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The Public Enemy (Warner Brothers, 1931). One Sheet (27" X 41") Style A.
The release of this landmark film in 1931 accomplished two important things simultaneously: it solidified the "social problem" film - introduced with Little Caesar (1931) - as an important and profitable niche for Warner Brothers, and it made a first-class star of leading man James Cagney through his portrayal of the amoral but affable Tom Powers. A real-life tough guy and former vaudeville hoofer, Cagney was originally cast as Matt Doyle, best friend of Powers, with Edward Woods assigned to the starring role. Apparently, however, director William Wellman had seen Cagney in Doorway to Hell (1930) - Cagney's second picture, in which he played a smart-talking henchman to star Lew Ayres' Capone-like mob boss - and realized that a casting error had been made. Switching Cagney and Woods' roles, Wellman created a superstar who would come to be recognized as one of the finest actors of the twentieth century. The Public Enemy is a stellar example of the classical gangster narrative, incorporating both a "rise and fall" storyline and an emphasis on the main figure as a "tragic" hero. Along with Little Caesar (1931) and Scarface (1932), it cemented the framework that virtually all gangster films to come - including Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Godfather Parts I (1972) and II (1974), Goodfellas (1990), and even The Sopranos (1999) - have adhered to. As Tom Powers, Cagney created a persona that was to have an indelible impact on the landscape of popular culture, an impact still felt to this day as actors worldwide adopt, consciously or not, mannerisms and beats from Cagney's immortal hoodlum. As both a landmark film and as a resounding cultural touchstone, the importance of The Public Enemy cannot be overstated. For a film of this great magnitude, paper has been frustratingly absent from the marketplace. Indeed, collectors have often wondered whether or not anything beyond the occasional window or lobby card might exist at all. With the unearthing of the Berwick Discovery of Lost Movie Posters, however, the unknown one sheets have miraculously come to light, and are offered here, to the collecting public, for the very first time anywhere. The Style A shown here presents a stunning and evocative portrait of star Jimmy Cagney and blonde bombshell Jean Harlow, who Cagney later remembered as, "... very pleasant to work with." Sadly, Harlow died not many years later, in 1937, her promising career cut short prematurely. Nevertheless, this incredible poster is a glorious testament to two major Hollywood figures at the beginnings of their careers, displaying the presence and allure that would soon rocket them to the heights of Hollywood royalty. The poster has had significant restoration to address missing paper in the upper right side of the image. Almost all of the Cagney image was completely intact other than a chip in his chin, as well as all of the art deco artwork in the upper left of the poster as well as all of the lower credits other than a hole in the "E" of the title. About half of the art deco artwork below the two portraits and a portion of Harlow's image remained intact. Much of the Warner Brothers logo as well as the lithographer's logo and even the writing in the lower right border were intact. The missing area includes a large portion of the upper right corner extending into Harlow's image and reaching down into the large field below the art deco images below the portraits. The professional restoration has been carefully executed using the press book as reference. If you crave the very rarest, and the very best in vintage movie posters, then you must bid on this historic gem. In more than eight decades, it is the only copy ever to surface, despite the diligent efforts of collectors across the globe searching for paper on this landmark film. Who knows? If you pass on this opportunity, it may be another eight decades before this highly desirable stone litho beauty is offered again. From The Berwick Discovery. Fair/Good on Linen.

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Service and Handling Description: Movie Poster - Rolled (view shipping information)

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Auction Dates
March, 2012
23rd-24th Friday-Saturday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 5,057

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