Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford collection of film posters worth £50,000 go up for auction

Creature from the Black Lagoon poster Image copyright Ewbank's Auctions
Image caption Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) has one of the larger estimates of £2,000-£4,000

A collection of original film and circus posters worth an estimated £50,000 are to be auctioned off.

Bradford-based W E Berry Ltd produced and printed the colourful artwork for more than 75 years before its closure in 2004.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, from the University of Sheffield said the firm's work included "some of the most iconic British posters of the 20th Century".

The posters owned by the Berry family will be sold in Surrey on 28 February.

The firm was founded in 1888 but it was during the 1920s that W E Berry was introduced to Fred Martin at Paramount studios and the pair started a business relationship.

Golden Salamander poster Image copyright EWBANK’S AUCTIONS
Image caption Golden Salamander (1950) featured Trevor Howard, one of the stars of Brief Encounter

Prof Toulmin, director of the National Fairground and Circus Archive at the university, said the collection contained "some quite stunning pieces".

"I've spoken to collectors around the world who will be watching the auction and the Betram Mills circus posters will be most keenly looked at," she said.

"It would be sad if some of the pieces leave the country", she added.

Poster for Abbott & Costello Meet The Keystone Kops Image copyright EWBANK’S AUCTIONS
Image caption Abbott & Costello Meet The Keystone Kops brought laughter to cinemas in 1955

The company produced designs for Ealing comedies, Rank, Disney, Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios, as well as for railway companies and Bertram Mills Circus.

Notable films for which W E Berry produced posters include The Ten Commandments (1923), Oliver Twist (1948), Carry on Up the Khyber (1968), Star Wars (1977) and Flash Gordon (1980).

By the late 1990s, the firm employed about 140 people.

However, financial losses in the early 2000s put the company under strain and it went into administration and closed in 2004.

Bertram Mills Circus poster featuring an elephant Image copyright EWBANK’S AUCTIONS
Image caption W E Berry also produced circus posters for Betram Mills Circus

Alastair McCrea, a specialist from Ewbank's Auctions, said: "This is a particularly interesting collection because it includes hand-painted artwork of W E Berry, one of only three printers in Britain that specialised in printing large posters for cinemas.

"To be able to offer the original hand-painted artwork is incredibly rare."

The Big Clock film poster Image copyright Ewbank's Auctions
Image caption The Big Clock featured a "breathtaking manhunt" in 1948

Many different agency artists produced the poster artwork and some could be produced by more than one artist, if, for example, one was particularly good at depicting animals.

"The posters were meant to grab attention so used bright colours and striking images," said Mr McCrea.

Producing poster artwork in this way grew more expensive and was effectively finished by the advent of computers.

The Ladykillers and Titfield Thunderbolt (poster detail) Image copyright Ewbank's Auctions
Image caption Ealing comedies: The Ladykillers (1955) - estimate £1,000-£1,500 - and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) - estimate £800-£1,200

There is predicted to be strong interest from the US where there are numerous collectors of early cinema and circus history.

Museums and also collectors of specific themes are expected to bid in the auction, which features about 400 lots.

Bertram Mills Circus posters Image copyright Ewbank's Auctions
Image caption Striking colours and artwork were used by the artists to grab attention

There are expected to be more than 150 online bidders, far outnumbering buyers in the saleroom.

Such a large collection of poster artwork is expected to take up to five hours to auction.

"I think they are great and complete one-off pieces, you'll never see another one", added Mr McCrea.

Posters for A Town like Alice (detail) and Break The News Image copyright Ewbank's Auctioneers
Image caption Film fans could enjoy A Town Like Alice in 1956 and Break The News in 1938

The auction is to be held at Ewbank's Auctions in Woking, Surrey on 28 February at 12:00 GMT.

Presentational grey line

Follow BBC Yorkshire on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to yorkslincs.news@bbc.co.uk.

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites