vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,
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carole_and_co

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Selling the silents



That's from late 1927, promoting one of Carole Lombard's first films for Mack Sennett (and the first in which she had significant screen time), "The Girl From Everywhere." Sennett, whose two-reelers in the 1920s were gradually losing steam to competitors such as Hal Roach, pulled out all the stops for this four-reel extravaganza, right down to the advertising.

Movie publicity is itself a fascinating subject, and its parameters were established during the silent era. It's also the topic of a new exhibit from the New York Public Library, "The Birth of Promotion: Inventing Film Publicity in the Silent-Film Era."

The exhibit opened Nov. 22 at the Vincent Astor Gallery of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (at Lincoln Center) and is scheduled to run through Feb. 25. As a release from the library states,

The basic elements of the promotion and distribution of film were established in the silent-film era. This exhibition focuses on the develoment of those elements -- posters, promotional magazines, advertising, and exploitation campaigns -- from pre-cinema to the transition to sound film. The gallery visitor will be able to view posters, programs, advertisements, and lobby cards that were shown to the public from 1890 to 1930, as well as original gouache designs for posters, including an early, pro-Union sketch for "The Birth of a Nation."



This was created for a 1930 reissue of the 1915 film, presumably to coincide with the release of D.W. Griffith's first talking picture, "Abraham Lincoln." However, it was never used.

More from the library:

Also on view are things that the public was never supposed to see -- periodicals, calendars, and exploitation sheets giving advice to theater owners and managers on publicity, advertising, and retail tie-ins for films starring Theda Bara, Lillian Gish, Corinne Griffith, Harold Lloyd, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Ben Turpin, Rudolph Valentino, and many others, famous and forgotten.

Speaking of Theda Bara, here's one of the items:



It's from "The Unchastened Woman" (1925), one of the few Bara films that still exists; it was a comeback attempt for her following a few years away from the screen.

The exhibit contains items on everyone from Rudy to Rin-Tin-Tin (the unlikely canine star and subject of a recent book), so it promises to be well worth checking out if you live in the New York metro area or will be visiting it sometime soon. (When I lived in New Jersey, I regularly patronized the Library for the Performing Arts -- it's a wonderful place to do research or merely soak up culture.) The exhibit is open every day except Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Learn more at http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/birth-promotion-inventing-film-publicity-silent-film-era and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/movies/the-birth-of-promotion-inventing-film-publicity.html.

The library also created a one-minute video (in silent style) to promote the exhibit, and it makes for fun viewing:

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