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” — 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 — there’s a “Donate” button in the right sidebar.

Photoplay, April 1932.