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In Profile: Dwight Cleveland

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Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 4:46 pm

 One of the most respected names in movie art collecting circles is Dwight Cleveland. This month Mr. Cleveland is the subject of the first installment of our "In Profile" column designed to put a face on the important names in the sphere of movie collecting.


    CI:  Give us a little background about yourself.

    DC: I’m married with three kids. Living in Chicago. Real-life job restoring historic homes in the city.


    CI:  How did you first get into posters?

     DC: The art teacher where I attended high school collected film posters and had them up in the classroom and his office. That was my first exposure. After graduating, I lived in Los Angeles and had the opportunity to patronize all the memorabilia shops there at the time. I then went to college in New York City and that enabled me to visit all the best shops on both coasts.

    CI:  Did you have a special interest or focus in your early collecting?

    DC: From the very start, I always loved lobby cards. There was something about the density of design, compact size and ease of transportability that appealed to me. Only later did I realized the impact big paper could have when viewed from a distance.


    CI:  How did you develop into a more serious collector?

     DC: My gene deficiency and OCD nature took over once I had a few extra bucks to spend. Since I was really getting my hands dirty at flea markets and antique shows digging this stuff up, I would find lots of excess stuff to trade with other collectors. I still prefer making trades, but as the prices have risen, there are fewer and fewer people who will engage in this. Mistakes appear too costly to them. For me, it is all about the paper and less about the money.


    CI:  Of all the film art you’ve ever owned do you have any favorite pieces? What makes them so special for you?

    DC: That's like asking a parent "which is their favorite child." There are so many ways to answer that question. Early acquisitions hold a special place. Posters that were particularly difficult to acquire. I always joke that there are about 50 in my Top-5 favorites (which is actually true).


    CI:  What do you think is the finest or most beautiful piece of movie art ever created?

    DC: That is a hard one too, but the FOOTLIGHT PARADE window card is hard to beat: it has all the elements of a great film poster: great film, famous actors, and probably the quintessential art deco artwork on any film poster, ever. The art and colors work so beautifully, even non-movie aficionados love this poster.

    CI:  Do you have a favorite poster artist? Why do you like his art?

    DC: There were so few specific artists that were documented to have created specific posters, it is difficult to identify just one. Stylistically though, I definitely prefer portrait scene cards and title cards; portrait cards because they are close-up entries to the romance between the principal stars and title cards because they usually represent the best of the artwork for a given film. Many of the Eastern European film posters are very dramatic for me as well. I also generally love Japanese and Italian posters, they have a unique way of capturing the essence of a film through the artwork for me.


    CI:  Do you have a particular collecting experience that is especially memorable?

    DC: After 35 years I guess you could call me a veteran collector (although I know a lot of guys who have collected for a lot longer). In those years I've handled quite a few posters and been fortunate enough to have been able to hold on to most of them, everything for me is hand-picked. After having hoarded many tens of thousands of posters, however, one more poster really doesn't make much of a dent. So it really is the business relationships and friendships that I've developed over the years that are the most meaningful. There are also some wacky crazy stories that I plan to put in a book someday. Our hobby is not short on eccentricity.


    CI:  Is there a particular piece you always wanted to own, but never did?  

    DC: My wife has always reminded me to be happy with what you have (not with what you don't have). So I wouldn't characterize my collecting as much as focusing on hunting down specific posters, but rather, digging really thoroughly and finding satisfaction with the little gems i've been able to turned up. For me the fun has always been in what the French call la chasse, the hunt. I've taken a lot of satisfaction from being the one at flea markets early in morning with my flashlight, trying to be at the front of the line at antique shows, and elbowing my way with the best of them at trade conventions. I remember the days when Film Collectors World would arrive by FedEx and the world would actually stop rotating on it's axis for those of us who were rabid collectors at the time and the big question was "do I start from the beginning and work my back or, do I start from the back and work my way forward?" And trying to out-guess Sam, Dan, Ira, Mike, Joe, Jose, Morris and all the other great collectors who I've learned to respect over the years.


    CI: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing poster collectors today or the hobby in general?

    DC:  It is now and has always been the Rodney Dangerfield issue of "respect." There are approximately 3.5 million baseball card collectors and 350,000+ comic book collectors and yet only about 7,500 movie posters collectors. Movie fans simply don't know that they can own these posters because they were distributed to theatre owners and never readily available to the public. The movie industry giants think the art is n the films themselves and the fine art people reduce them to commercial art, but film posters are an important part of our national cultural heritage. Films are one of our largest exports worldwide and have been since their inception. Our film industry is the envy of all others. We need the people in the hobby who have the resources along with willing film industry honchos to help elevate our hobby to a higher level.


    CI:  If there is one thing you could do to promote the appreciation of movie poster art, what would that be?

    DC:  Have a guy like Spielberg, Lucas or DiCaprio promote movie posters as one of their favorite art forms.


    CI:  Do you have any advice for newer collectors?

    DC:  Always buy what you love (and buy it in duplicate or triplicate if possible).


    CI:  Also, as a follow up to an earlier question, can you name just a few of your top favorite pieces?

    DC: Okay, so here are Dwight's "Top-5" (in alphabetical order):

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - eyeball 1-sheet


Attack of the 50 Foot Woman - U.S. insert, 1-sheet and 3-sheet

Barbarella - Argentinean 1-sheet

Cabaret - Czech and Polish

Casablanca - Italian RR Due Folio

Dracula - anything with the cobweb art

Fistful of Dollars - Italian RR Papuzza art Due Folio

Footlight Parade - U.S. window card and 1-sheet

For a Few Dollars More - Japanese 1 and 2-panel

From Here to Eternity - French petite and 2-panel

Gaucho - U.S. window card

Girl from 10th Avenue - any U.S. artwork

Godfather  - Australian day bill

Gun Crazy U.S. - 1 and 3-sheet

King Kong - Czech

Motor Psycho - U.S. 1-sheet

My Left Foot - International Style 1-sheet

Please Not Now - German

Public Enemy  - U.S. window card


SUNSET BOULEVARD  - Polish and Finnish

WAR OF THE WORLDS - British Quad

ALL 007 Bond posters from Japan (especially the RR)

In Gerneral, the Italian Due and Quatro Folios

Many, many Title cards from the 1920s and '30s