Saturday, June 12, 2010

A movie herald: what it tells us

On eBay, there is an The American Venus movie herald for sale. Just about any movie herald from the silent era is uncommon. Some are rare. What makes this particular herald unusual are the hand written annotations. They have a story to tell.


The American Venus was released in early 1926, usually (depending on the city or town) in January or February. This herald is dated 1927, apparently by someone who saw the film. That means that the two Michigan theaters which showed the film in May of that year, one in Petersburg and one in Blissfield, showed it late in the exhibition life of the film. That was not usual for small towns, which usually but not always got major films later than the bigger city and towns.


The film is partly about a beauty contest, and as I have found out in my research, many theaters sponsored their own beauty contests or fashion shows in connection with the showing of the film. Such was the case with the Petersburg and Blissfield Theaters. (I tried to find the names of these small-town theaters, but couldn't find anything on cinematreasures.org. Anyone know anything more?)

Beauty contests, and to a lesser degree this film, helped "define" the notion of beauty. The film's star, Fay Lanphier, was Miss America in 1925 and was considered an ideal beauty. I have seen many newspapers advertisements which detailed Lanphier's measurements.She is shown, arms outstretched, in the interior of the herald.

On the back of the herald is a customized message from the sponsoring theaters which reads "The lady turning in measurements nearest to the AMERICAN VENUS will be given -- ten tickets to this theatre." "Measurements must be turned in on playing date--at box office."

What's also interesting about the herald are the handwritten notations. They offer someone's measurements, and in comparison's to Lanphier's. On the back are even recorded someone's weight in notations dating from the 1930's. That someone, who weighed 169 pounds in 1939, it seems, held onto this herald for more than 10 years. The American Venus must have made an impression.This battered herald, this scrap of paper, tells their story.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing that we still have access to these super classic movies. The American Venus Is something I want to watch now because it's just so old. Did this film help any of the actors in it start their career?

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin