We're celebrating two festive occasions in this December gift package: playboy's Sixth Anniversary as defender of the sophisticated young man's credo and, of course, another sugar-plummish, martini-lined Christmas season. In this, the bulkiest issue in our history, we've included more holiday diversions than you can shake a sprig of mistletoe at. For strictly seasonal savor, try Playboy's Christmas Cards, unlike any you're likely to receive. For tips on easy-to-cook, happy-to-eat yuletide feasts, devour The Christmas Casserole, by Thomas Mario. For anticipating the gifts-under-the-tree scene, accept our Invitation to a Playboy Christmas, a stunning array of gifts — from sweater to ship — offered for your inspiration.
Those who liked our October takeout on kissing may sit still to hear what we've learned on a related and seasonal subject, mistletoe. First of all, and probably very important to the mistletoe itself, is the happy fact that there are male and female mistletoe plants. If you remember your Virgil, you may recall mistletoe was the "golden bough" that enabled Aeneas literally to go to Hell (and return safely). The ancient Druids of Britain, who built the great, mysterious monuments at Stonehenge, called mistletoe all heal, for they believed it would cure every kind of disease and act as an antidote for sundry poisons. (On the other hand, modern botanists warn that mistletoe itself is poisonous; the berries anyway.) Among other ancient benefits, an administration of an elixir of mistletoe was believed to overcome sterility in man or woman, relieve spasms and epilepsy, banish a stitch in the side or a crick in the back, reduce enlargement of the liver and spleen and relieve tumultuous action of the heart.
The Gang's All Here is a broad political cartoon given lifelike dimension by forceful writing and a castful of honest performances. This is a thinly disguised reprise of the Warren G. Harding administration, with its Teapot Dome scandal, its record of theft and bribery in high places, even its whisper of a President's extramarital follies. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (dramatists of Auntie Mame and Inherit the Wind) have turned the unsavory chronicle into a modern morality play, compelling by the sheer force of its dramatic urgency. As the 29th President, Griffith P. Hastings is a fine white-hair-haloed figure of a man (Melvyn Douglas makes up to look a little like Harding) and a political bumpkin with less talent for steering the ship of state than a drunken sailor. Hastings is nominated as a compromise candidate by a cozy cartel of party bosses who know which breadwinner can be buttered best. Elected, the hopelessly inadequate Chief of State forms a cabinet from among his poker-playing, boozing cronies. What these inimical intimates do to him and the national economy is blacker than the headlines that first streamed the news more than three decades ago. Director George Roy Hill skillfully rides herd on the inevitable clichés that are occupational hazards in any drama of crooked deals and "smoke-filled" rooms, but it is Melvyn Douglas who gives The Gang's All Here its guts and gusto and its small, sharp edge of poignance. An amiable, almost incredibly ingenuous fall-guy in the beginning, he becomes a genuinely pathetic figure of bewilderment as he reads A Boy's Book of the Presidents in search of another as inadequate as he. Douglas is staunchly supported by Jean Dixon as his enigmatic First Lady, and by E. G. Marshall, Paul McGrath, Arthur Hill, Bert Wheeler and Victor Kiliam as the men closest to the embattled White House. In the end, a tortured man, as he rises at last to denounce his nefarious friends to the press, his ignoble career ends in 45 seconds of true greatness. At the Ambassador, 215 West 49th St., NYC.
Miles Davis' latest LP, Kind of Blue (Columbia 1355), is marvelous. It's as simple and as unqualified as that. The fragile-toned trumpeter and his empathic companions — alto man Julian Adderley. tenor man John Coltrane, pianist Bill Evans (Wynton Kelly sits in for Evans on one track), bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb — exploit five Davis inventions, all quite uninvolved and all quite exquisite. Two ballads — Blue in Green and Flamenco Sketches — are Louvre-level objects d'art. A blues — Freddie Freeloader — is played without the inclusion of a single cliché. Davis, despite his imperfect technique and pipsqueak sound, is at his imaginative grandest and so ;are Coltrane and Adderley. Evans is the best young pianist in jazz. In fact, it's one of those rare jazz LPs every buff should own. And, by the way, Davis fans will want to pick up Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (Prestige 7150), reissued recordings originally cut in 1954 and 1956, featuring the trumpeter with Milt Jackson, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Coltrane and others. Historically valid stuff, as they say in the jazz periodicals.
In Odds Against Tomorrow (refreshingly small screen, black, and white) director Robert Wise examines the robbery of a small-town bank by three diverse types united by a craving for riches. Hatching the plot is Ed Begley, a deposed cop seeking vengeance for a year in the hoosegow, compliments of a crime investigating committee. Begley convinces Robert Ryan, a morbid ex-con, that the bank job is a pushover. Belafonte, a singer in debt to a loan shark, enlists. too. From pre-robbery huddles through the botched bank-crashing, the camera peers at the conflict between Negro-hating Southern white trash Ryan and ofayresenting slickster Belafonie. and Begley's good-guy efforts to make them forget the color of each other's pelts. When Begley is cut down by police, Belafonte and Ryan clash and the two die, gun fighting, in a fire created by a stray bullet sparking an oil tank. The police, naturally, can't tell Belafonle from Ryan. No-surprise moral: we're all the same when we're charred. Begley and Ryan manage their roles with handy competence, but Balafonte. as is his unfortunate wont when he essays a straight thespian chore, is strangely stiff, brings to the role little of the loose-limbed ease of Harry the Singer. The other members of the cast, including Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame as two of Ryan's conquests, do their best, which helps. But most of the creative vigor is in the background music, composed by the Modern Jazz Quartet's John Lewis, and the sharp photography of Joseph Brun.
Gift-tome extraordinaire: the startling Observations (Simon &: Schuster, $15) of Iensman Richard Avedon, with text by Truman Capote. In this voluptuous volume, Avedon's camera catches close-ups, most of them delineating every pore and crinkle of the subject's skin, of the greats of the creative arts: writers (Carson McCullers), actors (Humphrey Bogart), painters (Bernard Buffet), dancers (Escudero), composers (Igor Stravinsky), singers (Marion Anderson), directors (René Clair), designers (Gabrielle Chanel), comedians (Bobby Clark), poets (Marianne Moore) and playwrights (Arthur Miller). In all, there are nearly 100 probing camera portraits to delight the eye. Capote's commentary is lucid and witty, suffers the one drawback of not being integrated with the photos; thus, one reads about Cesare Zavattini whilst a puckish Charlie Chaplin stares out from the facing page. Enough carping: this is a thing of beauty.
The art of begifting your pretty paramours is an acquired one, yet is not difficult of acquisition if you go about it right. The knowing gentleman, before he rings up his Christmas belles for an invitation to play Santa, makes certain he reflects his astute understanding of their tastes and desires by the gifts he bestows on each and every damsel on his list. The key to it all rests within the women themselves.
Around the poolhalls of Denver during World War II a strange looking boy began to be noticeable to the characters who frequented the places afternoon and night and even to the casual visitors who dropped in for a game of snookers after supper when all the tables were busy in an atmosphere of smoke and great excitement and a continual parade passed in the alley from the backdoor of one poolroom on Glenarm Street to the backdoor of another — a boy called Dean Moriarty, the son of a Larimer Street wino. Where he came from nobody knew or at first cared. Older heroes of other generations had darkened the walls of the poolhalls long before Dean got there; memorable eccentrics, great poolsharks, even killers, jazz musicians, traveling salesmen, anonymous frozen bums who came in on winter nights to sit an hour by the heat never to be seen again, among whom (and not to be remembered by anyone because there was no one there to keep a love check on the majority of the boys as they swarmed among themselves year by year with only casual but sometimes haunted recognition of faces, unless strictly local characters from around the corner) was Dean Moriarty Sr. who in his hobo life that was usually spent stumbling around other parts of town had somehow stumbled in here and sat in the same old bench which was later to be occupied by his son in desperate meditations on life.
At the outset, let anyone who still looks upon the casserole as merely a trencher for bulky peasants' food remind himself of squab en casserole, coq au vin, breast of chicken with broccoli Mornay or cassoulet of duckling. For holiday chefs who, each year, rebel more and more against oversize roasting pans, tough giblets and mountainous bread dressings, such dishes are the staunchest sort of ally, because they combine the heights of both elegance and ease.
In Spain, a land of ardent religiosity, at Christmas, when such ardor burns brightest, a certain play is performed in theatres throughout the nation. To be present in the audience at these times is an unforgettable experience. A ripple of restlessness runs through the spectators every time the main character steps on stage. There is scattered applause, excited murmuring; and then a wave of voices rises to snatch the familiar lines from the actor's mouth. The actor smiles and bows, pleased at having evoked such response, and he speaks unheard as the many voices of his audience intone the verses for him in a swaying, swelling litany.
About the middle of the winter the committee of one of the best-known tennis clubs in our town decided to give a grand Gala Ball. The committee, which consisted of Messrs. Lucini, Mastrogiovanni, Costa, Ripandelli and Micheli, set aside a certain sum of money for providing champagne and other drinks and refreshments, and for the hire of a good band, and then went on to draw up a list of those who should be invited. The members of the club belonged for the most part to the class which is commonly called the upper middle class; they were all of them the offspring of rich and respected families and — since one has to have a job of some kind — they all carried on the appearance, anyhow, of some profession or other: and so it was not difficult to assemble, from amongst relations, friends and acquaintances, an adequate number of names, many of which were preceded by titles of nobility of secondary importance but nonetheless decorative that would later give an aristocratic luster to the event in the society columns of the newspapers. At the last moment, however, when there was nothing left to be done but send out the invitations, there suddenly arose — as generally happens — an unforeseen difficulty.
Both Men were dressed in frock coats, striped pants and flowing black silk ties. One was fragile and fawn-eyed, the other paunchy. The paunchy one stood up as Swifty entered the room. "Señor Elling-boe?" he said. "I am Blasco Diaz. And this is the celebrated pianist Nestor Del Campo of whom I have the honor to be manager."
Southern Pines, North Carolina, is one of the oldest, most venerated, most active and most colorfully dedicated hunts in the nation. The township is also beautiful to look upon (rolling, lovely country, part wooded, with open stretches, hilltops, glades and vales), rich, insular and inhabited for the most part by men and women of immense vitality whose vocation and fondest love is the hunt. From the day that summer's heat abates until spring zephyrs gentle the hot blood, these Nimrods and Dianas live to hunt — but definitely not vice versa. Such mundane activities as earn-ing a living, such plebeian pursuits as going to an office, are as foreign to them as to the dramatis personae of a stylish Victorian novel about the British aristocracy.
A girl can't hold down a position as legal secretary with a pleasing appearance and a head full of feathers, so our December Playmate Ellen Stratton is further proof, if proof be needed, that a girl can be bright and beautiful at the same time. Ellen has worked for a leading West Coast law office for the past 2 1/2 years, and confides that her secret ambition is to be a lady lawyer. How do Ellen's lawyer bosses feel about her appearance as Playboy's Playmate of the Month? They dig it. So, gentlemen of the jury, we are prepared to testify that we've a serious case on Ellen Stratton and any objections will be promptly overruled as soon as you've considered Exhibit A, her full-color Playmate pose attached hereto.
It was the social event of the season: the identical twin sons of a wealthy oil tycoon married the twin daughters of a millionaire textile manufacturer. Unfortunately, all four of the newlyweds got very drunk on their wedding night. Now, a year later, the newly arrived offspring are listed in Who's Who, but nobody is really sure who's whose.
It is a well-known fact that Americans are the best bridge players in the world. In any major tournament they are going to walk off with the top prize. And if, by some chance, they are nudged out of first place, it can only be by reason of some fluke, some tough break in the cards. This is an article of national faith.
One of the Most Terrifying sequences in 1984, George Orwell's prophetic novel about Big Brother and the dictatorship of the future, concerns the governmental department that rewrites history. Whenever facts or the truth conflict with the official opinion or line of the State or the Ruler, those facts are changed, the truth is destroyed, lies are substituted, history is rewritten.
If "imitation," as Charles Caleb Colton first said, "is the sincerest of flattery," then Brigitte Bardot, sans doute, is the most sincerely flattered girl in a nation with a well-worn reputation for flattering girls. Today, in France, talented young directors and producers like Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, Joseph Lisbona and Jean-Pierre Mocky (none of whom is over 35) are throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the search for sexy young starlets; these latter are springing from the screen like so many shapely mushrooms — and never have so many owed so much to one girl. There was a time, and not too long ago, when the puckish pulchritude of la belle BB was considered a commodity suitable only for export. Frenchmen, blase producers reasoned, were far too sophisticated to go ga-ga over a girl as did the naive natives of the U.S.A. Turned out that the titans of cinema were themselves naive in underestimating the power of BB's properties and pout. Frenchmen loved her, naturally; also, the foreign reaction was unexpectedly overwhelming in its approval and its box-office dividends. The reaction of the French film makers was predictable: the one who owned BB hastened to make a flurry of films starring her; the others began to find as many reasonable facsimiles as possible and push them before the cameras immediately, scarcely giving them time to undress. For what has been borrowed is not only Brigitte's appearance — the long hair, the pouting child-woman attitude, the body ripe unto bursting — but also Bardot's modus operandi: the scripts for the films in which these BB echoers appear invariably call for the exposure of excellent expanses of Gallic goodies, and a tastefully titillating sexual tussle or two. Of the hot host of imitators, the young ladies whose faces ornament the top of this page are perhaps the most promising. They are, reading clockwise from bottom left: Mylène Demongeot, Isabell Corey, Pascale Petit, Pascale Audret, Daniele Gaubert, Jacqueline Sassard, Annette Vadim and Agnès Laurent. Competition in the Bardot Derby has made cinematic attitudes in France swing around full circle; of recent date one film, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Roger Vadim (the man most responsible for BB's meteoric rise, and her first husband), starring his present wife, Annette, was edited, given a permit "for adults only," and, temporarily at least, denied an export permit — which, ironically enough, meant that it was for domestic consumption only. Where will it all end? No one really knows. BB's happy lack of inhibition has started a jolly snowballing trend, with the end in sight literally but not figuratively. What does the future hold in store for the Bardot-appreciative movie public? In this area, we are prepared to offer what seems to us to be a safe prediction. Unless we miss our guess, we can expect shortly to be inundated by a series of films in which the BB imitators we've mentioned, and others besides, will attempt to outdo the original and each other in charm, provocation, and the exposure of overall femininity (you'll find sample scenes on the next pages). For men of clear vision, it's an unexpected cinematic harvest. Especially in light of the season, the more, say we, the merrier.
Robert De Saint-Fal, a dashing young captain of the Dragoons, was infatuated with a damsel named Nancy who was beyond all doubt the fairest in the whole city of Paris or in its suburbs. Although she was haughty and cared only for plumes and trinkets, her aloofness made him more aflame than ever. "Nancy," he cried, "can you have no pity on my burning love?"
Squaw Valley, California, will have a revue Internationale in February, when snow-sportsmen and salubrious squaws from throughout the world invade that Sierra Nevada wonderland to compete in, and observe, the eighth Olympic Winter Games (February 18 through 28). While Red Nichols and his glistening Five Pennies welcome tourists at Lake Tahoe's Harrah's Club (just a sleigh ride away), the weather will be brisk and the competition invigorating in the valley, as Olympic skiers, skaters and hockey stars glide over the ice and snow. The Olympic staff, working wildly for more than three years, guarantees reasonably priced accommodations and an around-the-world menu.