Monday, November 18, 2019

Lady Death

I watched The Battle For Sevastopol over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it! My husband stumbled upon the movie and we both received an education about the world's deadliest female sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who came to be known as Lady Death. By the age of twenty-five, she had killed over three-hundred enemy soldiers. If you're like me, you've probably never heard of her. Here's more from Wikipedia:

Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko (12 June 1916 – 10 October 1974) was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War II,credited with 309 confirmed kills,[making her the most successful female sniper in history. Lyudmila was nicknamed "Lady Death" due to her incredible ability with a sniper rifle. She served in the Red Army during the Siege of Odessa and the Siege of Sevastopol, during the early stages of the Eastern Front in WWII. After she was injured in battle by a mortar shell, she was evacuated to Moscow. After Pavlichenko recovered from her injuries she trained other Red Army Snipers and was a public spokesperson for the Red Army. In 1942, she visited the White House and toured the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. After the war ended in 1945, she was reassigned as a Senior Researcher for the Soviet Navy. She later died at the age of 58 due to a stroke on 10 October 1974.


In June 1941, 24-year-old Pavlichenko was in her fourth year studying history at Kiev University when Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union. Pavlichenko was among the first round of volunteers at the Odessa recruiting office, where she requested to join the infantry. The registrar pushed Pavlichenko to be a nurse but she refused. 
After seeing that she had completed multiple training courses they finally let her in the army as a sniper. Thus she was assigned to the Red Army's 25th Rifle Division. There she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army (although female soldiers were still just 2 percent of the Red Army's total number), of whom about 500 survived the war. Although she was in a combat role, she was only given a frag grenade due to weapon shortages. On 8 August 1942 a fallen comrade would hand her his Mosin-Nagant model 1891 bolt-action rifle. She achieved her first two kills and proved herself to her comrades. She described this event as her "baptism of fire", because after this she was officially a sniper.
Pavlichenko fought for about two and a half months near Odessa, where she recorded 187 kills.[11] She was promoted to senior sergeant in August 1941 when she reached 100 confirmed kills. At age 25, she married a fellow sniper whose name was Alexei Kitsenko. Soon after the marriage, Alexei was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. Kitsenko died after a few days in the hospital. When the Romanians gained control of Odessa on 15 October 1941, her unit was withdrawn by sea to Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, where she fought for more than eight months. There she trained almost a dozen snipers, who killed over a hundred Axis soldiers during the battle. In May 1942, newly promoted Lieutenant Pavlichenko was cited by the Southern Army Council for killing 257 Axis soldiers. Her total of confirmed kills during World War II was 309, including 36 enemy snipers.
In June 1942, Pavlichenko was hit in the face with shrapnel from a mortar shell. After her injury, the Soviet High Command ordered that she be evacuated from Sevastopol via submarine.[ She was too valuable to lose as she was the perfect example of Soviet womanhood. She spent around a month in the hospital; she did not go back to the Eastern Front after her injuries. Instead she became a propagandist for the Red Army. Due to her high kill count, she was nicknamed "Lady Death". She also trained snipers for combat duty till the end of the war in 1945.
What a life! Had you ever heard of Lady Death? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Transforming Rita


Back in the 1930's, a young actress named Rita Cansino, was having a hard time breaking away from small exotic roles, in part due to her name, and in part to the jet black hair of her Spanish ancestry.

As a starlet at Fox Studios, Rita Cansino married salesman and promoter Edward C. Judson.  Judson knew potential when he saw it.  Not only was Cansino beautiful, she was a dancer with a charismatic stage presence, and a spark that Judson knew would propel her to stardom.

Judson got her the lead roles in several independent films and arranged a screen test with Columbia Pictures. Columbia studio head Harry Cohn signed Cansino to a long-term contract, then cast her in small roles in Columbia features.

Cansino appeared in several roles in the mid 1930s playing an exotic foreigner.  Cohn claimed that Cansino's image was too Mediterranean.  That reduced her opportunities to being cast in "exotic" roles, which were more limited in number. 

At Cohn and Judson's urging, Cansino changed her hair color to auburn and her name to Rita Hayworth. By using her mother's maiden name (Haworth), she allowed the public to see her British-American ancestry and became a classic "American" pin-up.

And the rest is history...Rita Hayworth became a screen siren superstar of the 1940s! 

My favorite Rita Hayworth movie is GildaWhat's yours? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Previously posted 9/23/13.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Pre-Code Hollywood: No Restrictions Apply

When one of my kids was about fourteen, he complained about not being allowed to watch rated R movies. He said, “You and Dad are I’m too overprotective and you're not giving me a chance to see what life’s really like.” Excuse me for being a parent. Instead of letting him watch today’s restricted movies, perhaps I should have let him watch some of these:

The Cheat, 1931
A compulsive gambler will do anything to pay off her debt – including turning to a wealthy businessman behind her husband’s back.

Events take an unhappy turn for Bill and Jack, two locomotive engineers, after Bill is attracted to his best friend's wife.
Dorothy Mackhaill in Safe in Hell, 1931
After accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a New Orleans woman flees to a Caribbean island. While she awaits her fiancé, the vicious local police chief sets his sights on her.

 Hot Saturday  1932
Scandal erupts after a young woman innocently spends the night with a notorious playboy and neglects to tell her fiancé.
Merrily We Go to Hell, 1932
An abusive alcoholic reunites with a woman from his past driving his wife to drastic measures.


They Call it Sin, 1932
With time on his hands during a business trip, Jimmy Decker (who's engaged to his boss's daughter) romances small-town church organist Marion Cullen.  She follows him to New York only to learn Jimmy's true colors after she's burned her bridges.
Attractive Nan, member of a bank-robbery gang, goes to prison thanks to evangelist Dave Slade...who loves her.
Letty, a young woman who ended up pregnant, unmarried and on the streets at fifteen is bitter and determined that her child will not grow up to be taken advantage of. Letty teaches her child to lie, steal, cheat and do anything else he'll need to be street smart.

Once upon a time in Hollywood, movies of the past were just as gritty as the movies of today. Well, maybe not just as gritty, but back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it wasn’t unusual to find sexual innuendo, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, extreme violence and homosexuality in films.

This period in cinema history is known as the Pre-Code era, the time before movies were censored and sugar coated to reflect all American wholesomeness.
Ina Claire publicity still for The Greeks Had a Word for Them, 1932
According to DVD Beaver, “In 1934, Hollywood was turned upside down by the enforcement of a strict “Production Code” that would change the way movies were made for the next 34 years. During the “pre-code” period (1929 to mid-1934), censorship barely existed in Hollywood and filmmakers had free reign to make the movies they wanted and the public demanded. No subject was taboo...”

To read more about Pre-Code Hollywood click here.

The sensational subject of sex sold back then, just like it does today.  However, Variety blamed women for the rise in such steamy films:

Women are responsible for the ever-increasing public taste in sensationalism and sexy stuff. Women who make up the bulk of the picture audiences are also the majority reader of the tabloids, scandal sheets, flashy magazines, and erotic books ... the mind of the average man seems wholesome in comparison.... Women love dirt, nothing shocks 'em.

The more times change the more they stay the same...

Were you familiar with the Pre-Code Era of Hollywood? Do you have any favorite Pre-Code films?  

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 1/20/14.