Movie posters can capture not only the mood and feeling of the film it is representing, but the time and era in which it is set in. And the images portrayed on posters can become as iconic and important as the films themselves. Consider the film poster of The Exorcist, where the lone priest stands under a lit streetlamp with his bag of tricks, staring up at the window of the house where Regan lives. Or think about A Clockwork Orange, where the face of the malevolent protagonist peers out, one eye painted as a clown, but there is nothing comical about what he is about to do.
It seems strange to think then that there were alternatives to these iconic movie posters, but there were, and thanks to the event specialist website – Daybees, these alternative versions are now available to view online. The online gallery showcases some of Hollywood’s leading illustrators, which include the legendary 92-year-old Art Director, Bill Gold, who designed posters for Casablanca, Mystic River, The Exorcist and J Edgar.
Gold started work as a 21 year old in the art department of Warner Bros, where one of his first jobs was to design a poster for the film Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart. His first offering was rejected, as the studio wanted something more animated. Gold said: “I thought it was quite good, quite strong, but they thought it was too static, they wanted more action. I didn’t have time to change it much, so I just stuck Bogey’s hand in the front and put a gun in it – and they liked that, they thought the gun was just fine.”
Sometimes Gold would have to tweak his poster designs 20 or 30 times before the studio bosses were satisfied with the final draft. “The design would go round a committee, and one would want one thing changed, another something else, so you’d end up with something quite different.”
It is quite evident that the original posters are often quite stark and minimalist, with a clear design and much more striking that the final version which were given the go ahead. Gold is nonplussed about this, “each to their own” he says, but his wife, Susan, has other ideas: “His often had a wonderful simplicity, but the studios always wanted more, they wanted every single one of their stars shown, no matter what damage that did to the design,” she said. “But I think his first ideas were usually the right ones.”
Sometimes however, stark is exactly what is required, as in Brian D Fox’s original version for Batman in 1989 is a complex and painterly piece of art deco, however, the studios eventually went for a simple version of the the bat logo almost filling the entire poster.
As for Gold, he retired in 2004, aged 83, after he had finished a poster for Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River. Fast forward six years and Eastwood wanted his services again, for a project he was filming called J Edgar. The result was a dramatic close-up of Leonardo di Caprio as J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI. So has Gold now finally retired? perhaps, “but if the right offer came along …”
Visit daybees.com to view the alternative movie poster collection.