VIDEO: Watch and listen to Jim Cook talk about the significance of movie posters, featuring some promoting films made in Palm Springs.
The Wizard of Oz has been capturing the imagination of generations of children since the moment the movie was released in 1939. And for Palm Springs resident Jim Cook, an Oz memorabilia purchase made by his father when Cook was just 14 years old has led to a lifelong interest in movie posters and a collection that celebrates decades of Hollywood history.
Cook’s father was on a business trip in New York City when he came across a shop that had original movie posters, including one from The Wizard of Oz, and immediately thought of his son.
“As a young child I loved watching the yearly telecast of the movie,” says Cook. “He actually brought home several [other] items from that shop including some black-and-white stills from the movie. He told me the proprietor had informed him that the value of old Hollywood memorabilia was skyrocketing. That piqued my curiosity. I was interested in television and radio so the telecast and its promotion fascinated me.”
Cook eventually went into the broadcasting business as a career and his next poster acquisitions came after he finished college and was working in radio. “[I acquired them] mostly by making myself a pest to local theater managers who would let me take home leftover or duplicate posters for free,” he says. “Since I couldn't afford most of the vintage items it was an easy way to collect.”
He also focused on re-release films since many classic movies were released again to theaters a few years after their initial run and these later posters were less expensive, but still original theater-used items. Cook’s Wizard Of Oz poster is actually a re-release from the film’s 1955 run.
It was only after Cook and his wife bought a home in Palm Springs in 2009 that his collection took on a whole new meaning. “The posters had been stored away for years and as I toured around town learning about Palm Springs history, [the] connections became obvious,” says Cook. “The history of Hollywood is written everywhere around each neighborhood [and] well over 100 major motion pictures from the 1920s on have been filmed here.”
Cook notes the posters are immediate conversation starters for anyone in a vacation rental, midcentury modern home, or just about any local neighborhood. “They bring the history and style of an era to life [and] you will find my posters hanging in houses with celebrity pedigrees,” he adds. “The Kirk Douglas house in the Movie Colony East [for rent through ACME House Company] has several of my posters including 1960s Spartacus, which is featured in the 2015 film Trumbo.”
photo courtesy of jim cook
One of the best known movies made locally is Palm Springs Weekend.
Cook explains that many of the posters created prior to the 1940s were done using a stone lithographic printing process where each color is etched onto individual stones and the result is a vivid splash of color. One of Cook’s oldest posters, Daddy, a 1923 silent film that starred Palm Springs resident Jackie Coogan, is a stone lithograph piece.
“The paper many posters were printed on was inexpensive newspaper-type stock,” says Cook. “The film companies never expected these things to have any lasting value. They were considered throwaway items. The acid in the cheap paper causes deterioration, yellowing, and brittleness over time [and] some poster titles have been lost to the ages as a result.”
Cook is currently working with museum-quality paper restoration experts to preserve much of his collection. The posters are cleaned, de-acidified, and pasted onto a linen backing which eliminates fold lines, tears, and paper loss and preserves the item while making it display worthy in the process.
For obvious reasons, Cook’s original Wizard of Oz poster is one of his favorites and has been restored and now hangs in his home. “The Palm Springs Weekend items I have are also a favorite,” says Cook. “The film was shot at the Riviera hotel in 1963.”
Many of Cook’s other best-loved posters have ties to the Palm Springs lifestyle. These include The Caddy, a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis golfing comedy; Dangerous When Wet starring Esther Williams; Diamonds Are Forever, the James Bond classic filmed at the John Lautner-designed Elrod House; and the Joan Crawford classic The Damned Don't Cry! which was shot at Frank Sinatra's house on Alejo Road.
“I have an ever-growing collection that currently numbers in the thousands,” says Cook. “I find rare Palm Springs-related titles through many sources including auctions, other collectors, and flea market finds. Who else do you know that has a Charles Farrell head shot?”
All of the posters in Cook’s collection are available for purchase through his website, and he’s hoping to mount a show during Modernism Week 2016 with Lucie Arnaz. Their exhibit would include artwork by Arnaz’s son, Simon Luckinbill, along with movie posters including vintage items from the film careers of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, as well as some never-before-seen footage of the couple’s midcentury home.
In addition to all his classic Hollywood posters, Cook has many others from the 1980s through the 2000s. Some of those items have Palm Springs ties as well, including American Gigolo and Rain Man, which were filmed here in the desert.
He also has many LGBT and campy-themed posters like The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Boys Prison, and Pink Flamingos. “Whether its size, content, or history, the collection is rich with the stars and stories that made Palm Springs famous and fun!”
Visit www.nostalgiaps.com to purchase one of Cook’s posters. They range in price from $500 to $3,000 depending on restoration, framing, rarity, and other factors.