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BILL GOLD PosterWorks






Art Direction & Design by JAKE NOAKES






Introducing: Bill Gold


— 1940 & 1950s








1990 & 2000s


— Other Titles


Working with Gold


The Gang Back Home











n June 24 1994, at a ceremony in the Directors’ Guild in front of an audience of fellow professionals, Bill Gold was honoured with a Hollywood Reporter Lifetime Achievement Award, for his unrivalled contribution to the art of the film poster over six decades—from the wartime patriotism of Michael Curtiz’s Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942 to the heart of darkness of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven in 1992 some fifty years later. Master of ceremonies Richard Benjamin—one of whose films, City Heat, had been marketed in 1984 with a Bill Gold poster —said that this man’s astonishing professional career had helped to define the phrase ‘modern movie poster—in an era we like to refer to as the golden age’. Benjamin told of Bill Gold’s arrival at Warner Bros. after leaving art college, of his work in Warners’ advertising department and, from 1959, in Bill Gold Advertising, where he became one of the great patrons of contemporary illustrators. He explained Gold’s design credo—distillation to a minimum of graphic elements, simplicity, not shouting but coaxing, encouraging the viewer to take an active role in completing the message, less is more—with examples of his bestknown posters. And he continued with stories about Bill Gold’s key contributions as art director and designer to the campaigns for, among many other films in every conceivable genre, Casablanca; East of Eden and Baby Doll; The Searchers, Rio Bravo and


The Long Riders; My Fair Lady, Camelot and Woodstock; Bonnie and Clyde and The Sting, The Exorcist and For Your Eyes Only; Gorky Park and twenty-eight Clint Eastwood films, since Dirty Harry, culminating with the teaser for Unforgiven, which had won all the top prizes the year before. This was, the audience agreed, one of the great creative partnerships between director and poster designer in the history of the movies. Then Clint Eastwood came to the podium and, in an improvised speech, reminisced genially about how impressed he had been—as had director Don Siegel, who normally didn’t like anything—by the artwork for Dirty Harry when it had first been presented to him in 1971: ‘Since then there have been very few films I’ve done that didn’t have a Bill Gold poster, and the ones that didn’t have a Bill Gold poster I regretted that they didn’t make that decision [laughter]… I don’t know what it is that first causes a person to become interested in a film—whether it’s the cast, or whether it’s the title, or whether it’s that first image. I believe it is a combination of all of these. That’s the creative part of poster work—that image and what it does and how it affects an audience. I remember I used to sit with my kids and open up a newspaper and I’d say, “What would you like to go see?” And they’d just point to different things and you realised how important that first image is. And Bill is just the greatest. And I know I’ll be working with him for as many films as we do in the future [laughter]. So, Bill, why don’t you come up here and join me and we’ll give you a Lifetime Achievement Award.’

Bill Gold began his speech by saying that since most of the successful movies these days seemed to be about Dinosaurs and Jews—this being the era of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List—he felt his moment had definitely come. And he was glad this award was happening now rather than later: ‘It’s always nice to be here for these things.’ He talked of the literally hundreds of movies with which he’d been associated since 1942 and added, ‘You gotta know, I didn’t do it alone.’ He thanked the gang at Bill Gold Advertising in New York; the many painters, illustrators, typographers and photographers with whom he’d worked over the years; Warner Bros. and Malpaso, the two companies which had provided the backbone to his career; Andy Warhol for coining the phrase ‘fifteen minutes of fame’; Dick Lederer of Warner Bros. marketing, ‘who pushed me into the pool and made me swim’; his kid brother and sometime business partner Charlie, who made the trailers for theatrical, television and radio; Joe Hyams his mentor; his wife Susan—and lastly ‘my favourite director…to whom I owe my car, my boat, my house and my wife… Clint Eastwood.’ Clint concluded that movie poster design was still ‘an under-appreciated thing’. As was the career of Bill Gold. He was right. If you look under ‘Gold’ in any movie database or library catalogue, you are likely to find references to The Gold Rush, Gold Diggers of 1933 and sequels, Goldfinger, the making of Gold,

Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994

Ernest Gold the composer, William Goldman the screenwriter, even William Golding the author of Lord of the Flies—but the chances are you will not find any references to ‘Bill Gold’. In the business, he is one of the most respected poster designers of all—if not the most respected. He has been called ‘a force in the industry through [his] faith in the compatibility of art and commerce’. His work has won top awards—on numerous occasions since the mid-1960s—from the Hollywood Reporter, the Printing Industries of America, the Society of Illustrators at their annual national exhibitions and The Art Directors’ Club, but outside the business, its parish magazines and get-togethers, his name is not at all well known, even amongst writers on graphic design and the history of posters. Bill Gold is a modest, unassuming man who has never been known to blow his own trumpet—and that is part of it—but the reasons for this go well beyond the individual case of Bill Gold. They are, in my view, buried deep within the culture. There is the suspicion of the word ‘advertising’ among people who write about or exhibit graphic design and typography. Graphic design, we are told, is about pure forms of communication: it is about form; advertising is about selling a product. And on the spectrum art… marketing, movie posters are thought to incline too far towards the marketing end—heirs to the same carnival tradition as produced fairground hucksters in the nineteenth century,

promising far more than they could possibly deliver. Roll up! Roll up! Stephen King tells the story of two movie producers, kings of the late-nite, low-budget, drive-in market in the 1950s and 1960s, who had a simple pre-production formula: think up a catchy title, trawl interest in it, then produce an even more catchy poster—with horror-comic imagery and a lot of shouting!!!, trawl interest in that, and only then—if there was enough take-up—would they begin to think about actually making a movie. Title first, poster second, movie an afterthought. Historians of graphic design tend to think—wrongly—that all movie posters function in this way or something like it, and the thought scares them. Then there’s the aesthetic preference for the ‘live arts’—theatre, performance, dance, music, opera—over the experience of film. This is about cultural hierarchies. Exhibitions about the art of the poster at MOMA in New York or the V&A in London have tended to foreground posters for plays, ballet, concerts (classical and rock) and even zoos rather than for films. Toulouse-Lautrec may have designed lithographic posters for a musichall in Montmartre from 1891 onwards, but… films? And Hollywood? The movie posters which have been admitted into the pantheon are usually those which fit the ‘isms’ of art history, the ones which can be placed on pedestals: German Expressionism (Caligari—or Faust—style), Soviet Constructionism (the Stenberg brothers Vladimir and Georgii), Early Modernism (Jan

Tschichold’s few movie posters in late 1920s Germany), Surrealism (posters commissioned by Film Polski in post-war Poland), and American Modernism (Saul Bass’s work for Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock). And that’s about it. It is so reassuring to find validation in the world of art. Historians and curators prefer their individual designer-heroes and heroines to sign their work; they are not so keen on agencies or in-house offices which bring together the talents of various creative people under the watchful eye of an art director. As with film itself, in such a team process who in the end is the ‘author’? And they are worried that there is no ‘original’, except in the pieces of artwork possibly glued together. Even more confusingly, movie posters are sometimes signed by the illustrator, when it was the art director who in fact was in overall charge of designing them. This leads to misunderstandings, especially when the signatory is a well-known artist. As does the question of scarcity. Limited editions for limited-entry events are preferred to mass-produced works, even if only a few of the mass-produced ones happen to have survived. You know where you are with limited editions. Historians also prefer their heroes and heroines to be embedded in a social world made up of art movements, journals, exhibitions, critics, congresses and conferences, manifestos and public collections. It makes them easier to study. Professional designers of movie posters on the whole belong to a very different social milieu and in



Dial M for Murder 1954 “We had the photo specially shot, with the two models posed in this way. I was very careful not to have too much likeness showing, because the woman didn’t look like Grace Kelly, or the man like the hired killer in the movie. And it added to the mystery, printed in red. So I turned her head at that extreme angle. We weren’t marketing this film on the stars but on the story, with her hand coming towards you and the phone hanging down. ‘Is that you, darling?’ It was actually filmed in 3D, but went on release in a flat version. Like Rope, it was based on a Broadway play and took place almost entirely in one room. People ask whether I have a ‘thing’ about phones, which appear in several of my campaigns! But this was how people communicated in those days! And the title was about dialling a number. No cell phones in 1954…”

LEFT: Studio publicity still. RIGHT: Final US one sheet.


92 Bill Gold: Posterman | Golden Years 52

East of Eden 1955 “This was the film that launched James Dean as the star who played the ‘generation gap’. It was directed by Elia Kazan (who had made Streetcar) and based on a John Steinbeck novel. But we didn’t sell James Dean hard on this one-sheet poster, didn’t even feature him. None of his films had been released yet. He was of course to become the big selling feature. I hadn’t seen the film when I designed it; I worked from stills and spoke with the Warners advertising director. The big-selling features here are Elia Kazan and John Steinbeck, which is interesting.”

LEFT: James Dean with Ertha Kitt in front of the poster for East of Eden at the premiere cinema in New York. RIGHT: Final US one sheet.



“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane”? 1962 “I took the two dramatically lit photos from the stills book—of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the two Hollywood sisters—and pasted them together for a layout, which was in fact used for the half-sheet poster. It looks a bit grotesque, larger than life. The campaign used the same two photos, and one of a broken doll, with blocks of colour and the poem which was specially written: ‘Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?’ The colour scheme is the way the printers interpreted it. The real-life rivalry between Davis and Crawford became part of the publicity too.”

LEFT: Preparatory design collage of the two main studio publicity stills. RIGHT: Final US three sheet.





LEFT (FROM LEFT): Dick Lederer, Bob Peak and Bill Gold at The Society of Illustrators in New York, 1967. ABOVE: Final US one sheet.



Cool Hand Luke 1967 “This looks like a photograph, but it was in fact a painting of Paul Newman by the artist Jim Bama. I kinda liked him, and he did other things for me. He was a Western guy who usually painted Western people. Again, he was expensive, but they were paying for it! Here, instead of a Western portrait, it was Paul Newman in his prison shirt. The painting was used on the six sheet poster. The zigzags on the one sheet, next to Newman’s face, became a big part of the whole Cool Hand Luke campaign.”

LEFT: Final artwork by Jim Bama. RIGHT: Final US one sheet.


Barbarella 1968 “The ‘Style B’ one-sheet poster was the only one I had something to do with, if I recall, with artwork by Bob Peak. They didn’t use it on the main campaign, but today the ‘Style B’ is the one that seems to attract the most attention. The other one had an illustration by McGinnis. I was called by Paramount, saw the movie and went through the stills pack. It was sort of a sexy science-fiction movie, very late 1960s. A mixture of sex and space age. The still of Jane Fonda with her strange rifle was in fact a publicity shot from the stills pack. It was not specifically shot by us.”

THIS PAGE: Studio publicity still. RIGHT: Final US (Style B) one sheet.



The Wild Bunch 1969 “The photos were from Warner Bros.’ stills department, and the poster copy— ‘Unchanged men in a changing land…’— was just right. Wild men who had outlived their time. Hunched figures with long shadows. Copywriters always played an important part in the creation of our posters. The advertising department from the studio would sometimes give us copy to use, and we’d use or change it, or just use part of it. The same happened to copy we provided to the advertising department. Warners assigned this campaign to me, and I worked on it, and showed a few things. When the movie was released, an over-enthusiastic agency claimed that it had done part of this campaign—but Warners issued a statement saying that we had created all of it. The door panels, which were different again, tried to capture the character of these world-weary men, veteran gunfighters. They came too late and stayed too long.”

RIGHT: Design used for the US six sheet. OPPOSITE: Final US one sheet. OVERLEAF: Final US door panels.








Catch-22 1970 “This was directed by Mike Nichols, for Paramount. We used military-style lettering and tried to capture the irreverence of the novel: putting war in its place, down the pan, the flying figure unloading his bomb— the title down the bottom gives something for the bomb to land on. ‘The nice thing about war is that the person who kills you really has nothing against you personally.’ I like the clarity of these posters. They’re clever. But none of them was in the end used. They thought they were too clever…”

LEFT AND ABOVE: Unused designs.


A Clockwork Orange 1971 “I called up the artist Ivan Punchatz—a science fiction and fantasy illustrator— we discussed the story and this is what he came up with: the flames and the knife and the figure crucified on the computer. It was pretty accurate to the story. I did the comps with stills of Malcolm McDowell at the same time. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Kubrick hated it. We were presenting all this stuff to him—the comps, the artwork and ten more sketches at least—and he rejected everything. He said, ‘Let’s wait and see what happens.’ Then, all of a sudden, he mailed this new piece of artwork to us and said, ‘This is what I’d like to have. I had an artist in London— Philip Castle—do it.’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ I liked it a lot, too, and we started to make layouts with this new artwork—the large triangular ‘A’ for ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and Dick Lederer worked out the copy, which became landmark: ‘Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven’. Brilliant! The lettering with the big ‘C’ and the ‘O’ evolved with the campaign, and the font became known as ‘Timepiece’. We played with many different things, five times as much as you can see here. At least. That’s the way Kubrick was.”

RIGHT: Unused design with artwork by Don Ivan Punchatz. OVERLEAF LEFT: All unused designs. OVERLEAF RIGHT: Final US one sheet with artwork by Philip Castle.




High Plains Drifter 1973 “This was for Universal not Warners, so it was at Clint Eastwood’s request that I did it. Anything he worked on, by this stage, he wanted me. I got a sign-painter called Al Pisano to do the sign separately—he was a woodcarver and designer as well— the same guy as did Fiddler on the Roof and a couple of other signs for me. I said I wanted ‘Clint Eastwood, High Plains Drifter and something in between, in a nice-looking Western lettering style.’ Like the tavern sign for McCabe and Mrs Miller, only in that case it was painted in oil by Richard Amsel; in this case he carved the whole thing out of wood. So we hung up the sign, with the post and chains, and I had a painting made of the whole scene by Ron Lesser. Actually, the painting isn’t really a painting—it is a photograph with colour added. It expresses the whole movie—this avenger with the coiled whip and cocked gun who paints the whole town red, looking like he’s in hell. A terrific campaign.”

LEFT, RIGHT AND OVERLEAF LEFT: Unused designs. OVERLEAF RIGHT: Final US one sheet.



The Way We Were 1973 “I wanted the design of a strip of photographs to be the main art for this campaign, which was for Columbia. Like the photographs we take in booths. The way we were—it’s typical of how we think about the past, and of the nostalgia which runs through this movie. When you think of the past, you tend to think of two young lovers going to have their photo taken in one of these booths. And the sign at the back is like one of those old signs—four photos for 25 cents. I made the idea decorative, with the lettering and the photo album frame. I worked with Cosimo Scianna on it. But they didn’t in the end use it! Why? Because they’re stupid… But maybe I’ve said that before.”

THIS PAGE: Unused logo designs. OPPOSITE: Unused design.








Mahogany 1975 This followed on from Lady Sings the Blues, and was directed by Berry Gordy for Motown. It was a rags-to-riches story, with Diana Ross finally having her dream come true and becoming a fashion designer. The various logos by Tal Stubis started off our work on the campaign, to get the juices flowing: dresses, hairstyles, accessories, mainly in black and purple against white, with assorted lettering styles to match. It was about fashion, Diana Ross, showbusiness.

RIGHT AND OPPOSITE: Unused logo designs by Tal Stubis.



The Enforcer 1976

“This is pure Bill Gold—the design, the photos, the layout, the lettering are all mine on this movie. I suggested to Clint that I wanted to come up to San Francisco, bringing some sketches with me to show what I would like to photograph. He said ‘Great.’ The first sketch showed Harry Callahan pointing his .44 Magnum out of the windshield of a car, which has been shot out. The gun is coming out of the passenger side, so you can clearly see Clint’s face. I’d had the drawing done by Dave Passalaqua, an illustrator from one of the schools in Manhattan. Clint said, ‘That’s good, let’s shoot it.’ We cut the window from out of a car and put him in it, with his hand coming through the broken windshield and spray on his face to make him look sweaty. Then I wanted a big image of Clint on one side with him holding his police badge right in front of the camera. The badge shows the words ‘SF Police’ and ‘Inspector’ so you know immediately who the character is. I took this photo against a blank background, and added his wallet as well. For the third one we wanted the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, but it was always fogged in. So we went back to the set and had him hold onto a piece of black plywood with one hand and his gun in the other—then later shot the Bay bridge without any fog and put the images together in the darkroom. And for the fourth, I wanted Clint walking in Chinatown at night in that famous way of his—with the neon lights shining on both sides of his face, and both sides of the street showing as well. But when I took the shot, I was looking up at him whereas the street-scene seemed to be looking down at him. The perspective wouldn’t work. So I ended the background at three-quarter length and let his legs and feet come down below the line—that way I didn’t have to show any perspective. It’s a design trick which I did in the darkroom. Clint loved everything and said, ‘Go with all of it,’ so we had four different campaigns for The Enforcer. He could make that happen. The studio shots were all done in one day, on an elevated set in a hotel room in San Francisco.”

LEFT: Contact sheets from Bill Gold’s photo shoot. OVERLEAF LEFT: Final design for US one sheet. OVERLEAF RIGHT, Preparatory sketch by Dave Passalacqua. P. 296: Final design for US half sheet. P. 297, P. 298: Preparatory sketches by Dave Passalacqua. P. 299: TOP LEFT: Unused photograph by Bill Gold. BOTTOM LEFT: Unused colour design. RIGHT: Final US insert poster.



Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 “This was United Artists, and they couldn’t make up their mind what they wanted to see. It was a remake, or a different version, of a Don Siegel movie from the 1950s. So for the first presentation I made about ten comps, to provide a wide selection. And they said, ‘Can you show us some more— we feel we must experiment as much as possible.’ Fine. So I went back and did variations on the theme of pods and plants and seeds and clones; figures and their shadows. They finally printed six or seven styles—some photographic, some not. Hell of a campaign!”

PREVIOUS PAGES AND LEFT: Unused designs. RIGHT: Final US one sheet.






Bill Gold Selection of Spreads  

Selection of Spreads from Bill Gold: PosterWorks