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Monday, 27th October 2008
How Munch?

I love films. I watch can watch them all day, often I will. Cigarette cards were there to see the development of cinema and charted the stars from the golden age of Hollywood. It means we now have a large catalogue of film stars to look back on from the viewpoint of these cards.

Some of the earliest cards depicted the for-runners of these stars with the actors and actresses who treaded the boards. A great number of the pre-1900 cards were dedicated to this subject but do not directly concern us here. It is not the purpose of this page to give detailed analysis of individual sets. If you are looking for that then head to the film star section of this site. That gives details in the form of checklists for many of the most common sets and the gallery section of the site has a number of cigarette card images for you to look at.

Almost before I start I run into problems. The Murray's catalogue gives the Godfrey Phillips set Cinema Stars a 52 card series of photographic cards as being issued in 1923. Others list it as issued in 1929, others go with the idea of it being circa 1925. I have discussed these date differences on other theme pages and am not going to repeat it all here. In this instance Abdulla issued an identical set which Murray's lists as being issued in 1932. Clear as mud and if I have an opinion I am keeping it to myself on this one.

One of the first set of cards which does interest us is the Godfrey Phillips set of Cinema Stars [1924] as photographic series of 30 cards. Indeed for a period of time Godfrey Phillips had the field to themselves among the major U.K..They followed this set with two sets one again in 1924 which iis the unusual 25 card series which were circular because of the packaging they were presented in. The set does not bear a title but goes by the adopted title, Cinema Stars and the second in 1925 they produced another set of Cinema Stars, a series of 30 cards.

By 1931 very few silent movies were being produced.

In 1925 they produced another set of Cinema Stars, the title they chose for all the early issues. Like the 1925 series it was a series of 30 cards.

Up until 1926 Godfrey Phillips had the theme pretty much to themselves. But as the film said, " You ain't seen nothing yet. " OK that did not happen until 1927 and sound films were exhibited in 1923 but I am getting a little cranky about dates at the moment so I would appreciate some slack on this.

Gallaher got in on the act with the imaginative title Cinema Stars but what they lacked in imagination they made up for with quantity. It was a hundred card series.

Wills followed suit in 1928 with two separate issues of 25 cards. These sets include stars of the silent era such as Tom Mix who did not really make the cross-over to the sound era.

The cigarette card collecting public must have been thrown into total confusion a year later in 1929 when Carreras issued a set called Paramount Stars. A set of 27 photographic cards. It evokes the whole Hollywood studio system and the contracts they signed.

We now leave the 1920' s and into the 30' s. This was a period of explosive growth in the film industry and in the cards produced to depict that industry.

Wills came back to the theme in 1931 with Cinema Stars a 50 card series. By 1931 very few silent movies were being produced.

In 1934 the movie industry was developed enough that Ardath could issue a set of 50 cards entitled British Born Film Stars. A nice example of flag waving.

1934 was a big year for film star cards they must have been the card equivalent to the chat show format on television today. It was the year Players issued a set of cards on this theme. It was an excellent 50 card series which I always consider has one of the highest proportion of big stars of the period as remembered today.

The last set they issued on the subject being in 1938, the four years which covers the most popular period of film card production.

In 1934 even Churchmans produced a set of film cards, British Film Stars a series of 25. When you look at the output of this company it reminds me of an artist that refuses to compromise their art in the name of commercialization. A surprise therefore to see this set one almost expects to see the phrase,' with interesting eyebrows' in small letters after the main title.

Amazingly this was also the year when Gallaher produced a set of cards on this theme. It is nothing short of incredible because rightly or wrongly I think Gallaher when I think film cards.

Quite late into the process they went about making up for lost time with two other sets being issued this year by Gallaher.

However 1935 was the year seven sets on this theme and you do not get more commited than that. By 1936 issues from this group had returned to a more normal level.

Godfrey Phillips was still quietly producing sets on this theme and an writing this page has given me a new respect for their issues, even if at times the cards were designed for the sole purpose of giving people a heyday headache when trying to sort them out at a later date.

Carreras had obviously been saving up their thoughts since 1929 because in 1934 they issued a 72 card series and in 1935 a 96 card series.

The obvious pulling-power of film star cards is illustrated by the fact that some of the last cards produced were on the subject. In 1939 Carreras produced 8 sets and they were by no means the only ones still producing.

However with the Turf cigarette Carreras went above and beyond the call of duty when despite restrictions imposed by the aftermath of war produced three sets one in each year from 1947 to 1949.

Indeed they were not ready to give up yet and produced Radio and TV Favourites which was never issued. A likely date for this set is 1965 which makes it one of the last of the cigarette cards. Although Carreras did produce and distribute cards in 1977.