Rejected film posters go on online display

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 6:44am


A gallery that should comfort any struggling young graphic artist has been revealed for the first time: the ones that got away, rejected original versions of posters for some of the most famous films of recent decades, including Batman, Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist and Cool Hand Luke.

The last three were the work of the remarkable Bill Gold, who over a 70-year career created the images that sold more than 1,000 movies.

As a 21-year-old in the art department of Warner Bros, he was asked to come up with a poster for a vehicle for one of its stars, Humphrey Bogart.

His poster for Casablanca became as classic as the film itself: black and white, the other characters in a misty background, Ingrid Bergman looking yearningly towards Bogey, and Bogey in the foreground, hat brim down, looking towards nothing but a bleak future.

Gold no longer has the first artwork, which was rejected, giving him a useful early lesson in studio politics. "I thought it was quite good, quite strong," he said. "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."

Some of his posters went through 20 or 30 versions before the studio bosses were happy. "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."

Often the originals, which are going on display - many for the first time - in an online gallery at the events website Daybees, are starker and more graphic, more striking than the fussier final versions. Gold's design for The Exorcist in 1973 originally had a snapshot of a laughing child on a plain background, a layout rejected again two years later for Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon.

Of the hundreds of directors and actors he has worked with, Gold's favourite is Clint Eastwood, with whom he worked for more than 30 years. "We liked each other, that's all," he said, as laconically as his hero.

He retired in 2004, aged 83, after completing the work for Eastwood's Mystic River. Six years later his phone rang: "Hi, this is Clint - would you have one more poster in you?" So he un-retired to create a powerful poster for J Edgar, a dramatic close-up of Leonardo di Caprio as J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI for nearly half a century. Gold thinks he is now finally retired - "but if the right offer came along ..."

His wife, Susan, said: "His [ideas] 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. But I think his first ideas were usually the right ones."