Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 1000 Yard Dare

Dare you take on these femme fatales?  Others have tried and paid the price. 

A couple posts back the topic of conversation was the sassy variant of the Bolles girl. Here we see examples of the girl with the 1,000 yard stare or better, dare. Bolles did a number of these, mainly for Bedtime Stories. I'd long thought he'd left them blank faced as a time saving matter, particularly given that he was earning a lot less per cover compared  with Film Fun. The illustrator Hugh Ward complained he was only getting sixty bucks a cover, and this a couple years after Bolles had left the magazine, which leads me to believe the owners may have doled out a sawbuck or two more for Bolles.

However, after having pored though my files to pick out these examples, I've been forced to reconsider my initial hypothesis. First, it wouldn't have taken Bolles any longer to apply one of his patented blinding smiles than a blank slate. Second, these  particular girls were far less likely to be identified as a Bolles girl.  Why, you might ask, wouldn't any illustrator be proud to be identified as the creator of such beautiful creatures?  The most likely reason was the seamy reputation of pulps the likes of Bedtime Stories. Back in the 1930s Mayor Laguardia's Citizen's Committee on Civic Decency was burning with fervor to squash the so-called smoosh mags--nearly all of which Bolles worked for at one time or another--and among them Bedtime Stories ranked as perhaps the most notorious. The vice cops didn't hesitate to shutter newsstand vendors brazen enough to sell them or haul their publishers into court when they were lucky enough to find them.  The consequence was that for a long time nobody knew who did these covers, even such an authority as the late Francis "Smilby" Smith author of Stolen Sweets was stymied. Certainly Bolles didn't sign these or request credits in the magazine's mastheads, which were chock full of phony names and locations to mislead the authorities. 

So after thumbing through a virtual stack of covers I now think Bolles had more in mind that just shaving an hour or so off the time it took to complete a painting.  Take a look above at Mata Hari (sporting that spectacular tiara) and you'll see that she's got something serious on her mind. Bolles chose infamous historical or literary figures with reputations for sex, intrigue and sometimes, violence (both to other's and themselves). So in some cases there is a historical explanation for the severity of the girl's expression. Bolles also loaded these covers with cultural references, though you have to figure he knew most would be lost on the target audience. Yet, our resplendent Cleopatra--who's lately gotten a lot of press with a new biography--certainly has no need to explain her regal insouciance.

Coming soon:  My choice for the masterpiece of all Bolles' magazine covers. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's a Bolles World: Part II

It was a long meandering trek through the enormous Eldon mall in downtown Newcastle, England before I found a watch repair shop, inconspiciously tucked in a row of garish jewelry stores. While waiting for my watch battery to be replaced I happened to spy a rotating Zippo lighter display and before long the misnamed Varga Windy girl slowly wheeled around the bend.

As you very likely know, she was actually the creation of our man Enoch, and one of these days I'll get around to relating the story of her origin in its entirety. What surprised me though, was this 1960s variation that revealed itself a few seconds later. Zippo has produced at least a hundred varieties of the Windy girl but this was one I'd never seen before (and it was 'regionalized'; the sign changed to read Piccadilly Circus). Checking further I learned this Windy was one in a four decade set, all "updates" of the Bolles original. Sadly someone did a really lousy job drawing these and the addition of the cheapo clip art was certainly no triumph of design. Worst of all, the color scheme applied to the original version is a combination Bolles would never have allowed to see print. But Zippo has never treated Bolles very well. His name was intenionally misspelled in the original ad and he never again got any credit for the image. Adding insult to injury, Zippo identified Windy as a Varga girl in the 60th anniversary edition of the lighter produced in 1993. They subsequently got in some hot water for it and had to make good with the Vargas estate. You have to wonder if they ever even flirted with the idea of trying to reach Bolles' family.
Coming soon: scans of Bolles original paintings thought lost forever from a 1930 catalog , and a movie publicity book that includes reproductions of a billboard by Bolles!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Which way is she leaning?

Did you vote? Our Bolles girl is still pondering who to cast her ballot for. Let's hope she supports our party!

This is one of three issues of Breezy Stories from 1936 that the original painting is known to survive. Unfortunately my versions of both the magazine and painting leave something to be desired, and that's too bad because this cover has so much going for it. For unknowns reasons there are even more original Breezy Stories paintings from 1937 still around, and I'll get around to putting them all up on a post before long.

On the topic of original Bolles paintings, just this week I got my hands on a copy of an art catalog from 1936 which has photos of nearly 20 Bolles originals. Over half are paintings I figured didn't survive the trip to the publisher's trash bin, and it gives me hope that at least a few are still be around somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered (expect an entire post on the catalog images sometime soon). If I had a clue where I bet we could rally together a few volunteers for some door to door "canvasing".