Eddie Brandt dies at 90; Hollywood’s go-to guy for film history, memorabilia
Eddie Brandt’s obsession with the movies was evident in his North Hollywood home, which he transformed into an indoor-outdoor theater by installing a film projector on a tiny loft with windows and pointing it toward his yard.
Saturday night was movie night at Brandt’s, starting in the early 1970s. Cinema buffs — including the host — screened 16-millimeter films, viewing them through oversized windows or while sitting outside.
Every day had also been movie day for Brandt since his North Hollywood thrift shop evolved into a movie memorabilia store after he bought his first warehouse of film collectibles in 1972.
He turned the business into Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, building a collection of videos and film history so vast that it functions as an unofficial Hollywood research library.
Brandt, who was also a composer and animation writer, died Feb. 20 of colon cancer at his North Hollywood home, said his son, Donovan. He was 90.
As a teenage movie-theater usher, Brandt began collecting film mementos and discovered their popularity almost by accident after he used movie posters to cover holes in the thrift shop’s walls.
“One day, a man came in and bought the posters to decorate his bar,” Brandt told The Times in 1986. “I knew there was a market for movie memorabilia.”
When he realized that customers coveted vintage films and TV shows, he sold his personal collection of old 16-millimeter films and started buying videotapes in 1976.
Since then, the Brandt family has scoured video shops across the U.S. for out-of-print videos, assembling a collection that “stands out as a unique hold-out for die-hard film buffs,” Lucas Hilderbrand, a UC Irvine film and media studies professor, wrote in 2007 in Media Access magazine.
“Word about town is that this is where the studios go to find obscure treasures, where producers and filmmakers solicit ideas, where archivists go for reference copies, and where television scholars find tapes of early programming,” Hilderbrand wrote.
Every major studio, network and production company has a corporate account, Donovan said.
The store, on Vineland Avenue, is “reminiscent of the funky record store in ‘High Fidelity,’ with an ambience that combines musty Texas roadhouse and Navy Quonset hut,” The Times said in 2002.
Visitors are greeted with row upon row of videotapes — 72,000 at last count — and 27,000 DVDs. About 2 million photographs and “tens of thousands” of posters are on hand, Donovan said.
Steven Spielberg rented the 1926 film “The Black Pirate” to research a stunt for “Back to the Future,” Brandt often said, and in the credits of “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” filmmaker Quentin Tarantino thanked Eddie Brandt’s.
Edward August Brandt was born Aug. 5, 1920, in Chicago and grew up there.
During World War II, he was a Navy radar specialist stationed in San Francisco and moved to Hollywood after the war.
Through a friend, he got a job writing gags and music for bandleader Spike Jones, known for sending up popular songs.
Self-taught as a pianist, Brandt toured in the early 1950s with trios. One included his first wife, singer Ruthie James. They divorced in 1956.
In the 1950s, he also was a bandleader for KLAC-TV Channel 13 and a writer-performer with “The Spade Cooley Show,” a variety program on KTLA-TV Channel 5.
Brandt began writing for cartoons in the 1960s for Bob Clampett’s “Beany & Cecil” and then the Hanna-Barbera studio, where he met Claire, an animator whom he married in 1968.
To earn extra income, he opened the thrift shop called Eddie Brandt’s Garage Sale on Jan. 1, 1969.
Several years ago he had the first in a series of strokes and retired. His wife and son will continue to run the store.
“The store is what it is because we’re a crackpot family and love movies,” Claire told Media Access in 2007.
Westerns were Brandt’s favorite, followed by B-movie detective films.
In addition to Claire and son Donovan, both of North Hollywood, Brandt is survived by four daughters, Kelly of Nevada, Tracy of Sand Canyon, Holiday of San Francisco, and Heidi of Palmdale; a son from his first marriage, Eric of Arizona; and four grandchildren.
A memorial is being planned for a later date.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get the day's top news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.