What was the cinema’s most glamorous and influential fan magazine? The Museum’s current Glamour Vérité—Paris/Hollywood: Cinema’s Pour Vous Magazine, 1928–1940 exhibition may have the answer: a French film magazine that’s virtually unknown in the United States, even though it published 603 weekly issues from 1928 (with the coming of sound films) to 1940, when the French surrendered to Germany during World War II.
Pour Vous, and a companion sports magazine, Match, were offshoots of the conservative daily newspaper L’Intransigeant (1880–1940). Created by Parisian publisher and movie-lover Léon Bailby (1867–1954) to exploit his investment in printing presses and new technologies for photo-mechanical lithography, they are distinguished, especially from a modern-day North American perspective, by their bold use of sensual celebrity photography, Art Deco design style, and unusual tabloid size.
Pour Vous exhibits a number of characteristics that would have been unthinkable for an American fan magazine of the period, such as Photoplay (1911–80). While Pour Vous aggressively embraced the Hollywood star system with its requisite celebrity confessionals and fashion spreads, it also offered alternative images of race and gender, glimpses of a developing world cinema, and broader considerations of film history and aesthetics. It also differed from the U.S. standard in the way its covers alternated black-and-white photographic images of American, French, German, and Russian performers, male and female alike, at a time when Hollywood fanzines almost exclusively featured brightly colored drawings of female stars. Although the use of photographs on film magazine covers was hardly unique in itself—the American trade publication Universal Weekly and the British fan mag Picturegoer had employed them since the 1910s, as did close French rivals Cinémonde and Ciné-Miroir, to name only a few—Pour Vous also featured images by avant-garde-inclined photographers like Lee Miller and Man Ray, whose work was more likely to be found in prestigious coffee-table periodicals like Vanity Fair in the U.S. Above all else, the fashionable, innovative ways in which Pour Vous editor Alexandre Arnoux (1884–1973) mixed images and text to merge the rival film cultures and studio interests of France and America in the minds of its readership that was striking for its time and should be of lasting interest to collectors and scholars of cinema ephemera.
Even though Hollywood films dominated world markets in the 1920s and 1930s, the case can be made that the French invented film culture, and did so despite the fact, as Pour Vous itself lamented in 1929, that “in France, [only] 7% of the population goes to the cinema, whereas in the United States, 75% of the population goes.” Compared to other countries, France can claim to have had a larger number of film magazines, a broader, more intellectually stimulating body of writing about film, and a pioneering role in the cine-club movement. With this much cinema heritage to its credit, is there any surprise that France produced famed film theorists such as André Bazin or the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave) in the 1940s and 1950s?