Friday, March 2, 2012

TINSELTOWN POSTERS PRE-CODE

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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, andthe 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.”
Many of the posters in the Berwick bunch are both “A” and “B” designs — the key ad art, and a secondary one as well, the pair often displayed side-by-side. This “B” poster for the James Cagney gangster classic had been unseen for decades, and is one of the most impressive items of the Berwick discovery. The bidding on this one is currently at $16,000.
This is the more familiar “A” design for the Cagney picture, but intact original posters are nearly as rare as the “B” design; according to the listing, “In more than eight decades, it is the only copy ever to surface, despite the diligent efforts of collectors across the globe searching for paper on this landmark film.” And it’s yours for (as of this writing) only $12,500.
This “B” poster for the another classic gangster movie features co-stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Glenda Farrell rather than star Edward G. Robinson. “Until now, collectors of vintage gangster material had to be satisfied with the occasional lobby or one of less than a handful of window cards for this film. Larger paper was always elusive to the point of being non-existent,” according to the listing; this is one of only two known copies. The bidding on this one is sitting at ten grand.
This Western from RKO won Best Picture at the fourth Academy Awards ceremony in 1931; it was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director. To the listing: “It should come as no surprise, then, that original release paper from this popular film has always been in demand by collectors. Sadly, little, if any, has been available until this momentous discovery. In more than a decade of vintage poster auctions, this is the very first time that Heritage has offered this incredible one sheet.” Current bid: $6K.
Howard Hughes produced this, the first film version of Hecht and MacArthur’s great play, which was later remade (with a sex change for star reporter Hildy Johnson) as one of our favorite movies, His Girl Friday. “This very rare, highly desirable, and inarguably attention-grabbing one sheet is rich in color and fine detail and includes striking portraits of the main cast members.”
This poster, for a lesser-known early John Ford effort at Fox, is extremely rare: “Offered by Heritage for the very first time, we are unaware of another copy of this poster.” As of this writing, it’s available at the bargain price of 300 clams.
We haven’t seen this 1931 melodrama, which co-star King Kong’s best girl Fay Wray, but it’s fun to look at each of the faces on the left and imagine which of the lawyer’s secrets they know.
Lew Ayres is best remembered today for his leading role in All Quiet on the Western Front. He co-starred with Genevieve Tobin in this newspaper melodrama, and we love the smoky elegance of this poster (and, of course, the slammer after the title). “Both Tobin and Ayres look wonderful in this smoldering stone litho one sheet, offered for the first time in a Heritage auction.”
Barbara Stanwyck is one of our favorite Pre-Code heroines (if you haven’t seen Baby Face, take care of that), so we’d love to get our hands on this one; “In addition to its inherent beauty, it is also notable as one of only two copies known to exist in the entire world.”
We haven’t cut off the borders on this one; according to the auction listing, “the stunning stone litho one sheet offered here, which features portraits of Cooper and Sidney, is rendered in a full-bleed style that Paramount experimented with in the very early 1930s.”
This very rare item is for the first, far sleazier version of the Dashiell Hammett novel; the Bogart film from 1941 was actually the third film adaptation of the book. According to Heritage “Almost no paper has survived from this film. In years past, Heritage has offered a lobby card, a title card – which sold for $8,365 and $9,560, respectively – and a few stills, but little else has ever surfaced, making this a title eagerly sought by hungry collectors. This is the only copy of this highly desirable one sheet known to exist in the world.” Right now, this one’ll set you back $5,500.
Billie Dove was a Ziegfeld girl who became a popular silent movie star; she also had a three-year romance with Howard Hughes that ended with a broken engagement. She was one of the many stars who fell out of favor when the talkies came in; this 1931 Warner Brothers films was her unsuccessful attempt at a comeback picture.
We’ll wind this gallery down with a few more of the A/B designs featured in the auction, with both posters side by side for comparison.

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FEMME FATALE

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RAY CHARLES: LOOKING BACK

As his 80th birthday approaches, a look at the life and legacy of the late Ray Charles.


"I just do what I do." That's what Ray Charles told Billboard in June 2002 when asked to assess his role in music history. Of course, Charles' self-effacing response belies a groundbreaking career and a legacy that endures today, as fans look toward celebrating what would have been the legendary artist's 80th birthday Sept. 23. Looking back at Charles' storied career, what comes to mind is the phrase "musical genius." In Charles' case, that's no hype.


Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity


In 1954, the artist's melding of gospel and blues yielded the pioneering hit "I've Got a Woman"-and forged an indelible imprint on R&B, rock and pop. His earthy, soulful voice graced a steady stream of classics after "Woman," including "Drown in My Own Tears," "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Hit The Road Jack" in São Paulo, Brazil on September 22, 1963.


Video below: Ray Charles performs "Then I'll Be Home" in Montreux, Switzerland on July 19, 1997.


Just as at home on the Hammond B-3 organ as he was on the piano, he also landed at the top of Billboard's R&B, pop, country and jazz charts-and even the dance chart, collaborating with childhood friend Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You."

His final recording, 2004's "Genius Loves Company," made history when it won eight Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year for his pairing with Norah Jones on "Here We Go Again."

But what many may not know is that the inimitable Charles was also a genius when it came to the business side of music. In the early '60s he negotiated a rare feat after leaving Atlantic Records to sign with ABC-Paramount: ownership of his own master recordings. He also established his own labels. Tangerine (his favorite fruit) came first, which later evolved into CrossOver Records.

A songwriter who penned nearly 200 songs, Charles also operated his own publishing companies, Tangerine Music and Racer Music. For these entities, Charles and longtime manager Joe Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Ray Charles Memorial Library will open in the building this fall.

Charles also found time to manage the careers of other acts, including Billy Preston and '70s R&B group the Friends of Distinction. And way before it was de rigueur for artists to do, Charles set up what became a foundation to help needy children with hearing disabilities and later on support education.


He was an amazing human being," says Jones, 77, who became friends with Charles when both were scrappy teenagers in Seattle. "A true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music," he adds. "Growing up, we only had the radio; no Michael Jackson, Diddy or Oprah. So it was hard to imagine today's entrepreneurial world. But that didn't stop us. We spent a lot of time talking and dreaming about things that brothers had never done before."

"He really was a genius," says singer Solomon Burke, a former Atlantic labelmate. "He did things the way he wanted."

Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. As many learned through actor Jamie Foxx's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 2004 film "Ray," Charles became blind by age 7 and orphaned at 15 while growing up in northwest Florida.

In eight years at a state school for the blind, the young Charles learned how to read and write music. Leaving Florida in 1947, he headed for Seattle ("Choosing the farthest place he could find from Florida," Jones says), where he notched his first hit two years later as a member of the Maxin Trio, "Confession Blues."

Even then, Charles was an enterprising individual. "He had his own apartment, record player, two pairs of pimp shoes, and here I am still living at home," Jones recalls with a laugh. "His mother trained him not to be blind: no cane, no dogs, no cup. His scuffed-up shoes... that was his guide and driving force. He was the most independent dude I ever saw in my life. Ray would get blind only when pretty girls came around."

Signing with Atlantic Records in 1952, Charles as a West Coast jazz and blues man recorded such songs as "It Should've Been Me" and label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's composition, "Mess Around."

Then he connected in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," which set off a chain reaction of more hits capitalizing on his bold gospel/blues fusion. But Charles was just getting started. In 1958, he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a band that featured such jazz cats as saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. Further bucking convention, he recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles," a 1959 release offering standards on one side (including "Come Rain or Come Shine") and big band numbers on the other, featuring members of Count Basie's orchestra and several arrangements by Jones.


Video below: Charles' 1966 Coke commercial, "So Tired."



Leaving Atlantic for ABC-Paramount, a fearless Charles recorded the seminal "Genius + Soul = Jazz" album in 1961. A year later, his earlier dabbling in country music grew serious with the release of the million-selling "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose"-and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.




For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of," says Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles the late artist's licensing affairs. "He was trying to sell records to people who didn't want to drink from the same water fountain as him. But this was one of his greatest creative and business moves: to not be categorized musically and cross over. Though he never worried about it, he was resigned to the fact that he might lose some core fans. But he thought he'd gain far more in the process."

Gumina was operating his own promotion company working with state lotteries when he met Charles in 1999. The two teamed up on a series of commercials for various state lotteries and also introduced a line of Ray Charles slot machines also accessible to the blind.

"Everything he did had a business acumen to it," says Gumina, who cites Charles' liaison with manager Adams as a pivotal turning point. Originally hired to be Charles' stage announcer, former radio DJ Adams segued into overseeing production of the singer's shows, lighting and wardrobe.

Together the pair designed and built Charles' L.A. business base, RPM International (Recording, Publishing and Management) studio. When he began recording there in 1965, the label rented the studio from him, so he made money on his recordings before they were even released.

To save money on travel expenses, Charles purchased an airplane to ferry his band around to gigs. A smaller plane was also acquired so that Charles could wing in to, say, New York to record a couple of songs before flying back out in time for a show.

"He understood the entertainment business enough to know that you may not be popular forever," Gumina says, "and you need to maximize your product. At the same time, he had as much fun as any rock star but without the sad money stories. There was a time to work and a time to play, and he knew the difference. He didn't have a bunch of homes or a large entourage. That's why he was able to save $50 million before he died."

Calling Charles an "incredibly smart man," Concord president John Burk says he learned a lot from the ailing singer while he was recording his final studio album, "Genius Loves Company."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "It Ain't Easy Being Green" in Trentnton, NJ on Nov. 7, 2002.


Going through "some sticky deal points, he was amazing," Burk recalls. "He had the whole agreement in his head. Without referencing any material, he knew all the terms we proposed and had the deal done for the album in two discussions."

Creatively, Burk says Charles was an artist dedicated to delivering "a true performance from the heart. Part of his creative legacy was his approach to singing. He opened the door to vocal improvisations, changing how people perceived you could sing a song. Many singers today are influenced by him and they don't even know it."


Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity

WHACKO JACKO - AN ODYSSEY

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I HATE CRACKHEAD VAMPIRE MOMMIES THAT FORGET TO LEAVE JUNIOR SOME BLOOD IN THE FRIDGE FOR BREAKFAST.
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