VINTAGE COLUMN: COLLECTION CAPTURES A COLORFUL BIT OF HOLLYWOOD’S PAST
EDITOR'S NOTE: This cover story from the June 15, 1986, Deseret News is about movie-poster collecting and remains relevant today.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015
There was a time in the not too distant past when movie posters were considered a mere byproduct of the movies themselves; slick advertising sheets to be ripped down and thrown out, or tossed in the storage room behind the theater screen, once a film had finished its run.
And as recently as 15 years ago, posters that worked their way into the collector’s market could be purchased for as little as 15 cents.
But no more.
Those 15-centers cost between $75 and $500 these days, and some rare posters can go for as much as $5,000 apiece.
As a result, the 300-plus collection of posters recently donated to Brigham Young University by a California teacher is probably worth upwards of $15,000 according to BYU archivist James D’Arc.
“Fifteen thousand is a conservative estimate; it’s hard to tell without individual research,” D’Arc says.
The private collection was donated by Dr. Ralph Herold of Irvine, Calif., who has been collecting them since 1970, an extension of his interest in film and the film classes he has taught at local colleges.
“I structured a system to identify a number of interesting and important areas,” Herold said during a telephone interview “The western, of which there were probably more than any other kind of movie; dramatic films, love goddesses, and material related to the major studios themselves. Then certain stars, like Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, etc.
“Once I had the plan I had to find examples of productions that graphically related to what I wanted to display. Some titles are not necessarily the most important and biggest films, but the posters graphically relate what the films reflect.”
Most of Herold’s collection came from an Oklahoma movie poster exchange, though he acquired some in California. In 1973 he began mounting them, a time-consuming and costly effort, but one worth the investment to preserve them.
“It’s unusual in that it reflects the diversification as to the kind of pictures made in relation to the humanities. Most collectors collect what they like, a certain movie star or a particular production. I tried to create a panoramic view of sorts, the golden era of moviemaking, production-wise.”
Herold said he chose to donate his collection to BYU after investigating various museums and universities around the country. During a visit to Utah last year he toured the BYU archives and was impressed with storage facilities and the display and maintenance of the university’s other collections, which include those donated by James Stewart and Cecil B. DeMille.
D’Arc says the Herold collection will be catalogued and made available to scholars and researchers to study poster design, promotion of particular movies, etc.
There are many original first-run posters in the collection, but D’Arc is equally excited about the reissue posters, since, in some cases, they reflect their era even more than the originals. For example, a reissue poster of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” in which Raymond Burr played a supporting role, features an insert photo of Burr identifying him as the star of TV’s “Perry Mason.” It also plays on the success of Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” a film made six years after “Rear Window.”
D’Arc said he expects there will be a major exhibition of the posters in the Harris Fine Arts Center within the next couple of years.
Among those posters D’Arc chose to feature for this article is “Psycho,” which he describes as being among the first to illustrate a logotype design for the title. “It’s the kind of designing Madison Ave. would use.”
Also “The Band Wagon,” “a good musical, and the poster has eye-catching design, a deep red color. …
“The Marx Brothers’ ‘At the Circus’ is evident of another kind of poster display Dr. Herold included in the collection. He would put a half-sheet (a poster half the size of regular ‘one-sheets’) and surround it with still photographs.”
D’Arc added that the mounting of each poster is also impressive. “They are all professionally dry-mounted, not folded up and thrown into a box. All 300 or more are ready for exhibition right now.”
D’Arc said the art of movie posters has changed and evolved over the years, and that some are stunning artistic endeavors. “Take a poster like ‘Broken Arrow,’ for example, which is almost a western artistic approach. It looks like a painting, very formal. Usually a poster that is going to be out in a big glass case in front of a movie theater is designed to catch the eye of a passing motorist. But ‘Broken Arrow’ is not that way. It’s dignified, refined, beautiful, not at all garish.”
Some simpler posters are also worth noting, such as the Universal horror films – “Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” “Son of Frankenstein,” “Dracula’s Daughter,” etc. “They’re so colorful and eye-catching, and, of course, Universal was an economy-minded studio and didn’t print very many of them. That makes them quite rare and valuable.”
Value, D’Arc says, increases with demand and scarcity, not necessarily the quality of the film itself. Reissues are usually worth about half as much as original releases, and intrinsic quality also enters in – whether posters are stained, creased, faded or have tape repairs.
And even “teaser” posters, those that are issued months before a film’s release can be quite valuable – especially if there is a major mistake. The most recent example is the early poster for “Return of the Jedi,” which printed the title “Revenge of the Jedi.” D’Arc says those can sell for as much as $1,000.
On the other hand, D’Arc says many posters are so common or out of demand they may sell for as little as a dollar.
Both D’Arc and Herold agree it is virtually impossible to start a movie poster collection of any value today.
But if your Aunt Minnie who was the cashier for 30 years at a now defunct movie theater has a pile of old, dusty posters stashed in her attic, you might want to get on her good side.
ANOTHER WEEK OF R-RATED MOVIIES
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015
Like last week, we see the new-movie entries for this week dominated by R-rated films that arrive amid low expectations. Along with a strange-looking fantasy cartoon “from the mind of George Lucas.” Okaaayyy.
“Strange Magic” (PG) is an independent musical animated feature —released by Disney — about goblins, fairies, elves and imps fighting over a powerful potion. Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph and Alfred Molina provide voices and the songs are a variety of pop hits. The film was written by three screenwriters working from a story by George Lucas, directed by a first-timer, Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom.
“Cake” (R) is a drama that’s been getting attention for the change-of-pace central performance by Jennifer Aniston as a woman addicted to prescription drugs who decides to look into the suicide of a member of her pain-support group. Co-stars include Adriana Barraza, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington, Mamie Gummer, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy and Lucy Punch.
“Mortdecai” (R). Johnny Depp appears to be channeling Inspector Clouseau for this broad comedy about a duplicitous art dealer traversing the globe in search of a stolen painting while being pursued by both Russian mobsters and MI-5. Co-stars include Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum, Oliver Platt and Tom Hardy.
“The Boy Next Door” (R). High school teacher Jennifer Lopez allows herself to fall prey to a teenage stalker after an ill-advised, alcohol-fueled one-night stand. Ryan Guzman plays the 19-year-old with a fatal attraction, who, after he’s rejected, uses 21st century cyber-methods to humiliate Lopez. Kristen Chenoweth and John Corbett co-star.
ON GOLDEN POND
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015
“On Golden Pond” (1981) was written by Ernest Thompson, adapting his own play, and directed with a sure hand and an eye for outdoor scenery by Mark Rydell (“The Rose,” “The River”). And it’s a predictable and occasionally contrived comedy-drama.
But it’s also a perfect example of how cinematic star power can give a movie a tremendous boost, lifting it to heights it might otherwise never achieve — especially with stars that have as much gravitas as Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, each of whom came to the project with a tremendous body of work behind them.
Both Fonda and Hepburn won Oscars for their roles as long-married Norman and Ethel Thayer — and they’re magnificent. Thompson also earned an Academy Award, and his script is filled with hilarious one-liners as the stars’ characters banter, bicker and demonstrate how devoted they are to one another.
The story takes place at the title location in Maine where the couple has been spending summer vacations for 48 years and things kick into high gear with the arrival of their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda), her latest boyfriend Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his surly, foul-mouthed 13-year-old son Billy (Doug McKeon).
Naturally, Chelsea and Bill will soon depart, leaving Billy behind, and just as naturally, angry Billy will develop a bond with cranky Norman and in the process both will soften.
But getting there is all the fun, and it’s fair to say that this is one classic movie no remake can ever touch. (It was tried in 2001 for TV, a live production that reunited “Sound of Music” stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, but even they couldn’t make us forget Hepburn and Fonda.)
Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, 'On Golden Pond'
Hard to believe but Hepburn and Fonda had never worked together before “On Golden Pond,” and Jane and her father had never worked together either. Jane nurtured this project for her dad and it became his last film before he died just months after the picture’s release and his Oscar win.
“On Golden Pond” is making its Blu-ray debut thanks to the folks at Shout! Factory, which has been upgrading older films over the past few years — and with all the outdoor locations in gorgeous New England looking brighter and bolder than ever, this certainly made for a worthy project.
Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.
But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.
I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).
This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.
My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.
The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned from my 30-plus years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.
This site is a mix of archival stuff (with permission) from the Deseret News, along with an array of non-DesNews material, including new blogs, reviews and stories as often as I can manage to squeeze them out.
Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015
In addition to the Blu-ray release of “On Golden Pond,” Henry Fonda also has a role in the star-studded Cinerama feature “How the West Was Won” (1962), playing a grizzled buffalo hunter recruited to help keep peace with local Indians when railroad track is laid through their territory.
But he’s just one of many big names that have roles, large and small, in this mammoth undertaking, which remains one of the last great traditional Western films. And with it’s eye-popping spectacle it really needs to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated (including the splendor provided by scenes filmed in Monument Valley and Kanab).
And you can see it that way as part of the latest cycle of Cinemark Theaters’ classic movie series. It will show in several Cinemark multiplexes on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 2 and 7 p.m.
James Stewart, 'How the West Was Won'
Broad and expansive in its storytelling, “How the West Was Won” is an overview of the settling of the West in the 19th century through several decades of overlapping stories — some of which lend themselves to harrowing action sequences.
The film starts out with a mountain man (James Stewart) on his way East to trade furs when he encounters a family (headed by Karl Malden and Agnes Moorehead) coming West and falls for a daughter (Carroll Baker), eventually finding himself helping them fend off river pirates led by Walter Brennan and Lee Van Cleef.
Later, Baker’s sister (Debbie Reynolds) travels to St. Louis and meets a tinhorn gambler (Gregory Peck) and an earthy wagonmaster (Robert Preston), both of whom court her. Another sequence takes place during the Civil War as Stewart and Carroll’s son (George Peppard) enlists, eventually eavesdropping on a private conference between Generals Sherman. (John Wayne) and Grant (Harry Morgan).
Gregory Peck, left, Thelma Ritter, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, lobby card for 'How the West Was Won'
Then there is a railroad-building sequence with Richard Widmark as the ruthless head of one line, whose indifference toward the local Indians leads to a thrilling buffalo stampede, and later, after an older Peppard has become a marshal, there’s a spectacular train robbery (with Eli Wallach as the gang leader) and a subsequent train wreck.
“How the West Was Won” makes for high-level entertainment — it was the No. 1 moneymaker of 1962 — and is much more captivating on the big screen than it can ever be in your home.
JUST OFF BROADWAY
For Hicksflicks.com, Jan. 23, 2015
Fans of the B-movie murder mysteries starring Lloyd Nolan as detective Michael Shayne have been waiting for years to see the entire seven-film series on DVD.
A single film, the third in the series, was released on DVD in 2005, then two years later a collection of four more films, labeled “Michael Shayne Mysteries, Vol. 1,” came out — but it took seven years for another to show up.
The manufacture-on-demand label Fox Cinema Archives has recently released “Just Off Broadway” (1942, b/w), which leaves just one more title in limbo.
“Just Off Broadway” isn’t the best in the series but it’s an enjoyable, breezy and brief (just 66 minutes) little thriller that boasts snappy dialogue and a good cast, despite being hampered by a highly implausible plot.
Shayne finds himself serving on the jury that will decide the fate of a woman (Janis Carter) accused of murder. And when someone else is killed, he decides it’s time to investigate.
This requires Shayne to slip out of the sequestered jury room, which leads him to yet another murder, and then, at the trial the next day, he starts his own cross-examination, solving the case!
Anyone who’s ever seen a “Law & Order” episode knows this isn’t how it works but low-budget B-movies never paid all that much attention to logic.
On the plus side, the role of tough-guy Shayne fits Nolan like a glove and he gives the entire series a shot in the arm. And here, we also get some sparkle from Marjorie Weaver (“Holiday Inn”) as a reporter/sidekick, and Phil Silvers as her wisecracking photographer.
“Just Off Broadway” is an OK entry in an enjoyable detective franchise and fans will be happy to see it’s available at last.