Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1 is Sssssserpent Day!

Yes there really is a serpent day and yes, our man Bolles has not left his fans disappointed. So to celebrate I pulled out a very special cover from my files. And in my opinion--admittedly biased-- this ranks as one of Enoch's very best covers among the nearly 700 he created for over 20 different titles. This issue of Spicy hit the newsstands in 1930, and it has so much going for it. He had only been working at Spicy for just a year but by then then a lot of pretty girl artists--Bolles included--had already done the girl-with-animal theme, usually a cute pet or horse. Here Bolles turned the trope on its head. If this wasn't the first girl-snake mashup it certainly has to be the first to where an unskinned snake stood in for the girl's outfit. Our charming snake charmer obviously isn't wearing a stitch underneath, but it's her exposed navel that's the real no-no. Even a decade later the art editors of Film Fun and other girly mags were still airbrushing the navels out of the showgirl photos. How about that hair style, slicked back with the widow's peak and those crazy curls around her ears. Bolles worked in one of this deco motifs into the background that ties into the rug. The terra cotta alms bowl is a nice detail and did you happen to notice the toe ring?  And finally there are the hand poses which are not at all typical for Bolles. The only other middle finger shot I've seen was on a Spicy Stories cover from 1938.

This cover brings another image to mind, a photo of Natasha Kinski by the famed and somewhat notorious fashion photographer, Richard Avedon.  It appeared in Vogue magazine over a half-century after Bolles and became a best selling poster. While it looks spontaneous the snake was anything but cooperative. Avedon said that at times handlers had to pinion the snake (a python) to her legs, and it took him two hours before he got the shot that made Kinski a pinup sensation. I don't think it is a stretch of the imagination to suggest these two images share some more than a few similarities but I wouldn't go so far to suggest Avedon got some skin from Bolles. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ann Pennington!

Here's one of Enoch's series of film star covers, featuring the hoofer Ann Pennington, who was born today back in 1893.  She danced for the Ziegfeld Follies and George White's scandals. Take a look at this snippet and you'll see why she was wildly popular and worth the $1,000 a week she earned on Broadway in the 1920s where she debuted the Black Bottom dance. Among few the other clips of her dancing that still exist is one taken at the 1939 World's Fair.  I've commented that Bolles' attempts at these star covers were hit or miss but I think this one really captures Ann's spirit.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sue Carol!

Here's Enoch's depiction of the actress Sue Carol, who was born on this day in 1906. She appeared on the cover of Film Fun  in 1929. From 1928 to 1932 the magazine would occasionally feature a "specially posed" cover of an up and coming starlet. Despite the claim on the cover, Bolles, like other movie magazine illustrators, worked from publicity photos. This image is a pretty fare likeness of Sue and certainly Bolles knew that putting her in a canoe would add a slightly risque' aspect to the composition. Some of Bolles' other covers of starlets were a bit uneven, but his painting of Lupe Velez as a pirate girl stands out as among Bolles' very best covers. And according to Bolles family lore, Lupe actually did pose for it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Real Live Bolles Girl!

From time to time on this blog I’ve remarked how Bolles’ girls were unique; a creation arising out of his imagination, rather than a realistic depiction of an actual model.  In fact, many of his covers were based on cartoon sketches he would dash off several at a time, rather than a one-on-one session with a model.  By contrast, the work of many other pinup artists exhibits a mirror like fidelity between the completed product work and the model.  The best known case would be Gil Elvgren. When you compare the photographs of his models with the finished work you can’t miss the remarkable match between the model and final painting. The late Francis Smith, Playboy cartoonist and author of the book, Stolen Sweets once told me that if an Elvgren model had her garter on crooked, then that's how he painted it. 
 Earl Moran is a another example of a pinup artist whose work closely followed the lines of the model, but you can’t blame him considering one of his favorite models was a young beauty named Norma Jean Dougherty, who later went by Marilyn Monroe. And George Petty was so particular about getting a model’s pose just right that he once resorted to strapping her foot to a board.  

Even in the case of Bolles you can occasionally see an obvious connection between the composition in the painting and the model’s pose, the difference is you’d never mistake the face of model for the girl on the cover. But I have found a few glaring exceptions to this and in fact there was one movie star that Bolles took a real shine to. So who do you think she was? Some of the likely contenders would include Jean Harlow, Alice Faye or the lesser known but widely photographed, Toby Wing.  None of them, as lovely as they were, got the part.  The role of the Bolles girl went to another blonde bombshell, Mary Carlisle, a smoldering screen presence. Her name was Mary Carlisle. First noticed by a Hollywood executive at the tender age of 14 she went on to become a Wampus Baby Star in 1932, a title given to young up and comers, not toddlers. Mary lived up to the 'acclaim' and would star in many Hollywood movies alongside the likes of Bing Crosby, Jack Benny and Lionel Barrymore.

Over the years I’ve found at least three Bolles covers which were directly worked from photos of Mary, though it took me a while to identify her. With looks like Mary's it was no surprise to learn she was a huge favorite of the reigning Hollywood photographers of the era, including Clarence Bull and George Hurrell, who dated her for a time. But what I had no idea of until just recently was that Mary is still with us, and going strong at the age of 101!  Take a look at this recent video of her being feted with some classic piano tunes and you’ll see she is as glamorous and lively as ever. With the gracious assistance of her agent Darin, I was able to send Mary some side by side examples showing how Enoch’s art was directly inspired by her.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to receive one of them back, personally autographed by Mary!  And what a coincidence that the contemporary pinup model, Mala Mostroberte used a Bollescover that itself was inspired by Mary for one of her own fabulous interpretations of the Bolles girl.

If you'd like to see more of Mary, be sure to check out her Facebook page. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Find that Wine!

When I walked past this wall of wines my spidey sense kicked in. The one I wrote about in a recent blog post.  It's my super power. It's the only one I have. I'm very proud of it. 

Take a closer look.  Can you spot what interested me?

I've pulled it off the rack. Now you can tell why it attracted my attention.  She's definitely a Bolles girl. Not a complete swipe but clearly inspired from a particular cover image.

 Here's a side by side comparison of the cover and the label.  As far as these go I think the artist did a nice job personalizing the image while keeping the Bolles vibe. It seems to me very much an homage.

And there's more.  One of my best Bolles pals sent me this label he found just this week. I'm not entirely sure whether this is an actual label or a "Bolles fan-tasy", but I like it none-the-less.

I can vouch that the final example is an actual label, and that's because I provided the vintner with the scan of the Bolles girl for the label. They promised me a case of it in return for my trouble (and more important, pledged to put Bolles' signature on the label) but alas the wine never arrived.  And so I can't remark as to whether the wine would be too dry or sugary for your palate, but that label sure is sweet.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

World Belly Dance Day: May 9

If there was ever a day made for our man Bolles, this would be it.  The feature cover today is an extra special image from 1932. There's a lot to enjoy here: a terrific costume and that big shimmy coming our way, her blazing red hair and most special, that animated jazz band behind the girl.  The only thing missing is her belly button, but that was a total no-no, not only on the cover. Even inside the pages of the magazine navels were routinely plucked from the photos of the "Hollywood hopefuls". 
That wasn't the case with the covers Bolles did for the so-called "under the counter" pulps, as you our no-nonsense Mata makes plainly clear.  But then again, these magazines were not intended for consumption by the general public, and the venders who sold them were at
considerable risk of harassment from the decency leagues or even a trip to the slammer, courtesy of the vice cops.   Bolles was certainly no fool and you'll never find his signature on any of this work, so he was free to paint to his heart's content, lucky for us!