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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Film Star Playing Cards

Promotional playing cards for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film company with film stars on the court cards.

Film Star Playing Cards for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933

Published by De la Rue & Co., London, 1933.

Theatre and Film star playing cards have been produced since the late nineteenth century. These promotional playing cards for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film company with celebrity film stars of the time on the court cards were produced in the 1930s. The designs are playfully laid back, with photograph heads on top of cartoon bodies. A similar pack was also produced for Paramount Film company around the same time. The “Flip the Frog” character on the Joker was created by Ub Iwerks (1901–1971), animator for the Walt Disney Studios.

'Film Star Playing Cards' for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer manufactured by De la Rue & Co., London, 1933

Above: 'Film Star Playing Cards' for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer manufactured by De la Rue & Co., London, 1933. All the court cards and Joker are printed in red, yellow, green, black and white. The court cards are the same at each end except the Jack of Diamonds. Printed by offset-litho. Double pack 2 x (52 cards + Joker + contract scoring card). Red/silver and black/silver backs. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.


REFERENCES

Segeth, Uwe-Volker: Spielkarten Jugendstil und Art Déco, Edition Christian Brandstätter, Wien, 1994

A similar pack was also produced for Paramount around the same time.

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

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