Sinister Cinema: That Old Navy Blues

For the twelfth exciting installment in his epic Pulps in the Movies series — On Sale Every Wednesday — John Locke goes way back to that transitional era when the talkies were muscling aside silent cinema, uncovering not only pulps but also movie magazines that capture the moment in periodical amber.

(If you are interested in the pulp Ghost Stories, you might begin your researches in either Volume One or perhaps Volume Two of John’s Ghost Stories: The Magazine and Its Makers — the guy brings some serious credentials into his role as our newest resident pulp expert.)

Here’s John Locke with the scoop for today:

Pulps sighted in films tend to be the mainstream titles: Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly, Western Story, etc. It’s a treat therefore to see a shop window like this one with short-run titles like Over the Top (21 issues, 1928-30) and Three Star Stories (34 issues, 1928-29) from the glory days of Great War pulp fiction.

The clipped magazines hanging in the top row are all pulps.

The larger movie mags, plus Macfadden’s Ghost Stories, are below.

Since the magazines in the window are date-matched, they may have shot the scene in front of an actual store. If not, it’s nice set-dressing.

The featured film is Navy Blues (1929). The actors are William Haines and Anita Page, in a story of shore-leave romance.

The director was Clarence Brown, who helmed a number of the Garbo classics (Flesh and the Devil, A Woman of Affairs) during her meteoric rise. Garbo, a fixture in the movie mags, gets yet another magazine cover here.

Navy Blues hit theaters in December 1929. Garbo’s first talkie, Anna Christie, another Brown classic and the acid test of Garbo’s stardom, was less than three months away.

Those eyes do all the talking on the Photoplay cover: “You vant to hear me speak? You have no idea what’s coming for you.”

Her first spoken words in Anna Christie — “Give me a whiskey, baby, and don’t be stingy” — brought the world to a screeching halt and pretty much cemented her name among the immortals of the screen and — what the hell — life itself.

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