Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We all know 'Hollywood' chews 'em up and spits 'em out, but this is truly frightening...

July 28, 2009
Posted by Noah

I know that the truism in vintage movie poster collecting is that classic horror holds sway - and some of those posters are indeed still mighty creepy - but I have to say that little can compare in sheer sinister menace than the top lot in our just finished July 23-25 movie poster auction, a 1923 gem for the movie Hollywood. You can see it there and I dare you not to be at least just a little bit creeped out.

The strange thing is that it is indeed an apt metaphor for Hollywood even today, and a bold and beautiful print, truly as much a great piece of art as is a fantastic piece of early American cinema and Pop Culture. It's just so… I don't know… Eeewww…

The movie itself was not of much remark, nor is it particularly remembered. The poster is a true rarity, and one look can attest to its appeal and popularity. It does little, however, to convey the story of Hollywood, one of hapless wannabe actress Angela. She comes to L.A. – her Grandpa in tow – and fails to find any work in Tinsel Town. As this cruel fate befalls her, and on her rounds through the town and to the office of every casting director, Angela's Grandpa gets signed to a contract and becomes a big star. The rest of the family soon comes to L.A., ostensibly to bring their relatives back home. Once in Tinsel Town, though, they all also become movie stars, all as Angela is forced to sit and watch. Short on story, the movie was more importantly a showcase of virtually every major movie star of the silent era, as Angela encounters star after star in her own unsuccessful bid for a slice of fame’s pie. From “Fatty” Arbuckle, to Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Zasu Pitts and Gloria Swanson; you name the star and they made a cameo.

While the movie really cannot be said to even approach the idea of lurid, there is something distinctly lecherous and lustful in this image, even as it's comical and absurd, stylish even, with its Deco feel, outstanding lines and audacious coloring. This poster borrows heavily of the commercial illustration palate of the day, and bears more than a little resemblance to a lot of great advertising posters of the era, minus, of course, the Big Creepy Head devouring a daisy chain of young maidens…

I also have to wonder if an image like this would even stand a chance if released as part of a PR push for a major film today. We have a bevy of sallow-faced, empty-eyed kids with raven hair crawling out of TVs and slashing through cinemas everywhere, outer space robots with American brand vehicle names on them and a host of other disturbing imagery, but this - in these hyper-sensitive-desensitized times - would drive people out of their minds… In fact, I think I've gone a little mad just looking at it.

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-Noah Fleisher

2 comments:

  1. Was out at the auction and had a great time, I did BUY the Hollywood poster, it was too cool to leave in the hot Dallas weather!! It will make a nice addition to my movie poster collection.
    Ralph DeLuca
    Madison, NJ

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