attack.

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About halfway though the filming, with Gabbani ‘riding’ the shark and holding the camera, something strange started to happen. The shark was not going in the direction the cable was pulling, it had revived and was swimming on its own. Lunging past Douglas and Lorre, it suddenly took off and swam away, with Tills and the camera still attached to its back. He wasn’t able to free himself until the shark dived for deep water, loosening the slip knot that held the camera and rupturing both Gabbani’s eardrums before he got away

Peter Lorre found here

Fleischer hadn’t finished all the scenes he’d planned to do with the shark so he offered a substantial bonus to anyone who could bring it back. As its jaws were still wired shut it wouldn’t be dangerous. Two US Navy frogmen joined in the hunt and were the lucky finders. One of the frogmen grabbed the shark by the tail and gave it a healthy shake trying to force it to swim forward. Then he began shoving it from the side and shook its tail again

“Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder, it was his partner pointing out the open unwired mouth of the 8 foot case of mistaken identity. He had been trying to persuade the wrong shark back into the filming area. I was sitting on the barge waiting on news of the search when two frogmen exploded out of the water like beach balls and landed on the deck….. we never did find our escapee……”

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These are some of the mistakes that were noticed by others after the film was released

When the natives are coming down the stairs of the Nautilus, the lead native is wearing a wedding band.

When the giant squid appears, it is swimming toward the Nautilus with its tentacles first. While squid can swim in both directions, they normally move mantle first with tentacles trailing due to much better movement through the water. Also, if the squid was moving with the tentacles in front, they would trail toward the back, not stay rigidly in front of it, like a person’s arms stretched out.

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When the natives flee and get back in their boats to paddle away, a native in the foreground boat clearly uses his spear as a pole against the sea bottom to turn the boat to port. The Nautilus is just a few feet in the background; if the water was really shallow enough to pole from a boat, the Nautilus would be grounded and its deck dozens of feet above the water.

The shark that goes after Ned and Conseil is a nurse shark. This species is actually quite harmless and shy of divers.

Perhaps that’s why the frogmen lived to tell their tale……

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gift of the muses

The Greek word for ‘gift of the muses’ is Musidora. French actress Jeanne Roques used it as her stage name.

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Beginning in 1915, Musidora began appearing in the hugely successful Feuillade-directed serials Les Vampires as Irma Vep, a cabaret singer, opposite Édouard Mathé as crusading journalist, Philippe Guerande. Contrary to the title, the Les Vampires were not actually about vampires, but about a criminal gang cum secret society inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang.

Irma Vep found here

Les Vampires’ success was due in great part to the character of the head villainess, whose name is an anagram of “vampire,” – Musidora (who occasionally posed naked) virtually defined female beauty for the decade, and her character, identified mostly by her black tights and black mask, slinking down corridors and escaping over rooftops, defined the popular archetype of the super-villainess femme fatale for decades to come

After her career as an actress faded, she focused on writing and producing. Her last film was an homage to her mentor Feuillade entitled La Magique Image in 1950, which she both directed and starred in. Late in her life she would occasionally work in the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise — few patrons realized that the old woman in the foyer might be starring in the film they were watching.”

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The Bonnot Gang was a criminal anarchist group operating in France and Belgium from 1911-12.

They had the dubious honor of being the first to use an automobile to flee the scene of a crime, presaging by over twenty years the later methods of John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde. Automobiles were not yet common so the gang usually stole expensive cars from garages, not from the street.

Bonnot Gang found here

In March 1912, gang member and would-be leader Octave Garnier sent a mocking letter to the Sûreté – with his fingerprints. In those days, the French police did not yet use fingerprinting. On March 25, 1912, the gang stole a de Dion-Bouton automobile by shooting the driver through the heart. They drove into Chantilly north of Paris where they robbed the Société Générale Bank – shooting the bank’s three cashiers. They escaped in their stolen automobile as two policemen tried to catch them, one on horseback and the other on a bicycle.

French bicycle found here

On April 28, police had tracked Bonnot to a house in Choisy le Roi. They besieged the place with 500 armed police officers, soldiers, firefighters, military engineers and private gun-owners. By noon, after sporadic firing from both sides, three police officers put a dynamite charge under the house. The explosion demolished the front of the building. Bonnot was hiding in the middle of a rolled mattress and tried to shoot back until Lépines shot him non-fatally in the head.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 8:10 am  Comments (38)  
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