Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Acquisitions: Lobby Cards

Pearl Sindelar, Guy Coombs, and Dorothy Kelly, ca. 1912
One of the great things about having a business selling both books and antiques is that there's not really anything old I can't buy and at least try to sell, if it catches my eye. It's good to have a focus, I suspect, but it's good, too, to be able to gather things that make me happy. And it's fun to share them, as well.

So recently, I came a cross a big stack of forty or fifty lobby cards from the 1920s, including a few headshot-posters from around 1912. I am pretty accustomed to seeing lobby cards from the 1940s and 50s and 60s at antique malls and stores, but these are earlier than the ones I usually see, and they give a kind of fun view of how movies were marketed and promoted in the silent era. And it was a useful reminder that the history of Hollywood movies is indeed over a century old, now.

A Cafe in Cairo
Of course, these movies were generally shown in black and white (some early movies were augmented by hand-coloring on the projected film stock, but I don't think any of the ones discussed here were). But the lobby cards themselves are marvelously colorful, and of course they all date from before the Hays production code, so they can occasionally be just the tiniest bit risque. In the card advertising A Cafe in Cairo, Priscilla Dean is giving the pith-helmeted fellow a look that seems to leave him perplexed, or worse.

Rosemary, glancing through these, noted how conventionalized the pose was in which the woman leans her head far back as if to both invite and resist the possibility of a kiss. In the last example, from the lobby card for Thy Name is Woman, the soldier seems uncertain about whether a kiss upon the very point of her chin is even worth the effort.

Leaning back a little.

A little farther back.

Anyhow, the whole batch was quite fun to sort through, a reminder that you don't need to know everything about something when you buy it: in fact, you can't know everything about everything. Sometimes it's all about buying what you like, and learning about it afterwords.

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