Classic Hollywood #43

Joan Crawford And Her Shoes

Joan Crawford shows off one her 500 pairs of shoes 1954 6 23When Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina Crawford wrote her 1978 poison pen biography “Mommie Dearest” about her Hollywood superstar mother, many people found the account to be unbelievable.

It is still debated today how much of Christina’s biography really occurred. There are others who knew Joan Crawford personally and did not find Christina’s allegations to be extraordinary. We’ll never know for sure, but take this to heart, Joan Crawford was known to be controlling and manipulative in advancing her career.

I will say Joan Crawford was a good actress. But that is where it ends for me.

In this publicity photograph dated June 23, 1954, Crawford shows off one of her 500 pairs of shoes meticulously arranged in her shoe closet.

I’m sure there were others in the golden years of Hollywood that had a bigger collection of shoes. But my question is – would you show them off to the press and the public? Strange woman.

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Alexander Hamilton Says “I’m Not Happy About The New $10 Bill”

An Exclusive Guest Interview With The Late Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton makes some suggestions for his replacement on the ten dollar bill

New 10 dollar bill Anna Nicole Smith

The news that founding father Alexander Hamilton is to be replaced by a woman as the face of the ten dollar bill has received wide media coverage with mixed reviews. Continue reading

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Chimps and Actors In Publicity Photographs

Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield, Gary Cooper and Other Celebrities Posing With Chimps

Bettie Page with chimp. photo Bunny Yeager

Bettie Page with chimp. photo Bunny Yeager

Previously we showed some news photographs of chimpanzees. Because there were so many to choose from, we put these aside until now – publicity photographs of famous personalities with chimps.

Some of these posed photographs may have been related to whatever production the star was doing at the time. Others were just good photo opportunities.

The original news caption or a brief explanation for the photo is provided if we have one. Either way, here they are. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Herb Alpert April 21 1968

Herb Alpert April 16, 1968

“Herb Alpert teaches a friendly chimp at the Los Angeles zoo how to play a few notes at a stopover on a musical tour of America featuring the Tijuana Brass to be televised on Channel 7 at 7 p.m. on Monday. The program is called ‘The Beat of the Brass'”

Jayne Mansfield 1965

Jayne Mansfield 1965

Jayne Mansfield holding Laconia 1965

Dom DeLuise 1966

Dom DeLuise 1966

Dom DeLuise appears with one of The Marquis Chimps (probably Candy) on the Dean Martin Show 1966.

Stymie (Matthew Beard) of the Little Rascals (Our Gang)

Stymie (Matthew Beard) of the Little Rascals (Our Gang)

The Little Rascals Stymie (Matthew Beard) thinks Spanky has turned his brother Cotton into a chimpanzee through the power of a magic lamp in the 1932 Our Gang short ‘A Lad An’ A Lamp.

Gary Cooper 1932. photo: Acme

Gary Cooper 1932. photo: Acme

“Gary Cooper and baby chimpanzee as they arrived in Hollywood after an absence of more than a year.” Acme News Photo 4-27-1932 Continue reading

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Gangster Al Capone and His Mother

Even A Vicious Gangster Is Loved By His Mom

Al Capone and his motherIf you’ve seen 1987’s hit movie The Untouchables or HBO’s Boardwalk Empire you probably came away with the impression that Al Capone king of Chicago’s underworld during the 1920’s and early 1930’s was a cold blooded killer that few could love but many feared. Movies and TV shows convey only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Capone’s ruthlessness.

Capone could often be generous with the poor and downtrodden but he also displayed a hair-trigger temper and would personally kill or order killings with the slightest of provocations.

Even with all the horrible things Al Capone was responsible for or blamed for, his mother Theresa still loved him.

She fought valiantly to get her son out of prison after his 1931 conviction for income tax evasion. First in 1937 Theresa asked a judge to set aside an additional one year conviction of a misdemeanor and $20,000 fine and again in 1938 Theresa sought Al’s complete release. The caption to this news photo above reads:

Capone’s Mother Seeks His Release

Chicago – Attorney’s representing Mrs. Theresa Capone, mother of Al Capone have filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal court in Chicago seeking the release of the former gang chief who was sentenced to ten years in prison for income tax evasion in 1931, and is now in Alcatraz. The petition claims that time is allowed off for good behavior, and that Capone is entitled to 1,320 days credit and has therefore completed serving his sentence. The above photo shows Al Capone and his mother Mrs. Theresa Capone, at Al’s Miami home before his fall from power. credit line: ACME 4-2-1938

Theresa’s efforts were rewarded and Al Capone was released early from Alcatraz prison January 6, 1939 and was transferred to Terminal Island, a Federal Correctional Institution in California, to serve the one year misdemeanor sentence. Continue reading

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Old New York In Postcards #12 – 20 Historic Buildings That Were Demolished

20 Historic, Beautiful New York Buildings That Were Demolished

City Hall  Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building - all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building – all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

New York City real estate developers will always knock down a building if a buck can be made. So it really should come as no surprise that these buildings were demolished because they outlived their usefulness or more often than not, the land they sat upon was deemed more valuable than the building itself.

Nathan Silver’s must-own book, Lost New York (1967) Houghton Mifflin, was the first book to explicitly point out what New York City had lost architecturally over the years. If you have never read it, you should.

For our short postcard essay, there are hundreds of examples we could have chosen from and we picked 20. We omitted places of worship, theatres and restaurants which are the most transitory of buildings.

We’ve covered hotels before, and we could do another story on all the historic hotels that have been torn down, but we’ve included a few in this retrospective.

Rather than comment extensively on the buildings, a brief summary will suffice and the images should convey what we have lost. These postcards have been scanned at 1200 dpi in high resolution, click on any postcard to enlarge.

Singer Building hresSinger Building – 149 Broadway (corner Liberty Street),  A gem by architect Ernest Flagg, built 1908. Once the tallest building in the world. The Singer Building was elegant and sleek. Demolished 1967-68 and replaced by a ugly box of a building built by the Unites States Steel Corporation.

Produce Exchange hresProduce Exchange – 2 Broadway between Beaver and Stone Streets. Architect George B. Post’s splendid work of grace was built in 1883, demolished 1957.

Gillender Building 2 hresGillender Building – northwest corner Wall Street and Nassau Street. Architects, Charles I. Berg and Edward H. Clark, built in 1897 at a cost of $500,000. The Gillender Building was the tallest office building in the world for a brief time. The 20-story tower lasted only 13 years. In 1910 it was the first modern fireproof building to be demolished and it was done at breakneck speed, in under 45 days. The Gillender Building was replaced by the Bankers Trust Tower. Continue reading

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New York’s Little Italy Described In 1898

“Not a word of English is heard — only a rough, gutteral Italian”

Busy Mulberry Street photo Detroit Publishing CoWhen we ran our story about Chinatown last week we knew it was inevitable we would cover the section on Little Italy as well. It has the same anti-immigrant undertones as the section on Chinatown.

It is probably best not to read the unpalatable descriptions and have modern judgments on 19th century attitudes. What would seem outright racist or prejudicial today was merely the predominant “native” view of anyone who was not a WASP or other accepted creed.

Once again, the guidebook we quote from is Rand, McNally Handy Guide to New York City, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and other suburbs included in the Greater New York edited by Ernest Ingersoll (1898). This section is from the same one as Chinatown and is called “A Ramble At Night”, where the visitor to New York is directed to tour the areas of New York that are off the beaten path after 9 p.m. The purpose of the night ramble is to “give some hints as how the dark, crowded, hard-working, and sometimes criminal portions of the city look at night.” Reproduced below is the section on the Little Italy. Continue reading

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Mickey Mantle In Glorious Kodachrome Color Photos

25 Color Photographs of Mickey Mantle In The 1950’s & 60’s

Mickey Mantle portrait 1956 photo Marvin Newman

Mickey Mantle portrait 1956. photo: Marvin Newman

The name Mickey Mantle still evokes strong emotions for baseball fans of a certain age.

For if you ever saw Mickey Mantle play, you would never forget it. If you never had the pleasure, I’ll try and describe it.

Mickey Mantle powerful swing photo Marvin Newman

Mickey Mantle’s powerful swing. photo: Marvin Newman

Mantle swung the bat literally as hard as anyone who ever played the game. You would see his forearms and biceps bulge as he whipped the bat through the strike zone on a slight incline. Watching Mantle swing you could literally see that every muscle in his six foot frame was converging to pulverize the baseball.

When Mantle connected cleanly with the ball, the sound was unique. There was a sharp crack that resonated through the entire ballpark and that ferocious swing would drive countless baseballs deep into the gaps or frequently farther, with balls settling in the outfield stands or bleachers for a home run. There was no home run, like a Mickey Mantle home run.

Mickey Mantle stealing 2nd base and slides hard 1950s photo Marvin Newman

Mickey Mantle steals 2nd base and slides hard 1950s. photo: Marvin Newman

In his prime there were few fielders like Mickey Mantle, who could come out of seemingly nowhere to snag a drive hit in the gap, that when first hit, was thought to be uncatchable. Mantle’s arm could throw bullets, so runners had to think twice about taking an extra base or tagging up when the ball was hit to Mickey.

Mantle played hard breaking up double plays and stealing bases when necessary, even though he was playing on notoriously bad legs which would hamper his entire career. Continue reading

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New York’s Chinatown Described In 1898

Joss Houses, Chinese Restaurants and Opium Smoking

Chinatown 1896 looking at 22 Mott Street

Bing Chung Importers (near left) in the heart of Chinatown at 22 Mott Street in 1896

The great thing about reading old guidebooks to New York City is that you can see the world through contemporary eyes. This usually means all foreigners were viewed as curiosities with their exotic customs and provincial ways.

In 1897 the Chinese population in New York City was only 7,000 – almost all living in Chinatown centered around Mott Street. In 2015, New York City’s Chinese population is now over 500,000 people spread throughout the five boroughs.

The guidebook we quote from is Rand, McNally Handy Guide to New York City, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and other suburbs included in the Greater New York edited by Ernest Ingersoll (1898). This portion is called “A Ramble At Night”, and the visitor to New York is directed to tour the areas of New York that are off the beaten path after 9 p.m. such as Little Italy and The Bowery. The purpose of the night ramble is to “give some hints as how the dark, crowded, hard-working, and sometimes criminal portions of the city look at night.” Reproduced below is the section on the Chinatown.  Continue reading

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Classic Hollywood #42

The Young And Handsome Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart c 1933

Humphrey Bogart in the early 1930’s

If you’ve ever seen the classic film Casablanca (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, allow yourself to ask a shallow question, “based on looks alone, how would a beautiful girl like Ilsa (Bergman) fall in love with Rick (Bogart)?”

Humphrey Bogart was 42-years-old when Casablanca was filmed and had a scrawny frame, was not particularly tall, wore a toupee and looked rather haggard. Bogart also smoked cigarettes on screen and in real life like a chimney.

Even with all those perceived shortcomings, most women will tell you Humphrey Bogart was a sexy man. Continue reading

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Selling Quackery In New York – 1919

What Exactly Was In That Love Potion 100 Years Ago?

The secret "love potion" ingredient? It's at the end of our story.

The secret “love potion” ingredient? It’s at the end of our story.

It’s the 21st century. You’d think the number of people who believe in magic spells and potions would be declining. Unfortunately it is not. For proof look at how China is helping to wipe out the rhinoceros by buying rhino horns through poaching. These uneducated fools believe that the rhino’s horn contains “medicinal” value  to make a man virile.

Should we expect with more information and better education humanity has become more enlightened about patent medicine? Probably not. The internet has spread just as much misinformation as fact. And there’s one more factor to consider: people have has always been rather gullible when it comes to falling for quackery.

No, things have remained the same and unscrupulous people have pushed secret and magic love potions upon ignorant hopefuls from time immemorial.

Here in New York City almost 100 years ago, is proof that the city has always been a central repository for all sorts of hucksterism.

This article is from September 20, 1919 and appeared in the New York Sun. By the way, what a great term for fortune teller – “seeress.” Continue reading

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