These photographs are both for sale and for trade purposes. Please refer to my want list for things that are of interest, or how to buy for purchasing information.
If film is anything, it is a series of photographs. I have been slow to warm up to collecting cinema related photography, but I have finally come around. Several mega-collections have been thrown onto the market, and while the sheer quantity is at times overwhelming, it is an unprecedented opportunity to acquire significant images, particularly from early films which may be lost, that might not come around again for a long time.
Previous misgivings aside, in no way do I mean to minimize the artistry used to create these publicity images. The studios hired only the best photographers, and they could create scenes often more memorable that what was actually in the movie. Masters such as Hurrell, Bull, Hesser, Dyar, and many others created the looks that the world wanted to imitate. Studo photographers put the fine in fine photography, particularly in the larger format photos I seem to be leaning towards.
So I'm now collecting photos too. At least their easier to store than posters!
|ALLA NAZIMOVA, THE GARDEN OF ALLA by ARTHUR F. RICE (1922) - Photographers proof print, 9 1/2 x 11 3/4".
If the notations on the back of this are to be believed, and I see no reason why they shouldn't, this is an unusual photo of Nazimova at her legendary abode, The Garden of Alla, taken in 1922 by Arthur Rice, the man who shot the stills for two of her major productions from this time, "Camille" and "Salome." Pictures of Nazimova at home are hard to come by for some reason and I suspect Rice might have been the only photographer with this kind of access.
Arthur Rice probably met Alla when he was running the Campbell Art Company in New York City in the 'teens. Campbell was entrenched with the Broadway crowd at that time, so it's nearly a certainty that their paths must have crossed at some point as Nazimova had a significant stage career on Broadway prior to coming to Hollywood. Rice left the company for health reasons and moved out west where he must have reacquainted himself with Nazimova, leading to his work on her films. Part of me also hopes he was rooming at The Garden as well.
Also noted on the verso is that the print should "return to Rice, proof photo" which leads to the intriguing speculation that this never actually made it back to him, since California was no better for Rice's health than NYC, as he died in April of this same year, making this photograph possibly some of his last work.
|Trade Only (T.O.)|
|DON JUAN (1926) - Notable as the first feature film with a complete Vitaphone music and effects soundtrack, Don Juan cemented John Barrymore’s reputation as an actor’s actor and suave lady killer. The film was a resounding success for Warner Brothers and was essential in convincing them that the Vitaphone process, and talkies in general, was a technology worth pursuing, ultimately leading to 1927’s smash hit, The Jazz Singer, which literally changed the world.
This original 11 x 13 ¾” print is a relic from the Photoplay magazine archives. The photographer is unknown but it is an absolutely stunning image of Barrymore in his bleak dungeon cell. One can certainly see the influence of Director of Photography Byron (War of the Worlds) Haskin and Art Director Ben Carré, regardless of who took the actual shot.
|BARBARA WORTH by EDWIN BOWER HESSER (ca. 1928) - In the early part of the 20th Century no photographer was more successful at talking actresses out of their clothes than Edwin Bower Hesser. From Mary Pickford to Jean Harlow they willingly bared as much as they dared for Hesser and his camera – and in Harlow’s case that wasn’t much of a dare if her infamous Griffith Park photos were any indication. Always ahead of his time, Hesser beat Hugh Hefner to the punch when he began publishing his own nudie magazines in the ‘20s, mixing his own ‘studies’ with famous paintings from previous eras so that the magazine could be considered tasteful, (which it was, lack of Gore Vidal or Norman Mailer articles notwithstanding).
Barbara Worth was given the Hesser treatment when Universal put her on contract at the end of the silent era. The parts she was given (typically as a second fiddle to a dog, horse, or cowboy star) never really caught on with the public and she was dropped just as soundies were taking over. Barbara’s career as an actress fizzled out rather quickly after that but she got a second chance in Hollywood when she switched to writing scripts in the late ‘40s, including the ape meets girl classic, Zamba.
|SUNRISE (1928) - F.W. Murnau hits one of the high points of silent cinema in the Oscar winning, "Sunrise." A tale of goodness and
heart winning over hardness and evil that sounds ridiculous when described, but when you see it, and you should see it despite being in black and white
and silent, you will understand how something so simple can be so deep.
Pictured here is the young country rube with the skanky city woman, who is convincing him to murder his fine and dutiful wife by drowning her in the lake. Complications ensue.
|WHOOPEE (1930) - One of the milestones of pre-Code excess, Eddie Cantor's "Whoopee" benefited from Busby Berkeley's musical genius
as well as a bevvy of scantily clad showgirls. Claire Dodd gives one a new appreciation for cowboy hats in this particular still.
Keep the boots on.
|TRADER HORN - EDWINA BOOTH by CLARENCE SINCLAIR BULL (1931) -Poor Edwina Booth.
"Trader Horn" was supposed to be her breakout film. The studio lavished photo shoot after photo shoot with their prized glamour photographer, Clarence Bull, on the young starlet in various states of (un)dress. Unfortunately, while in Africa shooting the film, Edwina came down with a debilitating and mysterious disease that nearly killed her - and did kill her career. The producers were adamant it wasn't the nude sun bathing they forced her to endure. Eventually she settled her lawsuit for pennies on the dollar after years of fighting.
Prints from these shoots are highly prized for obvious reasons. This is an original 10x13", with Bull's credit stamp on the verso.
|ROUBEN MAMOULIAN by OTTO DYAR (1932) - As the publicity snipe on the back so helpfully points out, Mamoulian was coming off two
enormously creative and successful films, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Love Me Tonight," and was at the height of his significant creative powers
when Paramount photographer Otto Dyar snapped this intriguing portrait. Often
and inexplicably overlooked, Mamoulian was one of the truly innovative directors of not just the early sound era, but well into the 1950s. Taking
films in directions previously unexplored, his pre-Code classics make one long for what could have been, had the Code not shut down the sort of cinema-for-adults
that Mamoulian was a master at creating.
Original 10 3/4" x 14", stamped "Portrait by Otto Dyar," and signed by Mamoulian, albeit a trifle smeared. Photoplay magazine archives.
|MYRNA LOY by GEORGE HURRELL (Early 1930s) – Original 10x13” double weight silver print, with Hurrell blindstamp and credit stamps on verso.
One of the most underrated beauties of the cinema, Myrna Loy began her career in silent films after being noticed by Valentino and his wife, Natacha Rambova. Quickly progressing from vamp, other woman, or ethnic roles, notably terrorizing the white race with Boris Karloff in “The Mask of Fu Manchu,” Loy quickly achieved superstardom as the alcoholic enabler and cracker of wise with William Powell in “The Thin Man” films.
This photograph, taken by master Hollywood glamour photographer George Hurrell, captures Loy’s sensuality perfectly.
|BABY FACE (1933) - One of the true masterpieces of the pre-Code era, "Baby Face" originally came out just a little too late.
Hacked into incomprehensibility by the Breen Office when it was first released, the film was justifiably panned by critics and ignored by audiences. Happily,
the cut footage was found and restored, giving us back one of the most adult films ever made by Hollywood.
Barbara Stanwyck stars as a young woman who has been pimped out by her despicable father since she was 14 years old (!) in his grubby, working-class speakeasy. After his untimely, yet remarkably appropriate death, Baby Face gets her Nietzschean marching orders and begins literally "sleeping" her way to the top of the social ladder. In its uncut version, the film is brazen in it's depiction of sexuality, taking it from office bathrooms to penthouse bedrooms. Even a young John Wayne gets the treatment, all the while, Stanwyck's relationship with her African-American maid certainly raises eyebrows, particularly given Stanwyck's "reputation" with the ladies.
The scene portrayed here shows Barbara being pawed by the political fixer that keeps Pappy's beer joint open. Needless to say, after she cracks his skull with a beer bottle, events go downhill for all involved.
|WEBER & FIELDS in BEER IS HERE (1933) - Lew Fields and Joe Weber were gigantic stars of the music hall and vaudeville stage at the turn of the 20th Century. They transformed their ‘Mike and Meyer’ ethnic shtick into their own theater empire and for years were among the top of the heap of vaudeville performers and producers. Inevitably they drove each other crazy (some saying they were the inspiration for Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys) and the pair split up in the mid-oughts. They would periodically reteam, no doubt when there was sufficient financial incentive, and even made an appearance in a 1923 demonstration film by Lee DeForest of his Phonofilm sound process.
Enamored by the Broadway stage, producer H.H. Rogers made a brief career for himself by producing two short films - Beer Is Here, and Nearly Naked, the latter of which was based on a sketch from Ballyhoo of 1932. Rogers was the descendent of one of the founders of Standard Oil, which conveniently explains the name of his production company, Standard Motion Pictures. The experiment was a dismal failure and both films slipped into obscurity, with Rogers only reappearing as the star of his own scandal when a beautiful blues singer committed ‘suicide’ in his mansion after an argument.
In spite of his troubles, what Rogers did accomplish was recording for posterity, albeit in a geriatric version, some of the routines of one of the most important acts of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and for that we can be grateful.
|LILIAN HARVEY in I AM SUZANNE, by OTTO DYAR (1933) - As was common during this period, foreign movie stars were often brought to Hollywood to see if they would click with US audiences and none of these were any more successful than Lilian Harvey, who together with Willy Fritsch, were the MacDonald/Eddy, Astaire/Rogers equivalents of Weimar Germany. Popularity is where the comparison ended though, Harvey’s dancing, particularly in I Am Suzanne leaned toward the acrobatic, her numbers are frighteningly athletic and risky, yet she sails through them as if they were simple waltzes. Unfortunately, her contract was with the struggling Fox Film Corp., (post-William and pre-20th Century…), and the films she was given failed to perform at the box office. By the time she returned to Germany the Nazi takeover was complete and she was unable to reconnect with audiences there, ultimately having to flee the country only returning to Europe after the war was over.
If Tod Browning, George Pal, and Salvador Dali had made a film together it's hard to believe it would be any stranger than I Am Suzanne. Elaborate marionette puppet sequences, created by former newspaper man and master puppeteer Vittorio Podrecca and his Teatro del Piccoli, highlight the story of love among competing puppet shows and the weirdos who run them. Truly one of the oddest films ever to be made in pre-Code Hollywood.
This is an original 11x14” photo by Otto Dyar, with his blind stamp and credit on the verso.
|JOAN BLONDELL and GEORGE BARNES by ELMER FRYER (1933) - Original print, 10 1/2" x 12", stamped "Elmer Fryer, Hollywood."
Joan Blondell was a huge star in the early 1930s, so her first ever marriage to cinematographer George Barnes caused quite a stir - particularly when Blondell went to the mat with Warner Bros about wanting to change her name to Joan Barnes (preceding Roseanne Barr Arnold Fortensky, et al, by decades). The studio was, not unexpectedly, less than thrilled with that prospect. Eventually, Joan Blondell Barnes was settled upon.
This is a surprisingly intimate photograph, unlike any I've seen of the couple. As this allegedly came from Fryer's personal stash, one wonders if it was something he did for the newlyweds directly, not under the auspices of the studio? I may be reading too much into it but Barnes, who did Academy Award winning work with Alfred Hitchcock in the 1940s, certainly has a "What have I done?" look about him.
It almost goes without saying, the marriage ended less than three years later.
|UNASHAMED (’38) – Original 11x14”, unobtrusive corner bend.
Coming at the tail end (**ahem**) of the naturist craze of the 1930s, “Unashamed” is arguably one of the best of the genre. An actual plot differentiates it from the majority of its brethren, which typically consisted of excuses to see a game of naked volleyball/badminton/chess/etc., not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, but it’s nice to have a little something extra to keep your attention.
I don’t know who the photographer is for this, possibly cinematographer George Sergeant, but it is quite a striking and expressive photograph which easily stands on its own merits.
|LENA HORNE by CLARENCE SINCLAIR BULL (1942) - Lena Horne was the first real attempt by a major studio, in this case MGM, to try to make
a mainstream star out of an
African American performer. Horne, coming off the success of the independently made "The Duke is Tops" (aka "Bronze Venus"), seemed the perfect test case.
astonishingly beautiful, and light skinned enough so as not to be too terrifying to the racially, shall we say unreceptive, countryside.
To their credit, MGM took out all the stops for Horne's first feature film appearance in the Red Skelton vehicle, "Panama Hattie." Working with master photographer Clarence Bull, Lena got the full glamour treatment. Progress, however, was slow, as the publicity snipe on the back refers to Horne as a "colored chanteuse," and her roles were in non-essential scenes that could be easily edited out when the films were distributed in the south. Happily Lena did not need the MGM contract since her amazing voice and style made her one of the pre-eminent jazz greats of all time.
Original 10x13" photo, with Bull stamp and publicity snipe on back.
|PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1958) - A fascinating glimpse into the cinematic world of cross-dressing director Ed Wood. As careless with his
publicity stills as he was with his actual films, we have a wonderful behind the scenes look at one of the most infamous sets in all film history - the Plan 9 cemetery.
It's easy to see how a tombstone could be knocked over, seeing as they are propped between loosely laid strips of grass carpet. Ed conveniently catches a glimpse of
not only the studio floor, but a light, and a power cable. Watch out!
Original 8x10" photo, with appropriate still designator acronym.
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