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Report from across the pond:
Film ephemera


John Sayers

Toronto has two significant ephemera fairs during the year, and at each of them - as in the UK - you never know what you're going to find. At the most recent fair that was very much the case.

Yes, there were the usual items that a collector seeks in his own field - in this case it included an Allan Lines 1912 Passenger List in near-mint condition for the equivalent of about 7. Like a frog attacking a fly, I reached out and - zap! - I had it firmly in my grasp.

But this isn't about what one collects. It's about what one purchases through a (possibly misguided) notion that it is being saved for the future pleasure and enjoyment of mankind. Sound familiar?

Image of Syncopating Sue In this case, it was some film memorabilia. Four single-sheet 6"x7" two-panel foldovers touted the merits of different silent films. But this isn't about those films - it's about the ephemera and what it says to us. Corinne Griffith in Syncopating Sue looks like the epitome of the 1920s flapper. Great graphics. A trip to Google-land disclosed that Syncopating Sue was released in 1926. When sound was introduced Griffith's voice reportedly did not reproduce well, and her career came to an end in 1932, a reminder that nothing is forever.

Melodrama was a popular element, as in The Prince of Tempters. Another trip to Google-ville established that among the many little-known names in the cast, Ian Keith survived the advent of sound, and had a successful career as a supporting actor in films of the B-level genre.

Image of Prince of Tempters leaflet

The tableau pictured on this sheet screams 'melodrama' and although we might scoff at it today, in the 1920s a less sophisticated audience, overwhelmed by the technology of film, would likely have had great enjoyment.

Image of bookmark Finally, a great 'crossover' find from 1936. Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer need no introduction to film enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic, although The Garden of Allah may well have been a film that fell short of winning any awards, save and except for an honorary Academy Award for technology, as the second film done in three-strip Technicolour. But this is more than a film item. It's also a bookmark, printed with the name of the theatre to promote the film being shown. Bookmark collectors please note.

But there's more. It's also an advertising piece, in that this is a sample showing the prices that a cinema operator would have to pay for a range of quantities of the bookmark. It's amazing to think that they might have ordered as many as 5,000 copies with the cinema name and film dates to promote just one feature film.

Delightful images. Fascinating insights. And all found in Toronto, Canada.


John Sayers is North American Representative on the Council of the Society, and has just completed the maximum 6-year term on the Board of the American society. He is a keen long-time collector of ocean liner ephemera.

Copyright © John G Sayers 2011. All Rights Reserved.