The powers that be at RKO were confident in the fall of 1940 that they had a winner with "They Knew What They Wanted." It was a property with a pedigree (a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Sidney Howard) and it starred Charles Laughton (who had an Academy Award to his credit) and Carole Lombard (who'd had a nomination). This screamed "prestige" from the get-go, and with luck, RKO thought, it would have an impact of some sort at Oscar time.
So when it came to promoting the film, RKO pulled out all the stops. As proof, check out this glass slide:
"You have seen great motion pictures...We believe you have not seen a greater motion picture than this!" the wording on the slide proclaimed above color-tinted images of Lombard and Laughton. Big talk for 1940, when all sorts of great motion pictures were either making the rounds of theaters or remained strong in the collective public memory.
And while "They Knew What They Wanted" was a pretty solid film, it had a few things working against it. First, the Production Code took quite a bit of bite out of Howard's play, which was 15 years old to begin with. Second, while Lombard was very good in the film, the public still hadn't warmed to the idea of her as a dramatic actress. Third, there was plenty of cinematic competition, and it never quite found its niche.
But let's get back to the slide, which was used to promote a showing at some theater on Nov. 28-29, 1940. It's made of glass, bordered in cardboard, and measures 3 1/4" x 4". It's considered in good condition.
The slide is available through eBay; one bid, for $9.99, has been placed as of this writing. Bidding is scheduled to end at 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. The seller will even give the winning bidder ideas on how to display the slide to optimal advantage.
If you're interested in this item -- and in recent years, glass slides from vintage movies have become increasingly popular artifacts -- go to http://cgi.ebay.com/1940-Carole-Lombard-C-Laughton-THEY-KNEW-Lantern-Slide-/400133990275?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d29d82783. And if you do end up owning it, try not to boast.