As you may have noticed, we love old movie posters. There’s something refreshing about the warmth and artistry of vintage film art, particularly when compared to the focus-grouped, Photoshopped, floating-heads nightmares that pass for movie posters today, and that’s why this item from MUBI about “the Berwick discovery” caught our eye. (Yes, it already has a cool-sounding nickname, and it deserves one.)
Here’s the story: 30 or so vintage posters from the “Pre-Code” era (that strangely lenient period of early talking pictures released before the active enforcement of the Motion Picture Code, which stringently censored implications of sexuality, violence, and abject morality) were discovered last fall in an attic in Berwick, Pennsylvania. The posters had been displayed in a local theatre; they had been glued on top of each other as new posters (and films) arrived at the venue, and then the whole stack was — get this—stuffed into the walls of the attic as insulation. And there they remained, until the contents of the house were sold in an estate sale.
According to MUBI, “They had survived in such good condition for a number of reasons. First of all, a movie theater in the early 1930s would have used a water-soluble wallpaper paste to put up the posters, so it was possible, even eight decades later, to steam them apart with no damage to the paper. And Smith [Grey Smith, Director of Heritage Vintage Movie Poster Auctions] thinks that the cool climate of Pennsylvania may have helped, as well as the temperature in the attic itself. According to Smith, the colors on the posters are ‘astoundingly bright.’”
The posters are being auctioned off individually by Heritage Vintage Movie Poster Auctions, and the online bidding starts today. Let’s take a look at a few of the choice items — and feel free to head over and place a bid, if you’ve got a few thousand bucks to burn.
The 1931 Bela Lugosi-fronted Dracula is probably the best-known movie among the Berwick items; it is also one of the rarest posters in the bunch. The combination of those factos has made it the big ticket item thus far; the current bid is a whopping $80,000. It’ll go up; according to the listing, “In March 2009, Heritage sold another copy of this style, from the collection of Nicolas Cage, which realized more than $310,000. At the time, it was noted that the copy offered was one of only three known. The discovery of the poster in this auction brings that grand total to four known to exist in the entire world.”