Original 1940’s silk movie promo banners

posted by buckharmon on January 8, 2009 at 7:42 am

I have recently acquired a fabulous collection of original 1940’s silk movie banners. They all measure around 3'x 5', have wood dowels with painted gold fineals,braided silk hang lines with tassels and tassel along the bottom.

They are silk screened 3~4 color on silk and really have a great look. The collection consists of 42 banners of early 40’s first and second movies. A few of the titles: “Strike up the Band” Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland, “The Philadelphia Story”, “Seven Sinners” John Wayne & Marlene Dietrich, “If I Had my Way” Bing Crosby & Gloria Jean and many more.

Trying to research accurate history, value etc. has proven difficult and limited. I’m pretty sure that they were made in Hollywood, CA by a company named Hollywood Banners that is still in buisness in N.Y. www.hollywoodbanners.com (archives).

I’ve been searching the internet for almost a year now and can’t locate anything similar. Does anyone know about these great movie history theatre promo pieces?

Comments (12)

danpetitpas on January 8, 2009 at 8:38 am

Well, there’s plenty of information about silk movie banners on the Internet. They’re quite collectible. Here’s a description from Heritage Auctions.

“Banner: Posters which come in a variety of sizes ranging from 24” to 30" by 84" to 120.“ Studios began producing banners in the 1920s and they were painted using gorgeous, full-color silk screen art on canvas or bookbinder’s cloth with grommets spaced along the edges. Beginning in the late 1930s the studios began to transition to a card stock material but still silk screening in a mono-tone color scheme and adding a photograph pasted to the banner. Today’s banners are printed on vinyl and come in a vast variety of sizes.”

Heritage lists a Pinocchio silk banner which had some condition problems that sold for $836.50. Another version sold for $567.63

“A Bill of Divorcement” banner (1932) went for $167.30 and a “Test Pilot” (1938) went for $203.15.

You can see them here. You might have to sign up for a free account to see the prices.

E-Bay seems to have some from time to time. Currently someone is trying to sell a “Seven Sinners” (1940) banner for a “buy it” price of $1299.

I would say you have quite a valuable cache here!!! The folks at Heritage Auctions could probably help you with estimates of value since they have a very large movie department.

If you watch Antiques Roadshow, you’ve probably seen Rudy Franchi there assessing various collections. He’s at Heritage and you can e-mail him directly at

Have you also e-mailed the folks at Hollywood Banners? They have an online form for asking questions, and they may be able to help with any specific questions you have about how they were made.

Good luck and tell us what happens!!!

buckharmon on January 8, 2009 at 7:07 pm

danpetitpas,Thank you very much for this great information ! I have spoken with one of the owners of Hollywood Banners and learned about the artist Frank Bonora that did much of this work.He seemed a little reluctant to talk value though.I had never heard of Heritage Auctions but will be contacting them tomorrow.These banners were aquired as part of the purchase of the estate of a 30’s~ 40’s burlesque dancer. She had a boyfriend that was in the motion picture promotion buisness. I found some old letters written on Wyatt Motion Picture Services letterheads. I believe this dancer was Edwin Wyatt’s east coast connection. All of the banners were rolled in a long leather case that had a dry grey mold on the outside,when I opened the case I was amazed to find the banners~ and equally amazed that they had not been damaged.It seems that the case did it’s job. Anyway, thanks again and I’ll keep you posted,Buck

danpetitpas on January 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm

That’s awesome!! Good luck!!

Roxy on January 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I have a number of the silk banners as well… however, not of movies but for in house seasonal promotions. They are absolutely beautiful. I still use them in my theatre as the need arises. Based on the artwork and printing styles, I am quite sure they are from the 40s as well. They have copy on them such as: “Our Summer Hit Parade”, “Midnight Show Tonight”, “New Years Eve Late Show”,“Air Conditioned”, “Late Show Tonight”, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” (I just took those down last week), and more. Using them helps to establish the overall oldtime theme that I use in my 1933 art deco theatre.

buckharmon on January 9, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I spoke with Rudy Franchi and Grey Smith today and was pleasantly surprized with their interest. Mr.Franchi told me that there are not a lot of these banners out there, and that mainly the larger theatres either rented them or purchased them.He said that some of the high end theatre owners took great pride in dressing their lobby.Funny that Roxy Vaudeville would share using silks to dress his/her theatre just as I learn about it! Thank you Roxy.The banners that you have and use were probably the type to purchase. I shared a list of the titles with Grey Smith of Heritage Auction and am in the process of taking photo’s to send him.I’m new to this great site,and would be willing to share some of the photo’s of silk movie banners if anyone would be interested.I would have to learn how and where to upload them though. Have a great evening, Buck

danpetitpas on January 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

That’s great news!! The best way to share pictures is to open a Flickr.com or Photobucket.com account. You just need to get them online somewhere so we can see them and then send us a link. Of course, if you sell them through Heritage Auctions, they’ll put the pictures online there.

buckharmon on January 12, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Thanks again! I managed to get photo’s of 41 banners to Mr. Smith at Heritage on Saturday, thinking that he might be interested in them as a lot. It seems that he’s interested in certain titles instead.He told me that he could use the Philadelphia Story,the Grapes of Wrath,Rebecca,My Favorite Wife,Seven Sinners,The Thief of Bagdad and 2 Strike Up the Band banners.I’m torn with breaking up a collection of 41 for historic reasons, any thoughts? Buck

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on January 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm

No doubt the THS Theater Historical Society has knowledge of these banners.
P.S. Don’t expose them to bright lights as they will fade beyond help.
How about sharing them with all of us by downloading some photos?

buckharmon on January 14, 2009 at 10:04 am

I’ve been trying to figure a way to get some of these guys on,seems that this site is updating their link to do this.I,ve set a photobucket account up~but can’t figure out how to make it work! Guess I’ll have to invite one of my kids over to teach me. Thanks for your comment and interest, Buck

buckharmon on January 14, 2009 at 6:56 pm

OK I think this will work~ if you would care to se some original 1940 silk movie banners grob this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/34285044@N03/?save thanks and please let me know if this works, Buck

ChrisB on January 14, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Link works fine – thanks for posting them! Especially “Flight Command”. I picked up three old silk banners at a garage sale for $5.00 once – ironically in this case, they advertise Westinghouse TV sets (“With Electronic Clarifier”!).

Jermaine on February 25, 2009 at 2:00 am

I’d never break up the set, if I didn’t have to. The economy, being what it is, may dictate that you have to do the unthinkable…but if at all possible, KEEP THEM TOGETHER! :)

Im jealous!

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