People who know me well will confirm that I’m an inveterate collector. My poor husband despairs. Our loft groans with boxes of bus and train timetables, seaside postcards, beer mats, even sugar packets. So my new found love for William Powell led me down the rabbit warren that is eBay and I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of old merchandise, reasonably priced to boot.
As it happens, William Powell’s most successful years coincide with the golden age of the cigarette card, roughly the 1920s to 1939 precisely. Why 1939? Well with the start of World War 2 on 1 September 1939, the U.K. needed all the paper and other materials it could get hold of and therefore tobacco manufacturers ceased production of the little cards, which were designed to stiffenpaper cigarette packets, they weren’t made from cardboard like today.
So I’ve started the collection with this little beauty, and judging by the pictures outlined on the back, probably dates from 1928, which coincides with the latter part of Bill’s silent era that I’m currently looking at:
Bill certainly looks appropriately villainous and caddish in the picture, and I was pleasantly surprised to see him described as a ‘star’ even before the talking pictures that sealed his fame. But the description at the back contains a small mystery – ‘Nevada’, ‘Senorita’ and ‘Forgetten Faces’ are all pictures I know about, but ‘Raymond Wants To Get Married’? Now that’s not in Bill’s Wikipedia filmography, it’s not mentioned in Roger Bryant’s book and I can’t find any mention of it on the internet! Very strange!
In 1927 Bill made a 5 reel short called ‘Time to Love’ with Raymond Griffith – The Silk Hat Comedian. Now as the plot does revolve around Raymond’s character wanting to marry the Countess Elvire, with hilarious consequences, I am guessing this must be the same movie. Often Hollywood films are renamed for the UK market and vice versa, so perhaps this was the case here.
‘Time to Love’ is in the hands of a private collector, like most of the films on the back of the card – although none are available for viewing, we should be grateful that they even survived at all. Certainly the vast majority of Raymond Griffiths’s work are lost as are most of William Powell’s silent pictures and I’ll be looking into this more closely in the next week or two.
William Powell: The Life and Films – Roger Bryant