Memorable Movie Posters


Casablanca (1942)

Gold kept Humphrey Bogart’s Rick and Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa separate to avoid giving away the romance because they don’t get together until well into the movie. In an early version, there was no gun. Warner Bros. wanted more excitement, so he added the gun (which Rick uses briefly at the end). Gold did all the lettering by hand using a flat-pencil technique. Designer Michael Bierut praises Gold for “the amount of subtlety he brought to the image.”

Dirty Harry (1971)

For his first collaboration with Clint Eastwood, Gold saw the police detective’s gun as a central image that he used in all of the poster variations. He exaggerated the size of the gun in the international (seen here) posters. In the international, he used repeating images and “psychedelic” colors, which design critic Steven Heller praises for having “a pop art quality.” The poster shows the gun shooting through glass shattered by the bullet — Gold’s intent was “a low reveal,” so Eastwood looked like he was entering from the side. “It’s like showing a direction,” Gold says, “and the direction leads to the cracked glass.”

Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Gold loved a photo taken during production of star and director Eastwood tenderly holding his 8-month-old daughter (left). He wanted that same feel for the poster of Eastwood and Meryl Streep but was worried he wouldn’t be able to re-create the exact lighting or mood. So rather than shoot the stars together, he shot Streep separately with her head on an assistant’s shoulder, with the same lighting. He then Photoshopped the images of the stars together.

Deliverance (1972)

Gold wasn’t allowed to reference the rape scene but wanted to create a sense of the terror. This poster was used in the European campaign (the domestic poster showed hands emerging from the water, holding a rifle). The surreal image of a canoe coming out of an eyeball is meant to create tension and give an impression of three guys being watched by a hidden enemy. “It’s a very literal thing,” Bierut says. “It’s three characters in the canoe, but framing it in that eye makes it clear that at the heart of this thing is something really, really frightening.”

The Wild Bunch (1969)

“Gold photographed the boys in the Warner Brothers parking lot, walking toward the sun so you just got the silhouette,” says Leith Adams about the poster. Michael Bierut notes that use of an exaggerated shadow has been copied many times since: “A lot of the things he pioneered came to define these kind of movies. It has been done many times since, including for all of the Ocean’s films.” The illustration of the figures of the men with exaggerated long shadows was specially created by Gold for use in the book.

Hair (1979)

Gold and illustrator Bob Peak did a lot of experimenting, including the picture of the sun coming through hair (left). He also played with different lettering styles. The image of the hair was deemed impractical for the main poster.

My Fair Lady (1969)

Studio boss Jack Warner personally oversaw the poster for one of the studio’s most expensive ($17 million) movies to that point. Gold had loved the stage musical and had access to footage from the movie, which he shared with his frequent collaborator, artist Bob Peak, who did a series of charcoal drawings. Gold says he used Peak’s “squiggles to get his juices flowing.” After many efforts, Gold found things he liked and often asked Peak to embellish them, like adding the top of the umbrella. The final poster is a collage of the charcoal drawings, to which Gold added color. He designed the lettering style, trying more than 20 before finding one he liked, which he felt had the feel of the movie.

Barry Lyndon (1975)

For Stanley Kubrick’s 18th century costume drama, Gold flew to London for three weeks of intense discussions with the director. Kubrick insisted on having a special hand-lettered alphabet created, and Gold suggested the illustrated outer framing. After Gold returned home, he and Kubrick spoke by phone each day for weeks while a Warners messenger flew back and forth daily with sketches. Kubrick kept adding shading around each illustration to make it more distinctive. “It’s fascinating,” Ganis says. “Full of color. No copy other than the title.” Nancy Goliger, who started out as Gold’s assistant and become an exec at Warners and Paramount, says: “Kubrick was as meticulous as Bill. They were evenly matched in their dedication to detail. They were both very controlling.”

The Way We Were (1973)

It was Gold’s vision to emphasize the two big stars on a strip like you would get out of a photo machine because, he explained for the book Posterworks, “it’s typical of how we think about the past and the nostalgia that runs through this movie.” He had to have Redford and Streisand photographed separately and then put them together on the film strip. He even added a sign behind them that said four photos for 25 cents, like a real photo booth. “I liked that poster a lot,” says Gold. But the studio, Columbia Pictures, did not use it. Why? “Because they’re stupid,” he says bluntly.

The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

For the poster for the first production from Marilyn Monroe’s own company, Gold hired noted photographer Richard Avedon to photograph the star and co-star Lawrence Olivier. To go with the tagline, Some countries have a medal for everything, Gold hung a medal off Monroe’s breast (although that wasn’t seen in the movie). Explains Gold: “It was a perfect spot to be hanging off.”

The Sting (1973)

To capture the 1920s look of the movie, Gold took the approach used in the saturday evening Post developed by illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, for both the main poster and the alternate (shown here). “The texture of the clothing has a hand-painted quality,” Gold says. “The whole feeling of the story is there.” Gold also used the magazine’s classic lettering style. Gold took the finished poster to a hospital where producer Julia Phillips had just given birth, and she loved it.

Unforgiven (1992)

Gold created the images of Eastwood as gunfighter William Munny standing alone, back to the viewer, for an early teaser poster that went into theaters long before the movie. He retouched the photo, enlarged the gun and used hands and a head from different production photos. When Warners worried he might not be recognized, Eastwood said, “If people don’t recognize me, they aren’t going to see the movie anyway.”

Alien (1979)

Gold saw this as a new kind of science fiction film that cried out for a new kind of advertising. “We wanted to play with the word ‘alien,’ ” he says. “We did a bunch of designs that suggested some sort of mysterious outer- space look. I didn’t want it to be totally a spaceman in costume but wanted to suggest that.” For this poster, Gold cut a hole in the eye area to show space coming through, with mouth open as if screaming. What is shown is a teaser poster. A different designer did the main poster.

Bill Gold

Bill Gold, who turned 90 in January, lives with his second wife Susan in old Greenwich, CT. He has two children and grandchildren from his first marriage..

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