Monday, June 26, 2023

Filth on Main Street, from The Independent, June 20 1925

Prompted by my men's adventure maniac Bob's comment on the last post of Arts Pictorial Monthly, I thought of an article I've had sitting in my blog folder for years that's a reaction to the proliferation of risque magazines on the stands and sort of a reporter's eye on the newsstand trends of the decade.  Mind you, I'm likely to savage the poor writer when we're done, but it's a neat article.  I'm not sure why I sought it out, but it was likely in someone's notes in something I'd read, so props to the initial researcher if you know what I mean.  I'm putting up a mix from two sources.  I have a scan of photocopies that I'm not sure if they are my own from a visit to a university library or found elsewhere.  But since I last went looking, a nice run of microfilm of the magazine the article comes from, The Independent, has been put up at the IA, including the June 20th 1925 issue.  I'm mixing the photocopy pages, which represent the art better (if still shoddily), with the microfilm's text pages.  Not an ideal 'scan' by any means, but the .cbr is here, and I'll post the whole thing (AS UNREADABLE THOUGH IT MAY BE ON GOOGLE BLOGGER 😝 BUT CLICK THE IMAGES AT LEAST FOR A BETTER VIEW) right here below.  The opening editorial cartoon


From Edmund Duffy, who may have spent some time at the dump like myself, as he draws a convincing trash heap in a very graphic style.  Duffy would go on to greater things in his career covering the Scopes Trial with Mencken and later winning the Pulitzer a whopping three times. Sir, I'll take a Dirt, the Vile Stories and a copy of True Filth, please, and a tootsie roll.  Telling Tales was an actual pulp (and a barely naughty one at that), but we'll see it again in a second.  Here's Frank Keith's "Filth on Main Street."  I'll withhold my snarky comments until the end with the exception of the graphics page.

"Selected from an average new stand" by a gentleman with extraordinarily good taste I might add.  I'd like to blog on each an every one of these magazines at some point (though maybe not these particular issues). For now I'd note that it's a particularly mild collection of magazines.  French Frolics largely reprinted material from La Vie Parisienne (or in imitation of that mode) and Red Pepper is a barely risque joke magazine (also swiping material from LVP).  Paris Nights is one I plan to talk a lot about in the near future and is perhaps the most risque on this page with still clothed starlets on photo pages and some nude illustration.  The rest are very basically romance pulps - the center title "Breezy" is a good term for the genre which is pretty distinct from the girlie pulps, even though all of these magazines often get lumped in with the racier illustration and peppy story variety of magazine. But let's see if I can't dig in the archives and hit these puppies.

French Frolics v01n04 (La Vie Parisienne) April Fool Number (1925-04) cover after Herouard (maybe Dash).  From my own collection.  I'm sticking this on the pull list to scan, as I'd like to take a look at the original this artist has copied from and post a few mags that pretty directly crib pages from LVP. 

 Red Pepper v01n12 (1925-06) cover Jack Neal.  Also from my collection.  

I need to scan one of these, too, though likely an earlier issue as an example.  Somehow I've found a number of these, and even a pin to go with, promotional material perhaps

Paris Nights 1925-04 v01n01.Paris Nights cover WVC, sadly not in my collection.  But if you're talking the earliest of the girlie pulps, it's a good place to start.  

Saucy Stories 1925-05 cover H.H. Warner, from an old eBay auction - the source of most cover images in my indexes, if you can't afford them at least you can keep a picture :D

Saucy Stories was started by H.L. Mencken, in the downmarket mags solely for the money.  This is actually the last issue before the pulp would change title to Heart to Heart Stories for the last two issues before cancellation.  I happened to just post another Saucy Stories cover to my Flickr thread today that's an absolute classic here.  The artist H.H. Warner remains a mystery.  If you have information, do let me know.  There's a strong possibility given the racy nature of the paintings and lack of hits in websearch that it's a alias, but who knows -

Young's Magazine 1925-06 v49n04.Young cover Greiner WANT  <---ha, I don't put that in my filenames very often, a mycomicshop image (if you can't tell by the watermark grumble grumble)

We'll be rapping on C.H. Young and his mags in the future, as I've got some plans.  And Oscar Greiner, too, who did a fair amount of work on Courtland's titles over the years.  A distinctive and underappreciated pin-up artist.

Breezy Stories 1925-06-15 v22n03.Young cover Seymour Marcus

I'm pretty sure this is inspired by an Earl Christy from a The American Magazine cover from 1925 but couldn't track down the image I'm thinking of.

Droll Stories 1925-03 v05n01.Young cover Mulholland

Another Courtland Young title, an odd but charming cover, a black and a white man both take a peek. 

Telling Tales 1925-06 v38n01.Climax cover Marcus.  Sigh, I was doing so good, all I have is a small image for this one.  Still, better than no image.  A title I still to need to index in my files.

Sort of cute, eh.  A mix of the sexy and the mundane.  A flapper does the crossword in the tub, Seymour Marcus.

Snappy Stories 1924-10-01 v85n03.New Fiction cover Dealton Valentine

Dealton Valentine. She was blissfully unaware of the silhouette thrown by the firelight on the sheet that concealed her...Fantastic, can't believe I managed to hit for the cycle there and find every one of these "filthy" covers.  But back to more of the diatribe on the magazine problem from Mr. Kent.

So, Let's dig into Mr. Kent's anxieties and observations here for a moment.  Mr New York here has the opportunity to venture out amongst the people in an attempt to "search for sentiment" and notes that 4 out of 5 Americans live outside of the 65 cities at that time in America with over 100,000 citizens.  The 20s saw a tension between city and country that we haven't likely seen up until the present.  Still, in the small towns, Kent sees more clearly the state of the American magazine because, well, there may only be one seller of magazines in the entire town.  Kent argues that "in these standardized, syndicated days, the same influences play on all people." THE MASS MEDIA, SOCIAL DEGRADATION.  He writes, "The same social customs and business methods absorb them, the same political currents saturate them, and they are affected with the same gross misconceptions and misunderstandings.  You find in one section what you find in another. From coast to coast, the radio, the movies, golf, bobbed hair, business, short skirts, trashy literature, automobiles, lip sticks, bad newspapers, rotten liquor, absorption in money making, almost complete political inertia, and an unparalleled muddy-mindedness about public matters - that's the country today."   Mr. Kent sounds like great fun at a party.

Mr. Kent blames the French for leading the way in the area of dirty magazines and notes that men used to smuggle home magazines from France and pass them to their friends. But now in the mid-20s, the Americans have surpassed the French in depravity with our Yankee crudity.  Faced with the "imposing array" of publications gathered at the country magazine peddler, Frank writes, "When you stop to analyze, scrutinize, and check up there is here more reason for apprehension as to the future of than any other single symptom in America today."  Wow.  I like to "scrutinize" the girlie mags, too, but it's telling of the age that the proliferation of this "gutter" media might be seen as the greatest existential threat to our way of life (culture war language if there ever was).

Kent's keen at least in that he knows the changes in magazine culture hasn't happened overnight.  He notes that there's been a gradual growth in risque magazines since 1920 (and even before) but that more and more magazines have been popping up in 1923-1925.  He writes, "The place to fully appreciate its proportions is in the smaller cities and towns with populations ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 - towns, for instance, like Fairmont, West Virginia, where one newsdealer sells 2,200 copies every single month of every issue of a single monthly devoted to stories of sex experiences and nude art; or like Steubenville, Ohio, where out of 110 periodicals on sale in a single store, 60 were either out and out the prurient type or bordered on the libidinous line." But even more salacious than these more visible periodicals are "the real shock troops of these paper battalions of literary indecency...the smaller and more compact nonfiction affairs frankly and exclusively given over to obscenities."  What HAVE you been reading anyways, Mr. Kent?  "They carry no advertisements and go to the dealers express, not by mail."  Under the counter baby.  Or I've heard the cigarette girls in the nightclubs like this one from Oscar Greiner might carry them in their boxes.

Why has their been no outcry "centered on this great American smut crop of the last two years (?)...Certainly, a more fruitful field  for moral crusade would be hard to conceive."  Kent's getting worked up now.  Pictures of nekkid girls or dirty jokes are more dangerous than liquor and especially corrosive to young minds. Sexy romances will muddy your brain to mush. In fact, "It ought to clearly suggest to those who think ahead and clearly that here is a greater menace to the future than any socialistic, communistic, or Bolshevistic propaganda that can be devised.  Here is something real about which to see red."  Smut, ladies and gentlemen, scarier than the commies. Beautiful, though, ain't it?

Edwin Bower Hesser's Monthly Arts Pictorial, June 1925

So, I'm all over the place lately.  I'd intended to post another Fawcett from 1937 to go with that True Mystic Confessions from a few weeks back but ended up going so far down the Fawcett rabbit hole that I want to tack to other subjects while I get a larger project together on the publisher.  So, tonight, let's go back to the one project I'm constantly chipping at here at Darwination Scans, the girlie magazines of the 1920s.  I do believe I've happened upon a key specimen, Arts Monthly Pictorial, June 1925.

A mischievous nymph in a magic forest peers at you from a purple cover a century and worlds away.

A better view at my Flickr thread here.

Get the full hires scan here: Arts Monthly Pictorial v02n04 1925-05 (Darwination).cbr

 or you can the issue from my shelf at the Internet Archive here.

As the middle of the roaring twenties, the adult end of the magazine market started to boil over.  The small, humor digests like Capt. Billy's Whiz-Bang or Hot Dog started to give way to grander productions.   New and cheaper printing techniques meant that photography and color might make their way down market.  Or, heaven forbid, let's make some high end material to match the opulence and wildness and fat times of the 20s. Girls had bobbed hair and the world is changing quickly with fast cars and bootleg booze. Live entertainment became racier and racier. A revolution in manners and morals, heavens to betsy. In the flapper's magazines you'd see pictures of girls in bathing suits.  In the Broadway magazines, perhaps you'd see Alfred Cheney Johnston's photos of follies girls wearing less and less.  Nude doodles start to appear in humor mags high and low.  And there was no code in Hollywood yet and appetite for glamour and raciness.

Edwin Bower Hesser (1893-1962) was a key figure in the photography of the magazines of the 20s and 30s, but it wasn't his first undertaking in the Arts.  Trained in a traditional curriculum and in photography at the Art Institute Chicago, Cheney was interested in the technology and possibilities artistically and financially of the motion pictures.  He reached out to a London company and became the New York agent for Kinemacolor, a process which used red and green filters for a new color experience.

A 1911 Advertisement for the process from in the UK.  More information on Kinemacolor provided here.

David Shields has an excellent bio on Hesser which you can find here. He writes of Hesser's glorious and abrupt adventure in Kinemacolor and theatre management:

In autumn of 1911 Hesser managed the Kinemacolor Theatre on 40th Street in Manhattan, the former Mendelssohn Hall, an electrified  1,200 auditorium designed by Robert H. Robertson. Hesser presided over the first of the great movie houses, predating New York’s Regent (1,800 capacity—1913) and Strand (3,000 capacity-1914) by two years.[vi]  He charged $1.00 per seat, an extraordinary sum contrasted to the 15 cents that was the norm for motion pictures in the city.  So long as the Kinemacolor Company could supply product, the Theatre did brisk business.  Highlights of the 1911-1912 season included “The Indian Durbar greeting King George V,” “Nature’s Wonders,” “The Burial of the Battleship Maine,” “Royal Horse Show,” “Unveiling of the Victoria Memorial,” and one photo-play: “Oedipus Rex” with live actors speaking in synchrony with the screen action.  Unfortunately the cumbersome production and inefficiency in managing projects forced Kinemacolor to resort to small scale projects—supplying illustrative movies of butterflies for Lillian Russell lectures on how to remain beautiful or  brief film inserts for stage plays.  High ticket prices, the lack of new product, and the Motion Picture Patent Company Monopoly’s ban on supplying product doomed the Kinemacolor Theatre which went dark before the end of 1912.  Kinemacolor dispensed with Hesser’s services.

And that was apparently the end of Mendelssohn Hall, too, as the owner sold the building, and it was torn down so lofts could be built.

Flikr user CharmaineZoe has found an ad for Hesser's venture:

She has some nice links in the placard as well as some galleries of Kinemacolor in New York as well as great gallery of old theaters here.

But life moves on, and so did Hesser.  He tried a touring opera, mixing photo light show and poetry, starting a school for actors and making his own motion pictures.  When that didn't work out, he joined the military as photographer and wrote screenplays. Sensing that the real action as a photographic artist had moved west, Hesser went to LA in a publicity photographer role and there found the subject that would propel him to photographic stardom - starlets.  Hesser contracted with Brewster Publications in New York to provide material for Motion Picture classics and Shadowland, which is a classic American magazine by any definition.  The Amon Carter Museum of American Art Research Library, God bless them, have scanned and uploaded to the Internet Archive a magnificent run of Shadowland which you can read here. Hesser's big break came with this photo from the January 1921 issue:

 David Shields writes of Hesser's break and photographic style:

1921 was Hesser’s breakthrough year as a entertainment portraitist.  He placed a headshot of Phyllis Haver in the January issue of Shadowland and immediately became a hot commodity among magazine editors and art directors. In the next six months he would place images in Pictureplay, Pantomime, Movie Weekly, Motion Picture Classic, Film Stories, Motion Picture, Theatre, and Photoplay. In 1921 he published portraits of 30 female stars as illustrations for 73 articles, with flapper Colleen Moore, Florence Vidor, and Katharine MacDonald being the most saleable personalities, securing four features each. Appearances in Brewster Publishing magazines—Shadowland or Motion Picture Classic  accounted for half of his business. He was the most prominently featured photographer in the May, August, September, and October Classics, appearing in six stories per issue.  What made such an impression on the editors?  Hesser gave women—even plain and middle-aged women—an erotic charge.  He specialized in bust shots with rounded bare shoulders, back-lit hair to surround in the head in a halo, a pictorial focus upon the sitters’ eyes. He modulated the toning in the prints, avoiding stark contrasts, and seeking a palpable three-dimensionality of the arms, body, chin, and cheeks.  Backgrounds were minimized.  Costume was optional.  Like Alfred Cheney Johnston, he made extensive use of drapes.  His women rarely seemed imperious, aloof, cruel, or narcissistic.  They were posed to appear coy, charming, candidly and attentively direct, sometimes pensive, sometimes merry.  Most displayed a consciousness of their beauty.  He was less  fascinated by the profile shot than any major entertainment portraitist of the early 1920s.

Hesser began his own magazine, Hesser Arts' Monthly, in 1922.  I've never seen images of this magazine.  Hesser knew that skin was in and veered towards nude photography, the type that had previously been sold only out of the backs of magazines.  

The issue I've scanned here is what I believe is the first issue of a title that would run for something like the next five years albeit under different publishers.

A mission statement, typical of a first issue, but also often repeated in the artists and models magazines.

Art is for everyone.  Why not have great art in a magazine cheap enough to be enjoyed by the masses where they live.  Masterworks might be viewed by the layman wherever he may be.  Art will not be guided by prudery and neither is anything on display improper.  The nude "long recognized as inseparable from art" will of course be represented "but always in such a delicate manner that the magazine may enter any enlightened home."  Skin sells but maybe Hesser has another mission, too.

But a closer look at the indicia.

TNT is actually a neat little humor/Hollywood digest that I'd characterize as a Hollywood Capt. Billy's.  I'll scan the issue I have some time which just happens to be v02n03, January 1925:

Billy Cam art.  So, with Arts Monthly picking up the numbering, I'm pretty sure that makes our purple issue the first.  Later the mag would move to New York as part of Frank Armer's Art Group and later still be published by Dawn Publishing (who I recently wrote about in a post on SEX here).  I intend to revisit Hesser's work (and have likely posted it in girlie pulp scans) c.1930 at some point, but for now let's take a look at some pages from the issue and his photographic style.  All the talk and history is one thing, but you learn just as much by LOOKING. The mag itself is a decent production on large thick stock, slick pages with multi colored inks.  The printing is not the greatest and the photos are delicate, so I've gone with a minimal color edit.  It pains me again to say how much I hate blogger's broken image system (but not half as much as it pains me too look at the compressed, blurry and otherwise butchered .jpegs), so I'll put up some Flickr mirror links if it's an image I've posted in my gallery there.

Eve. There is a reclamation of Eve at work in the 20s, woman beautiful in her natural state, innocent and not so innocent, knowledge or no.  Hesser sets his models in natural settings as often as not.  The light and shadow and natural curve of body or tree or stream at play.

 Yvonne Park, Pandora, 1880

George Brookwell on photography as fine art, once a laughable idea.  But here is photography as a medium of expression.  We make a lot of choices when take a picture.  And then there's the relation of photographer and subject.  Has the proliferation of and availability of cameras led to a more artful approach to photography?  There's certainly more opportunity to take a picture, and yet why is the world full of so many bad photos?  Don't ask me - the only camera I'm any good with is my scanner -

Salome by Frantisek Drtikol, who perhaps takes a more angular approach than Hesser.

The Veil by Edwin Bower Hesser.

Gloria Swanson channels Sarah Bernhardt as inspiration.  Edwin Bower Hesser. A better look on Flickr here.

Two images of the Wright Dancers, in purple, bodies in motion, in sepia, still and  symmetrical.  How I love the 20s hairdos.

 Cecil B. De Mille, Mack Sennett, and Joseph Schenk say that you, too, can become a star.

Betty Compson by Edwin Bower Hesser

Lorna Palmar, Stunning.  Winner of first prize in The Los Angeles Examiner's contest for the "The Perfect Extra Girl" at Flickr here


Martha Lorber of the Ziegfield Follies by Edwin Bower Hesser.  A fantastic compostion, the angles of the arm and legs.  The smooth and pale blankness of the skin contrasted with the natural but ornate decorations on the shiny silk.  Fashion accentuated by nakedness? At Flickr here.

And sometimes I snark at the art pieces in these mags as window dressing but sometimes I find something new.  This issue introduced me to Luis Falero whose mythological ladies almost have a science fiction bent. Astounding.

Luis Falero, watercolor, 1881, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  More Falero here.

And more - Norma Shearer, Evelyn Pierce, Colleen Moore, Corinne Griffith, Ricardo Cortez, Shirley Mason, Lillian Knight, Carol Wines, Marjorie Daw, Marguerite de la Motte, Monte Blue, and Zelma O'Neal.

I have no idea what I'll blog next but do enjoy when I take the time to write a post.  I've been scanning some new stuff and also chasing down leads on some old scans that never made it out here.  Every subject I research seems to lead me down some other wonderful or stupefying path of inquiry I never intended to walk.  It can feel like walking in circles sometimes, but the trip is a trip - - -

Friday, June 16, 2023

Swipe? Paris Gayety cover November 1933 / Tattoo Ad True Confessions Back Cover January 1935

An on-the-spot sort of post with found images.  I was indexing True Confessions from Fawcett (a publisher we'll be working with here a bit) and came across this ad on a back cover from 1935.

Artist(s) unknown.  But the pose and the bow instantly reminded me of this cover of Paris Gayety from 1933:

Artist - Baumann.  This is one of those oddball cases in the girlies where you see an artist on perhaps a single cover or two and never again. Here's number two, Paris Nights April 1934

Hit me with some info on the artist if you have it beyond the last name, never to be seen again on the girlies.  (Nice error on Robert Leslie Bellem's name on the cover there, editor, oof)  Well, this isn't quite true as the first cover was used again in 1939 on Gay French, a reprint title, recycling, baby, Art Models with Figures Supreme, ha

 All's well here.  I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like, but scan work and research work continues.  Flickr remains fun (and a far superior place to look at images than blogger), and I do try to get materials new and old up to the Internet Archive as time allows as well as repairing some of the old posts here.  I remain all over the place in interest and investigation but whatelseisnew.  As always, chime in on comments if you can tag an image I've not identified.  I feel like I should be able to ID the Tattoo ad but have nada.  The cosmetics ads during the heyday of illustration in both upmarket and downmarket mags attracted much talent and is perhaps an overlooked area of pin-up and glamour art.

EDIT: A possible suspect for the first image I posted, Frank Farkas, who also did some SAVAGE lipstick ads, perhaps the same company.  The possible ID came when I saw another Tattoo Hawaiian back cover from True Confessions, November 1935

and a couple of others from the same lipstick line, the first signed Jean La Farge in similar font to Farkas, something fishy here, from the back cover of Romantic Movie Stories 1935-09

and this last one, no publication info or date of origin, a smaller image signed F Farkas but in a different manner

I smell some sort of alias or play here.  But, as always, I could be wrong, hmm...