Collecting Vintage Movie Magazines: Featuring Photoplay
One of the things I’d like to do to complement my love of old movies is to start a movie memorabilia collection. I have to admit though that I’ve been dragging my feet on that lately. Eager to get started in some way, I decided to start by collecting a few vintage movie magazines.
There were many movie fan magazines published during the golden age of Hollywood including Photoplay, Silver Screen, Modern Screen, Motion Picture, and Movie Mirror Magazines, and you can still find copies of many of them on eBay. Magazines sold for as little as 10 cents when they were first published, but today can sell for as much as $100 or more depending on who is on the cover or how rare the magazine is.
The first magazine I decided to buy is a copy of Photoplay magazine from February 1946 featuring Ingrid Bergman on the cover. Although verifying whether the magazine is in mint condition before buying is important for serious collectors or for those who may want to sell their collections in the future, I wasn’t as concerned about condition this time. I thought it might be a good idea at first to check out a few different magazines to compare the type of content in each before buying issues that are worth more. I purchased this particular issue for $9.99, which is on the lower end for vintage movie magazines.
Photoplay was a movie fan magazine that was founded in 1911 and reached its peak of popularity in the 1920s and 1930s as fans became increasingly interested in the private lives of celebrities. Early in the magazine’s history, it was known for its artwork portraits of film stars on the cover, but once color photography was perfected around 1937, photographs of the stars were used on the covers instead.
The photo of Ingrid Bergman that is on the cover of the issue I purchased was taken by Paul Hesse, a photographer who was one of the pioneers of color photography. By the late 1930’s, Hesse had become known as one of the best commercial photographers in New York, and he traveled to Hollywood several times a year to shoot photos of movie stars for Photoplay magazine and for national advertising campaigns. The dress Ms. Bergman is wearing was designed by one of the most the popular costume designers at the time and one of my personal favorites, Edith Head.
In 1920, Photoplay started to give out what is considered the first significant annual movie award, the Photoplay Medal of Honor, which was later changed to the Gold Medal. The award was voted on by the readers of the magazine and given to the producer of the year’s best film. The award was briefly discontinued in 1939 as it had started to decline in importance but was brought back in a new format in 1944. Awards were then given for both the film of the year and the most popular stars, which were determined by the Gallup Poll company.
I didn’t learn about this until after I purchased a copy and was happy to discover that the issue I bought features the award winners for 1946. The most popular stars in 1946 according to the results of the Photoplay Gold Medal award voting were first time winner Ingrid Bergman and for the third year in a row on the male side, Bing Crosby. The award for most popular motion picture went to The Bells of St. Mary’s.
Photoplay is a must read for those who love to look at old advertisements, both for commercial products and for movies that were being released at the time. The issue I purchased contained dozens of ads, many of them in color and most of them for products that would appeal to women such as makeup, hair and skin products, and fashions. It also contained movie reviews, personal stories about big name stars such as Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor and Dana Andrews, and several vivid color photographs of other movies stars of the time. I’m looking forward to purchasing and reviewing issues of a few other old movie magazines and learning more about the best ways to preserve a magazine collection while sharing those tips with you.
Do you collect vintage movie magazines? If so, what are some of your favorites?