Motion picture studios left no stone unturned in their quest to market their movies. Therefore, movie merchandising, which reached its apex with films like STAR WARS, started with the dawn of film. Just like female stars, male stars were presented in doll form during the height of their popularity. Over the years, such stars as George Arliss, John Bunny, Eddie Cantor, W. C. Fields, Charles Lindberg, Lupino Lane, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Clark Gable, Sean Connery, Rex Harrison as Dr. Doolittle and Elvis Presley, all became dolls.
While the male doll is a neglected aspect of movie memorabilia, many celebrated figures were presented for fans of all ages during these last 100+ years. Some were eccentric or flamboyant characters but they came into being because they touched the heart, were known for their comedy, their adventuresome spirit, their music or charisma, making them a desired commodity. They are an important element in the history and marketing of American motion pictures and why WalterFilm has chosen to feature them in our 2023 Holiday Blog.
Once a film has gone through its’ conception, various script drafts, pre-production, filming and post production, it is time for what many film makers see as the real work—- promotion!
In the hey-day of the golden era of movies, each studio had a labor intensive, overly creative and overly worked department for the promotion, advertising and merchandising of each of their movies, as well as for their individual contract personalities.
The campaigns for those opulent million-dollar films was extravagant.
The public audience of the 1930s, weary from the economic and emotional Depression, sought out the movies. Movie makers gave them the entertainment they wanted, often presenting extravagant promotions as major as the movies themselves.
By the late 1930s, as the world economy improved, movie studios began producing expensive fantasy films. The studios would create wild campaigns for movie magazines, magazine articles and ads, newspapers, radio, theatre lobby, entrance and marquee displays, posters, billboards, contests and merchandising of all kinds— including publications, music, records, games, toys, dolls, clothing and jewelry lines. These would all be presented in a tremendous studio publication, a campaign book.
When Walt Disney shorts’ characters, Shirley Temple and other child stars, Disney features such as SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, PINOCCHIO and FANTASIA, Paramount’s GULLVER’S TRAVELS and MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ all proved to be bonanza, not just for the box office but for merchandising , other studios ventured into this new realm.
In England, Alexander Korda jumped on the Technicolor fantasy bandwagon with THE THIEF OF BAGDAD. With the onset of the Second World War, it became dangerous to continue filming in England, so the entire enterprise was brought to Hollywood to continue production.
When it came time to promote the film, Korda did so in the style of his American brothers — merchandising his film in a manner as opulent as the production itself. The dolls and their costumes and jewels that were created have never been surpassed; and that jewelry line bearing the Korda name on each piece is today among the most sought of its type.
Thief of Bagdad Promotional Brochure
Imagine, in 1940, any of these dolls beneath your child’s Christmas tree. Today many of us are thrilled with pieces inspired by our favorite films. What child doesn’t want a toy from their favorite film?
Campaign books too are highly sought by collectors, and Walterfilm often features them. For this holiday offering we present the story of the toys made for this special film and a pictorial look at the extravagance of how a classic golden age film was presented and promoted.