While browsing a Hollywood memorabilia shop, a magazine cover from 1935 caught Pam Price’s eye. “It almost looked like a Rembrandt,” she recalls. “The lighting, the way that she was positioned …”
That image of Miriam Hopkins on the cover of Modern Screen Magazine ignited Price’s 25-year collection of Hollywood movie magazine covers.
Twenty-five of Price’s 150 vintage covers, as well as lobby cards and movie ads, are on exhibition July 2 through Oct. 31 at the Rancho Mirage Public Library. Price will talk about the covers during a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on July 11.
Spanning 1930 to 1955, the Rancho Mirage resident’s collection includes images of Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Clara Bow, Myrna Loy, and other idealized stars of the silver screen.
“Of all the magazines in my collection, there are only two men on a cover,” she says. And at that, they shared the coveted position with women: Howard Hughes with Katherine Hepburn and Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers.
Price stresses that the cover portraits were painted, not photographed. “They were done as a work of art,” she says. “Sometimes, [the artists’] names were on the cover.” As her collection grew, she began to recognize the artists. “I could look at a cover and say, ‘Oh, that’s an Earl Christi.’ They each had their own style.”
After buying a Modern Screen, Photoplay, Motion Picture, Silver Screen, Picture Play, or similar magazine, Price took it to a framer to preserve the image. “Each frame I picked out to enhance the actual cover,” she says. Left with stacks of cover-less magazines, the former art teacher used them to create about 200 collages.
One of Price’s most recent purchases — from one of the memorabilia shops she frequents in Paris — features Greta Garbo (her “all-time favorite actress”) on the cover of a Screen Play magazine. What cost 10 cents in 1931 cost about $60.