Posts Tagged ‘old hollywood’

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Merry Christmas from Susan Bernard, Miss December 1966

December 15, 2010

The lovely and talented Susan Bernard was Playboy’s Miss December, 1966.


Photographed by Mario Casilli and Bruno Bernard.

Like Valentine Vixen Cyndi Wood, Ms. Bernard came from a Hollywood family and, though she was only eighteen, she already had a few credits under her little-looker (5’3″) belt when she appeared in Playboy.


Just before this Christmas Playmate pictorial went to press, our Yuletide miss called us from the Coast with the news that she’d won the ingenue lead in Stranger in Hollywood, a new dramatic film with a tentative title that doesn’t describe Miss December at all.

(“Growing Up Glamorous.” Playboy, December 1966.)


Susan Bernard’s been an Angeleno for all of her 18 years and is the daughter of top Hollywood glamor photographer Bruno Bernard (Bernard of Hollywood) and actress-director Ruth Brande.

(Ibid.)

In fact, her father had worked for Playboy in the past, and took pictures of his daughter for this spread.

Ms. Bernard has said that, when she posed for Mr. Casilli, who was a former apprentice of her father’s, it was the first time she’d been nude in front of anyone other than her mother. She has also cited the fact that, though the article does not touch on her faith background, she is probably the only Jewish playmate to have been posed in front of a Christmas tree. (The title of first Jewish playmate, period, is too contested to touch.)


Favorite.

The house has always been filled with theater and movie people,” Susan says, “and after I decided that acting was really for me, my parents encouraged me at every step.”

Brunette and brown-eyed Sue [was] featured on dozens of puppy-and-little-girl calendars as a youngster.

(Ibid.)


Acceptance in the talent program at the Film Industry Workshop at Columbia Studios followed Sue’s first film role, a small part in a shot-on-location desert flick.

(Ibid.)

I need to gleefully interject that that on-location desert flick was a little number you may have heard of from EVERYWHERE in the world of camp, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.

In the Russ Meyer B-movie classic, Ms. Bernard portrays Linda, an innocent girl traveling with her boyfriend who is intercepted, drugged, and kidnapped by Haji, Tura Satana, and Lori Williams as Rosie, Varla, and Billie, respectively. The evil trio of strippers kill her boyfriend Tommy, played by Ray Barlow, and haul Linda along as a hostage on their next fiendish caper.

Not to be missed.

Prior to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (do you have any idea how much fun that is to type out? so many exclamation points!), Ms. Bernard also appeared on television in 1963 as a young character called Beverly Fairchild in the popular American soap opera General Hospital. She was 15 at the time. In 1969, Ms. Bernard starred in the lesbian-themed film That Tender Touch as Terry Manning. Though the film is very tame by today’s standards, some of the material was very groundbreaking for the time.


Miss December’s private life makes a striking contrast to the image of an in-demand girl running from studio to stage. Even in the busy Bernard household, Susan’s managed to establish a balcony retreat for work on oil portraits of people she likes, among them the dates who take her to her favorite beaches and the cozy restaurants she prefers to gaudier showbiz scenes.

(Ibid.)

I think that resistance to the “scene” in Hollywood really shaped her as an artist and a person with a real brain and will. She has some pretty solidly cemented cult status, and is still an active and a classy lady, though she keeps out from in front of the camera these days.

That shot up there actually came from the next year’s calendar. They stuck her in as March. My guess for this reasoning? The lion next to her on the hearth. You know. “March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.” You think?

Scans of Ms. Bernard’s original layout. All of the at-home b&w shots were taken by her father. It is to his memory that Ms. Bernard currently devotes herself. She has so far produced three books about his body of work and maintains a beautiful site called Susan’s Salon, where you can send her messages and go through pictures her father took in the halcyon days of Bernard of Hollywood.


Being the daughter of one of the most famous photographers in Hollywood, I felt I was the most photographed child in America. With this came the privilege of experiencing Hollywood history. My Salon will bring you the stories my father loved to tell and my cherished memories.

(Susan’s Salon.)

I totally encourage you to check it out. Very cool.

I think all in all this has been a pretty kickass, standout Playmate entry. Especially if you are in to pin-ups, old Hollywood, and B-movies, which it is my expreience that those usually go together. Hope you feel the same!

And, because I can’t help myself, some caps of Sue in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Sorry, in my cursory search, I couldn’t find any stills with Tura Satana, and I’m too lazy to dig it up and take screencaptures myself. Enjoy them anyway?



Finally, an absolute trifecta of perfecta, from left to right in the recent shot below: Ms. Bernard; my b’loved Julie Newmar; baby burlesque legend Dita von Teese.


via madhatter on the vintageerotica forums.

Too much amazing for one photo.

Valentine Vixen — Miss February 1955, Jayne Mansfield

February 28, 2010

Remember how Jayne Mansfield came up not once but twice over this month in the course of covering the Valentine Vixens, and I kept alluding to how she would appear later in her own extra-focused double-long entry later in the month? Totally keeping my promise right this second!

I have featured the lovely and talented Jayne Mansfield, actress, model and Playboy’s Miss February 1955, before as part of a “The Way They Were” feature, but here she is in her own right.


Photographed by Hal Adams.

There is so very much, true and untrue, written about Ms. Mansfield’s personal history vis-a-vis her men and her mammaries that I decided to try and stick with showing some rare pictures and lesser seen facets of the other, more real side of her personality, and try and feature some clever quotes from her.

Because, as with Pammy, I am totally effing sick of the persistence of the “dumb blonde” thing, and I feel like when people write about Ms. Mansfield, it is usually in passing reference to her body or to her fame only as a symbol of sex in cinema, and almost never dwells on what was beneath the surface of the image she spun in order to be a Hollywood “success.”

The measure of a woman, get it? Funny, yes. The pose is cute but no, that’s no way to gauge us. Here is a kernel of widsom from me to you; write it down and you will land yourself some foxy dates:

“A lady is always greater than the sum of her parts, no matter the greatness of some of those parts.” — E., Right Here, Right Now.

Take it to the bank! Don’t be intimidated. Get to know a woman, ask her about herself, remember the things she says, and you will very easily win her over. Okay? So back to Ms. Mansfield. A couple pithy quotes from the buxom blonde:

“A forty-one inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee—a lot more.”

and

“I like being a pin-up girl. There’s nothing wrong with it. When I’m 100 I’ll still be doing pin-ups.”

That last is a tough one since she died relatively young. Also,

“If you’re going to do something wrong, do it big, because the punishment is the same either way!”,

“Sure, I know men. Men are those creatures with two legs and eight hands.”

and, more seriously, on the subject of desegregation and Civil Rights,

“God created us equal and we’re not living up to it.”

Jayne was famously married to former Mr. Universe, wrestler and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, but she was not above a pageant or ten herself. Here’s some fun stuff that I cobbled together from various sources about Jayne’s own beauty contest career.

From the wiki: “While attending the University of Texas, she won several beauty contests, with titles that included Miss Photoflash, Miss Magnesium Lamp and Miss Fire Prevention Week.” During this time, she was also married to her first husband, Paul Mansfield. She studied dramatic arts in Austin, then acting at UCLA when she and Paul moved out to the West Coast.

The wiki claims that the only title she ever turned down was “Miss Roquefort Cheese,” because she believed that it “just didn’t sound right.” A biography site I found included a more complete list of her awards, and here are my hand-picked-for-how-bizarre-they-are favorites of the titles Ms. Mansfield held:

Miss Tomato, Miss Negligee, Miss Nylon Sweater, Miss Freeway, Miss Electric Switch, Miss Geiger Counter (?!?!), Miss 100% Pure Maple Syrup, Miss 4th of July, and, last but most certainly not least, Hot Dog Ambassador (hell, yeah, hot dogs!).


This is my favorite picture of Jayne Mansfield — she is so enrapt in a conversation, mid-sentence and animated, that I think it must be the closest thing to what she really looked like. Because she had such a manufactured image, I find this candid touching.

Other fact you may not know about Ms. Mansfield: the famously blonde babe also made a bombshell of a brunette! Jayne got in touch with her “roots” for the film Single Room Furnished, the picture on which she was working at the time of her death. Adapted from a play by Geraldine Sanford for Jayne by her then-husband Matt Cimber (by the time principal photography in NJ was done, Cimber and she were split and Jayne was dating Sam Brody, her attorney, who died with her), the movie was very slow to be released and was tough to find for a lot of years.


Click any to see large. Each one is unthinkably GIANT.

The imdb summarizes it as

Three stories in one: Johnie (Jayne Mansfield) is married, but her husband deserts her when she becomes pregnant. She changes her name to Mae and takes a job as a waitress. She falls in love, but her fiancé leaves her just as they’re about to get married. So Mae changes her name to Eileen and becomes a prostitute.

I’ve heard it’s actually okay, but I haven’t seen it. Anyone?

Thinking about those final years, her slow decline and her sudden death, is a real bummer, so here’s a couple shots from a much happier time:


At the Pink Palace on her wedding day to Matt Cimber, aka Thomas Vitale “Mateo” Ottaviono, September 24, 1964.

So, since the above pictures have raised the topic — Oh, my. The Pink Palace.

“I’ll have to have a palace, of course. I may not be a princess, but I am a movie queen, and every queen should have a palace.” — Jayne Mansfield

The house has become a part of the lore that surrounds Jayne’s “story,” with most people focusing on the heart-shaped tub, the pink walls, the fur carpets, the fountain of pink champagne, and so on, as evidence of what a Barbie Doll baked in a vanilla cupcake frosted with glitter she was alleged to be. But here is the real deal. Ms. Mansfield bought the Pink Palace in November of 1957 for a cool $76k after some very shrewd real estate backdoor bargaining. A 40-room mansion smack on Sunset Boulevard, the house was built in 1929 by highly regarded Los Angeles architecht G.C. McAllister and had previously been owned by singer Rudy Vallee. It could have gone for much, much more than what Ms. Mansfield wrangled as the end price. But it gets better.


Jayne in the driveway of the Pink Palace.

You need to understand that Jayne was a very specific type of famous. She did not land in big moving pictures so much as her big moving boobs landed her in printed pictures. She was not rated and weighed to be serious in the manner of someone like Audrey Hepburn or even Marilyn Monroe, but you can bet your ass that “Jayne Mansfield” was absolutely a household name. That’s because she was an accessible gal who could move her some magazines. Rags like People and Star were born in this post-war Hollywood boom — men, average men, wanted to ogle star boobies, and women, average women, wanted to read about how they did their makeup, and Jayne was willing to provide both.

Jayne Mansfield created the brand of Jayne Mansfield, made herself worth knowing about before actually having a lot of star credits to her name. In this stroke of genius, in her complete creative control of a public image that made her famous mainly for being famous, she is sort of the fairy godmother of a Hilton or a Kardashian; hell, she wore a transparent wedding dress when she got hitched to Mickey Hargitay, and she was manufacturing wardrobe malfunctions and nip slips when Janet Jackson was still a twinkle in her mother’s eye. At the apex of her career, Jayne actually sold her used bath water by the bottle for $10.00 a pop. Walter Winchell said of her that she was making a career simply “of being a girl,” which the same can be said for a lot of D-listers these days. But I do feel the need to add that I believe Jayne was not as empty-headed and low-class as the current crop of celebutard and I think she had more tinfoil and hardboiled brains in her elegant hot pink pinky nail than Paris Hilton has in her whole spray-tanned size 00 body.


Jayne “crashes” the party.

One really famous instance of Jayne’s cleverness with public relations was at a party thrown for Sophia Loren in 1957. Jayne stole the show by showing up braless in a very low-cut dress. Oops! Some of her decolletage spilled out, and suddenly the event swung from being about the lovely new Italian broad on the block to be focused solely on the Jayne Mansfield brand (available at a newsstand near you!). Above is a famous picture of Sophia grimly bird-dogging the shit out of Jayne, although I think she also looks faintly amused. The arch of her brows is almost a tip of the hat to Ms. Mansfield, as if to say, “Cheap. But well played.” I love it. It’s a pretty famous picture. The picture reminds me of when she went on The Tonight Show and Jack Paar, the forerunner of Johnny Carson, introduced her by saying, “Here they are: Jayne Mansfield!”

“Fucking-a!, how does this boobs-and-the-media history lesson relate to the Pink Palace?” you are asking, and I am saying, “Hall and Oates!, have some patience — it relates directly, and can you please clean up that language?” Okay, so. Parlaying this common-folks’ notoriety and fame in to lucrative wheeling-dealings, Jayne made phone calls and dangled phantom photoshoot promises to area interior decorators, asking for samples to use in her new famous residence. Tantalized by the possibility of a potential publicity relations juggernaut, decorators delivered by the truckload. Thanks to her fame and their greed, the clever Ms. Mansfield managed to decorate the entire mansion with over $150,000 worth of free stuff.

Most of it was in pink, the signature color of her public persona. However, privately she once wrote, “I’ve been identified with pink throughout my career, but I’m not as crazy about it as I’ve led people to believe. My favorite colors are actually neutrals — black and white — but then who thinks of a movie queen in black and white? Everything has to be in living color.” You see what I mean about complete awareness of the image, the public face, and her creative control over it? So much more to her than met the eye. The pink thing must not have been created completely out of whole cloth, though; Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: SVU and Jayne’s daughter from her second marriage to body-builder Mickey Hargitay, remembered well enough her mother’s association with pink and her time with her in the Pink Palace that, in honor of her mother, she wore a pale pink wedding gown and a pink-gold heart-shaped locket when she walked down the aisle in 2004 with her husband, actor Peter Summer. (Whoa, there is dust in here again…so ridiculous, all this dust.)

Since Jayne’s tragic not-decapitating death, the Pink Palace has been owned by Ringo Starr, patron saint Mama Cass Elliot, and Englebert Humperdinck. It was demolished November 9, 2002.

This is Jayne’s actual headstone, at the Fairview Cemetery at Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, where she was interred following her death June 29, 1967 (exactly thirty-five years before the death of my cousin Thomas which changed my life forever). There is a memorial cinotaph in the Hollywood Forever cemetery, but it has the incorrect date on it. This error is not the Jayne Mansfield Fan Club’s fault; true to loveable character, Ms. Mansfield had given out for many years the incorrect year of her birth in order to appear younger.


Pictures published in the mag from the set of this movie, Promises, got Hef and Playboy slapped with an indecency lawsuit and nearly shut them down — hot story for next time. Oooh, anticipation!

Besides her work on the screen and in print, a lasting legacy of Jayne’s tragic death in an automobile-tractor-trailer crash is the so-called Mansfield bar, a safety feature now standard on all tractor trailers.

The NHTSA began requiring an underride guard, a strong bar made of steel tubing, to be installed on all tractor-trailers. This bar is also known as a Mansfield bar, and on occasions as a DOT bar. (the wiki)

Over the course of her career, the lovely and talented (and, I hope I have convinced you, underratedly clever) Jayne Mansfield appeared in Playboy magazine over 30 times. You may visit Jayne’s star on the Walk of Fame at 6328 Hollywood Boulevard. As her gravestone says, “We live to love you more each day.” R.I.P., Ms. Mansfield.

Valentine Vixen: Sally Todd, Miss February 1957

February 6, 2010

The lovely and talented Sally Todd first appeared in Playboy in June of 1956, in a clothed pictorial about girls in Las Vegas. She was asked back to be the gatefold model for the February issue in 1957.


Photographed by David Sutton and Ed DeLong.

When Sally was 19, she entered and won a beauty pageant in her hometown of Tuscon at the urging of her mother and began doing local modeling gigs.

A few years later, she wanted to take a trip to Canada but had only saved enough for Los Angeles, so she went to Hollywood. She had studied drama in Tuscon and was spotted while shopping by a scout for 20th Century Fox. He had her in for screen tests and a very nice B-movie career was born! Fox billed her as “a young Lana Turner and much prettier than Marilyn Monroe.”

Being a young Lana I can somewhat see; being prettier than Marilyn I have to put my hands in a “T” and call bran flakes and cheese sticks on. Sorry. No dice. That is total chicanery. But I’m a big Marilyn guy from way back, whereas I’ve only had li’l Stripey Butt here saved on the computer for around six months, so I suppose I am a biased judge. Ms. Todd starred in, to name some highlights, The Unearthly, Frankenstein’s Daughter, and Al Capone, as well as guest-appearing on a slew of television shows.

She became a regular Hollywood fixture, often popping up as the hot date of various popular actors and landing herself in Walter Winchell’s gossip column. As a cross-connection, Winchell also narrated the 60’s era television hit “The Untouchables,” on which Sally appeared both in front of camera and behind, dating a few of the stars.

Unlike some of the other playmates, who mainly did not do much actual real-life modeling, in addition to her screen credits Sally was a genuine full-time model. She did modeling both of clothing and of products, first in Tuscon and then with great success in Los Angeles, where her blonde wholesome looks landed her in the Los Angeles Home Show, which is actually a pretty big event. Beginning in 1955, Ms. Todd modeled on Johnny Carson as one of the Carson Cuties, and by 1956 she was television’s highest-paid model. Not bad!

Of course, the Tinseltown high life does take its toll from time to time. On August 26, 1958, Ms. Todd caused a Hollywood freeway accident involving five cars. It’s estimated she was going around 70 miles per hour when she lost control and collided with four other vehicles. She didn’t die — this isn’t one of those right-curve-bummer-ass posts that I sometimes do on the playmates, don’t worry.

She suffered some bruises on her left wrist, fingers, and right knee when she went flying through the window of her sports car and was thrown out onto Barham Blvd (with a seat belt, she’d probably have been completely unscathed). After failing an intoxication test at the scene, Ms. Todd was booked for drunk driving by the LAPD.

She spent the night in jail and on August 27th was informed she’d be charged with felony drunk driving. Ms. Todd’s story, to which she stuck, was that she’d had two drinks with a girlfriend and was en route home when the car went out of control as she stepped on the brake. Apparently the story worked. On September 2, 1958, Ms. Todd appeared in court expecting to be formally charged with felony drunk driving, but was told to return in eight days, when the DA’s office had their case more prepared.

She never was charged with anything, in the end. At the time, she was on-the-downlow-dating married man and popular local figure Jack Webb, of television’s Dragnet. Webb had creator credit on the show and widely touted the importance to him that the show be “realistic;” he insisted on lots of police consultants and was in general a gladhander of the cops all-around. (When he died, they gave him a funeral with full police honors and the LAPD retired badge #714, which had been Sgt. Joe “Just the facts, ma’am” Friday’s number on Dragnet). So, you know. Boyfriend with majah LADPD pull. Felony charge that disappears. Do the math.

Ms. Todd actually had quite the full dance card with some big names for a lot of years, but I want to go read this book called Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Will There Be Enough Room with my kidlet, so I’m afraid I’m putting the kebosh on what could have been a lengthy walk down lovers’ lane.

Bonus factoid for historical stalkytimes: the articles from this incident also list her as living at 11060 Fruitland Drive, North Hollywood. I think it is batshit bananas that papers used to print addresses, because I don’t think people were any more trustworthy with personal information then than they are now. Probably got shitloads of folks harassed, burglarized, or worse. Scandalous.


Once again, as was the case with Ms. Kubert’s issue, Jayne Mansfield is on the Playboy cover. Don’t worry, I am not neglecting her — she is an extra-special Valentine Vixen who will appear later this month.

Final quick thought: why did they keep making her put that stupid straw in her mouth? How is that even a Thing? Is she supposed to look like a hayseed, but then the next second she is at the beach? Really inconsistent. Weird. Anyway. Catch you on the flip!

Chazmatazz!

October 5, 2009

Charles Chaplin at Lone Star Studios in 1917. Lone Star was basically Chaplin’s own studio, formed by Mutual Film Corp for him when the star system began to really play a major role in early cinema production (and budget). Chaplin was the writer, director, and producer for most of his films with Mutual, besides of course being the star. This unheralded creative control was Mutual’s last bid to keep ahold of him. People wanted Chaplin, Mutual wanted people’s money, and didn’t want Chaplin to figure out that with all his money and star power he could just form his own production companies. Of course, pretty quickly he did, founding UA with Fairbanks and Pickford. I don’t need to tell you that, most likely.

Nat “King” Cole – Smile The melody of this song was originally composed and arranged by Charlie Chaplin for Modern Times but much later, it was rearranged and words were added, to make it the enduring hit it is today. That’s why the song was used in the RD,Jr. biopic Chaplin.

Anyway, I have a less morally repugnant job than usual, providing content for a blurb on Chaplin and the feature Modern Times to appear in the playbill at a screening of early movies that were important to film history. So that’s what I’m doing with my day, although I think I scheduled a post a bit ago to appear later…time will tell.

Modern Times is the one where he goofs with the clock (wow, oversimplest thing I will hopefully say all day). You have likely seen clips from it.