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good many people accept love takes many forms and means many different things but in this context it is that special sort of love as seen on the Silver Screen.
I have chosen Gallaher, Film Partners as my weapon of choice for this article. Why not one of the Love scene sets you might well be asking. Well I be answering, with a flick of my hair and a strange affectation I have adopted in the way I carry my hand for this particular article, 'Who are you to question the mind of a genius?' I feel my motivation drifting. I'm ready for my close-up Cecil. B-luvvie.
There is no real answer to this but for the fact most films within the cigarette card period were some pretty clean cut affairs. At least on the surface so lets scrap the conventional stuff. Sleaze is what you want to read, clean living is for every day.
The set is mighty colourful which does not strike as odd for the modern viewer but if you were to actually watch the films a lot of these cards are taken from you would discover they were Black and White. Whenever I watch an old movie I always have difficulty imagining the scene as it would have been in colour. Remember the fad a few years ago for coloration the old films, remember just how grim Laurel and Hardy looked in the 'flesh'? I wonder what the contemporary collector thought about the colour cards of black and white movies.
The card describes the film as full of exciting moments
Gallaher as an issuer were very strong on Film Star cards this set being issued in 1935 as a series of 48. The reverse of the card being printed in Blue on this occasion. For some reason Gallaher were pretty keen on colour variety on the reverse of the card, Blue, Red, Green were some of the colours used at one time or another.
The British Film industry is a rather sorry state nowadays. Every year there is a low-budget surprise which the pundits leap on as a reason not to give the industry a decent funeral. True we lead the world in some areas of film-making (scenery for period-drama's about Victorian England seems to be one strangely.) But all was different in the thirties, low-budget was the rule of the day and it seemed like everyone was making movies. Gallaher's cigarette cards remind us of this very fact with a good sprinkling of British Films, even though Hollywood was a far more glamorous place for a film to come from. Love in New York was always going to have more glamour than love in Billericay.
By the very nature of the cigarette card format to get both actors into the frame and be recognizable the shot has to be close-in so our stars are seen in various states of embrace for the most part, some rather more romantic than others but that's films for you.
The reverse of the card give a synopsis of the plot, and might fun they are as well.
|Card 8: Madeleine Carroll and Robert Donat
The Thirty-Nine Steps
This thrilling film features Robert Donat as Hannay, who accidentally discovers an international spy plot. He is suspected of murder and has to elude the police during his efforts to uncover the plot. In his adventures he meets Pamela, played by Madeleine Carroll, who tries to have him arrested. After many misunderstandings she realises the situation and joins him in the tense closing scenes which take place in the London Palladium, where the master criminal is caught.
Well there you have it in a nutshell. It was also a Hitchcock movie, one of the last before this great British director went to Hollywood. Why? Because it was better over there then and it is better over there now, if you are in the movie business.
Card three is fun as it represents everything that a 1930's movie was. Steffi Duna and Regis Toomey starring in Red Morning (which was nothing like Red Dawn.) Our hero is an insurance agent, remember just how many of them got into films in this period (Card 30, Heat Wave features a vegetable salesman, Les Allen). Anyway he falls in love with Kara (Steffi) who is a Portuguese girl, just imagine the accent, you know the type now reserved for cheap soap operas. Kara and her father are shipwrecked trying to escape a plot against their lives and are captured by island natives. Steffi escapes and finds our hero who had also been caught by the natives trying to rescue them. The card describes the film as full of exciting moments and the scenes of native life are especially interesting. I expect it was like almost being there. I should not scoff I have not seen the film, I wonder why?
I must mention card nine and ten in passing because they seem to suit one another. Card Nine depicts a film called Jealousy (Nancy Carroll & George Murphy, for the record) and card 10 depicts 'To-day we live.' (Gary Cooper & Joan Crawford) the plot was about a woman (J.C) whose brother and sweetheart are in active service in the Navy. Along comes G.C a smooth talking American and gradually turns the aristocratic J.C's head. This causes complications but her brother and sweetheart are British and they know what to do when an American has got his feet under the table, they sacrifice their lives (can you see those stiff upper-lips?) leaving J.C to 'find happiness' with G.C. Just imagine JC skipping down the isle after that.
I wonder how many times that film was played to the British troops in the Second World War.
So we have only looked at four cards and all ready we have a couple handcuffed together on the run, people marrying from diverse cultures, jealousy and suicides. Drop in card number six, Joan Bennett & Francis Lederer, 'The Pursuit of Happiness' and we have a deserter from the American War of Independence making love to the daughter of his captor (it was a comedy according to the card.) Five cards and almost all form of love life is here. I know I have missed a few but don't worry the article is yet young.
Changing tack, everyone loves a Hollywood wedding. Luckily the stars get divorced pretty frequently as well so if you missed them getting married the first time around they will do it again for you at a later date. Looking through this set you can see why. Cary Grant can be seen on card 15 with Myrna Loy (Wings in the Dark, whose plot is just too outlandish to even commit to the page) and then he pops up on card 34 with Elissa Landi in 'Enter Madame', at this point gentle reader I draw a discrete veil over proceedings. It is worth noting Cary Grant gets second billing on both these cards. Myrna Loy could well have been to blame for the breakdown in the relationship though as she appears on card 22 with Reginald Denny in 'A night in Cairo. Here I cannot draw a veil over matters it almost beggars belief. Myrna is engaged to a dullard but has an Egyptian lover. Then on the eve of her wedding day she can't bear the thought of her dullard husband-to-be and elopes with her lover. You see there are always two sides to a story and you have to know them both before apportioning blame.
The set is littered with these infidelities but perhaps George Raft is the most audacious of the lot appearing as he does on consecutive cards with different ladies. Card 46 has him playing a Mexican falling in love with a Spanish Dancer, more dramatic accents there then. By card 47 he has run off with his new knowledge and is a professional stage dancer who falls in love with a society girl. Although he looks exactly the same as card 46 he seems to have forgotten his Mexican parentage.
As Roy Orbison once said, 'Love hurts, Love scars, Love wounds and marrs.' (At least I think he says marrs)
Card 31 sees Charles Bickford and Mady Christians in 'A Wicked Woman.' A title picked for its 'bums on seats' appeal more than anything else I suspect. Mady happens to have married a drunken divorcee and is too good for this bar-fly so she shoots him dead instead. Not soon enough to have saved herself a family of five which she struggles to bring up after the incident. Eventually she confesses to the murder some years later but is acquitted. Finally driving home the point that honesty really is the best policy she falls in love with a sympathetic newspaper editor (now you must know this IS sheer fantasy).
On a similar vein is card 39 'Reckless' Jean Harlow has the misfortune of marrying a millionaire's son who being neurotic shoots himself dead. Unfortunately suspicion falls upon Jean and tongues wag to the effect she did the deed herself and the rest of the film centres about the attempt to clear her name.
Now Roy Orbison was not content with just a few words of gloom, he continued, ' Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain.' He also gave this sage advise, 'Love is like a spoon burns you when it's hot.', which might well be going to little off beam but its a song. One of his cheerier numbers you can tap your toe too but the sentiments are all there. It is difficult to say which is the most tragic love of all, the love that has died, the love that was stifled or love unrecognised. Who knows? Well probably Constance Bennett that's who. Card 42 has her teamed up with Herbert Marshall in the film version of Michael Arien's, 'The Green Hat.' The studio must have known this was not a big box-office draw so the marketing men changed it to 'A woman of the world.' Well lets face it which would you rather see?
C.B's first marriage ends tragically on her wedding night but in an effort to please her brother she marries again. She never loved this man and it ends badly in social disgrace. All the while though the man she really loves Herbert Marshall weaves in and out of the plot but fate keeps them apart.
If she cannot throw any light on the problem then maybe John Loder can on card 14 he is playing Henry VIII the English monarch with a taste for dismantling the Roman Catholic faith whilst swapping wives. Having said that his first wife was his brothers widow. The film being, The Private Life of Henry VIII with Elsa Lanchester.
And just to prove love knows no boundaries card 24 introduces us to Norma Shearer and 'Flush' in 'The Barrats of Wimpole Street'. Flush being her canine confidant.
A friend of mine died a few years back in a car crash, these things are never nice. We shared a lot together, although it was mostly drinking, playing pool and trying to pass accountancy exams. When we went to the pub (bar) we always filled the jukebox up so it would play, 'Tell Laura I love her' throughout the night, (up to five hours, hence the struggle with the exam side of things). This would go on for the duration of the course which could be anything up to six weeks. What a treat for everyone and a rather ironic tune as it transpired. Card 48 of this series, 'Living on Velvet', Kay Francis & George Brent rather reminded me of the song we used to play to death. Our hero survived the plane crash which killed his parents. Embittered by this he adopts a reckless lifestyle until he falls in love with Amy. The marriage does not work out and George returns to his self-destructive lifestyle and is fatally injured in a motor accident. The couple are reconciled just before his death.
This article is dedicated to the memory of
A well remembered friend. A master of unintended irony, 'Girlfriends and wives, they come and go. Best friends are always there.'