The two most common B&W film stills issued by German film studios prior to 1945 were 21.75 cm X 27.50 cm (or approximately 8 1/2 inches x 11 inches) or the smaller press photos, which were 12 cm X 17 cm (or approximately 5 inches X 7 inches) in size. All photos were approved for public distribution by the Berlin Reichsfilmprüfstelle, or the Reich Film Censorship Board. Approved photos for distribution within Greater Germany were marked with the censor's stamp (a printed eagle and swastika and censor's approval) or embossed with the censor stamp by crimping the photo itself; or the photos had no censor stamp but had the film's cast sheet and remarks glued to the reverse side of the photo, which were the copies meant for the media and therefore not in general circulation. Press photo sets often included behind–the–scene shots of the film in productiuon, the Director at work, and casual shots; as well as film scenes.
Just like the film posters, film studio stills and press photos were not sold to the public, nor were they sold to the cinemas. They were rented to the cinemas and had to be returned to the studio after the film's screen run, or a fine applied. That is why the majority of film posters and stills have pinholes and are in less than excellent condition, and why most of them are so scarce.
We also have two interesting Tobis Filmkunst publications from 1940/41 called "Maternfahne" which are brochures which fold out horizontally (A4) and the pages present "Interessante Photos aus kommenden Filme;" such as Bismarck, Kopf hoch, Johannes!, DIII88, Kampfgeschwader Lützow, Mein Leben für Irland, Robert Koch, Trenck der Pandur, and Leinen aus Irland; amongst others. The photos are all dot matrix –– so ready for placement in newspapers –– and have captions printed under each of them. These photos also eventually appeared in the actual pressbooks of each individual film, but in this type of forthcoming films brochure, provided cinema owners with a preview of coming attractions which they could publicise in their city
The Gillespie Collection has over 800 original stills and press photos from over 100 films, too numerous to list here in detail . Amongst the most notable films with at least 10 original photos are:
Alcazar (Genina) – 15 lobby cards and press photos
Annelie – 20 lobby cards and three press photos.
Besatzung Dora (1943, banned) – 14 lobby cards (AHFs) and eight press photographs, ten behind–the–scene private snapshots taken in October 1942 in the Soviet Union during filming at Gostkino Fliegerhorst and the Russian village Ropti.
Capriccio – 1 lobby card and 11 press photos
Carl Peters – 56 stills and press photos ( including two rare Agfacolor diapositives - one is seen above, right)
DIII88 – 8 lobby cards and 11 press photos
Das unsterbliche Herz – 48 stills
Der 5. Juni – 24 stills (the film was forbidden and never released)
Der Fuchs von Glenarvon – 24 stills
Der Große König – 18 stills and 6 press photos
Der junge und große König – 42 stills
Der verlorene Sohn – 31 stills
Der verzauberte Tag – 33 stills + 6 press photos (forbidden and not shown in the Third Reich)
Der zerbrochene Krug – 20 stills
Die Degenhardts – 38 stills and 5 press photos
Die goldene Spinne – 23 stills
Die große Liebe – 15 stills
Die Reiter von Deutsche–Ostafrika – 43 stills
Die Rothschilds– 12 stills + 2 press photos
Diesel – 20 stills + one lightbox colourised lobby card
Ein Robinson – 23 stills
Ewiger Wald – 22 stills
Frauen für Golden Hill – 19 stills and press photos
Fronttheater – 15 stills and press photos (also behind-the-scenes photos from a Luftwaffe technician assigned to the film in Athens.)
GPU – 22 stills and press photos
Gepheu (GPU, Italy) – 23 lobby cards
GPU (The Red Terror, USA-UK post-war release) 14 lobby cards - title in English.