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More Criminals and Mobsters - Lost Movie Poster Collection Goes To Heritage Auctions

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The Berwick Discovery Of Lost Movie Posters To Be Offered

Little Caesar
On March 23, 2012, Heritage Auctions will offer a selection of exceptional vintage movie posters, some previously thought to be lost for all time.

"This exciting discovery of previously lost posters comes out of Berwick, Pennsylvania," said Grey Smith, Director of Heritage Vintage Movie Poster Auctions. "These posters — which include some of the most important titles in Hollywood history — were pasted to boards and used to promote original releases in late 1930 and early 1931, most likely at one of Berwick's three movie houses, The Palace, The Strand, or the Temple. All were mid-sized halls, each seating about 800 people. When a new release came to town, the exhibitor simply plastered the new poster over the previous one. Eventually, an entire stack of these posters was built up, and at some point removed from the boards. From there, they made their way into a home attic, possibly to be used as insulation, and were later offered in a small estate auction."

"Separating the posters was like removing wallpaper," Smith said. "After carefully moistening the top layer, steam was used to melt the glue and gently remove one poster from another. Each new layer that came up revealed new and exciting treasures beyond anyone's wildest expectations."

"This period of 1930-31 marks an exciting time in film history," Smith said, "existing in a small window between the advent of sound and the enforcement of the repressive Production Code in 1934. All the titles in this find are 'pre-Code,' denoting a time in which pictures were both willing and able to tackle such controversial subjects as birth control, infidelity, prostitution, casual sex, and more, all of which would be eliminated under the Code just a few years later. Pre-Code films, and the paper associated with them, have always been favorites of both poster collectors and film buffs for their raw and candid portrayal of controversial subjects."

The Public Enemy
Among the posters included in the Berwick Discovery is an exceptionally rare B-style one sheet for Warner Brothers' 1931 seminal gangster film, Little Caesar, starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., as well as both Style A and Style B one-sheets for The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney and Jean Harlow, also from 1931. "These were the films that set the standard for virtually every gangster film to come after them," Smith said, "including The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos. Robinson and Cagney, between them, created the modern gangster persona in these pictures, making them some of the most important and vital films of the era."

"These posters represent some of the rarest, most sought after 'holy grails' in our hobby," said Smith. "The Style A Public Enemy, picturing Cagney and Harlow, is particularly stunning, and neither style has ever been offered to the collecting public. Likewise, the Little Caesar one sheet is one of only two known copies, making this a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those interested in acquiring paper from these landmark titles. Gangster fans, as well as fans of classic cinema, are sure to covet these rare beauties."

The Maltese Falcon
"Of course, these weren't the only treasures we discovered as we peeled back layer upon layer of movie history," Smith continued. "Included in this auction is the only known copy of a one sheet for Warner Brothers' 1931 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's classic mystery, The Maltese Falcon. This was the first time Hammett's popular novel had been brought to the screen, with Ricardo Cortez portraying private eye Sam Spade. Paper on this title has always been exceptionally elusive; we've sold two lobby cards from this picture for more than $8,000 each!"

"One of the most popular genres in the poster collecting world is the field of Universal horror," Smith said, "and I'm pleased to say that the Berwick discovery includes a stunning example of one of the most desirable posters in that category. It's the Style F one sheet for Dracula, the film that launched the Universal horror boom in 1931, and set Bela Lugosi on a path to film immortality. One of only a small handful known to exist, we sold another copy of this style in March, 2009. That poster realized more than $310,000, making it one of the most valuable posters we've sold in a decade of operation. Who knows what this copy will bring?"

"As a Western fan, I was thrilled to find the one sheet for RKO's 1931 Cimarron, starring Richard Dix, in this assortment," Smith said. "This was the very first Western to garner a Best Picture Academy Award, and is the very definition of the word 'scarce.' Our upcoming auction marks perhaps the first and only time collectors have had a chance to add this stunning beauty to their collection."

In addition to the posters mentioned above, collectors can also look forward to a fine representation of additional treasures, including one sheets for Seed (1931), an early Bette Davis picture, The Front Page (1931), The Criminal Code (1931), The Bat Whispers (1930), Dishonored (1931), featuring Marlene Dietrich, and Ten Cents a Dance (1931), one of Barbara Stanwyck's earliest roles.

"These are only a few highlights of the monumental Berwick Discovery," Smith added. "I'd invite anyone interested to visit our auction website at HA.com/7055 to find out more about these rare and valuable pieces of film history. Who knows? Perhaps someone reading this right now will be the top bidder, taking home a prize of exceptional rarity and value."

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