The „Hans Dangers Filmstar Secretariat“, Berlin
Written by Rolf Ramseier
Its postal address back then was:
Filmstar-Sekretariat Hans Dangers, Berlin-Zehlendorf, Vopeliuspfad 11, Berlin-West
Under this address, one could order „Ufa“ movie star-postcards for the price of 0.50 German mark apiece. In a catalogue from the year 1962 one can find expressly noted, that these postcards are not made by print, facsimile or stamp, but that they do display exclusive original photographs and handwritten autographs of „Ufa“ movie stars.
By means of a stamp on the backside of a autographed movie star-postcard of Julie Adams, the buyer of the card is informed, that out of the 0.50 DM buying price, a certain percentage is given to a welfare fund for impoverished artists.
It seems most likely, that the movie star-postcards sold and shipped by the movie star secretariat displaying autographs of German stars are indeed genuine. This can be assumed thanks to a note found in a catalogue of the time. „For large-format photo cards, a longer delivery time has to be expected.“ These large-format photo cards were, probably due to their higher price and the resulting smaller demand, always ordered separately, and as can be seen by the movie star names listed in the catalogues of the time, large-format photo cards were available of German movie stars only. Also, the author and many other renowned collectors have so far not registered any significant deviations to other autographs by German movie stars of the time. (Exceptions: Romy Schneider and Curd Jürgens, whose signatures most probably also have been forged at times by the movie star-secretaries in Berlin). Sadly though, it can not be ruled out that a number of German movie stars signatures have been affected by this. The field of German movie stars on „Ufa“ movie star-postcards still requires further and more intense study.
But were all these thousands, probably even tens of thousands of purchased and shipped „Ufa“ movie star-postcards really signed by hand and by the respective star him- or herself ? Sadly, in hindsight, one has to say that this is clearly not the case.
But when it comes to the relatively frequently listed stars from other European nations, as well as stars originating from the USA, one often registers salient differences to authentic signatures of the stars at the time. Further, it is remarkable that very often the same ink has been used on a large variety of cards, as well as the sometimes almost childlike style of the signature, and diverse signatures are often more than just alike. On top of that, cards displaying international stars are almost exclusively signed in ink, whereas the German stars often used ballpoint-pens.
Besides, some of the signatures show an extreme likeness to originals from the time, which allows the assumption, that the movie star-secretariat did have original signatures on hand to sign the cards, yet many of the secretariat signatures show ever similar deviations from authentic signatures.
All these findings lead to only one reasonable conclusion: It is most likely, that none of the autographs of international stars sold and shipped by the movie star-secretariat are authentic, but that these were signed in the name of the stars by a number of secretaries in Berlin.
The list of international stars on offer by the movie star-secretariat contains well over a hundred international movie- and music-stars of the time. About sixty names are listed in the original catalogues of 1961 and 1962, which are made available in copy by „AdA“ member Herman Westphal (see German article for preview of the catalogues).
Furthermore, approximately forty confirmed secretary-signatures are proved to be what they are through comparison with available originals on „Ufa“ movie star-postcards. The following list holds no claim to be complete, and further names must surely be added to it. Also, it is by no means confirmed that all the signatures of the listed stars have been made by secretaries, but in most cases that probability is very, very high. Thus far confirmed secretary-signatures are listed in bold letters. In the beginning, it was probably only the 9x14cm, black/white „Ufa“ movie star-postcards that have been signed by secretaries, but later on also the postcards of publishers such as Freihoff, WS, ISV and „Kunst & Bild“ were secretary-signed. These are, besides 9x14cm ,often in 10x15cm and printed in colour.
Adams Julie, Allyson June, Andrée Ingrid, Angeli Pier, Anka Paul, Arnoul Francoise,
Aubry Cecile, Bardot Brigitte, Barker Lex, Belafonte Harry, Bergman Ingrid,
Blyth Ann, Boone Pat, Brando Marlon, Brazzi Rossano, Brynner Yul,
Cardinale Claudia, Carol Martine, Carrol Dany, Chandler Jeff, Christian Linda,
Clift Montgomery, Cooper Gary, Curtis Tony, Dahl Arlene, Dandridge Dorothy,
Day Doris, De Kowa Viktor, De Sica Vittorio, Delon Alain, Demongeot Mylene,
Dors Diana, Kirk Douglas, Ekberg Anita, Finch Peter, Ford Glenn, Gable Clark,
Gardner Ava, Gaynor Mitzi, Gelin Daniel, Granger Farley, Grant Cary, Greco Juliette,
Hagman Larry, Haley Bill, Hayward Susan, Hayworth Rita, Hepburn Audrey,
Holden William, Howard Trevor, Hudson Rock, Johnson Van, Jürgens Curd,
Kelly Grace, Kessler Zwillinge?, Ladd Alan, Lancaster Burt, Lane Abbe,
Laurie Piper, Leigh Janet, Lockwood Margaret, Lollobrigida Gina, Loren Sophia,
Lualdi Antonella, Magnani Anna, Mangano Silvia, Mansfield Jayne, Marais Jean,
Martinelli Elsa, Masina Giulietta, Mastroianni Marcello, Mature Victor,
McCrey Joel, Mitchum Robert, Monroe Marilyn, Montand Yves, Morgan Michelle,
Murphy Audie, Novak Kim, Palmer Lili, Pampanini Silvana, Peck Gregory,
Perkins Tony, Powell Jane, Power Tyrone, Presley Elvis, Pulver Liselotte,
Richard Cliff, Robin Dany, Schiaffino Rosanna, Schneider Romy auch GF,
Simmons Jean, Sinatra Frank, Stanwyck Barbara, Stewart James,
Taylor Elizabeth, Taylor Robert, Thiess Ursula. Thompson Carlos,
Vallone Raf. Versois Odile, Wayne John, Wilde Cornel, Williams Esther,
Shelley Winters, Wood Natalie, Wyman Jane
But who was it that wrote all those secretary-signatures? Who took all the painstaking exercise to copy, to near perfection, the original signatures of Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Dorothy Dandridge, Frank Sinatra und Audrey Hepburn, and thus, so to say, displaying an enormous artistic talent? Who were the people behind this whole deception? These questions can probably never be answered conclusively, because almost fifty years have passed since then. Yet, a number of presumptions can be made.
Authors, meaning the makers / writers of the secretary-signatures, were, besides adults, most probably often youngsters in their teens and early twenties. This can be assumed when looking at the following movie star-postcards of Piper Laurie, Marlon Brando, Ursula Thiess und Arlene Dahl, since they display signatures in a seemingly childlike and rather slow and unsteady hand. The signatures do show, in some cases, similarities with the original, but they certainly lack the fluidity and momentum of the original.
But then there also were secretaries with a highly artistic talent, who took their work very serious and showed great skill and attention to detail when copying signatures.
Here, two or maybe three secretaries stand out above the rest. They seem to have specialized in copying the signatures of certain stars, and copied various autographs to nearly identical perfection. For one, there was a secretary who mostly used a thin yet very fluidly moving stylograph to sign movie star-postcards. Samples of signatures by this secretary are displayed below, on postcards for Abbe Lane, Frank Sinatra, Bill Haley und Sophia Loren. These signatures are written in a rather small hand, using a thin feather pen.
Then there is the secretary who displayed enormous momentum and a very fluid hand in copying the signatures of Elizabeth Taylor und Dorothy Dandridge. It is quite probably the same secretary who is the author of the very fluid and almost identical to the original signatures of Burt Lancaster und Montgomery Clift.
Of various stars, a number of highly different signature-variations are in circulation, which have little, sometimes even nothing, in common with the original signatures. For example, there are so far three known different, confirmed secretary-signatures of Burt Lancaster in circulation, most likely all originating from the Berlin secretariat.
Besides secretary-signatures, it seems that stamps have frequently been used to sign movie star-postcards, as can be seen on the postcard of Giulietta Masina displayed above.
Here we have a confirmed stamp-signature with the handwritten addition „con cordialita“ (with cordiality) in purple ink.
Many of the postcards of Marilyn Monroe currently offered on eBay and declared as originals are in fact secretary-signed postcards from Berlin. Mainly the postcards signed in green ink allow to make this assumption quite firmly. However, it can so far not be confirmed, whether or not the signatures written in red ink also originate from the Berlin secretaries.
These signatures have been known to experts for many years as the so-called „London Studio Signatures“. But since these postcards are found most frequently in Germany, it has to be assumed, that these too are secretary-signatures from Berlin, at least partially. It is very likely that a secretary-signature served as a master for the „London Studio Signature“, or that the whole myth surrounding the „London Studio Signature“ will turn out to be false, and that the signatures should actually be renamed as „Berlin Studio Signatures“. This question will probably never be answered with absolute certainty.
The research concerning the „Hans Dangers Movie star Secretariat“ in Berlin, and the origin of the secretary-signatures took place over a time span of several years. The initial motivation to publish the information and conclusions contained in this article stems from a personal discussion with „AdA“ member Hermann Westphal during the „AdA“ collectors meeting of 2006 in Kassel. In his (Westphal’s) exchangeable items folder, I found a few „Ufa“ postcards of German movie stars of the time, and I asked him where he got them from. He said that he got them as a young man, back in the early 1960s. So I wanted to know whether he got them straight from the stars themselves, or if he purchased them from a publishing house or some other likely source. And then he said the words which later proved to be the first step towards finally solving the questions surrounding the movie star-postcards from Berlin: „I bought these cards back in the early 1960s. I still have the original catalogues at home.“ Only through these forty-five years old catalogues was it possible to understand the circumstances surrounding the „Hans Dangers Movie star Secretariat“.
Therefore, my gratitude goes first of all to Herrmann Westphal, without whose passion for collecting and the collectors inherent urge for documentation of his collection it would not have been possible to research this whole issue so thoroughly. Furthermore, I would like to thank Markus Brandes, Artur Artner und Tobias Lutz for their friendly help in providing me many copies of postcards originating from the Berlin autograph-factory, and for their helpful advise and support in confirming the origin of various secretary-signatures.
Further information and figures / pictures of the original catalogues from the years 1961 and 1962, as well as detailed studies concerning a variety of secretary-signatures are published on the website www.isitreal.com under the „Forgery News“ and in the „Reference Directory“.