Collecting Hollywood Movie Magazines

Collecting Hollywood Movie Magazines

Selling Tinsel Town

Hooray for Hollywood" as the song goes. Millionaire Harvey Wilcox registered his land as "Hollywood" on February 1, 1887. Even though we now think of Hollywood, California as synonymous with movie making it would be many years before the film industry arrived.

The early years of the movie industry were centred on the East Coast. Films were being made in New Jersey and at the Astoria Studios in Queens, New York. As the movies became more popular, the public clamoured for a constant stream of new releases. An area where movies could be shot all year round was searched for, and Southern California fit the bill. Hollywood, located in a valley and having almost year round sunshine with wide open undeveloped areas, became the perfect movie capital.

Above: The movie fan magazines were filled with ads for beauty products, selling greeting cards to make extra money, and new products connected to movies. Star Wars books issued in 1978 were featured on the back pages of various magazines.

Before 1910, studios did not credit or release the names of the players in their movies. But as more movies were filmed and the public wanted to know more about the actors and actresses, it was recognized that money could be made from other products connected to the silver screen.

And so the movie fan magazine was born. The first one appeared in 1910, but was not very successful. Motion Picture Story hit the newsstands in 1911 and became the first consumer based movie magazine. But it was not until Photoplay appeared in 1912 that the market began to take off for this type of fan material. By 1922 Photoplay had a circulation of 2 million readers thanks to its editor James Quirk’s marketing savvy. Picture Play appeared in 1915, Screen Play in 1925, Screen Romances in 1929.

Surprisingly, the early magazines encouraged their readers not to flood to Hollywood looking for employment, but to stay where they were to read the fan magazines and purchase the advertised products.

By 1926 the movie industry was generating revenue of 1and half billion dollars. About 20,000 people were employed on a regular basis and many were the stars that the public wanted to know more about. Not just their upcoming movie, but their personal lives - Gloria Swanson’s new Long Island home, Mary Pickford’s world tour, Tony Moreno’s newly built castle in the Hollywood Hills were all subjects of feature articles.

Above: The October 1978, issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland featured a special issue story on Darth Vader of Star Wars. In addition, one could enter a contest to win a Darth Vader poster. For many years Star Wars was front and center on the magazine covers of many magazines. A great movie marketing tool.

The early movie fan magazines featured beautiful colour artwork, and these are the most valuable today. Selling in the $40 to $60 range. After World War II, the covers were photos of a specific star or movie scene.

The newsstands were filled each week with more and more fan magazines; Modern Screen debuted in 1936, Movie Life in 1937, Movieland in 1942, and others followed. In addition, there was a crossover into radio. By 1930 almost every home in North America had an affordable radio. Many of the Hollywood movie stars began to appear on various regular radio programs. Magazines began to appear connected to the new programs on the radio. Radio Index was the TV Guide of its day. The cover usually featured a movie star who was appearing in a radio program. The November 1933 issue had a feature story on Agnes Moorhead. At the time she was appearing on radio in "Evening in Paris" and on Broadway. She would eventually migrate to Hollywood with Orson Welles and other members of his Mercury Theatre Players.

Orson Welles was featured in one of the Radio Index issues in his role as the famous pulp character "The Shadow". He would move to Hollywood and make one of the greatest movies of all time - "Citizen Kane". Movie stars crossed over and did radio programs in addition to their acting on the silver screen. As if to reinforce their escapist nature, the movie magazines in the depths of The Great Depression promoted the slogan from the famous song - "Forget Your Troubles - Come On Get Happy". By 1938 there were 60 different magazines focused on the stars of Hollywood.

Above: The May 1959 issue of Movieland and TV Time had the sexy Frankie Avalon on the cover. The other headline on the cover screamed, "Elvis Presley Exclusive! The Story He Doesn't Want Told!" With the rise of television magazines began to feature tv stars as well as movie stars.

As the movie fan magazines evolved not only were the latest movies advertised, but the personal lives of the stars were showcased. The May, 1941 issue of Photoplay contained a story on Alice Fay, Judy Garland’s Marriage Dilemma, Betty Grable on "How I Keep My Figure" and scenes from "The Sea Wolf" movie which starred; John Garfield and Ida Lupino.

Other magazines had stories on "The Private Life of Rosalind Russell", and colour photos of Mickey Rooney, and Ingrid Bergman. The 1946 issue of Screen Romances featured Paulette Goddard and Canada’s own Deanna Durbin.

Movie magazines became a major advertisement tool, such as the full page ads for the new Robert Mitchum movie - "The Big Steal" with "Gorgeous Jane Greer". But ads for upcoming movies were just the beginning. Ads for products that the stars used were featured. Everything from soap, Halo shampoo, home permanents, and cigarettes. Bob Hope and other stars were pictured smoking Chesterfield cigarettes. In a great crossover advertisement Barbara Hale was smoking hers at the famous Stork Club. Women were the target audience for most of the advertising and made up a large majority of the readers.

The other major marketing tool that Hollywood began to employ in the 1930’s was the comic book. The comic book came into existence as a major cultural force in the mid 1930’s. In fact, during World War II it was discovered that many soldiers had marginal reading skills. Comic books were employed as reading tools.

Above: The May 1959 issue of Movieland and TV Time had the sexy Frankie Avalon on the cover. The other headline on the cover screamed, "Elvis Presley Exclusive! The Story He Doesn't Want Told!" With the rise of television magazines began to feature tv stars as well as movie stars.

Next to your favourite movie fan magazine on the newsstand began to appear such comic books as Hollywood Confessions published by St. John Publishing, Hollywood Diary, Hollywood Film Stories, Hollywood Pictorial, Hollywood Secrets. One of the most popular was Famous Stars published by Ziff-Davis Publishing. The November- December, 1950 issue had Shelley Winters, and Jimmy Stewart. The cover of the comic was a photo of a star. Issue #4 featured Jane Russell and Bob Mitchum.

If you wanted still more information about your favourite movie stars you could pick up a daily newspaper. Starting in the 1930’s papers carried regular gossip columns from Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, Walter Winchell, and others. Hopper’s was titled, appropriately enough "Hollywood". In the February 12, 1948 issue she was reporting from New Orleans, Louisiana. "At the height of the Mardi Gras season the place is crawling with celebrities, Walt Disney, John Carroll. Edgar Bergen was the only star to visit the Leper Colony at Carville and give performances with Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd, and Effie Klinker."

In the 1950’s and 60’s new fan magazines appeared on the newsstand. Some focused on horror movies and their stars such as "Fantastic Monsters of The Films", Hammer Films of the United Kingdom put out their own magazine which featured their horror movies exclusively. Hammer Films is back in business and it is the movie company that produced "The Lady In Black" starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame.

The most famous and popular magazine of the horror genre is "Famous Monsters of Filmland" published by Warren Publishing. The magazine contained a mix of historical and current horror and science fiction movies., and contained "Fang Letters". The editor was Forrest J. Ackerman Hollywood historian. Part of the attraction was the large number of ads to purchase material connected to the stories in the magazine.

By the end of the 1970’s, fan movie magazines had passed their "Golden Age" and the new ones do not deliver the same information.

For more google Hollywood Collectibles Movie Magazine History. Tony Slide has written a book titled "Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine". If you visit Southern California Hollywood check out the Hollywood Heritage Museum across from the Hollywood Bowl. It is filled with archival photos, props, documents and movie related memorabilia.

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