The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963).
It’s not. It never is.
Total sassafrass: brace yourselves for the sap flood.
Playboy readers are a strongly partisan bunch, quick to tell us when they like something — or when they don’t. Last October, we were faced with the delightful dilemma of choosing between two potential Playmates, each lovely in her own way.
(“Command Performance: A near miss makes a curvy comeback.” Playboy, August 1956.)
We hemmed, hawed, made our choice; and in addition to the Playmate proper, we printed photos of the girl who didn’t quite make it. The result was a deluge of letters telling us we were blind as the well-known bat and should have picked the other girl.
I think even in 1956 if a man said simperingly to a fellow bachelor, “Blind as the well-known bat,” with his pinky up all hmmhmmHMM, he would’ve got his ass kicked. Unless it was Noel Coward. That dude was hard core.
Nice fawning write-up, but the wiki suggests the murky October shenanigans went down differently:
Nicely was originally supposed to be a Playmate for the October 1955 issue, but scheduling and creative conflicts temporarily pushed her aside in favor of Jean Moorhead.
Creative conflict? What an interesting and euphemistic phrase. I wonder what the real story is.
This picture was not included in the original spread but comes rather from The First Fifteen Years. Seeing as it is so close in composition to the picture which was ultimately selected as the centerfold, my guess is that it was down to those two poses and perhaps a few others as to which would be run as the main gatefold shot. I also conjecture that this one didn’t make the cut because she is not quite looking in to the camera.
Ms. Nicely hails from Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the US Marshals have their National Museum. Fort Smith’s nickname is “Hell on the Border.” The town motto is: “Life’s worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” which I understand is to encourage residency and visitation, but all I can think when I read it is, “… unlike in Detroit.”
This picture was not included in either of her Playboy appearances. It must have come from a shoot for a different periodical. I threw it up anyway because I dig the “Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish” vibe that’s happening here. If you know the photograph’s provenance, please feel free to lay it on me.
This is so Psycho. Yes? The italian boy hairstyling, the thick brows and light-bullet bra, the pencil skirt and mirrored moment of intimacy. Very Janet Leigh as dictated by Hitchcock. But the picture predates the film by four years, so I’m not suggesting it was deliberate. Just echo-y.
These pictures are markedly different and grainier than all the others, so they may be the early October shots in question. Alternately, they may be poses for a different magazine, and the photos which are mentioned in Ms. Nicely’s write-up are the ones where she has very short hair and is goofing around in her bedroom with “go, team” type get-ups.
I do lean toward that explanation because it would mean that the shots where Ms. Nicely has longer hair and is in and around the house are more thematically unified instead of the kind of jumble it all looks like now.
The first group of pictures had an angle of youth and “oopsie, you caught me dressing,” and these latter group are suggestive of a more mature, consenting, young wifey type leading you around her house after she picks up the milk.
Does this make sense?
She apparently did other modeling work for a bit in the late 50’s, but she jumped ship to pursue work of a totally different nature. Ms. Nicely spent a long and trailblazing career as a mechanic for Rockwell International at their B-1 bomber plant.
The various Rockwell companies list a large number of firsts in their histories, including the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-25 Mitchell bomber, and the Korean War-era F-86 Sabre, as well as the Apollo spacecraft, the B-1 Lancer bomber, the Space Shuttle, and most of the Navstar Global Positioning System satellites. Rocketdyne, which had been spun off by North American in 1955, was re-merged into Rockwell in 1984, and by that time produced most of the rocket engines used in the United States.
I said goddamn, Jonnie Nicely! Way to do it.
Above is a recent picture of Jonnie promoting her Playboy issue and doing signings for fans. Below is a picture from one of my favorite ladies, Dolores del Monte (Miss March 1954), a vintage model who is super-active in the convention circuit and maintains a lovely website.
l to r: Ms. Nicely, Rick Linnehan (astronaut), Dolores del Monte (Miss March 1954), very special Valentine Vixen Kona Carmack (Miss February 1996), Cynthia Meyers (Miss December 1986), and Peggy McIntaggart (Miss January 1990) at the Los Angeles Glamourcon, November 2008.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world, ladies!
From her name and slyly amused, distinctly un-cheesecakey pose and expressions, I figured that the lovely and talented Linné Nanette Ahlstrand would be that rare beast, the international Playmate.
Color me all wrong. Ms. Ahlstrand was actually born in Chicago, Illinois, the hometown of Playboy and a city from which a substantial number of early and heyday Playmates hailed. The text which accompanied Ms. Ahlstrand’s pictorial alluded to having discovered her on the beach in Los Angeles but it is rich with malarkey and does not even bother to feature an interview with her, so I have my doubts.
The title of her write-up was “The Laziest Girl in Town,” which also lead me to expect to find her of some German or Swedish extraction. The title comes from the song “The Laziest Gal in Town” a Cole Porter tune, which was a longtime staple of Marlene Dietrich’s performing repertoire.
Ms. Dietrich was a famously German-American international treasure who kept on ticking unlike her early celebrity companions such as Joan Crawford and the great Garbo and she had begun to tour live around this time (1958) in addition to continuing to appear in movies.
As an example, she made her biggest pictures after age 35, something like an early model of Meryl Streep. Witness for the Prosecution, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright were all made when Marlene was over 40 years old. That is nothing to sneeze at. I have an album on which she sings “The Laziest Girl in Town” and she still has such a wonderful husky strong accent that it sounds like “lay-zeh-est gell een tone.” Love it.
With that in mind, I figured they were establishing with the title of Ms. Ahlstrand’s article a link to Marlene and particularly one of her former screen characters to parallel Ms. Ahlstrand bieng of foreign extraction and languishing in the Western sun. See, Dietrich played diverse roles in her youngest years under Josef von Sternberg but became indelibly known by larger and more modern audiences for portraying a sexy bargirl in the Old West named Frenchy — despite her outrageously strong German accent — in the sweeping frontier film Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939).
The posters for the film claimed that it had “Corralled the greatest cast in cinema history!” Dietrich’s career-making part in Destry Rides Again was parodied by Madeline Kahn, departed queen of all that’s wonderful, in the 1974 Mel Brooks satire Blazing Saddles as the saloon singer Lili Von Schtupp (R.I.P., MK).
Of course all this conjecture came to nothing, like I said, when I realized that Ms. Ahlstrand was from Chicago and not of any exotic blonde overseas extraction. She moved from Chicago to New York to pursue modeling when she was younger, then out to L.A. and environs to dig in to acting in film and television.
Though Linné was best known by audiences for her work in television as a dispatcher on the program Highway Rescue, she was also in several films throughout the late 50’s and early 60’s, including Senior Prom, Beast from Haunted Cave, and Holiday for Lovers. Her most substantial big screen role was in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Living Venus, in which she played Diane.
Unlike the gory funfests for which Lewis later became known, Living Venus is more of a biopic. Related to this post, the subject of Living Venus‘s rise-and-fall story is a publisher very much like Hugh Hefner. Jack Norwall, the fictionalized Hef played by Bill Kerwin, starts a magazine called Pagan.
Pagan’s success leads him to leave his loving fiancee and take up with his lovely and talented model, a waitress he discovered while hatching the idea for the magazine. Ms. Ahlstrand does not play the model, but rather the jilted good girl. The model ends up leaving him and killing herself as he becomes increasingly arrogant and tyrannical due to his success, and Norwall comes to realize that being on top was not all he cracked it up to be. But too late, as he has lost for good his fiancee, best friend, and soul.
I’d like to point out that in my opinion the only part of Living Venus that really parallels Hef is Jack Norwall starting a successful nudie mag. Hef did not leave his wife for another woman; quite the opposite actually. So, no.
A little looker, Ms. Ahlstrand was 5’2″ at the time of her appearance in Playboy, which I believe puts her on an equal footing with Kai Brendlinger (bleah) for shortest Playmate until feisty pocket rocket Joni Mattis’s famously not-nude appearance (love her forever) and eventual eclipsement by Sue Williams who at 4’11” at the time of her appearance in 1965 is the pocketiest rocket of them all, aww — that we know of. It’s tough to say for sure because, prior to September of 1959, the Playmates were not required to complete a data sheet. So unless their height came up in the article or their contemporaneous stats appeared in parallel work elsewhere, the math is fuzzy.
Click below for scans of the original article.
Tragically Ms. Ahlstrand died of cancer in January of 1967. She was only 30 years old and had been married less than a year and a half. R.I.P. to such a young talent.
Quotes from Godard illustrated by his wife and early muse, my own style inspiration and personal patron saint, the lovely and talented* Anna Karina.
All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun. (Journal entry, 5/16/91)
“Light me up!” Still of Anna Karina as Natacha van Braun from Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution / Alphaville (1965)
I don’t think you should feel about a movie. You should feel about a woman. You can’t kiss a movie.
“In films, we are trained by the American way of moviemaking to think we must understand and ‘get’ everything right away. But this is not possible. When you eat a potato, you don’t understand each atom of the potato!” (Interview with David Sherritt, The Christian Science Monitor, 8/3/94)
Une femme est une femme / A Woman is a Woman (1961)
Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self. (Critique called “What Is Cinema?” for Les Amis du Cinéma , 10/1/52, a work which advanced the auteur theory but also kind of ripped off Bazin, which is weird cause Bazin would’ve read it and was a big influence on Godard but this was done contemporaneously of Bazin himself working on something titled this, about this, so maybe the quote is misattributed? … or maybe there is more to it than I know with my tiny ken of French movie guys, maybe it was a done thing to borrow titles from one another, or perhaps it was a continuation of a dialogue they were already having both in person and via publications, or, finally, it could even have been an “understood” question which anyone might use as the title of a book or article … I am probably over-reading it.)
Beauty is composed of an eternal, invariable element whose quantity is extremely difficult to determine, and a relative element which might be, either by turns or all at once, period, fashion, moral, passion. (“Defense and Illustration of Classical Construction,” Cahiers du Cinéma, 9/15/52)
The truth is that there is no terror untempered by some great moral idea. (“Strangers on a Train,” Cahiers du Cinéma 3/10/52 — Godard wrote extensively and insightfully in his early career about the movies of Hitchcock, one of my favorite and I think misunderstood directors; I’ll try to share some good nuggets from time to time)
Anna cahorts about topless as Anne in 1968’s The Magus, also starring Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek), Michael Caine, and Candace Bergen (Murphy Brown) — no one seems to like this movie but me. That’s okay, because I like it a lot.
Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second. (Le petit soldad / The Little Soldier, 1963.)
With Jean-Paul Belmondo again, this time as Ferdinand and Marianne in the sort of romantic-tragi-comedy-crime-caper Pierrot le fou / Crazy Pete / Pierre Goes Wild (1965).
To be or not to be? That’s not really a question. (unsourced)
Screencap with subtitles from Une femme est une femme / A Woman is a Woman (1961).