Theater & Film

“In vaudeville, there is always something for everybody, just as in every state and city, in every county and town in our democratic country, there is opportunity for everybody, a chance for all.”
– Edward Albee II (adoptive grandfather of the playwright), in Variety, 1923

“I intend more of a kinship with silent films than more modern film. Some people don’t get it.”
– George Lucas

Artist: Anonymous
13 1⁄2 x 30 in./34.3 x 76.2 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

Don’t get excited – it’s only an original movie poster for Jane “mean, moody, magnificent” Russell in “The Outlaw,” the Howard Hughes film that scandalized America and thrust Russell’s bust into stardom. This is actually the poster for the 1949 Australian release of the film, which tones down Russell’s rude, hot scorn into something a little more traditionally Hollywood, with her eyes rendered as a distraction from her breasts. Nonetheless, her nostrils flare, and  “Not Suitable for Children” comes through loud and clear in this tawdry Tinseltown tableaux and tale.

Artist: Josef Fenneker
36 1/2 x 72 1/8 in./92.7 x 183.2 cm
Est: $3,500-$4,000

You can already see, in this riveting two-sheet poster, why the Danish actress Asta Nielsen was the first international star of silent film: the large dark eyes, a haunted face, her boyish figure. She often portrayed headstrong, passionate women trapped by tragic circumstances: transforming this melodramatic trope with naturalism and overt eroticism – leading her films to be heavily censored in the U.S. “Dirnentragodie,” or ‘Tragedy of the Street,’ was Nielsen’s final silent role. The film epitomizes the Weimar movement called The New Objectivity, which tried to create a middle ground between Brechtian alienation and Expressionist emotionalism by forcing middle-class characters into the oppressive social circumstances of the street. “Dirnentragodie” features Nielsen as an aging prostitute who takes in a young man running away from his middle-class family. She fantasizes about a different future; the man returns to his family; she’s accused of murdering her pimp. This 1927 Fenneker design was used for the release of the film in Vienna.

Artist: Alfred Choubrac
29 3/4 x 45 1/2 in./75.6 x 115.8 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500.

Roaring and mesmerized lions fly around a sensuous nude, dancing erotically in diaphanous gowns –– a fantasy? No, this was a fairly accurate rendition of evenings at the Théâtre de la Gaité in the 1890s whenever Bob and Marck came to town. You read the legend right: Madamoiselle Bob Walter was the erotic nude in question. Born in French Algeria as Baptistine Dupré, she moved to Paris when her parents died, took the stage name “Bob” for reasons we cannot fathom, and sang, recited poetry, and performed a “Serpentine Dance” a la Loïe Fuller – but inside a cage of lions held at bay by lion-tamer Georges Marck. Bob’s stage career ended after a caustic newspaper review, when she cornered the critic in the street and bloodied his face with her key ring. Never one to stand still, she then turned to auto racing.

Artist: Anonymous
40 3/4 x 80 3/8 in./103.5 x 204 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

A Jazz-Age extravaganza spills downward, from klieg-lights and showgirls, to the musicians pulling deep sax and banjo on the left, as Wheeler and Woosley woo Thelma Todd (as Amelia Frisby) to promote her new flavored lipstick. Hilarity ensues in this 1934 pre-code slapstick comedy. Typical reviews of the time labeled it “enthusiastically insane” with a “generously-endowed medley of eccentric dancing, buffoonery and burlesque.” This is the rarer three-sheet poster.

45. Der Tanz des Todes. 1921.
Artist: Kurt Opitz
25 1/4 x 38 in./64 x 96.5 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

This daring, twisting tableaux of lust and danger showcases the Polish actress Pola Negri, who would swiftly achieve worldwide fame across the silent and golden eras of Hollywood for her femme fatale film roles. “Der Tanz des Todes” – ‘The Dance of Death’ – is the German translation of Pola Negri’s very first film, a Polish silent from 1914 (“Niewolnica zmyslów,” or “The Slave of the Senses”), in which she plays a beautiful poor daughter of a locksmith, who strives for success as a dancer, and enrages her street-tough boyfriend by becoming the mistress of a wealthy admirer. It’s possible it achieved a later run in Germany, where this 1921 image was created at the Atelier Phalanx in Leipzig, attributed to Kurt Opitz, later known for his anatomical paintings. By this time, Pola Negri was in Berlin, making films with Ernst Lubitsch; at the end of 1921 she signed to Paramount Studios and became the first Continental import to Hollywood, paving the way for Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, while becoming Hollywood royalty in her own right, enjoying affairs with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. Exceptionally rare.

Artist: Josef Fenneker
37 3/8 x 56 in./94.8 x 142.2 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

Fenneker creates the perfect fusion of grace and beauty, the grotesque and the macabre, for “The Dance of Death,” a 1919 German film not to be confused with the similarly-titled Pola Negri film (following lot). As Coilhouse Magazine wrote in 2010, “it is not difficult to imagine oneself mesmerized, whipped into a maelstrom of sympathetic mania when confronted with such imagery [by Fenneker].” The film itself, now lost, was written by Fritz Lang (uncredited in this poster). Sascha Gura stars as The Beautiful Dancer, who is manipulated by an evil cripple to lure men to their deaths. She falls in love with one of her intended victims, a murderer himself, who then must escape a bizarre labyrinth underneath the home of the evil, crippled Daedalus. It was screened at Marmorhaus, or “The Marble House,” a historic cinema in Berlin’s Charlottenburg auf Kerfürstendamm district.

Live auction begins March 12, 2017 11 a.m. EDT
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