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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A tip of the hat to CINEMA RETRO magazine and artists Frank McCarthy and Reynold Brown...

Like many fans of the men’s pulp adventure magazines that were published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, I’m also a fan of the classic action, adventure and science fiction movies produced during those same decades.

That’s why I’m an avid reader of CINEMA RETRO, the premier magazine about movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

I’ve been a subscriber to CINEMA RETRO since it was launched in 2005 and look forward to every lushly-illustrated, trivia-filled issue.

I also make fairly regular visits to the magazine’s website. And, a while ago I was surprised and honored to see a post there about MensPulpMags.com, written by Lee Pfeiffer. (The MEN TODAY cover it shows is from Part 2 of my interview with artist Bruce Minney.)

Pfeiffer is Editor-in-Chief of CINEMA RETRO.

He’s also the author or co-author of a long list of film-related books, including THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO CLASSIC MOVIES (2006), THE CLINT EASTWOOD SCRAPBOOK: THE ULTIMATE FAN'S GUIDE (1998), THE JOHN WAYNE SCRAPBOOK (2001), and THE ESSENTIAL BOND: THE AUTHORIZED GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF 007 (2002), written with his fellow James Bond expert and CINEMA RETRO co-founder Dave Worrall.

In his post on the CINEMA RETRO site, Lee called MensPulpMags.com “a superb blog.”

Of course, the rest of that sentence says “...that pays homage to this bygone era of tasteless entertainment.”

But I’m pretty sure Lee actually meant that last part in an appreciative way, too, since there are many obvious overlaps in his tastes and mine — and between men’s pulp magazines and the types of movies featured in CINEMA RETRO.

Consider, for example, the latest issue: Vol. 8, Issue 22.

The cover has an eye-popping publicity photo of actress Sybil Danning dressed (barely) in the costume she wore in the science fiction flick BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980).

Sybil is one of the glamorous women who adorn the pages of Lee’s soon-to-be published book CINEMA SEX SIRENS. (I put in my own pre-order as soon as it showed up on Amazon.com!)

The costume she’s wearing in the CINEMA RETRO cover pic reminds me of some of the costumes painted onto the exotic, Amazon-like women that were popular in men’s pulp mag artwork.

In fact, many of Sybil’s fan-favorite films are pulpy romps involving scantily-clad, weapon-toting women, or women in prison, or evil Nazis — the kind of stuff that vintage men’s adventure magazines are full of.

The movie posters shown on page 5 of the new issue of CINEMA RETRO are a good example of some other connections between the men’s adventure periodicals and films produced in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The paintings used in both posters were done by Frank McCarthy, an artist who created many cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure mags.

Clearly, that poster art — for the 1968 film known as DARK OF THE SUN in the US and THE MERCENARIES in the UK — looks a lot like the action/adventure cover and interior paintings used by men’s adventure magazines in the ‘60s.

So does another Frank McCarthy poster featured further back in Issue 22 of CINEMA RETRO, in a story about the 1969 Cinerama epic KRAKATOA, EAST OF JAVA.

McCarthy started doing artwork for men’s adventure mags when the genre first developed in the early 1950s and continued on until the late 1960s.

He primarily worked for several of the top tier men’s adventure mags, most notably ADVENTURE, ARGOSY and CAVALIER.

Like some other famous men’s adventure artists, such as Mort Kunstler and Gil Cohen, McCarthy began shifting into the generally more lucrative realm of paperback covers and movie posters in the late 1960s.

By the time the men’s adventure genre was defunct in the mid-1970s, he was one of the top movie poster artists in the world.

The list of films McCarthy did poster art for includes many of my own favorites from my teenage years, such as: TARAS BULBA (1962), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), SANDS OF THE KALAHARI (1965), VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965), DUEL AT DIABLO (1965), KHARTOUM (1965), THE BLUE MAX (1965), THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), DANGER: DIABOLIK (1968), WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968) and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1970).

You can see a longer list on the site Shoot 'Em up Bang Bang: the Movie Art of Frank McCarthy. It also has a good bio of McCarthy and a list of his illustration work for paperbacks and magazines.

In the final phase of his career, McCarthy became equally or even better known for his historically-authentic Western paintings. They continue to sell for hefty prices in fine art galleries and online auctions and grace the walls of a number of history-oriented museums.

The two books about McCarthy’s work that I’m aware of focus on his Western art phase: THE WESTERN PAINTINGS OF FRANK C. MCCARTHY (1976) and THE ART OF FRANK C. MCCARTHY (1992).

Speaking of Westerns, Issue 22 of CINEMA RETRO also includes a fascinating article by pop culture historian Christopher Frayling about the classic, all-star Cinerama film HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962).

The poster art for that epic oater was done by Reynold Brown (1917-1991).

Like Frank McCarthy, Brown is one of the great American movie poster artists.

He also did artwork for magazines early in his career, including top tier men’s adventure mags like ARGOSY. (Though Brown seems to have done significantly less magazine art than McCarthy and did most of his for mainstream magazines in the 1940s and early 1950s, before the men’s adventure genre had fully developed.)

Brown’s heyday as a poster artist began in the early 1950s. The amazing list of films he created posters for also include many of my personal favorites, such as: CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955), I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958), BEN-HUR (1959), SPARTACUS (1960), THE ALAMO (1960), THE TIME MACHINE (1960) and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1962).

There’s a nice sampler of Brown’s poster and magazine artwork on the American Art Archives site, which is maintained by my fellow vintage illustration aficionado, Thomas Clement.

For a more in-depth look at Brown’s life and art, including a chronological gallery showing most of the 250 to 275 movie posters he created, I encourage you to explore the official Reynold Brown site maintained by his family.

I also highly recommend the book REYNOLD BROWN: A LIFE IN PICTURES (2009) by Dan Zimmer publisher of another of my favorite modern periodicals, ILLUSTRATION magazine.

If you enjoy this blog, you really should get yourself subscriptions to both CINEMA RETRO and ILLUSTRATION.

They are two of the best retro pop culture magazines ever published.

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Related reading...


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Inside MAN’S MAGAZINE, Feb. 1954 – Part 2: Burlesque, bull running, idiotic divorce laws and other cultural traditions...

My last post provided a look at some of the wild stories and photos in the February 1954 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE, the legendary painting vs. photo issue mentioned in the Taschen book MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES.

Today’s post features more articles from that issue that I find particularly interesting from a historical and cultural perspective.

One is “I Censor Burlesque.”

It was written by Humbert Satriano, a New York City inspector whose probably thankless but enjoyable job was to watch burlesque shows.

It was his duty to determine if the shows conformed to the city’s current indecency regulations, which were actually more prudish in 1950s than they were prior to World War II.

Humbert explains that in the mid-1940s Mayor Fiorello La Guardia had imposed stricter rules for burlesque shows performed anywhere in The Big Apple.

Chief among those rules were these three:

      “(1) No female shall be permitted on a stage in any scene, sketch or act with breasts or the
lower part of the torso uncovered, or so thinly covered or draped as to appear uncovered.
      (2) Scenes, sketches or acts whenever a female appears originally fully or partially clothed and gradually disrobes shall conform to the above rule.
      (3) No vulgar, obscene or indecent language or conduct offensive to decency or propriety shall be
indulged in by performers.”

To enforce these rules, poor Humbert had to attend hundreds of burlesque shows and watch thousands of strippers do their acts, including some of the great Burlesque Queens such as Lili St. Cyr and Gypsy Rose Lee.

Humbert viewed the pioneering pros like Cyr and Lee as true artists compared to the newer crop of striptease performers he was seeing in 1954.

“The truth is, nothing bores me more than watching modern burlesque,” he opined. “Today’s strippers —  described by the Minsky Brothers as ‘hip-heavers, tossers and breast-bouncers’ and by author H. L. Mencken with the elegant Greek term ‘ecdysiasts’ — are terribly lacking in imagination. They’re in the dumps. Compared with the old-time ‘exotic dancers,’ the new breed of burlesque ‘artists’ are utterly devoid of any semblance of artistry.”

Humbert would probably be happy to know that classic burlesque techniques are being revived by today’s “neo-burlesque” shows. (Some of the best of which are hosted by my fellow vintage men’s magazine aficionado Jason “Java” Croft, creator of Java’s Bachelor Pad.)

There are some other less attractive mid-20th century cultural traditions featured in articles in the February 1954 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE.

They include: running with the bulls in Pamplona (“Running Wild!”), portraying all sharks as killers that should themselves be killed without compunction (“Killer Sharks of Raraka”) and fraternity hazing rituals at American high schools and colleges (“Field Day for Sadists”).

For bitter divorced guys and those contemplating or facing divorce, there’s also a sympathetic article about how strict and “unfair” the divorce laws were in the 1950s, titled “It’s the Man Who Pays.”

The indignant subhead sneers: “Condemning husbands before trial makes a mockery of our divorce courts and leads to the biggest racket of all — alimony.”

One of the fascinating parts of this article is a full-page sidebar that lists the grounds for divorce in all of the U.S. states and territories at the time.

Back in the Fifties, divorce was still frowned upon culturally and legally.

You needed to have — or at least claim to have — a reason that met the letter of law to get unhitched.

In some states, there were relatively few valid grounds for divorce.

For example, according the the list published in MAN’S MAGAZINE, there were only three legal grounds for divorce in New Jersey: adultery, desertion or “extreme cruelty.” (Apparently, mild cruelty wasn’t a good enough reason.)

South Carolina was a little better. It allowed divorce for four basic reasons: adultery, desertion, physical cruelty or habitual drunkenness.

In some states, you had more options.

Under Kentucky law, for instance, the grounds for divorce included:

“Impotence, adultery, desertion (1), conviction for felony, habitual drunkenness (1), idiocy or insanity (5), wife pregnant at time of marriage, violent temper or behavior, husband and wife living apart (5), non-support by husband, extreme cruelty, willful neglect, fraud, force or duress, venereal disease, attempt on life of other, wife’s unchastity, indignities, leprosy or other loathsome disease. Also for malformation preventing sexual intercourse and for joining sect believing cohabitation unlawful.”

By the way, according to a note about the list of state divorce laws: “The numeral in parentheses indicate the number of years the particular condition must have existed in order to constitute grounds for divorce.”

In other words, in Kentucky you had to prove your spouse had exhibited “idiocy or insanity” for at least five years if you were trying to use one of those conditions as a reason to get a divorce. You were stuck with the idiot or psycho you married until their mental problem hit the five year mark.

Ah yes, the Fifties. The good old days, right?

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Comments? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Recommended reading for men’s adventure magazine fans…


The February 1954 issue of MAN’S, with the painting and photo covers and all interior pages, in high-resolution, PDF format, for only $2.99.