Movie Posters That Missed The Final Cut

Bill Gold in the Bath by Sid Avery


A gallery that should comfort any struggling young graphic artist is revealed for the first time today: the movie posters that missed the final cut, 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 from his home in Connecticut. “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, they thought the gun was just fine.”

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.”

Bill Gold Profile

Often the originals, 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 thriller starring Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon.

Occasionally the design history goes the other way: Brian D Fox’s final version for the 1989 Batman is stark, with the bat logo almost filling the sheet, but his original was a complex and painterly piece of art deco.

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 …”

Gold is forgiving of the studio bosses who turned down some of his favourite ideas – “each to their own” he said kindly – but his wife, Susan, adds: “I think his first ideas were usually the right ones.”



Bill Gold: PosterWorksThis limited slipcased edition includes a hand-signed letter from Bill Gold as well as an art folio of six, numbered, limited edition prints of unseen poster designs for A Clockwork Orange, Catch-22, High Plains Drifter, All the President’s Men, The Way We Were, and Get Carter.

Bill Gold’s life’s work spans six decades and over two thousand films. He is the man behind campaigns for the greatest movies the world has ever seen.

Bill Gold: PosterWorks is a celebration of his extraordinary and prolific talent. With a foreword from long-time collaborator and friend, Clint Eastwood, Bill Gold is a unique collector’s opus detailing the artist’s creative process, his army days, early career, posters for Elia Kazan, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut through to his final work in 2003 on Eastwood’s Mystic River. Archivist of his own work, with a personal collection of unseen designs, alternative versions, sketches, drafts, notes and photographs, Bill Gold’s incredible history has never been accessible to the public until now.

A notoriously cut-throat industry, Hollywood evolves with few constants yet Bill Gold’s talent endures. At 89 years old, this is the first time that the world is invited to see the full scope of his life’s work in one breathtaking book.

Buy a copy of Bill Gold: Posterworks from Reel Art Press


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