Comet Over Hollywood is starting a new LIFE magazine series. At the beginning of each post, I’ll feature the film article and provide a listing of other magazine highlights. Published weekly starting in November 1936 to December 1972, over 1,800 issues of LIFE magazine was printed. I collect the magazines and decided to share the film news and current events in each film, giving a snap shot of world news and pop culture.
LIFE magazine is different from People, US Weekly or other contemporary gossip rags. LIFE was a premiere photo journalism publication with cartoons, paintings and photographs detailing wars, fashion trends, life in the United States (campus dances, award winning dogs, snow storms in Wyoming) and entertainment news.
Our second post in the series details January 19, 1948, with a cover photo of actress Marcia Van Dyke, “Virtuoso Starlet.”
Movie Spotlight in LIFE:
Virtuoso Starlet—“The Prettiest first Violinist Now is a Versatile Hollywood Actress”
Marcia Van Dyke was more than just a pretty face—her talent lay in her skills as a violin player.
“The big difference between most movie starlets and Marcia Van Dyke…is that their talent begins and ends with their pretty faces. When called on to sing or swim, they need doubles. And when call on to act, they make most movie audiences wish they were singing or swimming,” says the LIFE article.
Marcia Van Dyke said she wondered why the movies wanted her.
The answer? Not only could 25-year-old Van Dyke could sing, swim and play tennis with expertise—but the icing on the cake was that she was an accomplished violinist.
Van Dyke was first photographed by LIFE in 1947 when she was performing with the San Francisco Symphony, dubbing her “the prettiest first violinist.”
Because of this photo, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Joe Pasternak wrote her a contract. In her first film, “In the Good Ole Summertime” (1948), Van Dyke plays a violinist.
Movie of the Week: The Paradine Case—“A good whodunit introduces some new European faces to the U.S. but is not the great drama it pretends to be,” says LIFE.
LIFE describes Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Paradine Case,” but does not seem to think very highly of the film.
“Its producer David O. Selznick…has such faith in it (the film) that he has listed his own name a full five times in the screen credits…”
The film introduced British actress Ann Todd, French actor Louis Jourdan, and Italian actress Alida Valli.
“The latter is deemed so great that she will be known officially as just Valli,” LIFE wrote.
LIFE said the film is overly long at 132 minutes, but is a good “whodunit” film, and that Gregory Peck and Ann Todd give “first-class” performances.
“Alfred Hitchcock’s direction and Gregory Peck’s performance all deserve Academy Awards.”
Lauren Bacall—One large photo of Bacall by photographer Eliot Elisofon. A long cutline details her “catlike grace, tawny blond hair, and blue-green eyes.” The photo is for “Life’s gallery of Hollywood beauties.” The eyes in the photo represent her nickname “The Look.” The eyes were from an optometrist. She wears a whistle on her wrist in the photo, to signify her famous whistling line to Humphrey Bogart in “To Have and Have Not.”
What else was in the Jan. 19, 1948, issue of LIFE?
“Perry Mason” mystery novel mail in coupon for three free books.
Letters to the Editor on Lana Turner from the previous magazine, noting that her hair and jewels were all wrong at the Duchess of Windsor’s party, they didn’t approve her dating Bob Topping, and one man said “Topping can have her, I don’t want her, she’s too fat for me.” The editor replied with Lana Turner’s dimensions: 5’3”, 103 pounds, 35.5 bust, 24 waist, 36 hips.
Speaking of Pictures—A two page spread of paintings by New York artist Esta Cosgrave who painted her clients in antique dress. Clients include songwriter Garold Rome, art dealer Harry Shaw Newman, poet Mark Van Doren, and Egyptologist John D. Cooney.
Warfare Spreads in the Holy Land—A seven page article and photo spread details an attack on Palestine by “Arab riflemen” that came from Syria and Lebanon. The Arab military force was driven out by British troops.
“Despite the fact that the U.N. had authorize partition of Palestine and establishment of a Jewish state, it was bitterly clear that the Jewish dream of a peaceful national home was still far from fulfilment.”
Taxes and Politics—An article on “what taxes will produce what results”
Picture of the Week of General Claire Chennault, 57—wartime hero of the Flying Tigers, and his bride Anna Chan, a Chinese reporter, kissing after they were married in Shanghai.
Presidential Year is Off to Noisy Start—Article on the 1948 presidential campaign between Harry S. Truman, Strom Thurmond and Thomas E. Dewey.
Boy in Pain—A doctor and police officers try to free 15-year-old Joseph Gondola’s finger from a fence. On his way to school in Patterson, N.J., Joseph slipped on the ice, grabbed for the fence and his finger went through an iron fence picket. After 45 minutes, the picket was sawed off, Joseph went to the hospital and he was able to use his hand by the en of the week.
PEOPLE: Is Stalin Really Sick?—The week prior, Russia’s Premier Joseph Stalin was reported to have cancer, be paralyzed, tanned and ready for vacation, and dead. Swiss newspapers reported him dead on Jan. 8, but in a photo taken four weeks prior, Stalin looked healthy. Other photos in the people section are of beauty queens in France, campaigning Charles De Gaulle, Charles Lindbergh traveling to Tokyo, and Princess Margaret.
Family Basketball—Thirteen teams of relatives play in a tournament in Wilson, N.C. The Wilson Junior Chamber of Commerce held a four day basketball tournament between Christmas and New Year’s.
Orange Blight—An infection is affecting California citrus crops. A photo shows a pathologist treating one of the diseased trees with penicillin to test the effect of the drug on the virus. In 1947, the infection killed 25,000 orange trees.
Half page poster for the Paramount film “A Miracle Can Happen” starring Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, James Stewart, Fred MacMurray and Burgess Meredith.
Bird Counters—Bird watchers in Washington, D.C. took the annual winter bird census. The five dozen bird counters from the National Audubon Society included anyone from teachers to government economists. In one day, they counted 12,407 birds of 77 species
“Cass Timberlane” full page poster of the Spencer Tracey and Lana Turner film.
Art of Egypt—An 11 page photo spread showing Egyptian art, tombs and temples in the Nile Valley.
Country Wide Best 10—Photospread of the top 10 best dressed women in the United States selected from their cities. The women are from Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis, Detroit, Boston and Denver.
New England Snowstorm—Five page photo spread detailing a New England snow storm, particularly looking at Hancock, N.H.
The Failure of Maxism—“Both socialism and communism as they actually work out, betray the hope for the better life that they once inspired,” said author John Dos Passos.
Advertisement with actor Henry Hull shaving with Williams Luxury Shaving Cream—saying that an actor’s face is extra-sensitive.
Theater: Talent Market—“The last survivors of vaudeville hawk their wares for club dates.”
After a slow death, vaudeville faced its defeat at the end of 1947, according to the article. The Loew’s State—the last vaudeville house on Broadway—did away with live performers and will only show movies. The actors turn to “club dates” booked by agents.
LIFE Goes to a French Literary Salon—The Duchess of Rochefoucauld in France still holds elegant readings in her salon.
New Air Force “Uniform”—“Ever since the independent U.S. Air Force was created last fall, fliers have been worrying about what their new uniforms would look like. Ground forces made farce like regalia which is photographed in LIFE.