Walking over to our 1944 newsstand today, beautiful Ella Raines peeks up at us from under a veil on our favorite, and America’s favorite, weekly news magazine, Life. Of course I’m going to fish a dime out of my pocket to see what’s going on. I’ll have to make a note to re-up my expired annual subscription at $4.50 after I finish this week’s issue.
So what’s going on? Let’s open up my February 28, 1944 issue of Life Magazine and see what they say:
Life is all about pictures, and one of my favorite regular features is the “Speaking of Pictures” column towards the front of the issue. This week we take a look at emblems for each of the nation’s busiest railroads. Top row at left starts as it should with Union Pacific, I also recognize the New York Central, the Chesapeake & Ohio, Santa Fe, the Rock Island line, B & O of course, and some others ring a bell too. Wish they’d put the feature in color, but with the war on I suppose they’re cutting costs where they can.
Once we get past the contents page and a slew of ads including a pretty color one from 7up, we hit the lead feature, “Lincoln Day Opens G.O.P. Campaign.” Up top is a photo of Wendell Willkie and the article mentions that February 12 kicked off the four month race which will culminate with the Republican convention in June. What better way to rile up the patriotic juices than celebrating Lincoln Day throughout the country, 2,000 banquet halls in all.
The Lincoln Day opening is followed by some photo features of leading Republicans including more on Willkie, John W. Bricker, and Governor Thomas E. Dewey, each of whom has a full-page photo with their wife included in their mini-profile.
There’s a full page black & white photo of our old friend Charlie Chaplin, minus the tramp mustache, being fingerprinted in L.A., as he’s up on Mann Act charges, accused of being father of Joan Barry’s child. The brief blurb mentions that 54 year old Chaplin recently married 18 year old Oona O’Neil, his fourth wife.
U.S. troops are told to keep out of Naples as a typhoid epidemic has broken out there. The pictures aren’t pretty.
“Battle of Berlin” features several hard to focus on aerial photos of the destruction of Berlin over a period of the past four months. It’s followed by a few shots of Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur T. Harris, referred to here as “The Brain Behind the Death of Berlin.”
Charles A. Beard has a feature article titled “The Power of the President.” I’ll have to read that one later, lots of words, but what I’m struck by is the unfinished portrait of Woodrow Wilson by Sir William Orpen, which is in full color. Definitely a pose of Wilson in office, as he looks older and even a bit more emaciated than I used to seeing him appear.
Ah, very good, I was hungry and I found my cheesecake, a much more revealing photo of cover girl Ella Raines greets me. Managing to shift my eyes to the text below I see the 22 year old actress has recently been passed from B-H Productions, Inc “to Universal in whose Phantom Lady she has her first real chance to display her dewy beauty and genuine acting talent.” Life also let’s us know that Ms. Raines has more talent than filling a swimsuit too, she’s shown doing things as diverse as riding a horse, fishing, skiing, she loves archery, and one of Howard Hawks’ goats has her down on the ground licking her face so she loves animals too. What a gal! Finally the multi-faceted Raines is shown is several shots from Phantom Lady, including images with co-stars Alan Curtis, Franchot Tone, and even Elisha Cook, Jr.
A feature on “Fun in Mexico” comments that “The City is Gaudy” in the sub-title, leaving me to wonder if that’s good. Photos show lots of night club action with a further section titled “Joy is for Sale” including a photo of comedian Cantinflas and another of Diego Rivera painting. There’s also a full-length shot of Puerto Rican actress Mapy Cortez, the highest paid woman in Mexican films, which begins with the bolded notation “Mexicans Like Plump Girls.” More photos feature the international set in Mexico, which Life seems to harbor doubts about as they’re referred to as the “so-called international set” and headlined “Titles and Bogus Titles Find Their Refuge Cosy.” They mention the most famed name of this set, the exiled King Carol of Romania, but spend more words on Count Eugene Rossi, who is described as follows:
He is not a member of the Italian vermouth family, as some say. He is not to be found in the Almanack de Gotha, the register of Aristocrats. He is just the jovial “Count of Corpus Christi” (Texas) at whom plain tourists gawp in envious awe.
This is followed by a large, albeit again black and white, photo of the Morning Beach at Acapulco.
Good reading for later is another feature article, this one on the “Shy Boss of Murder, Inc.” Meyer Lepke, who awaits his date with the electric chair. Several photos of Lepke, plus one of the body of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles after he turned state’s witness and jumped out of a window. Also shown is the badly charred corpse of “Puggy” Feinstein, a loan shark killed for double-crossing a racketeer, found in a Brooklyn lot in 1939. Oh look, another corpse found in Brooklyn, this one George Rudnick, who lies about looking undamaged despite having 63 separate puncture marks in him from an ice pick. This apparently is the favorite method of disposal by “Happy” Maione, who’s also partial to a meat cleaver.
Another regular Life Magazine feature, “Life Visits …”, is found at the back of the issue. This time around they visit “Red Cross Girls in England.” Just judging by the photos they apparently like to serve donuts and flirt with the male soldiers. One is shown visiting a field hospital, her last stop where Life says she dispenses the remaining “doughnuts, gum, cigarets, home-town newspapers.” They really seem big on the donuts.