Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2012 Issue

European Posters from Burkhard Sülzen

Jannings and Dietrich on the cover of the latest Burkhard Sülzen catalogue.

We have received Katalog 16 from Burkhard Sülzen of Berlin. Reviewing these catalogues is a bit of a challenge for an American as they are written in German, a language with which this reviewer is not conversant. Fortunately, this problem is at least partly offset by the catalogue's and material being quite visual. The German bookseller specializes in posters, works appealing more for their images than words. The visuals often relay the message better than words. While these posters are overwhelmingly German in origin, there are many with a noted American connection as well. Among the types of posters offered are those pertaining to films, concerts, travel, politics, and consumer goods. Many of the films shown in Germany were from America, and many concerts promoted were by American artists. So we will focus somewhat more on these as they are easier for me to understand. Here, now, are some of the posters, which date from 1900-1996, displayed in this latest Burkhard Sülzen catalogue.

It is not unusual to see graphic messages intended to scare us into good behavior, but this one circa 1930 is a bit extreme even by today's standards. With the bold heading Kraftfahrer! Obacht! (Drivers! Watch Out!) it displays the consequences of a driver who didn't watch out. With just those two words of copy, the remainder of the message is visual. We see the tire of a car or truck, a crushed bicycle underneath, and an arm protruding from the wreckage. And, from somewhere off camera beneath the car, blood flows, a river of deep red blood. Indeed, drivers, watch out! Item 72. Priced at €420 (euros, or roughly US $525).

The poster shown on the catalogue's cover is for the 1930 film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel). It starred Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich. This was the film that made the relatively obscure actress into an international star. The Blue Angel is a tale of downfall. Jannings plays the role of a respected schoolteacher who is incensed by his students going to the Blue Angel nightclub to watch Miss Dietrich's performances. He goes there, hoping to catch the students, only to be entranced by her charms. He becomes obsessed, abandoning his teaching job, marrying “Lola-Lola” (Miss Dietrich), ends up performing in her troupe as a clown, is mocked by patrons of the club, becomes consumed with jealousy as Ms. Dietrich's affections stray, and dies a broken man. There's a lesson in all of this. Along with being the film that launched Dietrich's career, it is considered the first major German talking film. Item 17 is the first poster announcing the premier of this important film. €20,000 (US $25,010).

Item 24 is a poster for the 1933 film Lady Lou. If that name doesn't sound familiar, its American title probably will – She Done Him Wrong. It starred Mae West as Lady Lou, who uttered the famous line, “Why don't you come up sometime and see me?” (it is now usually misquoted as “see me sometime”). West's bawdy humor and double entendres made this an enormously popular film and cemented West's risqué image. It made her a perennial film favorite despite her not being the most beautiful of movie stars. This film would also prove to be a breakthrough for the young actor Cary Grant. The poster features a large, profile drawing of Miss West from the neck up. €1,800 (US $2,249).

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