WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN MAY 1950:
 
 

One of the records that defined the pop novelty era of the early 1950’s, If I’d Knew You Were Coming (I’d’ve Baked A Cake) is the most played song on radio this month and one of the biggest hits released to date on an independent label, National Records, which had been predominantly geared towards black artists and audiences prior to this.

The insipid drivel was sung by Eileen Barton, complete with a childish spoken intro and an artificial cheeriness that went far beyond being simply cloying as it practically assaulted listeners with a nauseating chirpy attitude that was far too sincere in its delivery to be seen as the humorous send-up it might otherwise have tried to claim.
 


 
 

The 25 year old Barton was no stranger to contrived humor as she was the daughter of Vaudeville performers who’d made her debut on stage before she turned three years old. Within a few years she was a radio star appearing weekly with Milton Berle and by 8 she had her very own show.

Though she transitioned out of comedic singing by her teens, appearing on Broadway and then becoming one of Frank Sinatra’s supporting acts on both radio and stage in the mid-1940’s, she was essentially a show-biz veteran by the time she turned twenty, willing and able to handle any type of material, straight or humorous whether singing or acting, which made her a natural for this type of song where all of those traits would be called on.

While Barton never matched its success she had a few more hits over the next couple of years before switching primarily to nightclub work for the rest of her career. She died in 2006 at the age of 81 having never received a cent in royalties for her ignominious smash hit.

 
 
 
 
 

The Nineteen Fifties ushers in the onrushing space age with a flood of science fiction releases across all forms of media.

Among the first – and one of the best – was the book The Martian Chronicles, which provides an episodic look at the colonization of Mars in the early 21st Century which touches on virtually all of humanities foibles as intrepid explores move to Mars to escape an Earth that’s been ravaged by an atomic war, in the process wiping out the existing peaceful populace of the red planet and systematically taking it over and attempting to remake it in their own image.

The novel consisted of previously published short stories by Ray Bradbury dating back four years which he was convinced to assemble for a novel under a single title with a few newly written “bridge stories” to give it more cohesion. This resulted in the book’s unusual structure in which there’s only a few sporadic continuing characters as the tale unfolds over a quarter century, but the resulting work is more powerful as a result allowing the individual “chapters” to each have something different to say about man’s egotism and disrespect for other lands stemming from their more admirable ambitions to make better lives for themselves.

The book was among the first in the science fiction genre to be treated as something more than merely escapist fantasy and was widely praised by literary critics as being important work regardless of genre.

The Martian’s hands were empty too. For a moment they looked across the cool air at each other.

It was Tomás who moved first.

“Hello” he called.

“Hello!” called the Martian in his own language.

They did not understand each other.

“Did you say hello?” they both asked.

“What did you say?” they said, each in a different tongue.

They scowled.

“Who are you?” said Tomás in English.

“What are you doing here?” In Martian; the stranger’s lips moved.
 


 

Following its publication the 29 year old Bradbury rocketed to stardom and would go on to be one of the Twentieth Century’s most celebrated authors and the one credited with bringing science fiction into the popular consciousness.

 
 
 

In a far less serious look at the adventure of interstellar exploration, the cheap exploitation film Rocketship X-M reaches theaters, becoming the first outer space movie of the post-war era.

The cheap black and white popcorn flick has a vaguely similar story to Bradbury’s tale, although the initial goal of the expedition is to reach the earth’s moon but through a series of errors the spaceship winds up on Mars where it encounters an alien civilization decimated by war.

Like the future United States space program itself which raced with the Soviets to be the first into outer space a decade later, the movie industry was aware of the rising interest in the topic and were competing to see who could bring the story to the screen first.

There was great publicity surrounding the making of a rival production, Destination Moon, shot in color with much higher budget, which seemed the smart bet to launch the genre with a major hit. But when production delays set back its release Lippert Pictures swept in to film Rocketship X-M in just 18 days for a measly $94,000 and rush-released it to beat the higher quality picture to the theaters by 25 days.

Despite its limited budget and many scientific flaws, the film had a host of actors who’d go on to be quite well known, particularly on television, led by Lloyd Bridges, Hugh O’Brian and Noah Beery Jr. and its status as the first sci-fi film of the space age has given it a long afterlife.

 
 
 
 

Diners Club issues its first credit cards ushering in the “buy now, pay later” mentality which allowed common everyday people to run up debt like the big shots of industry and high finance.

The cards hardly had the trappings of high society as they were actually made out of cardboard until 1961, and were initially accepted at just 27 participating restaurants for which the cardholders paid a $5 annual fee.

These modest beginnings however launched the multi-purpose credit era, wherein customers were beholden to the card issuer rather than the proprietor of the restaurant, hotel or store where they used the card.

By the end of the year 20,000 people had joined Diners Club and the following year they more than doubled that.

 
 
 
 

One of film history’s quintessential caper pictures, The Asphalt Jungle debuts in theaters featuring a rogue’s gallery of familiar faces who never quite became stars, yet who chew scenery like a tough steak at a cheap all-night diner.

Sterling Hayden plays the film’s glowering hooligan while Sam Jaffe is the quirky business-like mastermind of the plot, Doc Reidenschnider, recently released from prison where he concocted an airtight plan to rob a jewelry store. But as always happens with such criminal enterprises (see the Brinks Robbery case from earlier this year), the human flaws of the criminals involved slowly unravel their scheme.

From the conceit of the crooked lawyer Emmerich, the financier behind the job, played by Louis Calhern, whose insecure attempts to impress his mistress (a scene stealing Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest roles) leads him to overstate his hand, to the weakness for young girls that plagues the otherwise efficient Reidenschnider, the crooks inevitable fall is as excruciating to watch as the plotting and crime itself is riveting.

Directed with a leisurely eye-for-detail by John Huston and featuring as tense a heist sequence that had yet been seen on film and served as the prototype for all which followed in that vein, the picture earned four Academy Award nominations – for Huston’s direction and script, Jaffe’s cool eccentric performance and the brilliant black and white cinematography.
 
 

 
 
 

We’re three years away from Playboy magazine hitting the newsstands, nineteen years away from a mainstream X-rated movie being shown in theaters and almost a half century away from the wonderful world of the internet bringing pornography right into your very own home so you don’t even have to put your pants on to go out to acquire something worth taking them off for again, but if ever you were under the puritan belief that your great-grandparents treated sex as a thankless obligation required for procreation to lead to your eventual presence in this world, think again!

Graflex has taken a novel approach to selling their new Century Graphic Cameras… by showing you just what stimulating visual delights you’ll be able to preserve forever with their new model camera in this shocking ad focusing on raw carnal lust that graced the respectable pages of LIFE magazine!

Though her bare breasts are covered by the eye-catching headline telling you?… them?… all of us???… to STOP IT!, the picture clearly wants us to do no such thing. In fact it’s blatantly suggesting that the fun of owning a camera isn’t taking snapshots of little Billy dribbling baby food down his chin, or big sister Suzy opening her birthday presents surrounded by adoring family members, but rather the real benefit of these cameras is taking nude photos of your wife when she gets out of the swimming pool after skinny dipping, or maybe emerging from the shower while you lurk in the linen closet ready to surprise her by capturing those moments on film!

Action! Portraits! Family fun! Nothing escapes you with your Century camera!”

Having these X-rated keepsakes isn’t cheap though, as the Century Graphic Camera costs $99.50, though apparently that’s not too much to ask for homemade porn.

What they fail to mention of course is in 1950 film had to be professionally developed, usually by someone at your local drugstore, which means the old man behind the counter in the white apron selling you Band-Aids and toothpaste will soon be seeing your missus in a whole new light!

 
 
 

RECORDS REVIEWED FOR MAY 1950:

MR. GOOGLE EYES: Rock My Soul
MR. GOOGLE EYES: Cryin’ For You
SONNY THOMPSON: Frog Legs
SONNY THOMPSON: After Sundown
BIG JOE TURNER: Life Is Like A Card Game
BIG JOE TURNER: Just A Travelin’ Man
THE BLENDERS: Gone (My Baby’s Gone)
SMILEY LEWIS: Slide Me Down
SMILEY LEWIS: Growing Old
JOE THOMAS: Rollin’ The Blues
MEL WALKER (with JOHNNY OTIS): Dreamin’ Blues
MEL WALKER (with JOHNNY OTIS): Helpless
THEARD JOHNSON: Lost Love
ROY BROWN: Hard Luck Blues
ROY BROWN: New Rebecca
EARL BOSTIC: Serenade
TOMMY RIDGLEY: Boogie Woogie Mama
TOMMY RIDGLEY: Lonely Man Blues
EDDIE MACK: Heart Throbbing Blues
EDDIE MACK: How About That
LITTLE JOE GAINES: She Won’t Leave No More
LITTLE JOE GAINES: Snuff Dipper
AMOS MILBURN: Birmingham Bounce
AMOS MILBURN: I Love Her
CHRIS POWELL & THE FIVE BLUE FLAMES: Down In The Bottom
CHRIS POWELL & THE FIVE BLUE FLAMES: Hauntin’ Pinochle Blues
JEWEL KING: Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
JEWEL KING: Passion Blues
THE GREAT GATES: Evening Blues
GEORGE MILLER & HIS MID-DRIFFS: Boogie’s The Thing
GEORGE MILLER & HIS MID-DRIFFS: Bat-Lee Swing
JIMMY LIGGINS: Answer To Tear Drop Blues
JIMMY LIGGINS: That Song Is Gone
FATS DOMINO: She’s My Baby
FATS DOMINO: Hide Away Blues
COUSIN JOE: Chicken A La Blues
COUSIN JOE: Poor Man’s Blues
JOHNNY OTIS: Blues Nocturne
JOHNNY OTIS: New Orleans Shuffle
CHUBBY NEWSOME: Poor Dog
CHUBBY NEWSOME: Better Find A Job
JOE LUTCHER: Cool Down
JOE LUTCHER: Jumpin’ At The Mardi Gras
THE BLENDERS: Count Every Star
THE BLENDERS: Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart

 
 

PREVIOUS: APRIL 1950