• Slut-Shaming, Eugenics, and Donald Duck: The Scandalous History of Sex-Ed Movies After excusing herself from the dinner table, the 13-year-old girl begins to shout, her excited voice ringing through her family’s Mid-Century Modern home, “I got it! I got it!!” Her mother, in a Donna Reed-type dress, beams, while her 10-year-old brother looks up quizzically and asks, “Got what?” The boy’s father turns to him and says, brusquely, “She got her period, son!” I saw this film in a m…
  • Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong'o Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like “Woman’s Day,” “GQ,” “Us Weekly,” and “InStyle,” with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by one of her two glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the…
  • Did Hollywood Give the 1920s a Boob Job? 'Gatsby' Costume Designer Tells All Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” has the straw boater hats and bowties, the cloches and drop-waist dresses, and the shiny roadsters that you’d expect of the Roaring Twenties. But in terms of women’s fashion, there’s one dominant element you would not expect: Boobs. "People would be startled if filmmakers put real 1922 fashion in 'The Great Gatsby.'" Breasts are everywhere in 2013’s new “Gatsb…
  • Geeking Out Over the Bloody Legacy of VHS Slowly but surely, underground film aficionados are returning to the golden age of home cinema, resurrecting an archaic device most have consigned to the trash heap. Is it the 35mm projector? Nope. Cathode ray tube televisions? Not even close. In fact, all these film fans want is a good old-fashioned VCR. "VHS is closer to the old drive-in or grindhouse theater, the way the director intended it…
  • Warning! These 1950s Movie Gimmicks Will Shock You Welcome to summer movie hell—another blockbuster season filled with costly digital effects that disappoint more often than they surprise. During a University of Southern California film symposium in June, two directors guilty of creating this trend, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, predicted the imminent collapse of their mega-budget film industry. In its place, they suggested a future of immers…
  • Sex! Gore! Scary Monsters! Attack of the Mexican B-Movie Ads John Cozzoli's collection is frightening. Not because of its sheer size (though he does have over 500 film artifacts), but because Cozzoli's ephemera all relates to lesser-known horror movies of the 20th century. Primarily devoted to Mexican lobby cards, or small placards displayed in theater entrances to advertise upcoming films, and American pressbooks, which provided promotional guides for the…
  • Dawn of the Flick: The Doctors, Physicists, and Mathematicians Who Made the Movies Early optical toys from the 19th century are expressions of our almost primal urge to animate the inanimate. Or so believes Richard Balzer, one of the foremost collectors of optical toys, magic lanterns, camera obscuras, and other objects that play tricks on the eye. For Balzer, these early optical toys, as well as our continued fascination with flipbooks, are part of a continuum that has culminat…
  • Hidden Gems: Lost Hollywood Jewelry Trove Uncovered in Burbank Warehouse Oh. My. God. I've just been given the location of the largest stash of Golden Age Hollywood jewelry in the world. Worn by stars like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Greta Garbo, thousands of gems have apparently been gathering dust in an unmarked warehouse, unmolested for half a century. It sounds too good to be true. What are the chances, I wonder, that the treasures are sti…
  • Letter from Jack Kerouac to Marlon Brando In 2005, I moved to New York to head up the Entertainment Memorabilia department at Christie’s, New York. One of my first assignments was to go to Marlon Brando’s home on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles to select property to include in an auction of his estate. What a job! I spent around 10 days at the house. The last room to check was Brando’s office. Along one wall was a bank of filing cabinet…
  • 'Mad Men' Prop Master Scott Buckwald Explains How He Re-Creates the '60s I always wanted to work in film, but I didn’t have anybody in my family who worked in the film business. I’ve been a major movie buff since I was a child, and I’ve always been very meticulous. I’ve always been a collector. The Beatles are definitely my main thing, but my wife and I collect old metal lunch boxes and I’ve always just been good at holding onto things. I have a fairly nice collecti…
  • Before Sesame Street and Electric Mayhem, a Crude Kermit Lip Synced Pop Standards When "The Muppets" storms the world’s multiplexes this holiday season, there will no doubt be lots of little kids who, thanks to “Sesame Street,” will associate the wide-mouthed cloth puppets with learning to count to 10 and reciting their ABCs. But for many of their Gen-X parents and Baby Boomer grandparents, “The Muppets” will conjure school lunch boxes, flannel pajamas, and brightly colored boa…
  • Lady Gaga, Innovator or Copycat? We Dissect “Born This Way” Lady Gaga has a reputation as a wildly original trendsetter. But based on the evidence we found in "Born This Way," she's also a mega recycler of pop-culture history. Being connoisseurs of cool old stuff, we noticed that even her most outlandish imagery in the head-spinning video for "Born This Way" owes a great debt not only to Madonna's "Express Yourself," but also to works of science fiction…
  • From Ruby Slippers to Kermit the Frog: Pop Culture Artifacts at the Smithsonian I’ve been at the Smithsonian for 28 years—I never thought I’d stay that long! The first job I had was as a producer and annotator of recordings. We used to have a very active program of archival recordings that we’d release. I came here to work on a set of American popular songs. I remained with the Division of Performing Arts until it was cast asunder and absorbed by the Museum of American Histor…
  • Collecting James Bond, Doctor Who, and The Beatles Ever since I was a child, I wanted to work in the auction business, specifically in the entertainment part. I liked the idea of handling, owning, and being a part of objects that were lynchpins in the history of music, film, or television. To accomplish my goal, I studied film, got an art-history degree, and earned an M.A. in fine-art valuation. I started out as a general auctioneer working with a…