These posters are for trade purposes only and are not for sale. Please refer to my want list for things that are of interest.
The 1920s saw it all, from unparalleled economic growth to deepest depression (hmmm, why does that sound familiar?), and the movie industry also experienced as radical a change. Artists and craftspeople like F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, and others (not forgetting about those early women directors like Olga Preobrazhenskaya) proved silent cinema to be a legitimate form of artistic expression with films like "Sunrise," "Metropolis," and scores of other masterpieces.
The decade closed not only with the start of the Great Depression, but with the advent of talking pictures. And boy, did they talk. Burdened by enormously clunky cameras, microphones, and sound recorders, all the progress made in the previous years virtually disappeared as the early talkies were stagebound and enamored with the sound of their own newly audible voices.
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|I VITA SLAVHANDLARNAS KLOR (aka WEISSE SKLAVIN, DIE(?), aka IN THE CLAWS OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE) (c. 1927) - Nothing spells
box-office smash like white slavery. Some of the century's earliest hit films depicted the sad story of poor white wimmin who are lured into
harlotry by (usually) non-white savages. This is no exception. Almost certainly Germany's "Die Weisse Sklavin," this tale involves
evil arab sheiks against the fair maidens.
This fabulous Swedish poster boils it all down to the literal basics.
|IT (1927) - Nobody personified the Roaring ‘20s better than Clara Bow. What’s even better is to have a poster from the film that made her a huge star, 1927’s “It,” featuring lowly shop girl Clara exiting from a glistening Minerva Town Car (the Rolls Royce of Belgium!) about to enter a swanky eatery where she’s got her sights set on the wealthy best friend of her current feckless escort.
Bow was the living embodiment of “It,” the concept popularized by writer Elinor Glyn in a series of tawdry (for the day) ‘romance’ novels which became the de facto standard for jazz babies and flapper girls around the world. Glyn even makes an appearance in “It” when she pontificates on the exact notion in the same restaurant. Rumors that she had a facelift especially for the occasion have not been confirmed, but there’s no doubt that Glyn had a bit of a wild streak in her earlier years cavorting with all sorts of minor royalty, creating scandals wherever she went. Moving briefly to Hollywood to write for pictures, she had a profound influence on both the culture and in helping to create some of the biggest stars of the era, which in addition to Bow included Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino.
Original release jumbo lobby card.
|TAMILLA (c, 1927) - This poster is a bit of a puzzle. Created for an as yet unidentified film by Turkish director Muhsin Ertugrul (aka
Mukhsin Bey), it has a distinct lack of standard soviet era distributor markings, but the Vufku film collective is given a credit. Susan Pack's
seminal "Film Posters of the Russian Avant-Garde" shows a different style "Tamilla" poster created by the Stenberg Brothers. When I bought this,
it was attributed to
Iosif Gerasimovich, and interestingly, Pack's book shows a photo of Gerasimovich with Georgii Stenberg working beneath a copy
of the Stenberg version. It is unsigned and could certainly be by Gerasimovich, but the Stenberg Brothers influence is clearly visible.
Muhsin Ertugrul was quite literally, the only film director in Turkey from 1923 to 1939 and is generally credited with creating the Turkish film industry. This film was probably made in the Ukraine, which might explain the poster as well. It could possibly have been created for the SSRs, outside of the usual Russian distribution channels.
|BABY RYAZANSKIE (aka VILLAGE DU PECHE aka THE WOMEN OF RYAZAN) (1927) - Original French release
for the Soviet era Russian film.
Olga Preobrazhenskaya was one of the earliest woman directors to achieve consistent success. It perhaps goes without saying that she started as an actress, but she was also able to direct or co-direct a number of films from the earliest days of the revolution right up to the start of the Great Patriotic War. This film (along with her original version of "Quiet Flows the Don") is probably the pinnacle of her career. The story concerns a traditional (and no doubt loyal to the revolution) young girl who is brutally raped and impregnated by her (clearly counter-revolutionary) father-in-law. Tough stuff, handled convincingly.
Preobrazhenskaya can perhaps be compared with Hollywood's Alla Nazimova, operating around the same time and with the same need for personal artistry that allowed them both to compete with the old comrade's network. For a time.
|LOVE (1927) - Restored borders and portion of Garbos hat and curtain.
In the midst of her mad affair with co-star (and sometime director) John Gilbert, Greta Garbo takes her first crack at Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina." Rapidly becoming an icon of the silent screen, Garbo scandalized the nation with her torrid romance with equally popular leading man Gilbert, and they did a series of films together. Material from "Love" is surprisingly hard to come by, and this is certainly one of the better lobby card scenes showing their first meeting.
Maybe it's just me, but John Gilbert's leer sort of skeevs me out, but to his defense, the youthful Garbo is extraordinarily beautiful.
|NAPOLEON - (R1981) Original re-release Program.
Shown in all its glory, Abel Gance's "Napoleon" had a triumphal screening at the Los Angeles Shrine. The three screen masterpiece was presented with a full orchestra sitting with the audience. A true moment in time for film history, and this is the actual program audience members received.
|GANG WAR (1928) - One of the earliest transitional sound gangster films, Gang War was originally made as a silent but the actors were called back to add a few dialog sequences once sound became the rage. Currently a lost film, it’s difficult to know how it would stand up to some of the early underworld classics like Public Enemy but the somewhat hackneyed plot about a low rent sax player falling in love with a gangster’s moll probably didn’t cause audiences to swoon, although there was ample gun play and the novelty of synched sound to keep them entertained.
More interesting – and sad – were the fates of the two stars, Jack Pickford and Olive Borden. Pickford, the reprobate brother of America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford, made this his motion picture swan song before succumbing to the ravages of drink, drugs, and syphilis a few years later. Poor Olive Borden didn’t fare much better although she did last a few years longer than Jack. Making a fatal career mistake, she refused a pay cut and was dropped by the studios and was thus doomed to smaller and smaller bit parts until, also a victim of the bottle, she dropped dead in her mother’s mission on skid row.
Needless to say, this original release lobby card has quite a story to tell.
|PACE THAT KILLS (1928) - Willis Kent tackled the grim road of cocaine abuse twice, this lobby card is from his first,
Lured into the sorrow and degradation of drug and alcohol abuse (remember, prohibition was in full force) a country rube has fallen in with a bad crowd, clearly shown by the fit of modern dancing fueled by the magical dancing powder. Oh, mother, the horror!
Equally inappropriate border art shows more morally questionable activities including martini making and dancing to African-American jazz musicians. Is it any wonder hard drugs could have been far behind?
|PACE THAT KILLS, THE (c. 1928) - Once again, I'm unsure if this is for the silent or sound version, but my current thinking is
it's from the silent version.
A wonderful Spanish language flyer showing the octopus tentacles art used in overseas markets, at least I've seen a version of it done on a pre-war Belgian poster as well. Printed in Cuba.
|PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC, LA (aka PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, THE) (R. 1978) - Carl Th. Dreyer's magnificent retelling of the final
hours of Joan of Arc is one of the landmarks in silent cinema. Filmed almost entirely in close-up, it is an emotional roller coaster as the
audience is forced right into the deliberations about the fate of the Maid of Orleans, no detachment is allowed.
This is an original French re-release grande that beautifully portrays the sublime Falconetti, in her only major film, as the doomed martyr.
|RESTLESS YOUTH (1928) - Wrongly expelled from her college for alleged trampy behavior, Marceline has to go to work for a temp agency where she falls in love with the attorney son of the man who gave her the boot at college. Goaded by the old man into dropping his son, she tries to convince the young lawyer it’s over by pretending to have a new interest in the head of her employment agency, creepy Robert Ellis. The plan works impeccably, except that Ellis starts to get a little too friendly with Marceline and she has to brain him with an urn, leading to her arrest and trial for murder. This original release lobby card portrays the moment just prior to Ellis’ demise, where he starts to get grabby with poor Marceline.
Younger sister to Alice Day, both women had significant careers in silent Hollywood. Marceline even appeared with Lon Chaney in London After Midnight but was eventually reduced to minor roles after sound came in. Sadly, Restless Youth is now a lost film, so do check your attic.
|SHOW FOLKS (aka BA TA CLAN) (1928) - Early sound talkie/singie/dancie backstage musical drama starring Eddie Quillan, Lina Basquette, and a
very young Carole Lombard.
This French grande shows a wonderful scene between Basquette and the hobbit-sized Quillan, although I must say her scandalous attire is certainly only appropriate for the French speaking world. Ooh la la!
|CHIEN ANDALOU, UN (aka AN ANDALUSIAN DOG) (R. 1968) - The film that put Luis Bunuel (in partnership with surrealist painter Salvador Dali)
on the cinematic map. Causing near riots when it was first released, no formal poster art is known. This is from it's first traditional release in
it's country of origin, France. Showing many of the scenes that so scandalized those early patrons (including the infamous razor-to-the-eye scene),
this is a virtual retelling of the film on a single piece of paper.
Original French "half grande."
|DANCE OF LIFE, THE (1929) – Based on the hugely successful Broadway play, Burlesque, whose story was tailor made for the early sound period - which relied heavily on backstage and showgirl chronicles so that popular music could be easily injected into their plotlines since nobody had as yet figured out how to place music and story as an integrated whole into a film. Paramount brought several members of the New York cast to Hollywood, including male lead Hal Skelly, to recreate their roles but in an oversight of epic proportions failed to offer the Broadway show's ingénue, Barbara Stanwyck, the female lead, replacing her with the already established Nancy Carroll. The story is the prototypical hubby makes it big with help from dutiful wife who then gets dumped until the end when hubby is a washed up drunk. Ah, show business…
Just as it had on Broadway, the role of Skid Johnson made Hal Skelly a movie star as well as a theater sensation, unfortunately, Skelly’s dance of life would be a brief one. Coming off several self-produced Broadway flops, Skelly went for a vacation at the home of Maj. Merwin Lee near West Cornwall, CT. During his stay the Major’s Saint Bernard dog went missing so Skelly and the household’s maid went looking for it in a light truck borrowed from the estate. The duo inexplicably stopped on a railroad crossing and, as anybody but apparently Skelly would have expected, were summarily turned into human pancakes by a speeding passenger train that sent their mangled car over 600’ down the tracks before coming to a disintegrated stop. Happily, the dog returned the next day.
This is an original release jumbo lobby card, featuring Skelly, Nancy Carroll, and May Boley reading the good news telegram from Mr. Ziegfeld that sends Skid to the big time and leaves poor Nancy out in the sticks.
|DEVIL'S APPLE TREE, THE (1929) - Original release lobby card.
A lost film, "The Devil's Apple Tree" was a pre-Code pot-boiler with a screenplay by female writer Lillian Ducey, who was noted for her semi-lurid 'women's stories.' Telling the tale of a mail order bride who, when she discovers that her future hubby is a loutish creep, switches places with another bride-to-be who has (apparently) died en route to the same island, with the same intended purpose. She falls in love with her new improved husband-to-be but complications arise when her dead shipmate arrives, very much not dead.
Shown here is star Dorothy Sebastian being pawed by the aforementioned creep, just before he leaves her as an entree for the local cannibal tribe. Sebastian's career never quite caught fire despite some early success at MGM, and she eventually went on to marry (and divorce) William Boyd and party with Buster Keaton sufficiently to get pulled over for drunk driving coming back from one of his dinners.
|IRON MASK, THE (1929) - Original release lobby card.
Douglas Fairbanks revisits "The Three Musketeers" with this version of the story of the king in the iron mask. One of the hybrid films of the late silent, early sound era, it was released with a few spoken "interludes" and a synchronized musical score with sound effects, marking it as Fairbanks' last "silent" film, and one of his last films, period.
This is a real treat for swashbuckling fans, as few lobbies show Fairbanks doing what he did best, thrilling audiences with feats of athleticism and daring, done completely without CGI effects, with a very real risk to his health and safety. While his insurance agent would cringe, these moments of daring-do thrilled audiences of the day and made Fairbanks one of the most successful and highly rewarded actors of the '20s.
|LADY OF THE PAVEMENTS (1929) - Right around 1928 United Artists released a series of ‘personality’ posters for the stars of their current and upcoming features. Noted illustrator Charles W. Pancoast was selected for the task, and in addition to this stunning portrait of Lupe Velez, other actors and actresses portrayed were Eleanor Boardman, John Barrymore, Norma Talmadge, and Delores del Rio. This is an original poster from that series and is ~15 ¾ x 23 ¼”.
“Lady of the Pavements” was the last quasi-silent film directed by the pioneering giant and co-founder of United Artists, D.W. Griffith. Destined by his melodramatic style for the same obscurity that many of his favorite stars were headed for once sound became prevalent, this film is in many ways Griffith’s swan song. Quickly reworked to include a synchronized soundtrack, “Lady of the Pavements” is a fitting end to the master’s career, telling the tale of a lower caste chanteuse plucked from her cabaret into the world of princes and princesses, it definitely foreshadows such classics as “My Fair Lady,” made decades later.
Perfectly cast as the singer was young Lupe Velez, making her first marks in Hollywood, and shown here at her sultriest best in the slinky nightgown she wears in the film. Plagued by a tempestuous personality, Velez would become known by a series of high profile love affairs, marriages, and divorces, but she also achieved a legitimate stardom on her own via her later “Mexican Spitfire” films. Things would not end well for Lupe though. When she became pregnant out of wedlock with the child of a nothing actor who refused to marry her, Velez took her own life at the age of 36.
|LOVE PARADE, THE (1929) - "The Love Parade" is thought of as the first true screen musical because of the way the songs
were integrated into the story, as opposed to the sound musicals prior to it which generally just included music performances unrelated
to the plot. Also interesting since it is the first sound film of master director Ernst Lubitsch.
Even more, it was the first film for star Jeanette MacDonald who was teamed up with French sensation Maurice Chevalier for what would be the first of four major musicals at Paramount together. Despite their on-screen chemistry, MacDonald could barely stand Chevalier and considered him vulgar and crude, perhaps because he made continuous passes at her. For his part, Chevalier eventually referred to MacDonald as "the Iron Butterfly," so you can see how they'd be nuts about each other. Jeanette was much happier working with human mannequin Nelson Eddy in later years.
Overlooked by cineastes and overshadowed by the Warner Bros. musicals directed by Busby Berkeley, these early Paramount musicals are arguably as influential as anything from Warners. Both "Love Parade" and films like "Love Me Tonight" (also with Chevalier and MacDonald) invented and stretched the conventions available to future filmmakers working in the genre. The "Let's Be Common" number starring the astonishing Lillian Roth and Lupino Lane easily rivals the intense physical dances done by Gene Kelly or Donald O'Connor decades later.
This original release window card, while slightly trimmed at the top, does include the full feather in Chevalier's cap and is actually rather amazing when seen in person. If a nightingale, could sing like him...
|RABMADAR (aka PRISONER #7, aka PRISONNIERE NO. 7, aka CAGED BIRD) (c. 1929) - Pre-war Belgian poster on linen.
While it is probably impossible to know for sure, it seems likely that this is for the Hungarian made "Rabmadar." One of the earliest examples of a native Hungarian cinema, it was directed by Lajos Lázár and Pál Sugár. As was common, foreign, in this case German, stars were used to boost box-office potential. Obviously this would not be a problem since this was still a silent film, so who would know if they sounded funny?
|SUNSET PASS (aka POLITISPIONEN) (c, 1929) - A beautiful and dramatic Danish poster on linen.
The first, silent version of the Zane Grey classic that was filmed 2 more times. It's Jack Holt versus the rustlers, not exactly straying too far from western conventions, but it was atypically filmed on location in Navajo country.
|WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU (aka DIE WEISSE HOLLE VOM PIZ PALU) (1929) - Quite possibly the best "mountain movie" ever made, combining
the directorial talents of G.W. Pabst and, inventor of the genre, Dr. Arnold Fanck, who is regrettably called "Fauck" on this window card.
Star Leni Riefenstahl is pictured prominently, along with the flying aerobatics of World War I flying ace Ernst Udets. There can be little doubt that Riefenstahl was heavily influenced by her involvement with Fanck and the mountain movies. Much of what she did, particularly in films like "Olympia," have direct trails back to these earlier films. Mountain movies are a testament to the triumph of the will of the filmmakers, who hauled heavy cameras and gear up the sides of mountains that would make even modern climbers take pause.
Material from the original silent Universal release is very hard to come by. Initially released in 1930 in the US, just as the public had almost completely given up on silent films, it was later released as a sound film with narration by NBC radio personality, Graham McNamee, to much derision.
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