TRAILERS!  PREVIEWS!  COMING ATTRACTIONS !  Always part of cinema going . We need to know what to see next.

Of course the job of trailers is to make filmgoers go see the movie the following  week.  Nowadays, trailers don’t follow/trail the main feature , but back in the silent era , they ran after the movie.

With the coming of sound and continuous performances, we got double features followed by cartoons, newsreels – and trailers.

By 1919, a New Yorker, Herman Robbins, without any studio permission, took stills from films, spliced them with text and titles, and sold them to movie theaters.
He formed a company called THE NATIONAL SCREEN SERVICE and gradually the big studios started sending their films to NSS to be converted into trailers.

Considering everything else was done in-house, I’m not clear why the important advertising of trailers was outsourced. ( the only comment I saw was that making trailers was too time consuming).
As well as producing trailers, NSS also did posters and ads for the majors till the 1960s, when the studios took back control.

Trailers often had third person narrators, montages, teasers, rapid cuts, pictures of the stars, some clips of dramatic or exciting scenes – and all in about three minutes.

Like print advertising, the trailer is full of excessive praise for the film – Colossal and Stupendous were often the words used .
And sometimes the actual film was a let down after the rip roaring trailer.
Occasionally a trailer would use footage not in the actual film, depending on whether NSS was working from a final cut.  Sometimes they worked from the dailies ( unedited footage of film).

For example, in one of the trailers for CASABLANCA, Rick says, “ok, you asked for it”  before shooting Strasser – a line not in the final film.

When a film was re-issued some years later, a further trailer might be made, often  running only about 90 seconds.

With the advent of video and dvd, trailers were often added as extras and have become popular to watch.

I’ve pulled a few trailers from You Tube , with some comments.


NOTE: An extra comment to this post .

Having read some further articles, it looks like MGM and Warner Bros. did some of their own trailers, maybe for the bigger releases like MILDRED PIERCE and SHOP AROUND THE CORNER ,shown below. When the stars of the film are filmed for special spots in the trailers, that would be done in the studio.



This trailer for JOHNNY O’CLOCK was a re-issue and runs only 1m. 36 secs. Of course it emphasises  the dramatic character of the lead character – “the most fascinating character you’ve met in years!”




With PEOPLE WILL TALK, the film’s makers were selling points – Darryl Zanuck, Joseph Mankiewicz  had Oscar winning credentials. And the usual hyperbole – “Expect the unexpected, and you’ll still be surprised!”


DARK PASSAGE reminds filmgoers about the Bogie/Bacall previous hits, saying Dark Passage is the best yet.

The trailer even shows the end scene of the film, but no one would know that at the time.



LADY IN THE LAKE: “THE SCREEN TALKED, NOW THE CAMERA ACTS!” – “A MILESTONE IN MOVIE MAKING, starring Robert Montgomery and YOU!”  “You play the starring role!”

The trailer is a bit misleading because you see lots of Montgomery as he does the narration.




MILDRED PIERCE: One of the best trailers I have seen. Gripping first shot of the shooting of ‘Monty’, then Jack Carson, Bruce Bennett,  Zachary Scott speak to the camera, each describing how they see Mildred . And then the scene where Vida slaps Mildred.
And the description – “The film the WORLD  will talk about!”
it’s all there!




“SHOP AROUND THE CORNER.” I love this one, with Frank Morgan speaking directly to the camera and introducing the cast – with a surprise appearance at the end of director Ernst Lubitsch.


DOUBLE INDEMNITY: Another instance where the end scene is shown, with Fred MacMurray saying, “I killed Dietrichson…”



San Francisco  re-release trailer., stating this is a “limited return engagement.” Shots of the earthquake make for plenty of action.



A clever use of two William Powells for The Thin Man. It’s all about a tall, thin man.”



RKO re-released King Kong in 1938 and the message was , Dont Miss It This Time!



THE WOMEN : Reference  is made to the hit Broadway show on which the film is based.



An excellent Criterion trailer for their dvd release of 3.10 TO YUMA.



ON DANGEROUS GROUND. Always  great to hear Bernard Hermann’s soundtrack.

9 responses »

  1. Thanks Vienna.

    MGM did their own trailers, and Warner Brothers sued them, both according to this –

    Another interesting article here –

  2. Was fascinated to come across a New York stage revival of The Women on You Tube. Interesting to hear the racy lines that were not used in the film. The only cast member I knew was Rue McClanahan.

    • I saw that one too recently, but wish we could have seen the 1973 revival cast with Alexis Smith (Sylvia), Rhonda Fleming(Miriam) and Myrna Loy.

  3. Let’s face it, regarding The Women, no one will ever match the perfect performances of the 1939 cast. Right down to the smallest parts.

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