Sometimes you see something so cool you can’t help but buy them. As I’ve gone a bit down the Hollywood rabbit hole, I’ve found a lot of other poeple on card twitter are in the same boat as me. While we all are interested in baseball cards, there’s a similar allure to classic Hollywood.
This shouldn’t be too surprising. Baseball fans are nostalgic traditionalists who enjoy comparing athletes from a century ago to current players and believe that learning about the game should include a hefty dose of learning about the history of the game. So of course we treat other forms of entertainment the same way. Movies, like baseball, are one of those American™ things which comes with a ton of cultural history.
Anyway as I’ve was showing off my Hollywood cards, one of the guys on card twitter responded by showing off his collection of Garbaty cards.
Garbaty is a German Cigarette manufacturer who, from 1934 to 1937, released three amazingly beautiful sets of cards. The sets all have the same look of lushly printed photos of actresses and other famous women of the 1930s but what really distinguishes them are the borders and extensive use of gold ink.
Anyway I was smitten and while I said I was basically done with pre-war Hollywood cards I occasionally type “garbaty” into my eBay searches just in case something stupidly affordable pops up. A month ago I got lucky and found a lot of a couple dozen of them for roughly a buck a card. I haven’t been so excited about an eBay purchase/shipment in a long time.
One of the problems with the Garbaty cards is that a lot of the actresses are not names we know anymore so it’s possible that a lot can be a bunch of “commons” of the same actress. This wouldn’t have been a huge deterrent at the price I was looking at but when I saw these two cards in the preview I knew I had to act fast.
When it comes to 1930s film stars there aren’t many bigger names than Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. The Dietrich in particular is all kinds of amazing between the portrait and the lush border. I’m not sure any of the other cards in the set can look better than this one.
All the cards I got are from Garbaty’s first release of 300 cards in 1934. These all have backs that define the set as Moderne Schonheitsgalerie (Modern Beauty Gallery) and it’s clear that Garbaty drew from all around the world for its checklist.
It’s a lot of fun to have a Lupe Velez card to represent a certain amount of non-European (plus United States) diversity* plus I enjoy having reminders of how vibrant Mexico’s film industry was during this time.
*While I don’t plan on getting more Garbatys I can see myself being tempted by Anna May Wong or Dolores Del Rio for similar reasons.
The highlight here though is the 16-year-old Rita Hayworth featuring her original name. She looked familiar and the name sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place who she was for a long time. Her being in this batch means that three of Madonna’s Vogue name checks were in there.
Two more. No star power this time (though Lil Dagover was apparently one of Hitler’s favorites) but I’m including these to give a sense for how varied and wonderful the borders of this set are. I only scanned half of the lot for this post but besides the Garbo and Dietrich, the others all have distinct border designs. Some are gold-focused. Others are colorful with gold accents. They look fantastic together in a 12-pocket page.
A handful of the cards feature pairs of stars. Many of these are in horizontal orientation so as to better frame the couple. The Garbo card pairing her with John Gilbert is a still from Queen Christina. A Garbo/Gilbert card is highly appropriate given how their supposed romance was a big deal for movie fans at the time.
Clark Gable and Joan Crawford meanwhile are a fantastic pair who appeared together in eight movies and also supposedly had some romance as well. Each actor represents 1930s Hollywood stardom by themselves but together they’re even more iconic. This appears to be a still from Chained and doubles as an example of why everyone used to smoke so much.
The Garbaty set has multiple cards per actress. Most of my batch was distinct names but there were a bunch of Brigitte Helm cards. I’ve only selected four of them here. I love how different each card is from the others. Different border. Different pose. Different hair. Even if it’s the same women these look very nice together on a page.
I’m glad that I have multiples of her too. She’s not a household name but she has one iconic role—in many ways the most iconic role of any of the actresses in the batch. Helm is famous for playing both Maria and the Maschinenmensch in Metropolis. She’s pictured here basically at the end of her career since she gave up films and fled the Nazis right around 1934.
Am I searching for more of these or looking to complete a set? God no. But my oh my do I like looking at them in the album.