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Getting Ready For Christmas In Hollywood

by Leonard Maltin
December 16, 2013 11:01 AM
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It’s time again to share some of my favorite publicity photos from the golden age of Hollywood: a bygone era of ballyhoo, when actresses under contract to the major studios were kept busy between film assignments shooting promotional stills for hungry newspapers and magazines around the world. I’ve been collecting these photos for years and never seem to run out of material, especially for Yuletide tie-ins. 

We begin in the 1920s, as the First Lady of Hollywood, MARY PICKFORD looks out for those less fortunate—the shop girls who sell us Christmas gifts—in this unusual public service photo. Leave it to Mary to pull off a campaign like this.

In this MGM publicity pose of the 1930s, UNA MERKEL offers “her” gift suggestions for practically everyone on your Christmas list. I hope Brother didn’t wind up with emphysema from smoking all those cigarettes—unless his sibling was thoughtful enough to pick out a nice wallet.

Universal starlet DOROTHY GULLIVER illustrates one way of sending all your Christmas gifts on time, although we wouldn’t recommend loading up your neighborhood mailbox.

The original 1932 caption reads, “MIRIAM HOPKINS, who has just completed the featured role in Ernst Lubitsch’s ‘Trouble in Paradise’ for Paramount, believes in doing her Christmas shopping early. Her seals feature a miniature photograph of herself.” You might consider adding this personal touch to your presents—unless you think it seems narcissistic.

Pretty PATRICIA ELLIS was Warner Bros.’ all-purpose ingénue in the 1930s, amassing forty feature credits in eight years’ time, before leaving films behind to sing on Broadway, in nightclubs and on the radio. Here she demurely eats a Christmas cracker—or is she licking a stamp or gift sticker? We may never know unless someone finds the original studio caption.

 I wish I had the caption for this photo of ANITA LOUISE, “Warner Bros. and Vitaphone Pictures star,” delivering Christmas gifts. You can write one yourself!

Beautiful FRANCES GIFFORD makes a purchase at the Disney studio store while filming The Reluctant Dragon in 1941. There’s still a store on the Burbank lot, but I don’t think they offer any of the wonderful figurines depicted here.

 ADELE JERGENS strikes a pretty pose in the late 1940s to remind Americans about the importance of purchasing Christmas seals.  

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  • Jim Reinecke | December 20, 2013 12:38 PMReply

    Cheesecake has always been among my favorite confections. Keep 'em coming, Leonard (I'm already looking forward to what you have for us around Valentine's Day)! But seeing such WB ladies as Anita Louise and Patricia Ellis, you can't tell me that there aren't a few Ann Sheridan shots around SOMEWHERE! This beautiful (and extremely versatile)actress was Warners' ultimate sexy lady during their heyday and I'm sure that this venue was utilized at one time or another to showcase her to the public.

  • Lee Eisenberg | December 17, 2013 1:18 AMReply

    Heck with that. I want to see an "Evil Dead" Christmas.

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