Mini strip malls dot the length of Chillicothe Road in rural Lake and Geauga counties, cropping up mostly at the intersections of country routes. They're stocked with the usual dentist's offices, hair salons, pizza parlors, and real estate agencies.
But open the door of one such anonymous space — marked only with a sign sporting the cryptic initials "LMPC" — and you're transported to another world: classic Hollywood in its heyday. Inside, the cavernous room is haphazardly stuffed with boxes, shelves, and file cabinets. In each corner and on every surface sits one stunning movie poster after another.
Over here, there's The Maltese Falcon, featuring Humphrey Bogart with guns blazing and a seductive Mary Astor.
Next to it, flapper Alice White cavorts on a poster for 1929's Hot Stuff.
A promo for Rasputin: The Mad Monk, a 1966 film starring Christopher Lee, bears the come-on "Disguise yourself from the forces of evil! Get your Rasputin beard free as you enter the theater! Given to guys and gals alike!"
All of them mingle with piles of theater lobby cards, boxes of movie stills, and other memorabilia.
Welcome to the "organized mess" of Morris Everett Jr., the silver-haired, 70-year-old proprietor of the Last Moving Picture Company, owner of the self-proclaimed largest movie poster collection in the world, and one of the top dealers in movie posters and other film memorabilia. Posters? He's got 40,000 of them in his Kirtland storefront, plus thousands of vintage photographs. Thousands more posters — his most valuable — are stashed in a couple of off-site storage vaults, the locations of which he doesn't readily disclose.
Though he's known by only a handful of serious buffs in his own town, Everett is a pivotal figure in the often high-stakes world of movie collectibles. He and his co-worker, Dwayne Pinkney — an expert in the perennially popular genres of science fiction and horror — work the phones and computers from amid the clutter in Kirtland. But Everett is the face of the operation, staging auctions in Paris and London and New York, and seemingly all points between and beyond.
Everett holds up a cardboard-backed, cellophane-wrapped poster from director F.W. Murnau's 1926 film Goethe's Faust. On it, a striking red devil looms over a comely blonde avidly combing through a stash of jewelry. Everett recently hawked the poster, along with hundreds of other items, at a Columbus gathering of movie buffs and assorted nerds.
"We expected it to go for $800 to $1,000," he says of Faust. "It went for $11,000. We had two guys who didn't want to lose, which was great for us."
Once upon a time, movie posters were manufactured strictly for the movie trade. They were sent to theaters, along with other promotional materials like lobby cards and still photos, to display until the film's run ended. Then they were tossed in the trash. Unlike today's posters, which are often cheaply mass-produced to be hung on dorm-room walls, the originals couldn't be bought. And frankly, few folks wanted them anyway.
But Morrie Everett always did. Before he was a dealer, Everett was a collector, and before he was a collector, he was a movie buff. As a boy growing up in Northeast Ohio in the 1940s and '50s, he loved what all little boys loved: adventure films. "Movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938, with Errol Flynn," he says, reeling off the particulars as if they were catalogued that way on his tongue. "Good guys beat the bad guys."
He bought his first scrap of movie memorabilia when he was in college in 1961: a promotional card for Charge of the Light Brigade, the 1936 film starring Flynn, and a poster for Splendor in the Grass, the Natalie Wood/Warren Beatty drama that had been released earlier that year. He was drawn to collecting — "I come from a collecting family," he says, although he doesn't say exactly what his family squirrelled away. Back then, though, his enthusiasm was random.
"When I first started collecting, I collected on 20 people, and the group made no sense," he says. "Why would someone collect on Tuesday Weld and Basil Rathbone?"
A turning point came in 1967, when Everett made his first volume purchase: a collection of 6,000 stills dating to the 1920s and '30s.
Ever since, he's done what a lot of collectors do: bought tons of stuff, kept some, and sold the rest to cover the original purchase. In the late '80s, following a divorce, he realized he needed to ramp up his game. At the same time, the market for movie collectibles was heating up, with sales taking place for the first time at venerable auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's. Everett opened the Last Moving Picture Company downtown on Euclid Avenue in 1989. In those days, his shop sometimes played host to the likes of Metallica and the Ramones, both of whom would comb the stacks for anything rock, sci-fi, or horror.
Throughout the '90s, Everett also had a store in Los Angeles, at the legendary corner of Hollywood and Vine.
"I had a good friend who was willing to be manager, and at the time, it was the place to be to buy movie memorabilia," he says.