Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Hollywood Bridge

Note: This is an encore post from 2012.

Though card games had been around for centuries, auction bridge was developed in 1904 as an alternative to whist. In 1925, Harold Stirling Vanderbilt developed rules, particularly for scoring, creating contract bridge. Contract bridge involves four people sitting at the four sides of the table, corresponding to the directions, North, South, East, West, paired into two teams. Each person in a team sees their hand and bids as to what they think they can score with face cards. Each side then plays off with the highest card in a suit taking the hand. The lead team has one member that plays while the other watches. The team with the highest number of points after a certain number of games wins the rubber.Bridge quickly grew in popularity in the 1920s, making appearances in films and sheet music. Beautiful bridge tally cards were created by greeting card companies or other illustrative companies to allow people to keep score with something beautiful looking as well as useful.

BridgeCardsOne such company that developed bridge sets was the Buzza Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Begun by George Buzza in 1907, the company sold college advertising posters and retail clothing store posters until that business dried up. Buzza switched to manufacturing greeting cards as well as framed lithographs as gift mottos, registering sales of $2.5 million by 1928. The company pioneered in the use of colors and papers, creating gorgeous art deco art, and was one of the largest manufacturers of greeting cards in the 1920s.

In 1928, Buzza Co. created their Hollywood Bridge set, which originally cost twenty five cents, and since it represented the industry as a whole, was probably not licensed. The company employed art that strongly resembled that of popular art deco illustrator John Held Jr., though there is no signature on the cover of the box, which features fashionably dressed couples playing bridge while a cameraman films them.

The set saluted studios and stars, with people moving each game between the First National, Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Cecil B. DeMille Studios. Obviously intended for large groups, as sixteen stars were represented with each person playing as a star, with there being eight male and eight female stars to choose from. The women were Joan Crawford from “Our Dancing Daughters,” Esther Ralston from “Half a Bride,” Marceline Day from “The Big City,” Dorothy Mackaill from “The Girl in a Glass Cage,” Laura La Plante from “Thanks For the Buggy Ride,” Clara Bow from “Ladies of the Mob,” Mary Astor from “Sailors’ Wives,” and Phyllis Haver from “Chicago.” The male stars featured Richard Dix from “Easy Come Easy Go,” Ramon Novarro from “Across to Singapore,” William Haines in “The Smart Set,” John Gilbert in “The Cossacks,” Monte Blue in “Across the Atlantic,” Milton Sills in “The Barker,” Charles Chaplin in “The Circus,” and Harold Lloyd in “Speedy.”

Buzza also published one fictional book, “Fox Patrol in the Open” by C. L. Gilman around this period as well. In that year, the company merged with Charles S. Clark Co. of New York, with Buzza selling out his interest and retiring to California later in 1928.

George Cardozo, originally a salesman for Buzza before becoming a sales executive, approached Buzza after they both ended up in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Pooling their money, they opened Buzza-Cardozo on July 5, 1931 in the Bendix Building at 1206 Maple Avenue with only four employees and 26 cards. By 1951, the company was turning out almost 40 million greeting cards a year, one of the five largest manufacturers in the country, and was located at 8650 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles. In 1957, when Buzza died, Cardozo bought the company, later moving it to Orange County, with 600 employees including 65 artists and also 125 salesmen.

Unfortunately the quality of the art began dropping off in the 1930s, and by the 1950s was cheap looking and simple. The company did sell other movie related items, such as a greeting card featuring Dracula and the Wolf Man, one featuring William “Hoppy” Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, and others featuring Tigger and Winnie the Pooh.

The Buzza Building still survives in Minneapolis, sold by the Minneapolis Public Schools last year to Dominium for conversion into rent affordable apartments

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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