In a recent post I listed potential archetypes for the Bolles girl, including several obscure Hollywood starlets, and so today we see exhibit A, Edwina Booth. I learned about her in an entry on the excellent early cinema blog Allure. She struck me has having a real Bolles look about her, especially in these poses from the movie Trader Horn (1931). I've juxtaposed them along side the image they most remind me of, which happens to be one of the most scandalous of all Bolles' covers, from a 1933 issue of Stolen Sweets. The writer and illustrator, Francis "Smilby" Smith
described it thusly:
"An exceptionally fine but curiously disturbing image that, facially at least, has more than a touch of Lolita about it. The conflicting images-modesty and a steady open gaze-combine with the setting-a sense of the forbidden something suddenly illuminated within the depths of a cavern-to give this cover a strangely charged eroticism."
Wow, that's a heavy load of psychological baggage to burden poor Edwina with. But Smith's insights illuminate a theme I'll be spending some time with in future posts, namely the conflicting and at times disturbing nature of Bolles' work which often juxtaposes clashing themes of innocence and eroticism, naivete and worldliness, and at his most base: classy versus trashy. In the latter case I'll present the example of two Bolles illustrations completed within weeks of each other, one a book cover for a story penned by a Pulitzer prize winner and the other the cover for a notorious smoosh mag which Robert Brown called a "classic erotic illusion," meaning if Bolles was foolish enough to sign it (he never signed any of them) he would have gotten himself hauled off to jail, a fate actually suffered by some of the magazine's staff. I truly wonder any other commercial illustrator's work-then or now-spanned such disparate cultural realms.