Art from the Golden Age of Movie Magazines

We at the Pictorial love Earl Christy. And Rolf Armstrong. And McClelland Barclay. And R Wilson Hammell. And Charles Edward Chambers. And all of the other American artists from the early 20th century that made up advertising’s great, golden age of Illustration. Not only because of what they did for  women’s journals and literary magazines but, of course, for the exquisite works of art created for American movie magazines. Photoplay, Modern Screen, Picturegoer, Screenland et al. Working largely from celebrity photographs, and in mediums such as oil and pastel, their work was firstly functional and not always … shall we say … artistic (hey, they had a hell of a workload, OK?) But when they were able to push the creative envelope, oh mama! The results were downright breathtaking.

According to the superlative website Grapefruit Moon, “The printing industry with its technological advancements and the American Industrial Revolution made for a multicolor offset printing process that was fast, affordable, and flat-out glorious in print. Cover artists were much in demand, earned lavish salaries and often became household names and stars in their own right.” Of course the likes of Norman Rockwell are venerated these days for their work, but today, for no reason at all, the Pictorial felt obliged to tip its hat to the illustrators of the great American movie magazines of yesteryear.

Below is a culled retrospective of some of our favorite eye-popping, sensational, drool-worthy illustrations of that explosively creative era.

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Constance Bennett, by Earl Christy

Constance Bennett, by Earl Christy

Norma Shearer, by Marland Stone

Norma Shearer, by Marland Stone

Anna Q Nilsson, by Rolf Armstrong

Anna Q Nilsson, by Rolf Armstrong

Ann Sheridan, by Earl Christy

Ann Sheridan, by Earl Christy

Bette Davis, by John Rolston Clarke

Bette Davis, by John Rolston Clarke

Claudette Colbert, unknown artist

Claudette Colbert, unknown artist

Joan Crawford, Wilson Hammell

Joan Crawford, Wilson Hammell

Katharine Hepburn, unknown artist

Katharine Hepburn, unknown artist

Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray, by Earl Christy

Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray, by Earl Christy

Martha Mansfield, by Rolf Armstrong

Martha Mansfield, by Rolf Armstrong

Mary Astor, by Earl Christy

Mary Astor, by Earl Christy

Myrna Loy & William Powell, colorized studio photo

Myrna Loy & William Powell, colorized studio photo

Norma Talmadge, by Earl Christy

Norma Talmadge, by Earl Christy

  1. wow, these are great! the artist who did the Carole Lombard painting captured her perfectly! (well, they are all perfect, but that is the most perfect!) I love how they did the blush on the cheeks in the early 30′s, too!

    • kittypackard says:

      oh i’m so glad you like them, kate! and i think you’re a cinch to do that kind of work–look at how good your own paintings are!

  2. Judy says:

    What a fantastic collection of cover art! I love your website – will be calling back often!

  3. Robby says:

    I especially love the one of Norma Talmadge. Very beautiful.

  4. kittypackard says:

    I like that one too–Norma was an exceptionally beautiful woman. It’s ironic, in my opinion, that Norma should be the subject of this particular cover about the onslaught of sound when the talkies would prove to be detrimental to her career. I also LOVE the Kate Hepburn cover with its ‘Will Films Be More Daring in 1934′–little did they know it would be the year the Hays Code started on its morality crackdown.

  5. Vincent says:

    What a wonderful site! I’ll be returning often.

    Now I cordially invite everyone here to visit (and join) my classic Hollywood site, “Carole & Co.”, dedicated to Carole Lombard, her life and times, and people she knew and worked with:

    http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/

  6. [...] who knows the Pictorial knows exactly how much we gush over the splashy color of a vintage movie magazine. Give us an Earl Christy Photoplay cover and [...]

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