History Of Black Cinema Through Movie Posters

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History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters Separate Cinema - The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art

A fascinating new book – Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art – a visual feast that charts not only the increasing presence and importance of African-Americans in film, but also how they have been portrayed on posters by artists in Hollywood and beyond.

John Duke Kisch, compiled the book from his personal collection of posters. He owns one of the most extensive private holdings of African-American film memorabilia in the world, containing over 35,000 authentic movie posters and photographs from over 30 countries. The book features stunning images that recount the diverse and historic journey of the Black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day. Part aesthetic, part nostalgic and wholly fascinating.

 

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Carmen Jones (Poland, 1954) Poster


CARMEN JONES (POLAND, 1954)
There was a golden era of film poster design in Poland in the 1950s and some of the country’s foremost artists provided their visual perspectives on America’s black culture.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Cabin In The Sky (1943) Poster


CABIN IN THE SKY (1943)
This is one of the few American posters where the identity of the artist is known. ‘Al Herschfield was a highly regarded artist in advertising,’ says Kisch. ‘This poster is simple but exciting.’

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - My Baby Is Black! (1961) Poster


MY BABY IS BLACK! (1961)
In the 1950s and 60s a slew of black indie production companies were producing B-movies that offered titillating treatments of taboo topics such as sex, violence and, in this film, interracial love.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Black Orpheus (POLAND, 1959) Poster


BLACK ORPHEUS (POLAND, 1959)
Made in Brazil by French director Marcel Camus, this film helped introduce the world to bossa nova and the role of music in the film is highlighted in this Polish poster.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - The Bulter (2013) Poster


THE BUTLER (2013)
The bow-tied butler in this poster holds the White House on a tray in his left hand, his right hand outstretched in a black power salute: defiance and deference in one image.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - The Exile (1931) Poster


THE EXILE (1931)
The film’s plot concerned an apparently interracial love affair, a subject considered so controversial that some posters did not feature a printer’s logo as if those responsible did not want to be associated with the film.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - The Green Pastures (SWEDEN, 1936) Poster


THE GREEN PASTURES (SWEDEN, 1936)

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - The Green Pastures (USA, 1936) Poster


THE GREEN PASTURES (USA, 1936)

This was an all-black-cast musical that told the story of the Bible. ‘The Swedish poster here is a graphic illustration of a man and a woman in the Garden of Eden,’ says Kisch. ‘Contrast that with the American poster which was neutered.’

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - La revue des revues (SWEDEN, 1927) Poster


LA REVUE DES REVUES (SWEDEN, 1927)
Despite originating from Sweden – black film posters by designers from outside the US usually showed more sophisticated attitudes to race than their American counterparts – Kisch points out that: ‘It is racist – the band members with their big red lips – but it is also very stylised.’

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (JAPAN, 1967) Poster


GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (JAPAN, 1967)
In the year that this film was released, Sidney Poitier also released In the Heat of the Night and To Sir, With Love making him the biggest movie star of 1967.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Slaughter (1972) Poster


SLAUGHTER (1972)
The posters for blaxploitation films such as this one depicted the stars in hyper-heroic poses – wielding huge guns, girls in tow – a filmic fantasy version of the black power movement.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Emperor Jones (1933) Poster


EMPEROR JONES (1933)
The poster for the film would, Kisch says, ‘have cost a lot of time and money to produce’. It featured a painterly style. By contrast, the posters for independent films would often use only two colours and be made in a few hours.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - She's Gotta Have It (1986) Poster


SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT (1986)
Spike Lee’s groundbreaking first feature was pioneering in its representation of black people in American cinema, as reflected by the relaxed, naturalistic look of its stars on the poster.

History Of Black Cinema In Movie Posters - Caldonia (1945) Poster


CALDONIA (1945)
This poster, given to John Duke Kisch in 1973, first ignited his interest in black cinema poster art. ‘I was an aspiring photographer at the time,’ Kisch says ‘and the graphics really spoke to me.’

 

All the images and quotes from Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art (Reel Art Press), published on 6th October 2014.

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