Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saving Beauty

This image popped out of my mental archives the instant I eyed a New York Times article about a group of women training to become life guards at Manhattan beach, circa 1940.  Apparently it came to light when someone saw the newsreel the Prelinger archives and reposted it on Youtube.   As you can see, our Bolles girl is ready for some diversion, if not getting her hair wet.  I think you'll agree that this cover is a great composition, and I've long wondered why Bolles knocked himself out on it.  The editors at Judge were notorious for stiffing their writers and artists on payday, and the its publisher, Leslie-Judge had only recently come out of bankruptcy (and this not the first time).   Bolles hadn't done a cover for Judge in over two years.  He didn't need the work or the hassle.  There was plenty enough to keep him busy with Film Fun, along with other magazine covers and advertising work.  The likely explanation for his effort became apparent a couple years back when a scan of a Trade magazine appeared on the terrific site Magazinart, managed by Michael Ward.  It may well be a rare example of Bolles repurposing an advertising assignment, a strategy other illustrators had perfected years before. This cover would be Bolles' last for Judge, and it appeared at the very time that Theodor Geisel  was just hired on staff.  Poor Dr. Suess, the finances deteriorated at Judge had deteriorated to the point to which the newly married Suess (he moved up his wedding date after getting hired) not only got his salary chopped, but soon was paid with vouchers which he could remit for services and products for the few companies that were foolish enough to advertise in Judge (Geisel was happy about the free hotel rooms).  Bolles was not only done with Judge but he soon stopped doing work for Snappy Stories.  In an act of desperation, Leslie-Judge had sold off the rights of Film Fun, the only title that consistently made them money, to Delacorte press.  They made a fortune off it.
And of course Bolles would stay on with the magazine until it folded 15 years later.  He clearly was pleased with the cover, enough so that he revived it it a decade later for the smoosh pulp, Gay Parisienne.  He left the color scheme unchanged, if not the swim suit.  It was one among a number of other compositions that Bolles recycled and updated, the connections a private visual joke. going unnoticed. and until today I don't think the connection between the covers had ever been made. Thanks to my Bolles pal, Beau for sharing this previously unknown cover.  Be sure to check out his fabulous site on pulps and historical magazines at: Darwination.