(by Mike DeNero & Kyleigh Spencer)
The Garbaty Film Stars Sets (1934 through 1937)
In the center of Nazi Germany's pre-war years, the Garbaty Cigarette Company released three sets of incredibly striking cigarette cards: Moderne Schönheitsgalerie (Gallery of Modern Beauty) in 1934; Galerie Schöner-Frauen Des Films (Gallery of Beautiful Women in Film) in 1936; and Film-Lieblinge (Film Favorites) in 1937. Each card has a full color, embossed surface, while the back of each card informs the collector of how to purchase an album (cost: one Reichmark) to house the cards. A cigarette brand logo and other information about the cost of the cigarette boxes in which the cards were inserted also appear on the backs. Interestingly, the word “Garbaty” is nowhere to be seen. While most cards measure 2 1/16 X 2 7/16, a select forty in the 200-card Film-Lieblinge set are much larger, measuring 2 7/16 X 3 1/4.
The Moderne Schönheitsgalerie Set: Series One and Two
The Moderne Schönheitsgalerie set, issued in two 300-card series, primarily featured German and Hollywood actresses (Series One also pictured some popular female athletes; Series Two also included a few actors, such as Clark Gable and Robert Montgomery). Each card’s surface is varnished (in addition to being embossed) and the backs feature the logo of one of the company’s most popular brands, Kurmark Cigarettes. There are several dozen unique borders in each 300-card series. In our review of Series One, we counted a minimum of 50 unique borders within the first 150 cards alone.
All of the great Hollywood stars of the day made their way into the set. As German audiences especially adored Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, each is pictured on twelve cards! Clara Bow, Rita Cansino (before her name change to Hayworth), Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Kay Francis, Janet Gaynor, Jean Harlow, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Myriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, Maureen O’Sullivan, Ginger Rogers, Norma Shearer, little Shirley Temple, Claire Trevor, Mae West, and Loretta Young are all included, to name a few.
Some of the more interesting subjects, however, are the German actresses. For example, Emmy Sonnemann appears on card #190. In April 1935, Emmy became the second Mrs. Hermann Göring (following World War II, Göring was convicted at the Nuremberg Trials of various war crimes -- the night before he was to be hanged, he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide). Emmy served a one-year post-war prison term after a German court convicted her of being a Nazi.
The Galerie Schöner-Frauen Des Film Set
As the nation prepared to host the Games of the XI Olympiad in 1936, the Garbaty Cigarette Company released the Schöner-Frauen Des Films set (Gallery of Beautiful Women in Film), a scaled-down 224 cards with matte finish. The Passion brand logo appears on the backs, which could account for the set’s rarity (i.e., because Passion was less popular than Kurmark, which included the Moderne Schönheitsgalerie cards, the Galerie Schöner-Frauen Des Films set is more rare today).
Once again, several dozen German and Hollywood actresses are pictured in the set. While the set includes several cards of the most popular actresses – e.g., four of Greta Garbo, two each of Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow, and Rita Cansino (Hayworth) – several other lesser known but equally fascinating, actresses, who were popular in Germany at the time, are included.For example, Lil Dagover, pictured on two cards, was one of Hitler’s favorite actresses and preferred dinner companions. Another frequent dinner guest of the Fuhrer, Olga Tschechowa, allegedly not only attempted to seduce Hitler on at least one occasion, but acted as a Soviet "sleeper" agent who was later involved in a plot to assassinate him. Renate Müller, an Aryan ideal, who starred in the original Viktor und Viktoria (Victor Victoria), is featured on seven cards. It is rumored that in retaliation for her refusal to appear in Nazi propaganda films (along with the fact that she allegedly had a Jewish lover), the Gestapo threw her out of a hotel window in 1937 (thus, perhaps her premature death was not due to “epilepsy,” as the German press reported).