Friday, May 21, 2010

Sailor Suited

After the last post on what I thought were all the Bolles Film Fun covers with white costume themes, it was kindly brought to my attention that not only were there more of them, they were girls in uniforms no less. Alas, I'd been sloppy in my research. So I am posting two more sailors from even earlier issues of Film Fun. To make things interesting--and to atone from my previous lapse--I've thrown a a couple of extras. As you can see from the 1927 Film Fun above, Bolles either inspired this postcard or swiped it, my guess is the former. What's surprising to me is how closely the uniform follows the painting and just how risqué it comes off by comparison. It just goes to show that what Bolles could get away with in an illustration would, when translated to the 'real thing,' be a lot less acceptable for consumption by the general public, or at least it seems so to me. And if that weren't enough, here's yet another swipe of the cover, used for a 1928 issue in a German publication called Das Magazin. From time to time in past posts I've shared other examples of copied covers, and I never fail to find it curious when some cover images but not others take on a second life.
To our left is another fabulous cover girl in white from 1925, which I like even better. In fact one Film Fun reader was so smitten, he wrote a poem about her using the cover caption that was published in a later issue:
Our old friend Omar told us
To turn down an empty glass.
No doubt the man from Khorasan
Knew that all joy must pass,
But even sages sometimes learn
On yachts, if not in town.
I'll bet you Omar wouldn't turn
This empty goblette down
Lt.-Col. Wilfred Bowey

As nice as this cover is, it pales in comparison to the original, and you can compare for yourself in this detail from the actual painting.

And finally, I couldn't resist including this.
As you can see, these "Jack Tars" were enthusiastic Film Fun fans. I'll soon be posting more sailor girls wearing even more imaginative interpretations of sailor suits designed by Bolles.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

White is the New Black

Bolles fans worth their fodder have surely heard the resounding report that this painting sold for over 80 thousand dollars at the Heritage auction last week. It's yet another record for a Bolles and is the 10th highest price of any painting yet sold from the Martignetti collection. It is certainly a great painting, no argument from me, but it is also completely atypical for Bolles. As rare as his black themed paintings were, a magazine cover awash in white borders on treason. At least with black you have the opportunity to establish contrast, create a silhouette, craft a definitive statement. But with white all that is so much harder. Pen and ink without the ink. Which is one reason why this painting is so successful.

Bolles earlier examples indicate he wasn't quite ready to take the monochromatic plunge. To your starboard hails yet another Bolles sailor girl, with a blot of ink for Professor Rorschach to ponder. But as you can see Bolles hedged his bets and grounded her in a sky blue field. I've featured this cover before because it's a composition Bolles revisited at least two other times, and no wonder.

To our left is the other Bolles white cover, which appeared on the newsstands in 1928. I've blogged about it before, not because I find it particularly attractive but because the subject of nursing was one a lot of illustrators took up. It first became popular as a theme for war posters and also likely because it was such an revered occupation. Bolles could add some double entendres to the sailor theme (I'll say! But let's not forget that sometimes a cannon is just a cannon) but nursing was off limits, at least back in Bolles' day. My how times have changed.

Again the thing to notice with this cover is that Bolles obviously decided white would not do without some additional embellishment and so he threw in one of his bimorphic shadows. Typically they discretely pool around the girls' shoes but this one dominates the composition, virtually propelling our nurse right off the cover. All this reinforces just how unusual the cannon girl is. Still...did you notice that thin spike of red? If you know Bolles you know there was no way he could have resisted.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Women in Black

There's no reason to revisit the theme of Bolles black unless we feature one of his most outrageous covers. Netty but Nice is simply over the top on all counts; her wild outfit, Bolles amazing treatment of all the different materials and textures, that fabulous deco chair, those shoes! Netty debuted in 1937, a great year for Film Fun and for collectors because-for reasons unknown-more Bolles paintings from 1937 to 1938 have survived than from any other period of his career. Sorry the scan is so poor but after all the years I've been collecting Bolles, this issue continues to elude me. So to make it up to you I've posted a detail out of the original painting (alas it has eluded me as well). As the side by side comparison with the printed cover-which was pretty well done- makes immediately evident, a lot of interesting detail and subtlety was lost in the reproduction. By the way, you can get a fabulous Giclee print taken from the original painting at Impact Graphic posters. For those of use who can't afford a Bolles original (and who can these days), it's the next best thing.

The Madame X post prompted me to take a closer look at just how many cover girls in black Bolles painted and it turns out that throughout the 1930s about one Film Fun cover a year had a predominately black color scheme. Bolles did almost none for other periodicals and I think there are two reasons for this. First, just about all of his other magazine work was for magazines even spicier than Film Fun, and so the color schemes and poses typically ran at hotter temperatures. And second, the quality of printing was poorer. In some cases, covers were printed in only three colors and the lack of a black print run could add a murky atmospheric quality to the work, which is not necessarily a bad thing for horror or gangster pulps as my friend and mega-collector, the late Pete Manesis once pointed out to me. He felt that some cover artists who knew their work was going to be printed in three colors altered their palette to take advantage of the effect. But gangsters and fiends are one thing, and pretty girls another. Bolles faced a different set of challenges doing work for the smoosh mags.

Turning back to Film Fun, I think this cover from 1934 counts among his very best examples of women in black. The image by the way, was a complete swipe from a publicity photo (I've got it around somewhere and once I find it I'll add it to this post) but as usual Bolles adds his own signature to the painting, the cleverly worked shadow both grounds the pose and lends an almost geometric element to the composition. On the subject of signatures, there was a letter printed in this issue from a reader who inquired why Bolles signed some of his covers but not others. Truth is that he often did not sign his work but I've also seen a number of original Film Fun paintings with signatures that ended up being tooled or cropped out of the cover. Why that was done is the question I would have asked the editor.

Finally, a very recent "discovery" and what must be one of the wackiest Bolles covers of all. When I found this scan from a 1943 issue of Breezy Stories I had to do a double-take. How do you begin to explain it? Perhaps Netty became bored from all that posing and preening and so donned some gloves and a muffler and headed outside to catch some fresh air, glorying in the garish winter (nuclear winter?) sunset. It's almost as if Bolles was doing a riff on himself as Quintana might have interpreted the Netty girl. As bad as I'd like to have a copy of the Film Fun Netty girl issue in my collection I want this one ten times worse.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day!

How on earth did the publishers of Film Fun get away with this cover? Or did they? It was published in 1925 and right around the same time Canada had banned Film Fun. This cover, by the way, was far hotter than anything within its pages but by the end of the year you could find photos inside of Earl Carroll girls traipsing around bare bottomed. Curiously the covers to those issues were a lot more sedate. It's almost as if some sort of erotic climate control was in place, the covers became more risqué as the pages within cooled, and vice versa. Robert Brown noted as much about Bolles' work for Breezy and Spicy in the 1930s.