Thursday, February 17, 2011


When you see a great old classic film on TV in whatever configuration, whether it be a film noir or a screwball comedy or a Universal horror film, there’s always a vague echo of the way most of us grew up seeing these movies—on the late show or, perhaps even more frequently, on Saturday or Sunday afternoons when there was nothing to do but stay inside. But one of the things I like most about seeing a great old Hollywood picture on the big screen, at the New Beverly Cinema or the Egyptian or the Bing Theater or wherever, is not only the feeling of gratitude I inevitably get at being able to a see a film like this in the first place, projected, the way it was meant to be seen. I’m also drawn to thinking about what it must have been like to see Blonde Venus on opening night in 1932, or how thrilling it must have been to see Kansas City Confidential when it was fresh and new and audiences didn’t have the expectations for and familiarity with what became known as film noir. Was it just another Saturday night, or did these audiences know right away that they were seeing something special? I suspect probably more often the former, but still nothing gets in the way of my imagining how different it must have felt seeing movies in movie palaces in the 1940s and 1950s, instead of the anonymous multiplexes built to herd great numbers of people to movie after movie that I wouldn’t predict would have the kind of staying power that would make anyone interested in seeing them in any format 70 years down the line.

There’s just something about seeing a great old film in a darkened room with a multitude of souls receiving the same audiovisual message from the past, in hushed reverence or raucous good cheer. And so in that spirit I offer my first entry in the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blog-a-thon, a look at some of the marquees and newspaper ads that heralded the everyday occurrence of some of the great films that were probably taken for granted then, some of which folks like the Film Noir Foundation are fighting to save now. Obviously some of the marquees you’ll see below are from revival screenings, but they have the same glow, the kind that reaches out from history and lights up the souls of the faithful who gather under the neon, led there in modern times or back in the day by the faded reproduction of glorious poster art and shameless salesmanship. There are many ways in which film noir will be appreciated this week. Here’s to the beauty, the crudity and the sheer fun of the anticipation of great film noir stoked by bright lights and musty newsprint.

A reminder: the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blog-a-thon continues over the weekend and through Monday, February 21, spearheaded and coordinated by the Self Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films. Please visit those sites for continuous updates and links to the great writing that is being contributed on a daily basis for this wonderful fund-raising blog-a-thon, all in service to the Film Noir Foundation. And speaking of fund-raising, please do not forget to punch the donation button on the sidebar to your right and take a monetary stand toward the preservation of the works of this great American film genre that are in danger of being lost forever.

The images of newspaper drive-in movie ads featured here were generously provided by Charles Bruss, who guides an amazing online museum composed of drive-in advertising that spans the 1940s through the 1980s at his site Drive-Thru Wisconsin. I offer my profound gratitude to Mr. Bruss for allowing me to access his wonderful collection and for taking the time to e-mail me the specific pieces I needed to make this post special and worth mounting in the first place.

Other images where noted come to us courtesy of Fredrick and his fine vintage newspaper movie ad site Held Over! Thanks to both gentlemen for their kindness and their foresight in holding on to these superb reminders of what going to the movies was like in a different time.


(His Kind of Woman, Baby Face Nelson and 99 River Street courtesy of Held Over!)

(All drive-in advertisements courtesy of Charles Bruss and Drive-Thru Wisconsin.)



W.B. Kelso said...

If you're jonesing for some more vintage noir ads, check these out, too, at your convenience.

com/search/labe /For%20the%20Love%20

Marilyn said...

I am a marquee hound, too, Dennis, and love to look at what's playing at the theatres in movies I'm watching. Thanks for this great post.

BTW, the donation link is

Nothing else works right, so please use this.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks for the link, Wild Bill! And Marilyn, everything should be updated just fine now. I too could look at marquees and ads all day-- I just wish I could have come up with more!

W.B. Kelso said...

You're welcome, Dennis. And if you're ever needing any art and that blog can help, please help yourself!

Tinky said...

Delightful images--and you're right: it's wonderful to think of the original surroundings for these films.