Poster Child: Ira Resnick's Passion

Ira Resnick’s girlfriends used to complain that he was in love with dead actresses.

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He became a fan of Lupino’s partly because of the many great posters of her he found in Bob Colman’s Hollywood Poster Exchange on Santa Monica Boulevard and also because, as he writes, of “the scene at the trial in ‘They Drove By Night’ when her character cracks up on the stand and screams, ‘The doors made me do it.’ Half-crazed, she’s blaming her murder of her husband on the doors of a garage slamming open and shut.” Lupino was also probably the only female star of her magnitude in her era who moved on to directing.

Resnick, who is the son of a successful real estate contractor, is on the board of the family firm, which is now run by his older brother. His sibling’s involvement in the family business helped him to become, after attending NYU Film School, first a photographer, then a poster dealer. Resnick dedicated the book to his wife, Paula, and their children, Jack and Samantha, who, he notes, help him keep “my movie passion in a more appropriate perspective.”

He developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the films themselves and became the chairman of the board of the Film Society of Lincoln Center from 1999 to 2005. The book is full of intriguing trivia, such as the fact that James Stewart was the first Hollywood star to put on a World War II uniform, enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941, months before Pearl Harbor. Cary Grant, aka Archie Leach, ran away from home at 13 to join an acrobatic troupe. Clark Gable reportedly had no interest in playing Rhett Butler. Veronica Lake had a relatively brief career for a first-rank star that lasted only 11 years, later becoming an alcoholic and dying almost destitute of hepatitis at 53. Gary Cooper’s parents were both English, but he was brought up on a farm in Montana, and Carl Sandburg called him “one of the most beloved illiterates this country has ever known” after he played Mr. Deeds in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington.” Resnick also recalls other great lines, such as W.C. Fields saying, “A woman drove me to drink, and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her,” or Groucho Marks conceding, “I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll be glad to make an exception.”

Resnick writes at the end of his book, “When it comes to little-known films like ‘Mademoiselle Modiste’ and “The Sin of Nora Moran,’ the posters do two things for me in addition to providing pure aesthetic pleasure. They provide a bridge to the entire history of the cinema and Hollywood in particular, a history that includes flops as well as hits, flash-in-the-pan starlets as well as superstars, Poverty Row back lots as well as major studios, movies seen once and best forgotten as well as classics that can be watched any number of times without their allure wearing thin.” The romances continue. — Lorna Koski

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