Ivan Kobaly, born in 1940 in Linz, Austria, was a passionate filmgoer and one of his earliest memories was sneaking into a hall next to his grandmother's house in Salzburg to watch a Rita Hayworth movie that was being shown to the American occupation forces. His family immigrated to Canada when he was ten, and thenceforth he was known as John Kobal. As a teenager Kobal began collecting movie memorabilia, a way for a lad in the 1950s to feel a connection in faraway Canada with Hollywood glamour.


After finishing high school Kobal moved, after a brief stay in New York, to London which was to remain his home for the rest of his life. He spent four years touring the English provinces appearing in plays in the evening but spending his afternoon scouring antique markets and second hand bookshops for film memorabilia - old film annuals, copies of fan magazines, post cards and film stills. By 1964 he was finished with acting although his dramatic skills were put to good use when he began free-lancing for the BBC Radio’s program Movie Go Round, and later became the network’s American correspondent. Frequent trips to New York and Los Angeles coincided with the break-up of the major Hollywood motion picture studios. For a young man interested in acquiring relics of Hollywood’s glorious past this could not have been a more auspicious moment. As the studios literally dumped the photographic archives that had accumulated from the beginning of movie production, Kobal was there to gather as much as he could fit into the back of his station wagon.


Kobal cared deeply about preserving the artifacts of Hollywood's past. Soon he was known as a go-to source if one wanted a good photograph of Joan Crawford or Bette Davis. John Kobal published several books including the pioneering The Art of the Great Hollywood Photographers (1980). Author of more than 30 books on film history, he died in London in 1991.