The Extraordinary Movie Posters of Bill Gold
Barbarella poster from 1968. “The fragments are a design trick to give it something that is not the normal,” he said. “You would normally have boxes down the side show all the stills, but this has a bursting excitement to it, like something has blown up. Pieces seem to be flying off the center. So here Jane Fonda is big up top, and then when you come down below, there’s a small sexy little figure with the tag line ‘See Barbarella do her thing.’ What’s her thing? We’d love to see it.”
The graphic designer Bill Gold was born in New York City, January 1921 and is best know for hundreds of classic film poster designed. His first posters included Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1941 and Casablanca the following year. He began his professional design career at Warner Brothers and was made head of poster design in 1947.
He told the New York Times:
I know what movie posters should look like, instinctively,” said Mr. Gold, who lives in Old Greenwich, Conn. “I looked at everything that MGM and Paramount and all the companies did, and I never liked anything that I saw. I always found fault with the fact that they showed three heads of the actors, and that’s about all the concept they would use. And when I started to work, I thought: I don’t want to just do a concept with three heads in it. I want a story.
During his 70-year career he has worked with some of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, including Laurence Olivier, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Ridley Scott, and many more. Among his most famous film posters are those for Casablanca and A Clockwork Orange. He is now 96 and lives in Greenwich, CT.
Bill Gold in the Bath by Sid Avery
The Wild Bunch poster from 1969
Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ from 1948. “Rope,” about two young men who murder a former classmate in their apartment and host a dinner party at the scene of the crime, was the first of seven Alfred Hitchcock films Mr. Gold worked on. “The whole trick here was showing Jimmy Stewart holding a piece of rope,” he explained. “What’s going to happen with that piece of rope? That’s me instigating the curiosity of the film idea. At first the lettering was very crisp and casual and typical. And then I felt it needed something to be more active, something to make it move more, so I added the lines.”
Klute poster from 1971
The Prince and the Showgirl poster from 1957
Mr. Gold’s first assignment in 1942 after being hired by the Warner Brothers art department in New York was “Casablanca.” I thought all the characters in this film were very important, so I wanted them in the poster,” he said. “I put them in the background and put Ingrid Bergman in front of them on the left side of Bogart, but I wanted her to be looking on behind him. I didn’t want to tip off that there was a love affair.”
The studio had but one request: Wanting to sell Bogart as a star, it asked if the poster could be more exciting. “So I went back and put a gun in his hand,” he said. It worked.
A Face in the Crowd poster from 1957
Strangers on a Train poster from 1951
Dial M for Murder poster from 1954
Baby Doll poster from 1956
‘Giant’ poster from 1956
The Old Man and the Sea poster from 1958
Bonnie and Clyde poster from 1968
Illustrated Man poster from 1969
J Edgar poster from 2011. Bill Gold’s last poster
Mahogany 1975 poster
The Go-Between poster from 1971
Pale Rider poster from 1985
Deliverance poster from 1972
Marathon Man poster from 1976
All the President’s Men poster from 1976
Sugarland Express poster from 1974
The Exorcist poster from 1972
The Sting poster from 1973
Yankee Doodle Dandy poster from 1941. Gold’s first poster.
Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ from 1948
Splendor in the Grass poster from 1961
The Wrong Man poster from 1956
The Fox poster from 1967