So far it’s been a sad year for classic movie fans and film buffs. Last February, Eddie Brandt passed away at the age of 90. Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee in North Hollywood is where everybody goes to find a copy of any movie ever made, no matter how obscure. And when I say everybody I mean everybody, including film historians, famous actors, directors and movie studio executives. As the saying goes, if Eddie Brandt’s doesn’t have it, you probably can’t get it.
Eddie started the place as a movie memorabilia store in the late 1960s and I used to buy movie posters there in the early ‘70s when I was a young whippersnapper just starting out at Walt Disney Studios. The lobby cards and one-sheets of old classic movies seemed like gold to me, and for a kid making 70 bucks a week as an animation trainee, spending $25 or $30 for a one-sheet of Disney’s The Ugly Duckling or a Max Fleischer Popeye was a luxury.
Eddie Brandt and family started their movie rentals with Eddie’s favorites, westerns and detective pictures, but as time went on, their library expanded until today they have upwards of 87,000 VHS tapes and 18,000 DVD’s. Film preservationists and movie historians worldwide know that Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee is the main go-to source for reference.
Eddie Brandt was born in Chicago and he taught himself to play the piano and started his first band, Eddie Brandt and the Hollywood Hicks, during service in the Navy during WWII. He wrote music for bandleaders Spike Jones and Spade Cooley, as well as for Eddie Cantor in the 1940s. During the 1950s Eddie wrote for TV’s The Colgate Comedy Hour and The Spike Jones Show.
He was also a cartoonist, working with animation director Bob Clampett on Beany and Cecil, where he composed music for the show and even did some voices. Eddie worked as a writer for the Hanna-Barbera Studios, where he met his wife, Claire, who was an inker. They married in the late ‘60s, and when animation work became scarce, they started their business selling movie still photos they acquired from garage sales and swap meets.
In true Hollywood happy ending fashion, although Eddie himself is gone, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee will go on. The store is still what it has always been: a family operation. Claire handles the photo sales and son Donovan, who probably knows as much or more about movies than any film archivist in town, manages the movie rentals.
If you ever need to find that obscure little gem of a movie that you remember from your childhood and haven’t seen since, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee is located at 5006 Vineland Ave. in North Hollywood. The place may not look like a lavish movie palace, but it is a movie lover’s dream.
Another film lover passed away in April. Marvin Eisenman, better known as “Marvin of the Movies” died at the age of 83. Ironically (or maybe not so ironically), I used to see him from time to time at Eddie Brandt’s store. Movie fan/collectors gravitate to each other in order to share information, search for hard to find films, or just to talk movie talk.
Marvin had a personal collection of videos and DVD’s of around 42,000 titles. Just as with Eddie Brandt, the movie industry knew Marvin well and often came to him for rare and hard to find films. Historians and film critics such as Leonard Maltin would come and borrow movies from Marvin’s vast collection and he was always happy to share. If he didn’t have a film, he would do what he could to try and locate it.
Marvin once got a call from producer Howard Koch, who was trying to locate a copy of the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate many years before it was released on video. It turned out that it was Frank Sinatra himself who wanted the copy and, yes, Marvin had one and sent it to Koch. Sinatra sent Marvin an autographed picture as a thank you. Needless to say, he cherished that photo.
The world has lost two men this year that loved the movies and loved seeing them preserved and appreciated by new generations of movie fans. The motion picture business has always been, first and foremost, a business. History and preservation unfortunately takes a backseat to box office and net receipts. In the final analysis, it is collectors and fans such as Eddie and Marvin who manage to find lost films and keep the history of the motion picture alive and well for all of us who care about the great movies of the past.
Rest in peace, gentlemen.