Identifying film scenes from arcade/exhibit cards and reconstructing film plots and synopses

Arcade and exhibit cards have a fascinating history of their own – they were originally manufactured by Exhibit Supply Company in Chicago and distributed through vending machines for a penny per card. These cards would often be tinted in different colors ranging from red to blue, green, purple, even aqua. Many arcade and exhibit cards dating back to the late 1920’s and 1930’s would depict film scenes in addition to portraits of actors and actresses. Sometimes these film scenes might bear just the star’s name but not the film they were from. For example, here is an arcade card from my personal collection bearing the following print:

“Tom Tyler helps Buddy capture the bandit”

Arcade card

Buddy here is child actor Frankie Darro, who co-starred with Tom Tyler in FBO movies of the mid- to late- 1920’s. The actress here remains unidentified. By doing some research in the Lantern Media database, the scene on this arcade card matches that with a screen capture (or film still) in Motion Picture News, December 19, 1925:

Motion Picture News December 19 1925

The movie scene on the arcade card is from “The Wyoming Wildcat”, 1925. If this movie was to have a plot or synopsis written up, the information from this arcade card could be included. A review of “The Wyoming Wildcat” might be a little more of a challenge although the person writing the review could make a reservation with the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique in Brussels to view it on the premises since they own a print of this silent film. So while collecting arcade and exhibit cards can be an interesting hobby, their historical value and usefulness to writers of film should never be discounted.

Here is Tom standing upon his horse Flashlight, a portrait of them both from “The Wyoming Wildcat”: