The artist is almost as mysterious as his posters.
You can see immediately that this Universal Pictures teaser poster for 1933's The Invisible Man is special. You'll find out how special in a minute. It was painted by Hungarian born artist Karoly Grosz, whose work is highly sought after. With this dark portrait he captured the essence of the film's insane central character Dr. Jack Griffin, who accidentally discovers invisibility and decides, what the hell, he'll use it to take over the world. An original of this poster went up for auction a few years back and pulled in $275,000. That's about as special as vintage art gets.
Halloween is today, so we thought we'd share more horror posters. Since Grosz specialized in that genre, we were able to focus solely on him and his work for Universal. Though he's a collectible legend, his bio is a bit sketchy. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1901 as a child, was naturalized as a citizen, and grew up to live and work in New York City. His output came mainly between 1920 and 1938, and he died young sometime after that (nobody is sure when, but most sources say he was in his early forties). At least he left behind these beautiful gifts to cinematic art. You can see another piece from him in this post from a while back, the one with the green-eyed cat.
Italian master’s genius spanned decades.
Back in August we showed you a poster from Luigi Martinati, who worked from 1923 to 1967, and said we'd get back to him. Below, seven more great promotional pieces with his distinctive signature on each.
To Have and Have Not
On the Waterfront
Phantom of the Rue Morgue
The Wrong Man
Ever get the feeling you're being watched?
Above are three dust jackets for the classics of macabre literature Frankenstein, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Dracula, by Shelley, Poe, and Stoker respectively. These books are photoplay editions, i.e. novelizations of silent film source material. The editions usually had a handful of production photos inside, as well as film production credits. Basically, these were seen as forms of advertisement for the movies, and back then it was the books people were interested in, not the dust jackets. As a result, the jackets were not well treated by owners, and often were thrown away. That may seem strange, looking at the art above, but it’s true. Picture an old movie. Any old movie. And now imagine a scene set in a study or den. See all those books on the walls? No dust jackets. Back then books were thought of as classiest and most impressive sans jackets. That’s why the items above are extraordinarily rare, and are each worth a fortune today. The first two were painted by Nathan Machtey, and the third is signed G.B., who is a painter unknown to us so far. But all three look rather the same, don't they, with a looming, monstrous shape menacing an insensate woman? They are pure brilliance. We’ve seen some of these at auction for $5,000, and we hear they can go for much more. Much, much more. Of course, the most expensive ones are first editions, with book and dust jacket paired and in good condition, but if the book and jacket are separated, the jackets still go for mucho dinero. We’ll keep an eye out for more Machtey work, and try to identify that second artist. We'll also look for more photoplay editions, and share whatever we uncover.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
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