20 December 2013

Ten cents a photo

Until 1929, fan photos of Hollywood stars were sent out by the film studios for free. These photos were hugely popular amongst fans and produced in large quantities. It is said that one of the studios was sending out 1.5 million photos a year, and that the total of photos sent by the studios and freelance actors amounted to 50 million a year. Well, someone must have thought money was to be made from this. Beginning in 1929, fans would be charged for the photos (10cts for a 5x7" photo, 25cts for 8x10" and $1 for 1x14"). They'd receive a standard reply card from the studio (signed by the actor whose photo had been requested), saying there's a rule against sending free photos and asking the fans to pay for them in advance. There were Hollywood stars, however, who refused to charge their fans for the photos. Charlie Chaplin, for example, argued that he owed his success to his fans, mostly children, and to ask them for money would be unfair. Chaplin would continue to send out photos free of charge, which must have costed him a fair amount of money (considering he received 20,000 fan letters per month).

Charles Chaplin

Here are two reply cards from Warner Brothers, one signed by Errol Flynn, the other one by Olivia de Havilland:

And reply cards from Paramount (signed by Fred MacMurray), Twentieth Century Fox (signed by Fredric March) and Samuel Goldwyn Inc. (signed by Merle Oberon):

Fred MacMurray, Fredric March and Merle Oberon

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