Gangster movies have been a Hollywood staple since the early days of the silent cinema. The first recognized gangster movie is D.W. Griffith’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley, released by the General Film Company on October 31, 1912, and starring Elmer Booth and Lillian Gish. Since that first silent film effort, gangster or "gangsta" movies have been a highly visible and oftentimes bloody component of the motion picture landscape.
Here are ten valuable gangster movie posters and theater lobby cards that are sure to excite both movie memorabilia buffs and fans of the genre. These collectibles represent some of the verybest items in the field and prove once again that crime does pay – in the movies that is…
The Beast of the City (1932) Lobby Card
Walter Huston, Jean Harlow, Wallace Ford and Jean Hersholt star in this gritty organized crime drama released by MGM on February 13, 1932. "I know how to make those lice talk," says police captain Jim Fitzpatrick (Walter Huston) on his gangland adversaries. A theater lobby card (11×14-inches) picturing Jean Hersholt and Jean Harlow in near mint/mint condition sold at auction for $2,760.
Scarface (1983) One Sheet Movie Poster
Al Pacino explodes as Cuban-American gangster Tony Montana in this bloody bullet- and f-word-riddled Miami drug thriller directed by Brian De Palma. A standard one sheet poster (27×41-inches) in near mint condition blazed its way to a top bid of $227.05 at auction.
Little Caesar 1931 Lobby Card
Edward G. Robinson stars as Caesar Enrico Bandello – better known as "Little Caesar," and we ain’t talkin’ the pizza chain here – a ruthless, pint-sized thug who claws his way to the top of the underworld. "This is Rico speaking. Rico! R-I-C-O! Rico! Little Caesar, that’s who! Listen, you crummy, flat-footed copper, I’ll show you whether I’ve lost my nerve and my brains!" Robinson growls over the phone in one scene. A lobby card (11×14-inches) picturing Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Joe Massara and Glenda Farrell as Olga Stassoff in near mint condition sold at auction for $717.
White Heat (1949) Insert Movie Poster
James Cagney comes out smokin’ as gangster and mama’s boy Cody Jarrett in director Raoul Walsh’s 1949 classic White Heat. "Mad it, Ma! Top of the world!" Cagney’s delusional Jarrett declares in one memorable scene. An insert movie poster (14×36-inches) in restored fine/very fine condition fetched $567.63 at auction.
The Godfather (1972) Italian Locandina Movie Poster
The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando in the title role of Mafia don Vito Corleone, won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Screenplay. "Look how they massacred my boy…" Brando’s Don Corleone breaks down in one scene upon spying the bullet-riddled corpse of his son Santino "Sonny" Corleone (James Caan), the victim of a brutal mob hit. An Italian locandina movie poster (13×27-inches) in fine- condition brought $58 at auction.
King of the Underworld (1939) One Sheet Movie Poster
Humphrey Bogart stars as tough guy Joe Gurney – "King of the Underworld" – in this wildgangster flick directed by Lewis Seiler. "Hey doc…anybody ever tell you that you’re a pretty good lookin’ doll? Ah, I’m not kiddin’. Y’know, I don’t go for dolls as a rule. I mean, they’re just something nice to have around the house like cats and dogs and pets and things. You got brains," Bogie’s Joe tells Dr. Carole Nelson (Kay Francis). A standard one sheet movie poster (27×41-inches) in very fine- condition and preserved on linen sold at auction for $896.25.
The Public Enemy (1931) Lobby Card
Jimmy Cagney plays Chicago mobster Tom Powers in The Public Enemy, released by Warner Bros. on April 23, 1931. In one of filmdom’s most famous scenes, the ruthless Cagney shoves a grapefruit into the face of a surprised Mae Clarke. A lobby card (11×14-inches) picturing Cagney in very fine/near mint condition fetched $920 at auction.
The Roaring Twenties (1939) One Sheet Movie Poster
James Cagney, Priscilla Lane and Humphrey Bogart head the cast of The Roaring Twenties, one of Warner Bros’. classic gangster films directed by the venerable Raoul Walsh. "He used to be a big shot," Gladys George as Panama Smith says of dead gangster Eddie Bartlett (Cagney) at the end of the film. A one sheet poster (27×41-inches) in restored fine/very fine condition on linen sold at auction for $5,676.25.
The Last Gangster (1937) One Sheet Movie Poster Style C
Craggy-faced Edward G. Robinson stars as Joe Krozac, who’s released from prison and goes looking for his ex-wife and son in director Edward Ludwig’s The Last Gangster, released by MGM on November 12, 1937. A one sheet style C poster (27×41-inches) in restored very fine- condition on linen brought $1,912 at auction.
Guns, Girls and Gangsters (1959) Insert Movie Poster
Hollywood fun girl Mamie Van Doren heads the cast in that unbeatable movie combination of Guns, Girls and Gangsters, released by United Artists in January 1959. An insert poster (14×36-inches) in very fine- condition sold at auction for $95.60.
Gangster Movie Memorabilia Credits
- All auction results courtesy Heritage Auctions, Dallas, Texas
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.