Richard James Havis
Movie collectibles have always been a big part of the film scene, serving as ways for film fans to identify with their favourite stars and films. Posters, lobby cards - the pictures cinema owners stick in the lobby to promote their movies - and now-ancient cigarette cards are all traded and hoarded by eager collectors.
And now, many movie collectible shops have moved online, and there's a plethora of fan sites, too.
Movie posters are an art in themselves - and not just because they are graphically interesting. The posters, like trailers, aren't designed to tell you what a film is about. Their purpose is to make you think the film is about the things the marketing department decides will sell. Some classic examples of movie posters can be seen at itthing.com/16-classic-movie-posters-youve-probably-never-seen. The poster for Dr No, the first James Bond film, makes it look more like a beach movie than a violent action film, for instance. Other posters, such as a gothic illustration for Hitchcock's Psycho and a camp drawing for the original Batman, more accurately portray the films.
Bill Gold, who created the iconic image for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, is the doyen of movie poster designers. An examination of the techniques behind movie posters at newenglandfilm.com/magazine/archives/2009/04/posters describes the power of his work: 'Perhaps the reason his posters were so successful is that he understood how to use his art. On one hand he was creating beautiful art pieces but on the other hand he was creating components that were building blocks for a larger advertising and marketing campaign.'
In the early days of film, there was no mass electronic dissemination of images - cameras were too unwieldy then for paparazzi to exist - so magazines and postcards were the only ways avid fans could satiate their need for celebrities.
At www.virtual-history.com/movie/postcard, an excellent collection of postcards shows Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Gene Kelly, Veronica Lake, Anna May Wong and many others posing in miniature. Many of the cards show rarely seen images of major stars, all carefully lit with what later became known as the MGM look. The site is particularly interesting for fans of Greta Garbo, perhaps the greatest movie goddess of them all.
Some postcards contain publicity stills from the star's classic films including Queen Christina and Grand Hotel. Others feature rare publicity shots of a younger, more natural looking Garbo.
This site is German and features many German actors and actresses, too - a reminder that back in the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood was not the only country with an active star system.