A few years ago, when this blog was in its infancy, a series of stamps came out that were all movie posters—a first for the USPS. I was excited and thought this might be the start of a cool series, but it never was. What made it even cooler was that these were films that weren’t household names, but ones that held important historical weight, which is exactly what the postage stamp program should be about—celebrating our past and bringing to light unsung figures across all crafts and disciplines.
The series was called Early Black Cinema and consisted of the following titles (Scott # 4336-4340)
Black & Tan (1929, Dudley Murphy)
The Sport of the Gods (1921, Henry Vernot)
Princesse Tam-Tam (1935, Edmond T. Greville)
Caldonia (1945, William Forest Crouch)
Hallelujah (1929, King Vidor)
Some interesting things about these selections:
- Two are short films, with Black and Tan and Caldonia each being music showcases with a running time of 1 reel (about 20 min.).
- One (Tam-Tam) is a French film, not an American one.
- One (Sport) is a completely lost title, with no copy known to exist anywhere-- a fate that is estimated to be true for 80-90% of all American silent films.
- I’ve only seen two of these—the first and last.
So while some of these films’ stars—Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway—are legends, these titles are still relatively obscure. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that 3 of the 5 were ones I had postcards of! I’ve discussed maximum cards before, but having the poster stamped onto the same identical postcard was a happy, lucky break.
But why stop there? There are many decades of iconic African-American films that I do have postcards of, so I used more stamps from the series not only for the same exact title, but what those titles often represented in terms of their cinematic legacy. Of course, I wouldn’t count Anatomy of a Murder an example of black cinema, but it does feature a wonderful score by Duke Ellington, which is why it seemed a perfect place for the stamp. And the recent jazz stamp issue (Scott # 4503) seemed like a good way to supplement some of these cards.