I can't speak for today's teens, but when I was a kid the posters a teenager had hanging in their bedroom told you a lot about who they were.  It seemed everyone I knew had at least one poster adorning their walls along these lines --
Somewhere in high school I decided to refresh my walls.  Try out a new collection.  I think I was standing in what was then the Harvard Coop Poster and Print area when I saw a series of black and white movie stills from yesteryear, in those hanging displays where you could slowly 'flip' through posters like pages in a giant magazine.

At this point of my movie knowledge I had no idea which movies these even were.  I just allowed the images to speak for themselves and I selected three.  Here they sort of are --
I say sort of because I had trouble finding all of these images, especially the one of Marilyn.

At this point of my movie knowledge -- hundreds of movies later, mind you -- it occurs to me I still have no idea which movies these are, and so I decided to find the answers and make my best effort to see these films.

Harold Lloyd (on the right) was the easiest film to find.  That is an iconic career image for the silent film star.  Although the short film SAFETY LAST!  is a merely showcase for some building climbing stuntwork, the image itself easily speaks broader.  Lloyd literally clings to time like we all do -- for our very existance.  Without time, we're finished.  

The only Lloyd film I'd seen ever was SPEEDY, which I was lucky enough to see at Royce Hall with a live orchestra and an introduction by Dustin Hoffman no less.  I had already seen many Chaplin classics and so poor Mr. Lloyd had his work cut out for him.  My wife and I were impressed.    Here's the complete piece --
One poster down.  Next up is the Buster Keaton image.  This image was a little tricky to isolate.

Firstly, if you look at the image below on the left, what really makes it ready for a Google search?  It was nearly impossible to find until I searched for 'sad Buster Keaton' and then boom all sorts of images arrived.   As you can see, though, a second image (on the right) emerged with it which... wait a minute... appears to be the same image.
The image on the left is the poster I had from childhood.  Whoever created that image wisely whitewashed out the boat, though you can still make out the 'est' of 'Love Nest'.  They even removed the shadow created on the left by the hat.

What I can only suspect is that some smart person realized this image could be broader if you eliminated the name of the boat.  With 'Love Nest' visible you'd presume poor Keaton has lost a love.  Or wishes he had one.  With it completely gone, anything could be upsetting him.  You the viewer see his sadness and relate it to whatever might make you sad.

It turns out the film associated with this piece is entitled THE LOVE NEST --
It turns out neither of the above images really appear in the film.  They are productions stills based upon this image --
This image is 'night' shot but the poster was during the day.  In the movie we never get close enough to read that  long faced expression.  My image is cropped even closer than we get -- and it's only on screen for a second or so.   Keaton's depression?  Not about a girl.  It's that he can't lift that small boat off the big boat and escape his nightmarish temp job.

Two posters down.  Next up is the Marilyn Monroe poster.  This image was hardest to find -- since there are only a million pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the net.  I've seen many of her movies, but they didn't lead me to my childhood poster.

What I recalled about the Marilyn poster was this --  black and white, in an office (?) by a door, Marilyn looks 'normal' instead of sultry, sweet instead of sexy, it's only her and a wool jacket, a white shirt maybe, and a perhaps a secretary's notebook. 

I Googled my brains out and got nowhere and so I decided to enlist help.  I posted my question on Marilyn's official page on Facebook (that merely 8 million people have liked worldwide) and got no response for days.  Finally a kind soul alerted me to a smaller but more knowledge Marilyn Facebook group called IMMORTAL MARILYN

I offered them this mockup of the Marilyn poster as I best recalled it --
Much head scratching at IMMORTAL MARILYN.  All sorts of theories were floated when I said, wait, if she appears to be a secretary in an office in a black and white movie, that can only be so many films.  There were four films that qualified, but three were quickly ruled out because the costumes were all wrong.  It left an early film entitled HOME TOWN STORY --
So I watched HOME TOWN STORY on Amazon Prime and... somehow... I wasn't convinced it was the source of the poster.  Perhaps, like Buster Keaton's film, it was a production still that basically never appeared in the movie. 

But I wanted to be sure and so I resorted to something desperate.  I called home.  No, I'm not the type of son who never calls home unless he needs something.  Quite the opposite.  But I didn't want to send my mother off to an attic digging through items from my room which were removed within the last years to make way for my Dad's home office.

Much to my surprise, the poster still hangs where I left it.  Now all I needed was a tech savvy visitor to snap a picture and text it my way.  All hail my nice niece who made that happen within a day.  Here's what I showed the online Marilyn types --
Once this image was posted on IMMORTAL MARILYN the amazing power of the internet revealed itself.  One member asked if it was from 'Niagara?' within thirty seconds.  A second member stated 'Niagara' in the next thirty seconds.  In the second minute someone said 'Definitely Niagara'.  During the third minute I Googled that film and found a similar images.

I had seen NIAGARA but this moment in a bus station never leaped out at me during the viewing.
Now that I have the group of posters properly gathered, named, and viewed, let's consider them again.
Looking back at these images decades later allows me a window into my own psyche I'm not sure I had at the time. 

We see sadness on the left, hope in the middle, and time running out on the right.  Knowing myself a little better now, I know Buster speaks of the isolation writers can experience, Marilyn speaks of an entertaining way of ditching that isolation AND/OR of the beauty an artist wishes to create, and Harold represents the anxiety of doing so before it's too late. 

Perhaps a message my contemplative adult self sent back to my teen self those many decades ago.

Leave a Reply.