In praise of Jerry O’s…

jerry oOn my recent visit to New York City I decided to look up a movie memorabilia store that I’d dropped into by chance the last time I was there (some ten years ago). I couldn’t remember the location or even the name so I started with a very generic and random Google search.

The first result was Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material Store… but the news wasn’t promising – one of the first results I found was this article by Jeremiah Moss for The New Yorker in October 2013 which didn’t bode well. Jerry was thinking of selling up and going online only, but I was heartened to find that his website suggested there might be a chance he was still going strong, or at least going. And so he was. From the outside you’d be forgiven for missing Jerry’s; an unprepossessing doorway of an office block on W. 35th Street bears a small sign, maybe not enough to entice the casual passer-by, but for those in the know this is the gateway to hidden treasures.

Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material Store is the last of a dying breed; with the onset of the internet and online auction sites like eBay, the opportunity to rummage through boxes and files of film goodies is now few and far between. Flea markets and car boot sales throw up some jewels now and then, but you’re really relying on luck and tenacity to find something truly worthwhile. Jerry’s is all worthwhile. Files and files, boxes and boxes, shelves and shelves of movie and television related memorabilia, stored scattergun and Tetris-like in a number of overflowing rooms, this is a cinephile’s dream.  However obscure you think your cinematic obsession is, Jerry will have something to set your heart racing. I was only interested in Luise (I could’ve easily spent days in there satisfying my curiosity) and the collection of still photos alone was breathtaking.

William Powell and Virginia Bruce in Escapade (1935)

William Powell and Virginia Bruce in Escapade (1935)

It goes without saying I easily blew my entire budget. The highlight for me was the number of stills from Luise’s first MGM picture, Escapade (1935). This is a film that hasn’t been shown on television in living memory (if ever?) and has never been released on home video or DVD, so to see such a vast collection of images was a real thrill; I’ve researched the film and am familiar with the plot but now I can put images to the storyline I’ve built up in my head. This was like seeing the film for the first time, like I’d personally discovered my holy grail. But Jerry had more… and more… and more… the files just kept coming. Each of Luise’s films had their own collection, with some familiar and some not so familiar images. On top of all of this, there were posters and pressbooks, lobby cards and programmes.

Price-wise Jerry is reasonable; more often than not the prices for the stuff I was after were comparable to what I’d pay online. I have nothing against online sites (most of my collection wouldn’t exist without eBay), but being able to handle these pieces, some original MGM stills, programmes, posters is priceless. The added bonus is meeting Jerry himself, a genuine NYCharacter, a genial host and conversationalist, and his friendly and knowledgeable staff with a genuine enthusiasm for the collection (and an understanding of your obsession!). If you are a movie fan of any era and you’re in New York you must drop in to one of the last of its kind – you deserve it and you owe it to yourself (and Jerry).

Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material Store is an almost unique time capsule; don’t let it go, we’ll regret it when it’s gone.

2 thoughts on “In praise of Jerry O’s…

  1. I have been lucky enough to see Luise Rainer in her debut film Escapade. It’s impossible to see, but I’ve seen it — not once, but twice.

    The first time was in 1992 at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto during the William Powell centenary series. The second time was in 1994 at Cinecon in Los Angeles, with Miss Rainer in attendance; she had asked the convention to run that film.

    Both times the film should not technically have been exhibited, since the rights had reverted in 1962 to the estate of the author of Maskerade, the source for Escapade’s story. That’s why Escapade has not been shown on TCM.

    How was the film? I’d like to own a print of it. It’s that good. It has a beautiful scene which is highlighted by a beautiful song, “You’re All I Need.”

  2. Thanks for posting this Mark, some new information for me and great to hear that you’ve seen Escapade (twice!) I still haven’t been so lucky although I recently made advances to view the copy in the BFI archives and I am awaiting news of my request.

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