Harry Reichenbach

Harry Reichenbach (1882 – 1931) was a US press agent and publicist who dreamed up sensational publicity stunts to promote films. He was one of the founding members of the Associated Motion Picture Advertisers.[1]


Born in Frostburg, Maryland, in 1882, Reichenbach worked both for actors as an agent and for the film studios as a promoter. Among his first jobs was to promote a woman called "Sober Sue" who never smiled. He got her a contract at the Victoria Theater on Broadway and made them offer $1,000 to any New York comedian who could make her laugh. Actually, the woman had Möbius syndrome—i.e. paralyzed face muscles—so she was incapable of laughter.

Between 1914-1916 he served as publicity director for various motion picture companies: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co.,[2] Alco Film Corp.,[3] Bosworth Inc.,[4] Metro Pictures,[5] Equitable Motion Picture Corp.,[6] World Film Co.,[7] and Frohman Amusement Corp.[8]

In December 1916 Reichenbach founded his own public relations company.[9] Reichenbach claims to have popularized the painting September Morn,[10] but that story is disputed.[11]

To promote the sequel the Return of Tarzan, Reichenbach hired an actor who checked into the Hotel Bellclaire with a name Thomas R. Zann. Zann had a huge crate that was hoisted to his room through a window. Then he ordered fifteen pounds of raw beef. When the cook and the hotel detective arrived, they saw that the meat was for the guest's pet lion. Hotel called for police and the "Mr Zann" explained to them and the press that he was a huge Tarzan fan.

One of the actors Reichenbach worked for was Rudolf Valentino. Reichenbach convinced him to grow beard to cause a bad reaction that was followed by a good one when he "agreed" to shave it.

For the 1915 film Trilby, which included nude scenes and hypnotism, Reichenbach hired a young woman to run several times around the block and take a seat besides him just before the movie ended. She looked agitated and exhausted and Reichenbach hinted that the hypnosis scenes in the movie might have something to do with it. He also arranged that various psychologists would speculate on possible effects of hypnosis through cinema.

In other publicity stunts, Reichenbach would stage fake kidnappings of actresses set to appear in his films. One attempt involved crossing the border into Mexico, which resulted in United States president Woodrow Wilson writing an angry letter to Reichenbach asking him to stop.

In 1928, Reichenbach was managing the Colony Theater in New York City and took Walt Disney's animated film Steamboat Willie for a two-week run.

When Reichenbach was working for actor Francis X. Bushman, he took him to see studio executives. He began to walk with Bushman from the railway station and dropped pennies to the street from his pocket. Lots of people followed them, picking up the coins and following them. The crowd gave the studio executives an impression that Bushman was very popular and they signed him up for a big contract with Metro Pictures.

For The Virgin of Stamboul, he hired actors to pose as a clandestine Turkish rescue party that was hunting for a royal bride that had eloped with an American soldier.[12] Reichenbach leaked the details to the press. His 1931 book, Phantom Fame, written with David Freedman, was the basis of the 1932 film The Half-Naked Truth.

Harry Reichenbach died July 4, 1931.


  • Harry Reichenbach (1931), Phantom Fame, Simon & Schuster.
  • Allvine, Glendon (August 1923). "The Press Agent who is paid $1000 a week". Photoplay. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  • Evan V. Symon (June 26, 2011) http://www.cracked.com/article_19275_the-6-most-wildly-irresponsible-publicity-stunts-in-history_p2.html Cracked.com


  1. "Movie Ad Men in Association". The Fourth Estate. August 5, 1916. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  2. "One of the best of filmdom's press men..." Motography. XII (23): 891. 5 December 1914. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  3. "Reichenbach at Alco". Variety. XXXVI (13): 21. 28 November 1914. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  4. "Reichenbach Boosts Bosworth". Moving Picture World. 23 (3): 373. 16 January 1915. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  5. "Harry Reichenbach, late of the..." Motography. XIII (13): 493. 27 March 1915. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  6. "Equitable Plans". Moving Picture World. 25 (9): 1500. 28 August 1915. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  7. "Harry Reichenbach has..." Motography. XVI (7): 403. 12 August 1916. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  8. McCardell, Roy (18 March 1923). "Harry L. Reichenbach: Worker of Wonders for the Motion Pictures". The Morning Telegraph. New York, New York.
  9. "Reichenbach Becomes Free Lance". Moving Picture World. 30 (12): 1811. 23 December 1916. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  10. Reichenbach, Harry (23 January 1926), "Fame Made to Order", Liberty: 19–20
  11. "The September Morn Hoax". Museum of Hoaxes.
  12. "Universal Puts Stunt Over: Press Carries Arabian Story and Universal Gets Effective Tie-Up". Motion Picture News. New York City: Motion Picture News, Inc. 21 (14): 2920. Mar 27, 1920. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
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