MHDL'S Fan Magazine Collection takes you back in movie time

A while back, I happened upon possibly the only site that may be a bigger time suck than tumblr….the Fan Magazine Collection put together by Media History Digital Library (MHDL). This remarkable archive contains full-page scans of magazines that you can browse through or even download to your computer for later consumption.

All’s well at M-G-M “the happy lot:” (L to R) Madge Evans, Robert Montgomery, Marie Dressler, John Gilbert, Anita Page, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Photoplay, May 1932.

The star of the show is MHDL’s complete set of Photoplay magazine, comprising all the issues from 1914 until 1940. These magazines are a gold mine for the classic movie fan…in just one issue, I found publicist-approved info like Mary Pickford’s secret for staying slim (hint: skip lunch), Clark Gable’s explanation of some pesky rumors, Myrna Loy and Carole Lombard’s hairdo tips, and addresses for all the stars, plus tons of images. They are also fascinating cultural artifacts, a window into U.S. society’s past concerns (which haven’t actually changed all that much.) This site will occupy more of your time than you probably can spare.

Joan Blondell. Photoplay, May 1932.


One of Photoplay’s interesting and often hilarious features is “The Audience Talks Back,” in which fans air their critiques and grievances. It’s like Twitter…only longer and on paper:

“No matter what the critics write, the audience always has the final word” β€” Letters to Photoplay, May 1932.


I cannot even imagine the work that went into scanning these, and MHDL has even more collections…for instance, the Early Cinema archive covers several publications from 1904 to 1919. All the collections are listed here. MHDL is a non-profit organization, “dedicated to digitizing collections of classic media periodicals that belong in the public domain for full public access…We have currently scanned over 400,000 pages, and that number is growing.” The scanning is paid for by collectors and donors, so if you see the value in any of this, please support their work β€” there’s a “Donate” button in the right sidebar.

Photoplay, April 1932.

14 thoughts on “MHDL'S Fan Magazine Collection takes you back in movie time

  1. Oh God I remember those silly magazines, but I bought all of them, not from the 50’s of course, but the early 60’s. I’d love to look through some of those. Thanks for the heads up Paula!

    1. You’re welcome Val! They are kind of funny, because the content was so obviously manufactured by the studios and/or the stars’ “people”…but still they are interesting πŸ˜‰

  2. That site is indeed terrific, and I use it quite a bit for material for my classic Hollywood blog, “Carole & Co.” ( But another part of the archive features a few years of another fan magazine of the era, Street & Smith’s Picture Play. from 1930, 1932 and ’33, as well as the second half of 1929 and the first half of 1931, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art. You can find the volumes by visiting

    1. Thanks Vincent! I definitely will check those out. They have so much amazing stuff on that site, it’s almost overwhelming. Not complaining though.

  3. VERY cool! Who’s that guy in the last pic with Mae Clark? Gorgeous! Now, I wonder if there’s an issue with Gregory in it πŸ˜‰

    1. Quite a looker, wasn’t he? His name is Lew Ayres. I haven’t seen too many of his movies, he is probably best-known today for the 1930 version of All Quiet on the Western Front. Somebody picked him for the blogathon and I’m looking forward to finding out more about him.

      I bet you can get your Gregory fix somewhere on that site πŸ˜‰ I went to look and the MHDL site seems to be down. I’ll check later.

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