From Goldfinger to Cleopatra: Original Film Posters Online Highlights

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Launch Slideshow

The Original Film Posters Online sale, which is open for bidding until 11 September, features over 160 posters ranging from movie classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai to sci-fi blockbusters The Empire Strikes Back and Back to the Future and Disney favourites Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio. To coincide with the sale we asked Elisa Bailey, curator of stills, posters and designs, at the British Film Institute to pick a selection of her favourites. She told us: "It's a pleasure to see so many wonderful posters on offer in the sale, a number of which we hold in our collection in the BFI National Archive, as well as some related design work and advertising formats." Click ahead to see her highlights.

Original Film Posters Online
Online | 29 August - 11 September

From Goldfinger to Cleopatra: Original Film Posters Online Highlights

  • Robert Brownjohn, Goldfinger, 1964, British.
    Estimate: £5,000–7,000.
    Many of the James Bond posters from the 1960s and ‘70s were hand-painted, but Brownjohn experimented with a simple photographic concoction on Goldfinger, which depicts Sean Connery and Honor Blackman projected onto the gold-painted figure of Margaret Nolan. Projections and body art were being experimented with lavishly in 1960s pop culture, and gave the poster a very crisp feel, when other 007 film posters were still very busy compositions of different actors, gadgets and scenes from the films.

  • Edward Bawden, Hue And Cry, 1947, British.
    Estimate: £2,000–3,000.
    Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, London’s Ealing Studios often commissioned artists who operated outside of the poster world to create promotional artwork for their films, thus introducing a whole new world of flavours and styles to the designs, all of which are represented in the BFI’s collections. For Hue and Cry, the selection of Bawden, one of whose main occupations – very visible here – was book illustration, fits beautifully with the narrative point in the film that a group of criminals are communicating via published comic strips.

    Posters were printed in a range of different dimensions for each film, using the same design elements re-composed to fit the format, depending on where they were intended for display: this one is a ‘door panel’ poster, meant for display on theatre doors, and composed of two portrait sheets fitted together (most other UK posters in the auction are in the most commonly used landscape ‘quad’ format).

  • Waldemar Swierzy, Midnight Cowboy/Nocny Kowboj, 1969, Polish. Estimate: £2,000–3,000.
    Director John Schlesinger, whose archives are held at the BFI, won the 1969 Academy Award for Best Director for Midnight Cowboy. Swierzy’s poster is a gorgeous example of the output of  the Polish poster school, a large collection of which we also care for at the BFI National Archives. Not a unified group, each artist would approach each poster individually, magically synthesising into one image their interpretation of the film in hand, achieving artistry of such a level that gradually film poster artists became responsible for poster production across various Polish public  services.

    Throughout the Socialist period, Polish cinemas were largely automatically filled every time a new (particularly if foreign-) film came out, as tickets were cheap and films offered a portal to the wider world. Posters therefore had very little work to do by way of commercial advertising in the way their western counterparts did, meaning they could also function simply as standalone pieces of beautiful art.

  • Academy Cinema, Peter Stausfeld, Mean Streets, 1973, British.
    Estimate: £3,000–5,000.
    The posters for London’s Academy Cinema were all designed in-house by Peter Strausfeld, who had fled Nazi Germany. He worked closely with fellow émigré, Austrian-born George Hoellering, a filmmaker and the Academy’s director, responsible for bringing many great pieces of World cinema to the UK through his programming. Strausfeld’s instantly recognisable posters gave the cinema a striking artistic branding, nearly all containing a singular image of the film’s protagonist(s), prepared as a thickly-lined linocut usually printed in black and white on a single-colour background.

  • Tom William Chantrell, Cleopatra, 1963, British. Estimate: £800–1,200.
    The legendary story of Cleopatra has become the subject of a number of films. Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1963 outing starring Elizabeth Taylor was captured in beautiful poster artwork by Tom Chantrell, one of the most prolific British poster artists whose career spanned the 1940s to the ‘80s, from Brighton Rock to Star Wars and beyond. He also created the posters for a large number of the Carry On films, including Carry on Cleo (1964), which coincidentally was made when the team discovered Mankiewicz’s original Cleopatra set was going spare in Pinewood Studios after production was moved to Rome.

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