Above, Carole Lombard's first appearance on the cover of Photoplay, the June 1934 issue with the memorable headline, "Blondes Plus Curves Mean War." (Lombard isn't part of the story, probably because "Carol of the curves" disappeared some years before, thanks to renowned masseuse Sylvia.)
Researching Photoplay and other vintage film-related magazines -- whether they be fan or trade publications -- can provide a real feel for what the industry was like during those halcyon days.
Unfortunately, it's difficult to track down such magazines. Only a relative handful of libraries stock them, and those that do either have them in bound volumes, which have the double hindrance of being both bulky and fragile, or on microfilm, which was convenient half a century ago but is outmoded today...especially since the print quality often leaves a lot to be desired.
That work Sylvia did on "Carol of the curves"? Turns out Photoplay did a story about it in April 1933. I found it on microfilm at the Library of Congress, and here's what it looks like:
The page quality? Well, it's readable, though there are some spots that aren't entirely legible. And the images are muddled. Even the covers are in black and white because that's how the roll was printed.
In all, not much of an aid to the online generation. But help is on the way.
A researcher named David Pierce has begun a project to digitize both trade and fan magazines, and the first group of them is now online and available through the Internet Archive. Publications include:
Photoplay -- July-Dec. 1925, July-Dec. 1926, Jan.-June 1927, Jan.-June 1928 and all of 1929 and 1930
Motion Picture Classic -- 1920
The Moving Picture World -- April-June 1913
It's a start, with more volumes and publications on the way. As Pierce writes in the blog "Strictly Vintage Hollywood" (http://strictly-vintage-hollywood.blogspot.com/2010/03/gold-in-them-thar-hills-photoplay-and.html), "As always with the Internet Archive, you can download high-quality PDFs, embed their viewer on your webpage, and download the original full-quality scans."
You can access the initial batch at http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=%22media%20history%20digital%20library%22. Here's something I uncovered from the July 1930 Photoplay:
It's an ad from Fox for "The Arizona Kid," although Lombard -- who played a villainess in this western -- isn't shown. (The lady is Mona Maris, with Warner Baxter.) And here's what the color looks like...witness this November 1930 cover of Loretta Young, then only 17:
Pretty alluring, isn't it?
I am thrilled about this project, and look forward to more magazines coming online in the future. For more on this endeavor, go to http://bioscopic.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/photoplay-and-more/.