Fantastic poster for a 1931 film that hints at menace in the form of a mysterious yellow ticket. What the poster doesn't tell you is the ticket was a pass issued to Jewish women allowing them to travel out of the Pale of Settlement where the Jews were confined by order of the Jew-hating Tzar. But only prostitutes were eligible. An obscure film starring Laurence Olivier, Lionel Barrymore and Elissa Landry.
Have you looked at a movie poster recently and said to yourself: I really have to see that film.
In the digital era movie posters are barely there, a minor and frequently mediocre—tedious star shots dominate—element in the white-noise media that is dominated by an ever-shifting social media.
There was a time, however, when movie posters were the dominant element by which audiences were lured to the movies.
Here are just a few samples of ordinary posters cranked out by the Hollywood studios; all are characterized by bold graphics and unusual fonts. These are posters that artfully promise action, mystery and romance.
“Lorna Doone,” 1922, starring Madge Bellamy. Action and romance in the Scottish Highlands. One of the most beautiful films of the silent era.
“The White Sister,” 1923, starring Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman. What's more romantic than forbidden love. Gish is a nun and Colman a dashing soldier. The poster accurately reflects the tone of this lovely film.
“He Who Gets Slapped,” 1924, starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer and John Gilbert. One of the strangest but touching stories of unrequited love ever filmed.
“Stingaree” 1934, starring Irene Dunne and Ricard Dix. Story of a highwayman who helps an impoverished servant girl who yearns to be an opera star in 1870's Australia. Dunne was an aspiring opera singer before she turned to acting. She does her own singing in this little known but wonderfully romantic tale.
“Stagecoach” 1939. John Ford's masterpiece. Notice that the poster doesn't feature John Wayne, who, at that point in his career was just another pretty face.
“Mildred Pierce,” 1945, starring Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott and Ann Blyth. No spoilers in this brilliant poster.
“Gun Crazy” 1949, starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall. One of my favorite movies was graced with a mouth watering poster I would kill to hang in my office. Seeing posters like this when I was a child was one of the reasons I fell in love with the movies.