The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

They were glued, one atop the other, ap­par­ently as each new release came to town. The find most likely came from one of the three big movie houses in Ber­wick dur­ing that era, Mr. Smith said.

From what the auc­tion buyer was able to as­cer­tain, the valu­able stack of Hol­ly­wood his­tory was in­side a home whose con­tents were be­ing liq­ui­dated as part of an es­tate sale, he said.

The trove in­cludes ex­traor­di­nar­ily rare orig­i­nal posters from the 1931 films “The Pub­lic En­emy,” “Ci­mar­ron,” “The Front Page” and “Lit­tle Cae­sar.” Some are ver­sions never be­fore seen, while oth­ers are among only one or two other known copies. All mea­sure roughly 27 by 41 inches, known in movie par­lance as a one-sheet.

James Cag­ney, Jean Har­low, Dou­glas Fair­banks Jr. and Bar­bara Stan­wyck are among the mati­nee idols grac­ing sev­eral posters, but Bela Lu­gosi, bug-eyed and men­ac­ing in the 1931 ad for hor­ror clas­sic “Drac­ula,” counts as the star of the auc­tion with a start­ing bid of $200,000.

An iden­ti­cal poster owned by ac­tor Ni­co­las Cage sold at auc­tion in 2009 for $310,000.

The films in the posters date from 1930 and 1931, a uniquely per­mis­sive time for film­mak­ing that came af­ter the adop­tion of sound but be­fore the en­force­ment of strin­gent moral guide­lines pop­u­larly known as the Hays Code. Movies from the “pre-code” era of roughly 1929 to 1934 in­clude sex, vi­o­lence and so­cial com­men­tary that van­ished as the Hays Code cen­sored ev­ery­thing from re­li­gious crit­i­cism to “sug­ges­tive pos­tures.”

The Humphrey Bog­art-john Hus­ton ver­sion of “The Mal­tese Fal­con,” for ex­am­ple, was a re­make of the 1931 orig­i­nal, which later was deemed lewd un­der the Hays Code for nu­dity and sex­ual ref­er­ences and banned from rere­lease. A poster for the ear­lier “Fal­con,” fea­tur­ing smooching leads Bebe Daniels and Ri­cardo Cortez, is also part of the sale, and the auc­tion­eers say it’s the only one known to ex­ist.

“They were purely a prod­uct to be dis­posed of. . . . They’re not some­thing any­one would have thought to save,” Mr. Smith said in ex­plain­ing the scarcity of movie ephemera of the era. Ber­wick had three large movie houses in the early 1930s, and the posters likely came from one of them, he said.


Bela Lu­gosi gained fame for his role in the 1931 film “Drac­ula.” The movie poster from the film is con­sid­ered the star of the posters be­ing sold at auc­tion this month.

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