New commemorative issues rarely rate five stars, but the most recent issue from Great Britain is a notable exception. The issue pays tribute to five of the country's most illustrious film luminaries.
The issue has as much interest for Americans as it has for Britons, for all five spent a good part of their careers in Hollywood.
The new issue was put out to mark British Film Year. It also observes the 150th anniversary of the invention by William Fox Talbot of the first photographic negative, which made mass production of photos possible.
The stamps depict the five in roles from their careers, and the photographs are autographed on the lower right corner. Prominent on the left side are the names of the British portrait photographers who took the photos.
The opening stamp pictures Peter Sellers in a role from "The Prisoner of Zenda." Sellers was a noted character actor, probably best known for his roles as Dr. Strangelove and the accident-prone Inspector Clouseau in the "Pink Panther" series.
David Niven, who personified good humor, intelligence, wit and well-bred British manners, is shown as he appeared in "Around the World in 80 Days." His career began in Hollywood in 1934 and flourished in such films as "The Charge of the Light Brigade." He was a big star in the '50s and '60s and emerged as a best-selling author in the '70s through his humorous recollections of Hollywood life.
From the days of the silent screen comes Charlie Chaplin, the immortal tramp with his mustache, cane and baggy trousers, who became one of the first great film stars. However, the stamp shows him in a role from one of his last movies, "City Lights."
Vivien Leigh had appeared in several so-so films in the 1930s but became world-famous when she was chosen to play opposite Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind." She appears on her stamp as Scarlett O'Hara in that film. Leigh won an Oscar for "Gone With the Wind" and a second for "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Alfred Hitchcock, one of Britain's most prolific filmmakers, is shown in a cameo role from "Rear Window." Sinister atmospherics and distressed heroines were among the director's trademarks. He worked in England until 1939, creating such thrillers as "The Thirty-Nine Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes." In Hollywood came further triumphs, such as "Dial M for Murder," "Vertigo" and "Psycho."
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the printing by William Caxton of Sir Thomas Malory's "Morte d'Arthur," and Britain has issued a set of four commemoratives, each in seven colors, that picture key aspects of the tale. The first shows Arthur consulting with the sorcerer whose supernatural powers and political acumen helped the king unify Britain. On the second, Arthur receives the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake.
The affair between Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, whose adultery broke up the Round Table, is depicted on a stamp showing them fleeing from Camelot. The fourth stamp shows Sir Galahad, the purest of the knights, praying during his quest for the Holy Grail.
American collectors writing to order the stamps or seeking further information should write to M. Butler, Stangib Ltd., 124 Charlotte Ave., C.S. 1809, Hicksville, N.Y. 11801.