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Unique Public Enemy movie poster could bring $80,000 at Heritage

A remarkably rare James Cagney movie poster discovered in a Pennsylvania attic will lead an upcoming auction at Heritage this month.
The Style-A One Sheet poster for the 1931 gangster classic The Public Enemy had never been seen until 2012 – when a bundle of old posters were sold at a local auction in the town of Berwick. Having spent decades hidden away, the posters were stuck together in several layers with wallpaper paste and had been used as insulation.

But when experts painstakingly peeled them apart, they discovered what was described as the "holy grail" for collectors – posters believed lost forever, or only seen referenced in period press booklets.

Amongst the most important discoveries was the Public Enemy Style-A poster, the design of which had previously only been seen as a much smaller lobby card.

"As both a landmark film and as a resounding cultural touchstone, the importance of The Public Enemy cannot be overstated," stated the auction house. "For a film of this great magnitude, posters has been frustratingly absent from the marketplace. Indeed, collectors have often wondered whether or not anything beyond the occasional window or lobby card might exist at all!

"With the unearthing of the Berwick Discovery of Lost Movie Posters in 2012, however, the unknown one sheets miraculously came to light, and offered to the collecting public, for the very first time anywhere."

This sole-surviving copy of the poster, from the film which made Cagney a star and influenced almost every gangster picture that followed, is now expected to sell for $40,000-$80,000.

Further notable lots on offer at heritage will include a Style-B One Sheet for Rita Hayworth’s iconic role as Gilda, valued at $20,000-$40,000; a One-Sheet for the 1930 MGM film Anna Christie, featuring Greta Garbo’s debut in a ‘talkie’, estimated at $20,000-$40,000; a 1932 First Release Spanish One Sheet for the classic Universal horror Frankenstein, valued at $20,000-$40,000; and an Italian 4-foglio poster for Federico Fellini’s 1959 masterpiece La Dolce Vita, priced at $18,000-$36,000.

The Heritage Vintage Movie Posters Signature Auction takes place in Dallas on March 26-27.

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