Mark Simonson, writing in his notebook:
Movie posters, signs, magazine covers, movie titles and credits—back in the 1920s and 1930s, that kind of thing was almost always lettered by hand. Type—and it would have been metal type, back then—was not up to the job. There were too few styles, too few sizes. It just wasn’t as flexible as someone skilled with a brush. Things that are so easy for us to do with type today were practically impossible back then, which provided plenty of work for letterers.
If you’re careful, it is possible to get close to the look of lettering with modern fonts. Some are even made to look that way.