Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weasels on the Cover of Weird Tales

Okay, so this a weird category, but I wanted to get at something and so here we are. There are two weasel covers for Weird Tales. They're actually ermine covers, but with weasel and weird, you get some alliteration and a snappier title. Anyway, here they are, both for the same story, "John Cawder's Wife" by P. Schuyler Miller.

Weird Tales, May 1943. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales Canadian edition, September 1943. Cover art by an unknown artist.

This is what I wanted to get at: When I looked at this cover today, an image leapt into my mind, that of Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in that famous, minutes-long, unbroken scene in the shipboard stateroom in The Lady Eve (1941). The woman in this picture looks like Barbara Stanwyck and the man looks like Henry Fonda, and they seem to be in the same arrangement, more or less, as in that scene . . . except that they aren't. I misremembered the scene, and so what I had thought was a discovery--that the unknown artist here worked from a movie still from The Lady Eve--actually isn't. Anyway, Margaret Brundage's cover design has its merits, chiefly its fine psychological portrait of a woman. The Canadian version, on the other hand, has a distinctly 1940s glamour and gloss. (It's what made me think of a Hollywood movie.) To me it's gorgeous, a portrait of hair as much as anything. (I have always wondered what the top of those 1940s women's hairdos looked like . . . )

As a bonus, here is Leonardo da Vinci's version of the lady with an ermine, from 1490, executed for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milano, and now pretty well acknowledged as a portrait of his mistress, Cecilia Gallerani. I have never seen this painting, the real thing that is, but I have visited il castello Sforzesco in Milano more than once. It is one of my favorite places in that city of excitement and wonder.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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