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. 

Mary Pickford-Xmas Stills-680

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.

Una Merkel--Xmas Still-680

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.

Dorothy Gulliver-Xmas Still-680

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.

Miriam Hopkins-Xmas Still-680

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.

Patricia Ellis-Xmas Still-680

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.

Anita Louise-Xmas Still-680

 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!

Francis Gifford-Disney Store-2-680

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 Jerkins-Xmas still-680

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