I bought my first movie still when I was 12 years old at a used bookstore in Hackensack, New Jersey. It was a nice shot of Buster Keaton that cost 25 cents, which was exactly what I could afford. Then I saw a classified ad in The 8mm Collector offering pressbooks. I didn’t know what they were, so I asked the man who placed the ad and he patiently answered me. (This was all accomplished by snail mail in those primitive days before the Internet.) That got me interested in those oversized, advertising-packed journals for theater owners. I only started acquiring posters and lobby cards as an afterthought. My main source was a fantastic outfit in Canton, Oklahoma called Movie Poster Service run by two brothers who’d been servicing regional movie theaters for years. Stills cost 25 cents and one-sheet posters were $1.75 each. I bought odd and obscure items that happened to interest me. If I’d stocked up on mainstream posters I’d be wealthy today; I was more interested in stills. Oh, well…
I was lucky enough to find and marry a woman who not only shared my love of movies but fell in love with posters. Alice encouraged me to buy and sometimes trade for images we liked, and although prices had risen considerably by this time they were still affordable. This was before the coming of high-end auctions.
No one knew much about the origins of posters or stills, how they were commissioned and identified, who designed or drew them, etc. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made great strides in this area in recent years and savvy dealers have provided useful information, but there are still many gaps in our collective knowledge.
Enter Ed and Susan Poole, longtime collectors who decided to conduct serious research and share their findings with the world through their website, LAMP (Learn About Movie Posters) and an ongoing series of invaluable research books. Their first effort, Collecting Movie Posters, was published in 1997 byMcFarland and has been followed by eighteen reference books includingLearn About International Movie Posters, Movie Trailer Identification Codes,and The Silent Studio Directory.
If you’ve ever examined vintage movie stills, you’ll recognize the number and letter coding in the lower corner. These are often the only clue as to the title of a film. If you want a decoder, you needn’t contact Little Orphan Annie: LAMP has done the work for you. Their research encompasses over 50,000 codes! Click HERE. They have done the same for codes on movie posters and other theater accessories. Access to these databases require a fee, as they should, but LAMP also provides thousands of images for free on their site.
The Pooles are also proud of Louisiana’s role in movie history and have published books (beginning with Hollywood on the Bayou) and mounted exhibitions and lectures on the subject, which is near and dear to them. Although Louisiana is now the #1 state in the union for film and television production, there doesn’t seem to be commensurate interest in education and preservation of the state’s historical involvement with the entertainment world. Ed and Susan are determined to change that by launching a research foundation. If anyone can pull that off, they are surely the ones.
Meanwhile, if you want to know anything about movie memorabilia, or see what various dealers, auction houses, and restoration experts are up to, sign up for LAMP’s free monthly e-mail blast.
Ed and Susan have been collecting for forty years and have just celebrated the 20th anniversary of LAMP…but they show no signs of slowing down. Their next big project is a directory of movie poster artists, an especially ambitious undertaking. I can hardly wait for the finished product.