Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

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N_Phay
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Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by N_Phay » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:46 am

I've recently bought a few old movie promo photos from ebay, and I have a few questions for those more knowledgeable about such things.

Firstly, I've got to say, these things are a pretty great deal? I got a promo pic of Corinne Griffith, and some stills from "The Woman Disputed" and "New York Nights" featuring Norma Talmadge and Lilyan Tashman. They cost me next to nothing. I got busy at work, and forgot to bid on a couple more stills from "The Woman Disputed" as well as a great, glamorous pic of Dolores Costello. It amazes me that these little pieces of movie history, featuring these great-looking stars are so cheap. Obviously one needs to avoid the obvious big names from today's viewpoint - Brooks, Garbo, Gish etc. (obv one needs to avoid sellers selling prints knocked off doctor macro as well, this seems quite common) I'm not complaining, obv. One of the "New York Nights" stills even has a little typed note on the back reading something like "another great star of the silent screen makes her talkie debut", that's kind of priceless, eh? I was delighted when I read that.

Anyway, one of the things I've been looking for (and just missed a couple of times because I forgot to bid, like an idiot, passim) are pics of Norma wearing the polka dot blouse in "Woman Disputed", I've seen a few go by, all different, and it got me wondering, just how many different images would be circulated for a particular film on average? I've noticed that there seems to be a LOT of different "New York Nights" stills in circulation, maybe it would be interesting to collect the lot of them over time, put them together, and plug the holes in the film on DVD which I believe is quite a bit shorter that the film as released.

Also, how does one decode the numbers at the bottom RH corner of the stills? The ones of Norma all have "N.T." presumably her initials, followed by 2 groups of numbers "N.T.-2700-A5" on one of them, for instance.
Last edited by N_Phay on Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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rudyfan
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Re: Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by rudyfan » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:28 am

Congrats on your bargains! Always nice to hear someone gets a good deal on somethig they want. Alas, for me, the competition is fierce and expensive.
N_Phay wrote:...and it got me wondering, just how many different images would be circulated for a particular film on average?
I do not know if this is typical, but on some of the Valentino films, 250-300 is the average for a key set of stills. I am sure it would be safe to say at least 100 key stills. Publicity options on the films, inclduing the poster art the exhibitor could purchase would be stills, but I think that was usually a set of probably 10-20 for display outside the theaters.
N_Phay wrote:Also, how does one decode the numbers at the bottom RH corner of the stills? The ones of Norma all have "N.T." presumably her initials, followed by 2 groups of numbers "N.T.-2700-A5" on one of them, for instance.
This depends on the studio the film was produced at. Bruce Calvert has an excellent starting point for identifying production code numbers based on his vast collection of silent film stills. http://www.silentfilmstillarchive.com
http://www.rudolph-valentino.com" target="_blank" target="_blank
http://nitanaldi.com" target="_blank" target="_blank
http://www.dorothy-gish.com" target="_blank" target="_blank

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LouieD
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Re: Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by LouieD » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:04 am

N_Phay wrote:Anyway, one of the things I've been looking for (and just missed a couple of times because I forgot to bid, like an idiot, passim) are pics of Norma wearing the polka dot blouse in "Woman Disputed", I've seen a few go by, all different, and it got me wondering, just how many different images would be circulated for a particular film on average? I've noticed that there seems to be a LOT of different "New York Nights" stills in circulation, maybe it would be interesting to collect the lot of them over time, put them together, and plug the holes in the film on DVD which I believe is quite a bit shorter that the film as released.
There could be over 100-200 individual stills for any particular film, not counting promotional pictures. All depends. I don't think any studio had a set amount for number of production photographs of features. Shorts were usually 10-20 stills.
N_Phay wrote:Also, how does one decode the numbers at the bottom RH corner of the stills? The ones of Norma all have "N.T." presumably her initials, followed by 2 groups of numbers "N.T.-2700-A5" on one of them, for instance.
There are many collectors who have this information but most of it is not on line. Bruce Calvert's site is a good place to start.

I have a number of early Fox sound stills. For a "Sunnyside Up" still the code is "But-7-23". This translated to director: David Butler - his 7th film for Fox - 23rd production still in the set. Later they just used a little rectangle in the corner that was just the production number and still number.

Many of the production stills can appear to be the same with only small things changed or moved in the still so it would get a different number.

If you have particular numbers that you don't know or want to know I suggest you post it here and someone can probably get you the info.

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N_Phay
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Re: Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by N_Phay » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:26 am

rudyfan wrote:Congrats on your bargains! Always nice to hear someone gets a good deal on something they want. Alas, for me, the competition is fierce and expensive.
If you're after stills of Rudy, then yeah, I can imagine it getting expensive!

The only one I got beat out on was this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2551000458/

I'm slightly embarrased to admit that I bid up to 100 dollars on it. (I realise this is pretty cheap really, there was a still of Louise Brooks that had a starting bid of 2500 dollars, for example, but I'm kind of new to this aspect of collecting) I really wanted it, but someone else wanted it more, I guess. It's a beautiful photo. Every other one has been 10-20 dollars, one was 5 dollars, and most of the ones I've missed have not had any bids on them at all.

I figure Corinne and Norma are good subjects to look out for, big stars in their day, both great looking women, very archetypal silent movie stars in the way they looked too.

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silentfilm
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Unread post by silentfilm » Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:18 pm

Except for photos of Raymond Griffith, who I collect religiously, I rarely pay more than $15 for vintage stills. Most of the stills on my site I bought for $10 or less. Even vintage stills of Keaton and Laurel & Hardy can be found cheaply if you look hard enough.

Valentino, Louise Brooks, Chaplin, and Clara Bow will always be expensive. Collectors who buy these are willing to pay a whole, whole lot for them.

Norma Talmadge produced her own films, so the N.T. stands for the Norma Talmadge production company. The next letter is the film production number to identify the film. The final number is the still number for that film.

I have not updated this list in a while, but go to http://www.silentfilmstillarchive.com/identify2.htm for help in identifying stills from their code number.

Also, check out this old thread from Nitrateville...
http://www.nitrateville.com/viewtopic.php?t=211

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Frederica
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Re: Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by Frederica » Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:23 pm

N_Phay wrote: The only one I got beat out on was this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2551000458/
Ooh, that's a beautiful shot of Norma, although I'm tickled by the smug caption. Yes they did have plastic surgery back then, but even if they hadn't, they still had makeup, lighting, and editors. That shot was no candid.

Fortunately for my pocketbook I am just as happy with scans; I've purchased film stills and a few modeling shots of Virginia off ebay, then I do a high-rez scan and sell 'em to the next highest bidder.

Fred

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N_Phay
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Re: Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by N_Phay » Thu Jul 24, 2008 2:56 pm

Frederica wrote: Ooh, that's a beautiful shot of Norma, although I'm tickled by the smug caption.
Ha! It wasn't meant to be smug, sorry! I can see how it comes across like that. I do get annoyed with seeing a bunch of good-looking young female actors all wind up with the same-shaped nose, that's all. It's not even that nice a nose!

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N_Phay
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Unread post by N_Phay » Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:14 pm

The three Norma Talmadge stills I have have the following codes:

Gilbert Roland, Norma Talmadge and Roscoe Karns sitting at the piano, from "New York Nights" has the code N.T.-2700-A.5 (scene the still is from is on youtube)

Norma standing beside a rather alarmingly made-up Lilyan Tashman, also from "New York Nights" is coded N.T.-2700-A.140

Norma sitting in a church, with the priest who is actually a spy standing behind her and four people sitting on a pew sitting behind her from "The Woman Disputed" is coded N.T.-1200-B.84

I see from Bruce C's code list that "N.T.-2700-x.xx" is the code for "NY Nights", evidently the 1200 is for "The Woman Disputed", i assume the number is the identifier for the still, I wonder what the "A" and "B" signify?

I would love to see "The Woman Disputed", probably more than any other extant silent I haven't seen, as an aside.

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Frederica
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Re: Silent/early sound era movie promo photographs

Unread post by Frederica » Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:21 pm

N_Phay wrote:
Frederica wrote: Ooh, that's a beautiful shot of Norma, although I'm tickled by the smug caption.
Ha! It wasn't meant to be smug, sorry! I can see how it comes across like that. I do get annoyed with seeing a bunch of good-looking young female actors all wind up with the same-shaped nose, that's all. It's not even that nice a nose!
I get you. I was re-watching Wolfgang Peterson's Troy last night (oh, bite me, you guys! yeah, it's stupid, but there's some serious eye-candy there) and noticed that all of the women in the cast were a) perfect and b) boring. It's a guy film so the women are accessories--they must be beautiful, but they must also lack screen presence so as not to pose a threat to the stars--but I guess it was more noticeable because there were more of them than usual and they were almost interchangeable. Every man in the cast was better looking than Helen of Troy. "Is this the face that launched a thousand ships and...uhhh...Brad, honey! Here, let me touch up that oil..."

Fred

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N_Phay
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Unread post by N_Phay » Sat Jul 26, 2008 8:30 am

I'm somewhat tempted by this one, even though it looks quite tatty, simply because of the striking nature of the image:

http://tinyurl.com/6xteaf

What on earth is going on there? The seller IDs it as a pic of Norma Talmadge, but it doesn't look anything like her to me, it looks more like Corinne Griffith (same seller has a pic of Constance ID-ed as Norma as well)

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Unread post by Frederica » Sat Jul 26, 2008 10:34 am

N_Phay wrote:I'm somewhat tempted by this one, even though it looks quite tatty, simply because of the striking nature of the image:

http://tinyurl.com/6xteaf

What on earth is going on there? The seller IDs it as a pic of Norma Talmadge, but it doesn't look anything like her to me, it looks more like Corinne Griffith (same seller has a pic of Constance ID-ed as Norma as well)
OMG! Menacing clowns!

I agree, it looks more like Corinne Griffith.

Fred

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