The Art of Selling Movies – John McElwee

It’s an absolute joy to see newspaper ads for film going back to the beginning of the medium. It’s like sifting through archaeological strata of the country’s culture. The birth of film, all the pre–Hayes–Code ads (!), the tremendous hype and fulsome praise for films I’ve never heard of, then into the 30’s and 40’s and all the beloved Golden Age stars looking fabulous. And onward.

And the lies! My goodness, the lies told in some of the ads in order to get butts in seats. The most shocking was a pair of advertisements for All Quiet on the Western Front, which I’ve never seen (or read) but was pretty sure was a pretty grim and serious film about WWI … yet was being sold with pictures of scantily–clad girls. Jaw–dropping.

It’s fascinating to see the parallels between the state of health of the movie industry – nearly killed by Depression and then again by television – and the methodologies (and level of hysteria) in the ads. I might have wished for a somewhat more clearly linear layout for the book, but it was thorough and well-researched. A fun ride.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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2 Responses to The Art of Selling Movies – John McElwee

  1. Naty says:

    Sounds like a fascinating read!! Great review. Can’t believe they put pretty girls to advertise for All Quiet in the Western Front, I haven’t read it myself but my boyfriend did and definitely the book/movie isn’t about that.

  2. stewartry says:

    Thank you! I really enjoyed it. And yeah – that was something else. Anything to get rumps in seats!

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