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Monthly Archives: April 2009

jilteda Detroit News, May 19, 1931. This is one happening couple by the standards of The Hope Chest. It’s the first time we’ve seen acid thrown by the jilter rather than the jilted. But then when she, the jilted, shot him in revenge, he still cared enough not to rat her out from his deathbed. Call us incurably romantic, but we think that with counseling these kids could have worked things out. At very least, the sex must have been epic.

acid-coupleaDetroit News, April 16, 1931. I haven’t posted an acid attack in a while. Inferably this is some sort of romantic triangle. Neither of the male principals is Mr. Zelechowski, so there can be no unwritten law angle here.

burn5-29-09Detroit News, May 29, 1931. I think the judge made the right call here.

12deada1Detroit News, May 29, 1931. The hausfrau or boardinghouse mistress with a secret penchant for murder-for-profit is an enduring American phenomenon. Before Mrs. Summers there was Belle Gunness. Since then we’ve had Dorothea Puente and the deadly septuagenarian partnership of Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt . God knows how many others have joined Margaret Summers in historical oblivion. It’s rank sexism if you ask me.

adenoidaDetroit News, 1931. This is satirical comment on crooners like Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby, whose intimate new vocal style was made possible by the invention of the microphone. Like all things related to jazz, crooning was widely seen as a terrible source of cultural pollution.
I sort of love how labored this kind of humor is. By the time we get to the punchline, the dead-horse set-up has not just been whipped but pureed into equine guacamole. And the repetitive image of the straight man shielding his eyes against the brilliance of the singer’s diamond tie pin is so dumb it’s genius.

ax-3-27-21Detroit News, March 27, 1931. Why does a stockbroker in Hawaii even own an ax? I can’t imagine he was splitting a whole lot of firewood. Plus he apparently had access to a perfectly good gun.

chargeaDetroit News, May 26, 1931. Serial murderers work so hard at what they do, but most of them simply fall down the memory hole regardless. As we shall see, this Margaret Summers gal was ultimately credited with at least a dozen killings, but who now remembers her name? Ah well, sic transit gloria mundi.

A few years ago, I wrote what I still think is a pretty funny profile of a bogus profiler of serial killers for the Chicago Reader. I thought I was scuttling her barge, but I still see this nutjob crop up in the media as an “expert” from time to time. Read More »

yegg-4-8aDetroit News, April 8, 1931. The American language was immeasurably impoverished by the disappearance of the word “yegg.” Why and how was it suddenly yanked out of circulation?

The last time I heard it used was in Rian Johnson’s excellent 2005 high-school noir Brick, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and that made me very happy. It also crops up a bunch in the Coen brothers’ wonderful Miller’s Crossing.

amuck-5-16 Detroit News, May 16, 1931. Abscess clearly does not make the heart grow fonder. You might expect an amok logger to avail himself of an ax, but maybe that would be a bit of a busman’s honeymoon. Anyway, I’ll be uploading some exemplary period ax murders later this week, so stay tuned. Ax murder was big in the Twenties and Thirties, right up there with acid attacks.

new-racket-march-20-1931 Detroit News, March 20, 1931. Funny little wire service item. Exactly why did the working-class citizenry of Detroit need to know this? Because it fits in with the worldview advanced by tabloids of this era. The name for that worldview is noir.