VERONICA LAKE | THE PEEK-A-BOO PINUP OF HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE

The Selvedge Yard did a (very) little piece for DETAILS magazine’s online blog– The Daily Details here.

There was something about those lips, the flirty peek-a-boo eye, and that sexy, sweeping hair that’s seductive beyond words.  Yes, Veronica Lake just had “it.”

Other pinups of her day may have been more racy (Bettie Page), more leggy (Bettie Grable), or more busty (Jane Russell), but in my book none of them can touch her stunning beauty, poise and indelible mystique. Standing a scant 4’ 11’ and weighing only 90lbs., Veronica Lake deftly filled the camera’s lens with more sex appeal in her little left eye than most beauties managed wearing half as much, and trying twice as hard.

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“I will have one of the cleanest obits of any actress. I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair.”  –Veronica Lake

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Sadly, Her story was a tragic one.  Beset by a troubled childhood, broken marriages, schizophrenia, and drinking woes (most likely in an attempt to self-medicate)—Veronica Lake was washed-up in Hollywood too early, and with little to live on besides her fading looks.

When one-time lover Marlon Brando heard she was working as a barmaid, he promptly had his people deliver her a check for $1,000.  Too proud to cash it, Lake instead chose to have it framed as a memory of days gone by, and a not-so-subtle notice to others that she was once Hollywood’s reigning sex symbol.

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“I wasn`t a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.”  –Veronica Lake

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“Hollywood gives a young girl the aura of one giant, self-contained orgy farm, its inhabitants dedicated to crawling into every pair of pants they can find.”  –Veronica Lake

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ON THE WATERFRONT | A CONTENDER FOR ONE OF HOLLYWOOD’S BEST FILMS

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“You don’t understand– I could-a had class.  I could-a been a contender.

I could-a been somebody… instead of a bum, which is what I am– let’s face it.”

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–Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront”

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The masterful Marlon Brando, as longshoreman Terry Malloy, in 1954′s epic film “On the Waterfront.” –Image © Bettmann/Corbis.  Based on New York Sun reporter Malcolm Johnson’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning exposé on crime and corruption (Crime on the Waterfront), Kazan and cast’s gripping portrayal of blood, sweat, toil and tears on the docks is a gutsy Hollywood classic without peer. It was shot entirely on location in Hoboken, NJ– using the gritty Jersey streets and rooftops as its living, breathing sets– and the hard-as-nails local longshoremen for extras with real life experience and attitude.

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Still one of the most powerful films Hollywood has ever put out– On the Waterfront caught a lot of Tinseltown’s elite off-guard when it ran off with 8 Academy Awards in 1955, including– Best Motion Picture (Sam Spiegel for Columbia Pictures), Best Director (Elia Zazan), Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Screenplay (Budd Schulberg), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Art Direction (Richard Day), and Best Cinematography, B&W (Boris Kaufman).

It was a low-budget film, dealing with low-brow business– when Producer Darryl Zanuck was pitched the film he blasted it, saying “Who’s going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?” Even Marlon Brando wasn’t interested, but for personal reasons– Director Elia Kazan’s perceived act of betrayal against fellow artists by providing names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 (screenplay writer Shulberg was also an informer), left a bad taste in Marlon’s mouth. It was a stigma that Kazan would never fully shake. In fact, many would later believed upon its release that On the Waterfront represented a self-serving, cathartic expression for Kazan– a vain attempt to regain his lost dignity, and rebuff his attackers, Hollywood style. Were we watching Kazan, the shunned name-dropping director, making a case for himself vicariously through the heroic Brando as Terry Malloy, the underdog whistle-blower, onscreen?

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Marlon Brando and Karl Malden in 1954′s “On the Waterfront.” Karl Malden’s “Father Barry” was based on Father John M. Corridan, a tough-talking Jesuit priest, who ran a Roman Catholic labor school on the Manhattan’s West Side and a very active “waterfront priest.” Budd Schulberg interviewed Father Corridan at length for his version of the “On the Waterfront” screenplay– the original had been written by Arthur Miller (called “The Hook”), and rejected by studio heads– causing a deep rift between Miller and Director Kazan.

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TSY x GQ ITALY

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I’m very pleased and proud to announce that THESELVEDGEYARD will now be a regular VINTAGE feature in GQ Italy.  TSY debuted in the March 2010 issue, selecting 10 timeless, real men of style– and we look forward to a long and prosperous partnership filled with lots of authentic goodness.

So friends– please brush-up on your Italian and follow along.

Ciao,

JP

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Marlon Brando relaxing at home with typewriter, and furry little friend.  –Image © Murray Garrett

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James Dean on the set of “Giant” — Image by © Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Steve McQueen displaying his signature, perfect balance of allegiance and rebellion.
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ONE-EYED JACKS | MARLON BRANDO’S ONE & ONLY STINT AS FILM DIRECTOR


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“You may be a one eyed jack around here– but I’ve seen the other side of your face.”

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1958– Marlon Brando in his 1961 film directorial debut– One Eyed Jacks.  Image by Sam and Larry Shaw.  What makes One-Eyed Jacks a phenomenon big enough to live in — along with the presence of actors like Ben Johnson as that “scum-suckin’ pig” Bob Emory, Slim Pickens as Dad’s terminally despicable deputy Lon, Katy Jurado as his stalwart wife, and Pina Pellicier as his virginal stepdaughter Luisa (until Rio deflowers her) — is the way one of the most charismatic turns of Brando’s career plays off the darkest and most ambitious characterization of Malden’s. Ultimately, in spite of Brando’s excesses and misadventures (he looked through the wrong end of a view finder when framing his first shot) as an actor-director engaged in an inspirational creative enterprise, he enjoyed himself and the film reflects it. In Songs My Mother Taught Me, he writes, “We shot most of it at Big Sur and on the Monterey peninsula, where I slept with many pretty women and had a lot of laughs,” adding that “Maybe I liked the picture so much because it left me with a lot of pleasant memories about the people in it … especially Karl Malden.”  –Stuart Mitchner

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In the years since it was first released in 1961, One-Eyed Jacks has been called everything from Marlon Brando’s Citizen Kane, to “…a jangle of artistic ambivalence”and unbelievably it was his only stint as director.  Being a huge Brando fan, I may be  a bit biased, but I love the film.  Marlon’s silent, smoldering intensity underscores the epic Western tale about one man’s quest for revenge and romance that run parallel– and at odds with each other.  There’s something there we all can relate to– deep friendships that have tragically gone bad over money or success… love born out of misunderstood, or less than noble origins, that ultimately overcomes all odds… the longing to leave the sorted past behind and start over again…  you get the picture.  It’s all in there– and beautifully set against the rugged, pounding, surf of Monterey and Big Sur.

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Marlon Brando seen here directing on the set. — Image by © Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS.

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THE BIRD, THE FINGER, THE LEGEND.

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With roots that can be traced all the way back to the days of ancient Greece– flipping the bird, as I like to call it, (or giving someone the finger) is the world’s favorite naughty gesture.  But there’s definitely an art to it.  The subtle nuances of the physical fingering, facial expression, and context of the act itself, can make it anything from phallic and vulgar, to friendly and fun-lovin’–sometimes even deeply profound.

Love it or hate it– this bird you cannot change.  Oh yes I did.

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Circa 1989, New York, NY — Marlon Brando distinguishing the middle finger of both his hands on the set of the picture The Freshman.  The “nonchalant double-fisted fuggetaboutit” flip.

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Circa 1954, USA — Director Elia Kazan on the set of his 1954 film East of Eden with Marlon Brando and James Dean. — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Sygma/Corbis.  The “I’m not smilin’ for no camera, and you need to get yer own schtick, kid… oops, did you catch me flippin” you off” flip.

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Aug 22nd, 1957, Washington, DC — James R. Hoffa, heir-apparent to the Presidency of the giant Teamsters Union, as he appeared before Senate Rackets probers. Investigators reported that they have been told that former heavyweight champion Joe Louis “was paid $2,500 to sit in the courtroom for two hours” during Hoffa’s recent bribery-conspiracy trial. Hoffa, who was acquitted, told the committee: “If he was paid $2,500, he was not paid by Hoffa. I know nothing about it.” — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS.  The satisfying subversive “Something’s in my eye, your Honor…” flip.

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Sept 16th, 1976, Binghamton, NY — Vice President Nelson Rockefeller gives a crowd of young hecklers an upraised middle finger gesture at the Broome County Airport during a brief stop here while on a campaign trip with Vice Presidential candidate Bob Dole (L, Background, out of focus).  Rockefeller said he was “responding in kind” to the demonstrators. Love it. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS.  The “I could buy and sell you, you little smarmy toad” flip.

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A RICH LEGACY OF REBELLION | TRIUMPH MOTORCYCLES

Kenny Brown, the mad motorcycyle trick-rider is seen here tearing it up on a Triumph.

Kenny Brown, the “Wild Man” of motorcycle trick-riding is seen here tearing it up on a Triumph.

Or rebellious riders, I should say.  Thanks to the The Jockey Journal for these amazing pics of the “Wild Man” in action. Seen above and below, “Wild Man” Kenny Brown toured the country in the ’60s putting on one man shows at Drag Strips with his incredible stunts– always on his trusty Triumph.

The British built bikes, like Triumphs, were coveted by American riders for their lighter weight– and for what some considered better handling than the American built bikes at the time. By the 1950s, more Triumphs were sold here in the U.S. than any other country hands down. Triumph had their own version of the badass big bike, and it’s the stuff of legends– the Triumph Thunderbird.

Kenny Brown favored performing his unique brand of motorcycle trickery on a trusty triumph.

Kenny Brown favored performing his unique brand of motorcycle trickery on a trusty Triumph.

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THE 13 REBELS MOTORCYCLE CLUB | 1953′s “THE WILD ONE” INSPIRATION

13 Rebels MC member Arden Van Scykle

13 Rebels MC member Ardin Van Syckle. We’re talkin’ standup guys, not hoodlums– former flyers and servicemen in WWII looking to keep the rush alive. They were solid citizens who loved the sport and brotherhood of riding– accomplished racers, builders and all-around honorable men.

1953′s iconic biker flick The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, was loosely based on two actual California motorcycle clubs of the day having a highly charged clash in the small town of Hollister, CA.  Brando portrayed 13 Rebels leader Shell Thuet, while Lee Marvin’s character “Chino” was based on “Wino Willie” Forkner of The Boozefighters.  Fact is– the gangs were not rivals (although “Wino Wilie” was an ex-member of the 13 Rebels– asked to leave actually for rowdy behavior) and the Hollister incident never happened, at least not to the extent that LIFE magazine or The Wild One portrayed it.  Yeah, some guys drank and drag raced a little– it happens.  What else happened was a counterculture was born– rolled Levi 501 jeans, boots and leathers (Hello Schott Perfecto!) became the uniform that rebels and bikers lived in, and that polite society demonized.

LIFE magazine's infamous 1947 photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.

LIFE magazine’s infamous 1947 staged photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.

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Hollywood Icon Marlon Brando’s Canyon Home

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Marlon Brando and James Dean were contemporaries– with a very contemptuous relationship.  The were often compared, and neither one was appreciative.  Brando publicly ridiculed Dean, accusing him of “wearing my last year’s wardrobe and using my last year’s talents…”  Dean later responded– “I was riding a motorcycle long before I heard of Mr. Brando.”   To Newsweek Dean said– “People were telling me I behaved like Brando before I knew who Brando was.  I am neither disturbed by the comparison, nor am I flattered by it.  I have my own personal rebellions and don’t have to rely on Brando’s.”

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The Schott Perfecto- The Original Wild One.

 

 

The Schott Perfecto 618

My last post on Evel Kneivel really got me thinking about motorcycles and their impact on American fashion and culture.  There is no better example than the Schott Perfecto 618.  First introduced in 1928– and still made here in the U.S.A.–it is the original motorcycle jacket and still considered the gold standard to which all others are compared.  The now classic double riders zip-front design was prized by bikers not just for it’s tough looks- when fully zipped it kept the wind and chill out.  

 

The Wild One-  Marlon Brando & company 1953.

Marlon Brando as Johnny, leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in The Wild One.

 

The Perfecto took on cult status thanks to 1953′s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando.  It soon became a symbol of rebellion and was widely banned from schools during the 1950s.  The vintage Perfectos (and a lot of the motorcycle jackets back then) were made of thick horsehide– durable as all hell, but they took some breaking in.  If you’re lucky enough to find a vintage Perfecto, snatch it up- they are rare and highly coveted.  

 

Link to Schott Perfecto

 

 

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