“The Berwick Discovery” sounds like the Dan Brown book, but it’s actually a very cool new find that would make me even happier if I had stupid amounts of money laying around waiting for me to spend it on pre-Code movie posters.
On March 23, Heritage Vintage Movie Poster Auctions will evidently be putting around 30 very rare movie posters on the block, all part of the same incredible find last fall. I didn’t hear about it then, but reading the details now, I’m blown away and, more than anything, it reminds me how much I love the evolution of the movie poster and how random and strange and occasionally wonderful the world of the hardcore collector can be.
When I was writing “Cigarette Burns” with Scott Swan, we talked to print collectors and memorabilia collectors and we collected way more stories than we could use. One of the things that seemed to run in common between all of them though is that the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the accidental discovery is a big part of what compels them. If you could just go to the store and buy a pristine 35MM print of “Suspiria,” it wouldn’t be special, but when Quentin Tarantino tracked down a gorgeous IB Technicolor and screened it at the original Drafthouse and Tim League cranked the soundtrack so loud it made my fillings shake, part of what was magical about that night was knowing how rare that experience is.
The same is true of these one-sheets. First of all, there’s not a lot of pre-Code publicity materials in existence at all, so the ones that are sold and traded tend to be in whatever condition they’re in, and people are happy to have them. These were treated in a way that should have destroyed them, but instead, it seems to have helped preserve them, and the result is a treasure trove of amazing images that we’ve never seen before, or that have never been seen in this condition.
The article over at MUBI lays out some of the history of the posters, how they were discovered, how they were restored, and what the historic value is of each one. For those not familiar with the Production Code, the days before it was put in place were a loose and wild time for Hollywood. The Production Code suddenly put restrictions in place about what could be said and dealt with onscreen, and that changed not only what was made, but how it was sold.
Seeing these pre-Code posters, you get a sense of how rich and vibrant film marketing could be in those days, and how even the posters were an art in those days. I miss those times, as I’ve lamented here before, and so it’s little wonder that this story just plain thrilled me. Now… who wants to permanently loan me $80,000 or so?
ONE THING I LOVE TODAY appears here every day. Yep. Every day.