Author Topic: Berwick Discovery: The Biggest find of early movie posters in recent history  (Read 135585 times)

Offline Harry Caul

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My pockets are full today, but my hands are empty and my heart is sunk  :'(

The big boys must have caught wind of the auction I'm about to share with you all as I was outbid on everything I was interested in.  I have known about this auction for a month, and I was in it to win it with some pretty large max bids.  However, even though I wasn't outbid by much on the first stack of posters, it was by enough to know it was futile to think I could up my bids just a little bit and still win.  And after I was blown away by the final bid on the second stack, I knew I would be leaving empty handed.  Some of you may be asking yourselves, "WTF is 'ole Harry blathering about?"  Well, I'm blathering about probably the biggest find of early movie posters in recent history.  Just remember, you read it first here folks...

Apparently, the winter of 1930/31 was a cold one in central Pennsylvania. By spring it must have been too much to take as the owner of a small little bungalow went searching for insulation material for his attic.  I can only assume that the owner or someone they knew worked at the local theater as the owner gather up about 30-50 one sheets, all between Dec. 1930 and May 1931.  Clearly they had access to stacks of very recent posters.  Regardless of how they were acquired, the owner neatly stacked up about 5-15 posters in 6 little bundles and put them between the rafters.  And there they sat for exactly 80 years... likely oscillating between freezing/dry winters and hot/humid summers in that attic... until the owner of the house passed away late this summer and the contents of the house were auctioned in an estate sale this afternoon.  What was most surprising was that the posters were, miraculously, in better shape them I'm sure anyone could have imagined...

Over the years the stacks had fused together, but when the auctioneers found them they were a still pliable if a bit brittle. They took the largest of the stacks and submerged it in a tub full of water.  I'll give you all a second to curse/smack your foreheads/stare dumbfounded/etc.. at this point. They washed off the top poster of the stack and this is what it looked like after it was 'cleaned up':



They must have been thinking, "that doesn't look half bad!"  Their 'success' and curiosity must have gotten the better of them, as then decided to try to divide the stack in half to see what poster was in the middle.  Ugh, I know, but the stack apparently pulled right apart and this was what a poster from the *middle* of one of the stacks looks like:



This collection really needs to be name the "miracle collection" or something, as there is no other way to explain how they stayed in this good of condition, after both the 80 long years in storage and the abuse they suffered after they were found!  :o  Luckily, the auctioneer quit their 'restoration' efforts while they were ahead.  They let the newly divided stack dry (so we are now up to 7 stacks total) and set them aside for auction.  Here are the full photos I was sent of the fronts and backs of the 7 stacks that were to be auctioned:



STACK 1: LITTLE CAESAR - Pardon my language, but holy fucking shit. Presumably, this one will clean up as nicely as the dunked Criminal Code above.  The colors are incredible and it is in surprisingly good shape.  I tried to do some photoshop voodoo on the back image (boosting contrast, curves, etc...) to try to pull out the title of the poster that was on the bottom of the stack... but to no avail.





STACK 2: CRIMINAL CODE (style A?) - This is the stack that had been close to 15 posters, but it was now down to 8-10.  I'm floored at how saturated the colors still are!  After some photoshop voodoo, you can clearly see the name Otis Skinner splashed across the lower portion of the poster on the back.  Presumably this is a poster for Kismet which was released in late 1930.  And it looks different enough in layout that I think it is a different style from the other Kismet poster below.  In the middle of the stack, which they (sigh) pried apart, you can see 'Old English' with George Arliss.  And I was also told that on the other side of the pried apart section, you can see 'Seed' with Bette Davis!





STACK 3: CRIMINAL CODE (style B?) - Again, incredible shape.  On the back you can make out 'The Seas Beneath,' an early John Ford movie about WWI U-boat hunting... I can only imagine the stone litho design is breath-taking.  Although, I'm not sure if it is complete or not given all the layers on visible from the back.





STACK 4: REACHING FOR THE MOON - Again, this was what a poster looks like, if it is intact, from the *middle* of one of these stacks!  Sadly, the posters on the back do not look in tact and I couldn't make them out anyway.  Is that possibly Claudett Colbert?  Unfortunately that poster isn't being revealed under the other layers, but instead those three colorful pieces are all that is left  :'(





STACK 5: MILLIE - Now we start getting into stacks that are beat up.  This one has what looks to be black mold stains on the front, and the top and sides are missing a good few inches of paper... artwork too, not just borders.  On the back you can make out "DI" in the lower right (after flipping it horizontally so the text is in the correct direction) and "GLEN" in the top left.  I'm fairly certain the back poster is this one from Dishonored with Dietrich: http://www.movieposterdb.com/poster/499c9658  Aside from the trimmed edges, it looks to be in very good shape!





STACK 6: MALTESE FALCON / KISMET - This one made me want to fucking cry.  As far as I know there is no paper larger than a lobby card for the first film version of Maltese Falcon.  That LC sold for $10K.  I can only imagine how much this one sheet would have sold for if it was complete... which it is not.  What you see is what is left of it.  There is a different style Kismet under it.  From the upper-middle right-side of the back, you can make out the names "Lloyd," "Lawford," and "Simpson," which corresponds with Kismet.  I don't know if that is yet another style one-sheet, or the back of the one you see from the front.





STACK 7: MILLIE - Finally, another Millie poster (looks like the same style), but it is in terrible shape with layers of multiple other lost posters on top.  They didn't even bother with a backside image of this one...




So what were the results?

1. Little Caesar + 3-5 more -- $9,250
2. Criminal Code A, Old English, Seed, Kismet A, + 4-6 more -- $16,500!!!
3. Criminal Code B, Seas Beneath + 2-4 more -- $1,600
4. Reaching for the Moon + 3-5 more -- I think around $900

I quit phone bidding there and hung up.  If I wasn't going to be going to the trouble of restoring something I knew was worth while, I didn't want to bother with the other stacks.  All of these would have to be shipped flat and based on the damage, you never know what will be intact and what won't.  

Anyway, so there you have it.  I'm sure after a restoration delay, 30-50 newly discovered one sheets from early 1931 will be probably be coming to auction soon.  Only about a dozen of which do we know the titles for.  And for those of you keeping track of dates, Dracula was released dead in the middle of the range covered by these posters, in February 1931  ;D  If a previously unknown one-sheet turns up at auction soon, you'll know where it came from!


« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 09:18:54 PM by brude »

Offline MoviePosterBid.com

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Harry.. if the auction is over already.. why not post a link to the auction so we can look and see the rest

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Offline Harry Caul

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Because it was a live, onsite auction and the auctioneer doesn't even have a working website!

http://patriotantiqueandauctioncenter.com/

Offline 110x75

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Matt, you resumed my feelings in one simple sentence: "holy fucking shit"

 wow1
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Bruce

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I was on the phone too, and quit, and got nothing. I would bet Heritage or Ralph Deluca got them. If I could have gone and seen them in person, I might have been able to bid much higher.

This is like buying lottery tickets. You might win huge.

Of course, missing Edward G. on Little Caesar is like having a Dracula poster with no Lugosi.

I guarantee I have as much experience with separated 80 to 90 year old posters as anyone, and these will LOOK great when they are restored, but they will also have a "dipped in paint" look.

Depending on who got these, they may or may not show up at auction soon.

Bruce

Offline 110x75

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Of course, missing Edward G. on Little Caesar is like having a Dracula poster with no Lugosi.

I wouldn`t mind  ;D
Matias
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Offline Harry Caul

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I was on the phone too, and quit, and got nothing. I would bet Heritage or Ralph Deluca got them. If I could have gone and seen them in person, I might have been able to bid much higher.

Son of a... I scour the damn ends of the internet to find obscure auctions like this and you bastards probably get invites on a silver platter!  ;D  I was told there were only about 5 serious bidders (myself included), 3 on the phone in 1-2 in person.  I agree, had I been able to inspect them in person I might have had a better idea of how to bid. 

I'm not sure about your "dipped in paint" comment though...  Sure, for some of them that need to be literally re-assembled from bits and pieces, they will need heavy resto.  However, considering how good that Reaching for the Moon looks having been soaked in a tub and pulled out of the middle of one of the stacks... if I pro pulls the rest of them apart I'm guessing they will come out looking great!

 

Offline Harry Caul

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I wouldn`t mind  ;D

Agreed, IMO having a Dracula poster without Lugosi (style C?) would be like having a fucking DRACULA poster!!!  Also, from what I've read EGR didn't make it on much of any of the paper for this film.  Only the WC and maybe a scene LC or two...  Are there even any known 1-sheets for this movie yet?
« Last Edit: October 23, 2011, 06:30:50 PM by Harry Caul »

Offline CJ138

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Anyone know what they went for?
Lowering the brow of APF since 2010.

Offline 110x75

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First post  ;)

1. Little Caesar + 3-5 more -- $9,250
2. Criminal Code A, Old English, Seed, Kismet A, + 4-6 more -- $16,500!!!
3. Criminal Code B, Seas Beneath + 2-4 more -- $1,600
4. Reaching for the Moon + 3-5 more -- I think around $900
Matias
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Offline MoviePosterBid.com

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2. Criminal Code A, Old English, Seed, Kismet A, + 4-6 more -- $16,500!!!
3. Criminal Code B, Seas Beneath + 2-4 more -- $1,600

what this says is that one of the posters in the #2 pile, which can be seen by maybe a small segment, was recognized as something important and which could possibly be retrieved from the stack

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Offline Harry Caul

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That could very well be.  They did say you could see a Bette Davis poster for 'Seed' in the middle.  However, I still can't imagine that resulting in such a high bid.  There were clearly at least 2 people duking it out... maybe they knew something I didn't after seeing them in person.  Still I went all CSI on the photos and tried to gather as much info as possible.

Offline CSM

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Thanks for sharing this Matt.  Very interesting and too bad you didn't win anything!

I can understand the auctioneers wanting to know what they had - but - come on, being in the auction business you'd think they'd of had more sense!?  Dipping the stack in water?!  This probably just glued them together even more.  If it were my find all the stacks would have stayed untouched until they could get to someone reputable with a proper skill set (with me watching of course! ;) )

I do wonder what else was in there though...
Chris

Offline CSM

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Oh and I can't make out any of the supposed 1931 Maltese Falcon poster?
« Last Edit: October 23, 2011, 09:30:06 PM by CSM »
Chris

Offline Harry Caul

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Sorry Chris, I linked to the wrong photo and now I can't edit it... here is the closest anyone will probably ever come to an original 1931 Maltese Falcon poster.  Sniff sniff.  :'(


Offline CSM

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Thanks Matt.  Now that makes more sense.

Could it not be that the rest is just stuck to the poster that was above it?  Maybe there is hope?  But then again Falcon without Bogie doesn't mean too much really ;)
Chris

Offline CSM

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I am STILL trying to fathom these guys trying to pry them apart on their own - a travesty really!
Chris

Offline MoviePosterBid.com

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But then again Falcon without Bogie doesn't mean too much really ;)

I hope you're kidding.. I mean you do realize that it is one of the Great American novels, don't you??

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Offline Harry Caul

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I hope you're kidding.. I mean you do realize that it is one of the Great American novels, don't you??

I recently read most of the back catalogs of both Chandler and Hammett... really great stuff and I would highly recommend almost all of them. 

Have you seen the 1931 Falcon Rich?  Does it compare to the Bogie version?

Offline CSM

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I hope you're kidding.. I mean you do realize that it is one of the Great American novels, don't you??

I DISAGREE WITH YOU
Chris

Offline Louie D.

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I recently read most of the back catalogs of both Chandler and Hammett... really great stuff and I would highly recommend almost all of them. 

Have you seen the 1931 Falcon Rich?  Does it compare to the Bogie version?

Bogie's is certainly better, he pulls off Spade where Cortez just does OK.  The '31 version DOES have Thelma Todd though. wow1

Offline AdamCarterJones

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Did Mel not buy them? laugh1
Best wishes,
Adam

Online paul waines

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Excellent read Harry, thanks for posting this.

I love these kind of stories, it reminds me of the one where a pet shop owner was using old lobby cards, tearing them up and lining the bottom of a parrots cage. From memory the story goes he had a stack of them out back of his shop, which were rescued as a collector had spotted the torn up cards in the bottom of the cage, and had quizzed the shop keep, if he had anymore...


   
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Offline brude

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That's quite a story, Harry.
What really irks me the most is that you didn't "out" this in the Mid-Auction thread.
What were you thinking, man?
 wynk

Offline MoviePosterBid.com

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Harry, I haven't seen it in some years, but it was a decent movie. there is also a Bette Davis version called the Satan Met a Lady in 1936 which sort of rewrites the plot some

now.. who wants to join me in a war with Hammett Hater, CSM

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