“AD SHARK”

In the October 6, 1914 issue of The Moving Picture World, the leading American film industry trade paper of the day, a curious full-page ad appeared on page 105.  It was an ad by an ad-man advertising his work — his own ads done previously for The Moving Picture World itself.  Below the huge display of his work for the “MPW,” the ad copy explains:

At Liberty–HUGH HOFFMAN–Ad Shark, cartoonist, and motion picture journalist.  Engagement solicited as manager of publicity with responsible motion picture company.  Address care Moving Picture World–NEW YORK.”

Two things strike me about this “job wanted” ad:  First, he’s looking for work with a “responsible motion picture company;” responsible being the word that he is sure to find as the biggest stumbling block in his employment search.  Then again, he knows the game being played, and in the world of moving pictures circa 1914 bombastic self-promotion is the rule not the exception.

Second, it is unclear whether or not he is still employed in some capacity with the MPW — and if so, why is he given the freedom (unhindered by threat of termination) to solicit work elsewhere?  Was he employed simply by the “job,” each ad done by contract for services rendered, but not as a permanent member of the MPW staff?

Maybe THAT’S the explanation for the curious term with which he describes himself (among other self-attributed titles), “AD SHARK.”  A phrase that would seem more appropriate or contemporary with the mid-20th century heyday of Madison Avenue’s mad ad-men.  And at any rate, he seems to be looking for an upgrade — manager of publicity.  He’s tired of being the fellow in the cubicle grinding out the product, the drawings and the ad copy.

Here is a small collection of work by the “AD SHARK(s)” of The Moving Picture World from 1913-1914.  I can’t guarantee that all of them are the work of our particular “ad shark,” Mr. Hoffman, but if you look closely at the examples of his work in his ad, you will get an idea of his style, which is generally reflected in the samples I’ve chosen to highlight here:

[Read full review of “Whom the Gods Destroy” in the June 6, 1914 issue of The Moving Picture World.  (Click to enlarge.)]

The World Film Corporation was the movie distribution firm of Lewis Selznick, a former Pittsburgh and New York jeweler, father of future Hollywood producer David O. Selznick, and David’s older brother who had arguably a bigger impact than David on American film history — the prot0 super-agent to the stars during the golden age of the studio/star system, Myron Selznick.

Review of WFD in MPW, June 13, 1914[Read the full (and very negative) review of “The World, the Flesh and the Devil” in The Moving Picture World, June 13, 1914.  (Click to enlarge.)]

A “state rights” transaction was a sale of the rights to an individual or group to exhibit a film in a single state for a specified period.  As noted in the ad for this “Special” sale, the exhibitor would pay $1200 to the Solax Company and receive the three reels of “Dick Whittington and his Cat,” along with lots of accessories including two styles each of three sizes of advertising posters: “one-sheets” (27″x 41″), “three-sheets” (41 x 81) and “six sheets” (81 x 81 — these basic units of movie poster size have remained essentially the same for a century), plus “lobby photos” (typically 8 x 10 and 11 x 14), glass slides (to use before a movie to advertise “coming attractions”), color souvenir booklets, and advertising heralds which were usually placed by the exhibitor in local newspaper ads for the movie.  No idea if Mr. Hoffman would be involved in any of the designs!  And here’s hoping Dick Whittington and his Cat gave a lot of $1200 climaxes to exhibitors and their patrons, and not just the good folks at Solax.

Solax was the production company of Alice Guy-Blache, a once-forgotten-now legendary pioneer of motion pictures.  She began her career in the mid 1890s with the Gaumont film company.as a secretary/stenographer, but was soon involved in making films — creating sets, costumes,  writing “stories” and directing her co-workers in what were some of the earliest the first narrative films — the first movies to tell a story.  She emigrated to America in the first decade of the 20th century, having married film director/producer/writer Herbert Blache and founding the Solax Company based in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  As with all early female film producers, she was relegated to the margins as the industry consolidated into large corporations during and immediately after the First World War.  She later returned to France and spent her latter days living on a small pension granted her by the French government.

[Read the full review of “The Toll of Mammon” in  the July 4 1914 issue of The Moving Picture World.  (Click to enlarge.)]

Although I am not certain, it is possible that none of the films represented in these historic advertisements from The Moving Picture World have survived.  In those cases where the films no longer exist, these ads and film reviews from the periodicals of their day are nearly the only record and proof that they ever existed.

I particularly want to thank The Internet Archive — their proprietors and contributors for making available online historic motion picture publications such as the MPW, Film Daily, Photoplay and much more.  You may access their collections at http://www.archive.org .

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About Gene Zonarich

I'm the King of the silent pictures -- I'm hidin' out 'til talkies blow over . . .
This entry was posted in Art, Film History, History of Advertising, Media, motion picture trade publications, pop art and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “AD SHARK”

  1. David W. Menefee says:

    Gene, thank you! I greatly enjoyed this article and look forward to your next research project.
    Sincerely,
    David W. Menefee
    Author:
    Sarah Bernhardt, Her Films, Her Recordings (Foreword by Kevin Brownlow)
    Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story (Foreword by Robert Osborne)
    The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen
    Richard Barthelmess: A Life in Pictures
    The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era
    The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era
    Brothers of the Storm
    The Remarkable Mr. Messing
    Charlie O’Doone’s Second Chance
    Margot Cranston The Voice in the Shadows
    Margot Cranston The Secret of St. Laurent Lighthouse
    Margot Cranston The Mystery at Loon Lake
    Margot Cranston The Quest for the Jade Dragons
    Falling Stars 10 Who Tried to be a Movie Star
    George O’Brien: A Man’s Man in Hollywood
    A Craving for Travel II (with Jim Strong)
    “Otay!” The Billy “Buckwheat” Thomas Story (with William Thomas, Jr.)
    Sarah Bernhardt in the Theater of Films and Sound Recordings

    • Thank you. This was basically just a byproduct of research on other subjects — I’d seen all of these great old ads for films, then came across that great picture of the artist/”ad-shark” and his self-advertisment and I just had to do something with it — it was too good to pass up.

  2. Maritza says:

    Hi Gene,
    I really enjoyed the period advertisements that you have posted. I only have one correction to make, Alice Guy-Blache did not make movies with the Lumiere Brothers, she made movies for the Gaumont company. You can learn everything (and more!) about this remarkable woman at http://www.aliceguyblache.com/lost-visionary/home. Thanks for this website and next time I’m on 14th Street, I will be sure to look for 11.

  3. Thank you for the correction of this embarrassing error! Just goes to show what happens when you write off the top of your head and fail to go back and re-check your facts! I’ve corrected the mistake. I’m glad you otherwise enjoyed the post. Unfortunately, the former site of 11 East 14th Street in Manhattan is now occupied by a large apartment building, with a number of small businesses and shops at street level. I believe the original building that housed the studio was demolished in the 1930s or a bit later. It would have made a great landmark and museum of film history, especially the history of American film when New York was the epicenter of filmmaking in the U.S. I will, however, visit your website.

  4. The Good ol’ early 1900’s. It is so interesting to see the level of excitement that these Movie Posters evoke. Literally every one of them has an image that pulls in audiences from all demographics an phsychographics. “Ad shark” is definitely an appropriate term for them.

    • Yes. These ads are more evocative and even daring than almost anything that would be seen later in the “Hollywood” studio era (with some exceptions in the late twenties and early thirties “pre-code era), until the post-WWII era with low budget B movies and film noir.

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