Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Uh... could you repeat that, please?
A while back, I wrote a way-too self-congratulatory piece about my movie poster collection. Since that time, I've relieved myself of many I no longer had any emotional connection to. By and large, those that remained were too dear to my heart to let go of.

But that was before I received an email from Bonhams Gallery in Los Angeles requesting consignments for their upcoming movie memorabilia auction. Suddenly, I decided that very few of those posters really tugged at my heartstrings after all. Rubber Racketeers, I Ring Doorbells and others of that ilk were mine 'til the day I died. But the rest, well, they could find a better home elsewhere.

So one morning last week, I plowed through the collection, inhaling the cancer-causing microbes drifting off the paper, and started photographing the ones I was ready to sell to another goofball collector.

Yeah -- right into the
memory hole.
While many of them had a certain je ne sais quoi, I had bought others simply because I had trekked downtown to an auction or "paper show" and didn't feel like returning empty-handed. What other reason was there to buy a poster for the utterly unknown 1941 release We Go Fast? That one, featuring an image of a surly cop (or is it cabdriver?) and even surlier nurse (or is it waitress?) giving each other the stink-eye, probably set me back a sawbuck. I remember it briefly hanging up at one of my apartments, but only because I needed to do something with it now that I owned it.

And leave a good-looking
I come to ridicule
Caesar, not praise him.
Then there were the juvenile delinquent/beatnik pictures from the '50s. Those were the genres I originally collected, and my walls were covered with them. No matter the movies' storylines, they all seemed to feature a "teenage" girl around 26 years old in formfitting clothes. Typically, these posters simultaneously warned and enticed audiences of the dangers the younger generation faced. The beatnik dangers never seemed to include bad poetry, fey goatees or sludgy coffee.

And under-produced.
Other '40s and '50s B- movie genres that appealed to me involved crime -- any poster with the word RACKET in the tagline, basically -- or sleazy sexpots. Over-Exposed (1956) managed to combine the two to splendid effect. The dames-in-prison pictures were  also automatic winners, too. Those posters always promised some good hair-pulling scuffles, while hinting at "forbidden" love. By the '40s, the latter angle got toned down to the point of being nearly subliminal. But in the pre-code days, when you saw a cigar-smoking woman with short greasy hair and a monocle, you knew she wasn't looking for a husband in the traditional sense.

Note the subtle use of the word "stacked."
Friends and family understood my hobby. One of them even went so far as to arrange a telephone interview with someone writing a piece on movie memorabilia collectors. Expecting a straight-ahead reporter, I found myself instead talking to a woman with an agenda. The more she asked about these posters, the more she made it clear that she thought I was some kind of predatory sexist, and demanded the real reason behind my collection. I urged her to talk to my wife and woman friends to see that I was a nice, normal guy, but the interview ended rather abruptly. I don't know if the piece ever ran, but if it did, I'm sure it had a very personal angle. Sex Criminal Gets His Kicks from Demeaning Movie Posters!

I thought Adam Sandler was the human bomb.
None of these movies were classics, but I figured that a few, especially the three-sheet for The Atomic Man (1955) or the half-sheet for the Crosby/Hope picture Road to Bali would cause some auction attendees to raise their paddles. 

I'd never find out. About 20 minutes after I emailed the photos to Bonhams, I received a terse reply informing me that they didn't reach the minimum value required for consignment. Go ahead and say it -- they're too cheap for you fancy-pants auctioneers!  

And so the rejected posters were returned to the box and tucked away for another day, most likely my death. Maybe I should have gotten that Citizen Kane half-sheet for $200 when I had the chance. A quick online perusal tells me it now goes for over $9,000.

From Fire Crackers to Cracked Ice
Duck Soup -- it's very logical if you
think about it.

Ironically, the Bonhams' representative who broke the bad news to me was the same one who, last year, was willing to take on my most prized keepsake, the original typewritten treatment for the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup. Almost everything from the story to the characters' names to the title are different from the final version. 

I paid 25 bucks for it roughly 20 years ago. Bonhams thought it would get between $2,000 to $3,000 at auction. After giving it some thought, I decided to keep it. My emotional attachment doesn't come that cheap. At least not now.

To read the first part of this essay, go here.                        


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