Handbill from the Film “El Enemigo Público Número 1”
Shown here is the handbill for the film El enemigo público Numero 1 (Public enemy number 1), which was the Spanish title of Manhattan Melodrama, released in 1934 and starring Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Leo Carrillo, Nat Pendleton, and Mickey Rooney. Production and distribution companies as well as movie theaters used such handbills as advertisements to attract the attention of the public. The handbills usually featured the title, the names of the director, the cast, the production company (for example, Fox, Cifesa [in Spanish, Compañía Industrial de Film Español], or as here, Metro Goldwyn Mayer) and the distributors of the movie. Some of the images that appear on the recto of the page are photomechanical reproductions of the stills from the film. Some pages have information on the movie theater showing the film, together with the show times and special offers on the verso. Handbills began at the turn of the 20th century and peaked in popularity in the 1940s‒50s, coinciding with the peak of the Hollywood cinema era. Initially they were made of low-quality paper, and they just provided information about the plot of the movie, show times, and the theater, but they did not have any images. During the 1920s, the first pictures, mostly stills, featuring the director and the literary value of the work, gained popularity. Their evolution peaked in the 1930s, with the arrival of sound in the world of cinema. The guidelines for creating those handbills were ruled by a phenomenon known as the “star-system,” whereby the cinema industry dictated the stylistic and composition rules for poster creation. One of the rules of thumb for these compositions was to make the leading actor or actors (“the leading couple”) stand out so that a box-office success was guaranteed. Equally important was to highlight the information on the production of the movie and the Spanish distribution company. Both the handbills and the posters were of great importance because, in an era before audiovisual media, the decision on whether to see a movie depended on these two elements. In the late 1960s, with the advent of television and new advertising methods, they fell into oblivion. The Valencian Library holds a vast collection of visual material that includes prints, photographs, posters, postcards, maps, drawings and other minor printed ephemera. The collection of ephemera spans from 1900 to the present. It consists of 36,500 documents, which include labels for oranges, ex libris, cigarette paper packs, calendars, transport tickets, greeting cards, handbills, and so forth.
I.G. Viladot, Barcelona
Type of Item
1 print (playbill) ; 14.5 x 10.5 centimeters or less
Last updated: December 7, 2017