Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pulp Venuses from Saucy Movie Tales

May 1939.  Saunders

Scarlett Knight has the most attractive Google+ page I know; featuring an eclectic mixture of pictures of, inter alia, dreamy landscapes and interiors, fit men, sexy women, unicorns, romantic (including Sapphic) couples and pulp illustrations.  It was one of the latter (the cover illustration for Marvel Science Stories of May 1939) which caught my eye as it was by Norman (born Normand) Saunders (1907-1989), the top cover illustrator for pulp magazines in the thirties, forties and fifties and a long time favourite of Triple P's.  This is not least because of his ability to paint lovely, lissome women, usually under some sort of threat, who require the attention of a two fisted hero to effect a rescue.  


These days Saunders is well known for painting the original illustrations for the Mars Attacks! trading cards in 1962 from sketches by Wally Wood.  These pictures were painted two years after Saunders' last pulp cover.  He lived long enough to see his pulp work becoming a cult favourite.

Mars Attacks 1962. Saunders 

Rather than look at just Saunders work, per se, we are going to look at just one pulp magazine that he did many cover illustrations for and also look at some of the black and white pictures and their creators, from the inside of the magazine.

Saucy Movie Tales December 1935. Spinelli

Here for example are some typical interior pictures by Laurence Spinelli (1892-1983) illustrating the stories inside.  Only the cover was colour with all the illustrations for the dozen or so stories being in black and white.  These three black and white pictures come from the third issue of the magazine in December 1935.  This was the first one that used the title Saucy Movie Tales, having been called Spicy Movie Tales for the first two issues in October and November 1935.

Saucy movie Tales December 1935. Spinelli

So called because of the cheap wood pulp paper on which they were printed, pulp magazines flourished in the United States from the end of the nineteenth century until the late fifties.  Typically, as the case with Saucy Movie Tales, which we are looking at today, they were 128 pages long and were in a 7" by 10" format.

Saucy Movie Tales December 1935. Spinelli

Some of the magazines focussed on different genres, such as adventure, westerns, detective, science fiction, and romance but many included a mixture of genres.  In theory Saucy Movie Tales was supposed to concentrate on tales of starlets, directors and the movie industry, although they quite often included other subjects too.

December 1935 Saunders

This is Saunders' cover for the same issue as Spinelli's black and white drawings above.  At this point Saunders was working from drawings done by others for the covers of the magazine, hence the similarity in look to the characters in Spinelli's black and white illustrations. 

January 1936. Saunders

The saucy/spicy sub-genre offered (mild, by today's standards) erotic stories and cartoons which meant that they were sold "under the counter".  There were thrusting breasts, slim legs, firm buttocks and states of undress but no actual sex.  The interior illustrations included bare bottoms and bare breasts but no pubic hair, of course, as that would have been classed as obscene rather than saucy.  In Saucy Movie Tales stories there were, of course, the perils of the casting couch, innocent ingenues and even rape.  Some were comic and some merged with detective or even supernatural type stories. 

Saucy Movie Tales January 1936. Spinelli

The contents page of the January issue gives a good idea of the type of story inside.  Spinelli's illustration also gives a good idea of the key subject matter of the pictures the reader wanted!

 Saucy Movie Tales January 1936.  Spinelli

 Alex Laurence (born Alessandro Lorenzo) Spinelli was born in Vickburg, Mississippi.  He lost a leg in  an accident when a teenager but when he was twenty three moved to New York and after studying drawing became a freelance artist.  By the thirties he was illustrating a number of the pulp magazines owned by Harry Donenfeld, the publisher of Saucy Movie Tales. He had got the job there through Adolphe Barreaux who had spotted Spinelli through his advertising work while working for some advertising agencies.  Barreaux became art director of Donenfeld's magazines.

Saucy Movie Stories January 1936. Brown

The pulp magazines also carried comic strips and here we have Marcia at the Movies by Eric Browken.  Eric Browken was one of several pen names for Canadian artist Ken Browne (1900-1965) who was from Nova Scotia.  He studied at an art school in Nova Scotia but in 1916 enlisted in the army and joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps, despite being underage.

Saucy Movie Tales January 1936. Browne (signed Le Brun)

It was during his time in the army that he started to produce cartoons for the troops and carried on specialising in cartoons for forces magazines for many years.  He moved to New York where he got a job at one of William Randolph Hearst's newspapers.  He moved to Pennsylvania, where he got married and then moved back to New York in the thirties.

 Saucy Stories 1936. Browne (signed Kenby)

He worked on several magazines from the publisher of Saucy Movie Tales including its stablemate Saucy Stories which required similar illustrations.

Saucy Movie Tales January 1936, Buettner 

Saucy Movie Tales January 1936,  Buettner

Here we have two illustrations for the story Paradise Playhouse by Kay Lester, which includes a description of some passionate breast kissing.  These drawings are by Carl Buettner (1903-1965).  The son of German immigrants to Minneapolis he studied art by correspondence course, joining the art team at Fawcett Publications in Minneapolis when he was twenty five.  He produced many cartoons for the firm's various publications and his style influenced his friend and co-worker, Saunders.  

Saucy Stories January 1936,  Buettner

In 1934 Fawcett moved much of their operations to New York and Buettner moved there to.  While in the city he started to do work for Fawcett's rival Harry Donenfield and his publications Saucy Movie Tales and Saucy Stories.   Buettner gave up on pulp work and moved to California to work for Walt Disney.

March 1936. Saunders

Norman Sunders had moved to New York too and although no longer employed by Fawcett he didn't want to annoy his former employers there so he and Buettner came up with the name Carl (Buettner's first name) Blaine (Saunders' middle name) to use on the Donenfeld Publishing covers, hence the Blaine signature visible on these paintings. Several of the cover paintings by Saunders were based on original drawings by Buettner, so the combined name was appropriate,  

Saucy Movie Tales March 1936 Carlson

This salacious crime scene picture is by Ralph Carlson (1907-1986) who, like Saunders, was from Minnesota and the two became great friends when they were both working at Fawcett Publishing.

Saucy Movie Tales March 1936. Carlson

Also like Saunders, Carlson had studied art by correspondence course, joining Fawcett in 1928.  While attending college during the height of the Depression he joined the communist party.

Saucy Movie Tales March 1936. Carlson

Carslon started work for Donenfeld in 1934. contributing to several of his magazines.  He joined the army in World War 2 and worked on YANK magazine before returning to Fawcett after the war,  Unfortunately, in 1953 he was summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee due to his communist party past.  He refused to co-operate and was sent to prison and blacklisted, which ended his career as an illustrator.

Saucy Movie Tales March 1936 Carlson

Fortunately, after moving back to Minneapolis in 1955, his old art instructor at his correspondence art college, with whom he had studied in the twenties, hired him as an instructor. This picture, incidentally, illustrates the care that had to be taken over the pubic region.

Pep Stories January 1934

Two years previously, Romanian born publisher Harry Donenfeld was charged by the New York Society for the suppression of Vice with producing obscene periodicals, including Spicy Stories and Pep Stories.  These, unlike Saucy Movie Tales, included tasteful photographic topless artistic nudes but the court decided that one image in particular, from January 1934's Pep Stories wasn't tasteful but obscene, as the model's pubic hair was visible. This was the case that got the publishers of Playboy and Penthouse so worried nearly forty years later. Donenfeld only avoided jail because one of his Romanian employees took the rap and said that his boss didn't know that he had inserted the picture into the magazine. A grateful Donenfeld gave the man a job for life with no requirement to actually do anything, when he emerged from prison.

 Saucy Movie Tales March 1936. Keifer

These two illustrations, also from the March 1934 issue are by Henry Keifer (1890-1957) who was born in Cincinnati but studied art in Chicago. He was drafted into the army in World War 1 but after returning to the US he travelled in Europe, studying art in Paris where he met his French wife, an opera singer.

 Saucy Movie Tales March 1936

 Returning to the US Keifer met Adolph Barreaux who commissioned work for Donenfeld's various magazines from the art agency Barreaux had set up with Donenfeld, so they could control the production of the saucy drawings they needed.  Keifer worked mainly in comic strips both before and after World War 2.

April 1936 Saunders

The sixth issue of Saucy Movie Tales had what would become a prototypical Saunders girl in peril on the cover.  Trussed up in her underwear and hung on a hook in a foundry she is surely looking for help from the hero.

Saucy Movie Tales April 1936.  Keifer

In the same issue, Henry Keifer illustrated a girl gradually losing her ornate lingerie as she was molested by dastardly Arabs in the Sahara Desert.

May 1936. Saunders

You can't get much better for the cover of magazine called Saucy Movie Tales in having a picture of a hero wielding a tripod mounted film camera at a crocodile trying to attack his scantily clad girlfriend.  Pulp perfection by Saunders!

June 1936. Saunders

Five years before Pearl Harbor we have the evil Japanese as the villain,s ripping our heroine's dress off most pleasingly.  It is all a bit reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's 1941.  Horrywoooood!

July 1936 Saunders?

We can't find a signature on this one but we would be very surprised if it isn't by Saunders.  A dire warning for those who get involved in the more risque aspects of entertainment in the nineteen thirties!

Saucy Movie Tales July 1936

This illustration of a comparatively well dressed girl is by Will Ely (1913-1993), a younger artist than some of the others here, who tended to have his girls rather less naked than some of his contemporaries.

August 1936.  Saunders

Another comparatively well dressed woman being rescued from a flaming building for August.  There is no doubt about this one as it is clearly signed 'Blaine'.

September 1936. Saunders

A revolutionary cover in every way for September.  We are not sure if Saunders was channeling that bare breasted feminine personification of France, Marianne, but the bare nipple on the cover is a first. 

Saucy Movie Tales September 1936.  Ely

A couple more illustrations by Will Ely for this issue.  Ely was the son of a well off inventor who manufactured parts for roller coasters.  He was brought up in a large house.  Unlike many of the other illustrators in this post he attended a proper art school, the Pratt Institute School of Art in Brooklyn.  Graduating in 1935, by the following year he was providing illustrations for a number of magazines.  He spent much of the rest of his life drawing for comic books, the best known of which was The Green Hornet in the forties.  

October 1936.  Saunders

No bare breasts on the cover for October but Saunders does produce this very racy breast caressing picture,   The man's thumb is right on her almost visible nipple (you could argue that it is actually showing through her almost transparent lingerie).  Spicy indeed!

November 1936 Saunders?

No visible signature on this one either but the girl's face really looks like one of Saunders'.  Lots of skin on show here.  Really prominent and barely covered nipples in this one.  Outstanding!    

December 1936.  Saunders

The end of the year brings another revealed nipple (only one, mind) and the inclusion of more film equipment, just to remind you what the magazine is supposed to feature.  Although, Norman Sunders would go on to paint many pulp covers, these ones were some of his earliest and were his most racy.  Born in rural Minnesota, at the age of three his eye was badly injured and he needed multiple operations to restore the sight in his eye.  After he recovered his sight he took to drawing.  He turned down a scholarship to the Chicago Art Institute when he was offered the job at Fawcett Publishing.

January 1937.  Saunders

Another single revealed nipple by Saunders for January 1937.  By this time, not very long after his first work for Donenfeld, he was starting, as a freelance, to sell paintings to other publishers and by 1940 he had painted more than 400 pulp covers. 

February 1937.  Saunders

A partially revealed bald pubis is added tp the exposed nipple in this morgue scene.  By 1940 Saunders was working in the conventional magazine (slicks) market but the war brought an end to this part of his life.  He was drafted into the army and after some time in the military police was trained to paint military facilities with camouflage paint! 

March 1937 Saunders

After the war he married one of his models, Ellena Politis, and having struggled with working with the slicks went back to pulp magazines, producing over 400 more cover paintings.  His total of  867 pulp covers made him the most prolific pulp cover artist of all time.  After 1960, and his last pulp cover, he worked for trading card companies, men's adventure magazines, and did comic book and paperback cover work.  This would be Saunders last cover for Saucy Movie Tales and he celebrated with two bare nipples.

April 1937.  Szokoli

Replacing Saunders as cover illustrator was Joseph Szokoli (1913-1981) from New York.  Like Will Ely he studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn but originally read engineering before transferring to the Art School.  In this, his first cover for Saucy Movie Tales, it is obvious that he has a very different style to Saunders but copies the typical Saunders girl face.

May 1937.  Szokoli

Szokoli's second cover features a scary lady with a sword who is flashing her nipples in her ill fitting lingerie. 

June 1937.  Szokoli

June's cover girl was rather more covered up than the previous effort. in what would be Szokoli's last cover for Saucy Movie Tales.  Szokoli was an early user of an airbrush for many of his illustrations, which give them a modern feel.  When magazines started to use photographs to illustrate articles and stories more than artwork Szokoli's airbrushing skills were in demand for photo retouching work.

Spicy Western April 1937.  Szokoli

As well as cover art, Szokoli contributed interior drawings and comic strips  for magazines.  He created Polly of the Plains a sado-masochistic cartoon for another Donenfeld publication, Spicy Western.  In 1940 Donenfeld created a comic book arm in his publishing empire, as comics were becoming huge moneymakers.  It still exists today and is now called DC Comics!  Donenfeld invited Szokoli to draw a new hit comic strip called Superman but Szokoli preferred the independence of being a freelance and turned him down.

August 1937

Having managed 11 issues of Saucy Movie Tales in 1936, Donenfeld missed the July issue and the next issue didn't appear until a month later with a new cover artist and a partial return of the nipple.

November 1937

There were no September or October issues either and there was a different cover artist, again, for the November 1937 issue. The glimpse of nipple was still there, however,  The film camera silhouette seems to have been a stuck on afterthought to re-emphasise the magazine title.

December 1937

December's cover is positively decorous, with its undulating Latin lady, although the film camera lens does seem to be suggestively pointing directly at her groin.

January/February 1938

By 1938 the magazine was admitting that it was only doing one issue every two months.  Another film camera features.

June 1939

The magazine staggered on into 1939 but apart from this example all the over covers used were recycled from previous editions.  After five years of intermittent publishing Saucy Movie Tales disappeared, leaving some classic pulp covers by Norman Saunders as its only real legacy.


  1. I do love the pulps, except for the gory stuff.

  2. I have been searching for a set of pictures from Club Magazine in the late 70s. It is the first porn pics I ever saw. It is a naked woman lying on the bed with her legs spread while a man on a stool points a gun at her. I have searched for Club magazine full scans, but have had no luck. I think it may be from the September 1977 issue and called "Bunny & Clive." Can you help a brother out and post those pics? It's my porn mag pilgrimmage.

    1. It's definitely in the September 1977 issue but sadly I don't have that one (and it's $95 from my usual dealer). Try a request on Vintage Erotica Forum here -