Ephemera, Part IV

This continues our discussion of collecting ephemera or secondary items, in this case related to author John Steinbeck, as a method to enhance your collection and to set it apart from the collection of others, to personalize it or color it to fit your desires and taste.  We have already discussed bibliographies, periodical appearances by Steinbeck, his Armed Services Editions appearances, and theatre memorabilia.  Now we’ll discuss movie memorabilia and interesting editions of Steinbeck’s works by his subsequent publishers.

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  1. The Grapes of Wrath, 20th Century-Fox, 1940, complete set of eight 11X14-inch lobby card posters for the original release of the film version.
  1. The Pearl, RKO, 1948, complete set of eight 11X14-inch lobby card posters for the original release of the film version.
  1. A Medal for Benny, Paramount, 1945, an original-release one-sheet film poster, 27X41 inches.
  1. Lifeboat, 20th Century-Fox, 1943, an original-release film pressbook.
  1. O. Henry’s Full House, 20th Century-Fox, 1952, an original-release film pressbook.

Film memorabilia related to John Steinbeck is an area filled with challenges, but it is one that provides many rewards.  Film scripts by a favored author seem like a perfect fit for a book collector.  Still photographs from author-related movies are fun.  Pressbooks, which are sort of how-to manuals for hyping a movie, are excellent references for individual films as they usually show examples of advertisements and posters and stills that were issued for that movie.  And the posters themselves often have great graphics that can add a wonderful feel to your collection.

Many of Steinbeck’s books were made into films, so there are a number of titles to seek and a myriad of items for each title to collect, but some are more difficult to find than others.  Since The Grapes of Wrath is probably the most recognizable Steinbeck title, it is a natural film to pursue, although prices can be steep.  Lobby card sets, which usually are a group of eight 11X14-inch posters, can be difficult to find.  Finding a complete set of eight is a bonus.  Finding that set in its original housing envelope is nearly impossible, but then, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun and the set wouldn’t be as valuable.  The Pearl was hardly a blockbuster film, which makes memorabilia difficult for film buffs and Steinbeck collectors to find.  Lifeboat is pursued not only by Steinbeck fans, but also by fans and collectors of the film’s director, Alfred Hitchcock.  Viva Zapata! is wanted by Steinbeck collectors and Marlon Brando fans to the same degree that East of Eden is wanted by both Steinbeck and James Dean collectors.  A Medal for Benny was based on a story by Steinbeck and his boyhood friend, Jack Wagner.  It may not be the most recognizable Steinbeck film title, but the image of star Dorothy Lamour that dominates most of the posters is huge and simply gorgeous.  There was plenty of controversy surrounding Lifeboat.  Steinbeck detested what Hitchcock did to his story and unsuccessfully tried to have his name removed from the film credits.  Whether you find a pressbook for Lifeboat or any other Steinbeck-related film, be sure to check it carefully to ensure that images or entire pages have not been cut out.  Pressbooks were created to publicize films.  They often include “news” articles that some theatre managers cut out to use either as advertisements or to give to local newspapers as press releases.  O. Henry’s Full House is an oddity.  Only the pressbook for the film is a Steinbeck item.  The movie was a compilation, an experiment with the omnibus film format.  In this case, five of O. Henry’s stories were brought to the screen by five different directors using five different screenwriters.  Steinbeck himself makes a rare on-screen appearance to introduce the film.  His voice-over narration also provides transitions between the film’s segments.  While Steinbeck is not credited as narrator in the film’s posters, he is credited in the pressbook.

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  1. Nothing So Monstrous, Pynson Printers, December 1936, hardcover.
  1. Sea of Cortez, Paul Appel, 1971, one of 750 copies, hardcover, issued with a dust jacket.
  1. Cannery Row, Bantam Books, 1947, softcover, issued with a dust jacket.
  1. Breakfast, Anchor Acorn Press, 1990, issued in wrappers.

Nothing So Monstrous is the first separate printing of the Junius Maltby story from Steinbeck’s second book, The Pastures of Heaven.  It also includes first edition material in an epilogue written especially for this edition by Steinbeck.  This fine press item is one of 370 copies.  The first printing of the Paul Appel edition of Sea of Cortez, written by Steinbeck and his philosophical mentor and best friend, Edward F. Ricketts, was limited to 750 copies.  Since Sea of Cortez remains a staple in the marine biology community, there once again is cross-competition for the book.  The dust jacket of this edition was trimmed too short by the manufacturer, so most of the run was issued without jackets.  So, if you can find a copy with the “too short” dust jacket, you have done well.  The 1947 Bantam Books issue of Cannery Row is an exception to the rule that those who collect broadly only want first printings by subsequent publishers.  Yes, collectors do want the first Bantam edition, but they also want the fourth or fifth printings which were issued with dust jackets (yes, paperbacks with dust jackets).  This format was an experiment that didn’t work.  Today copies are highly prized by both Steinbeck and vintage paperback collectors.  Most of these jackets took a beating, so finding a perfect copy will be most difficult and acquiring it will extract a premium from your budget.  Breakfast is a fine press production of a story  —  a sketch, really  —  that is a perfect little gem.  It was originally included in Steinbeck’s short story compilation, The Long Valley.  This is the first separate publication.  The illustrator, Colleen Dwire Weaver, produced this book as an intern project and later received permission to sell her remaining copies.  Most of the other copies were presented to her family and friends.  It is another book that comes on the market only when someone sells a collection.

Next week we will end this series with a discussion of Steinbeck’s appearances in anthologies as well as books about this winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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