Bill Gold of Old Greenwich has created the posters for some of the best-known films in movie history: "Casablanca," "My Fair Lady," "The Exorcist," "Deliverance," "Dial M for Murder," "A Clockwork Orange," "For Your Eyes Only" and "Mystic River," to name just a few. He has worked with many famed directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, and his favorite -- Clint Eastwood. "We are very close friends," he says.
Now, at age 90, Gold is celebrating his 60-year career and more than 2,000 poster designs with a book -- "Bill Gold: PosterWorks" -- that encapsulates his lifework. He will discuss the creative process described in his book this coming Sunday during "An Evening with Bill Gold" at the Jacob Burns Theater in Pleasantville, N.Y.
Meanwhile, to take a step into Gold's extraordinary poster-making career, the Citizen asked him a few questions.
You received your first assignment from Warner Bros. in 1942 to create a poster for the film "Casablanca." What was the challenge with "Casablanca"?
I knew the film had these important characters. I wanted to show these different characters. I wanted to have Humphrey Bogart in the foreground and Ingrid Bergman behind him looking on. I didn't want to give away their romance. The client loved it but said there was no excitement, so I put a gun in Bogart's hand. The gun in hand picture was taken from the film "High Sierra."
How did you land at Warner Bros.? How did you choose this artistic path for yourself?
As a kid in Brooklyn, I started drawing from the age of 8 and never stopped. In elementary school I was winning art honors. I was drawn to the movies. I graduated from Pratt Institute and went looking for a job, and introduced myself to the art director of the poster department of Warner Bros. in their New York offices. He sent me away on trial to design posters for four earlier films: "Yankee Doodle Dandy" with James Cagney, "Robin Hood" with Errol Flynn, "The Man I Love" with Ida Lupino and Bette Davis's "Winter Meeting." Afterwards he told me, "You're hired." My first assignment was for a film not yet finished: "Casablanca."
What are highlights of your career?
Meeting Clint Eastwood in 1971. I've worked with Clint up until now. I first worked with him on the campaign for "Dirty Harry." The last Clint movie was "Mystic River." Another highlight was when Clint Eastwood presented me with The Hollywood Reporter's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Director's Guild in Los Angeles in 1994-5.
What was it about Clint Eastwood that worked so well for you?
Clint was the most creative person to deal with - and so easy to work with. His favorite expression was "less is more." If he looked at something he would analyze it and be able to determine what was the best way to market it. I'd suggest and he'd say okay or let's make a change here. He was very discerning about his opinion. He'd call me at home and tell me it was terrific. He'd say I think if we'd just tweak it a little bit more. With Clint it was not as elsewhere - decision by committee. By the 80s I decided just to work for Clint.
Describe your creative process as a movie poster designer.
You'd get an assignment and they'd tell you something of how the movie should be marketed. I'd go see the film (I always got a kick out of seeing people's reactions to movies), or if it wasn't complete, I'd look at the stills. You then decide how you want the public to see it, then you think of the best way to communicate that. I had usually at least three art directors working for me in a given year, production people and assistants. For many years my brother, Charles Gold, served as the liaison between me and the clients.
How has the poster making process changed today?
Posters illustrations are gone. They only use digital photos now, because it's cheaper. Anybody who can use a computer thinks they can do this. Having computer knowledge is very different from being an artist or an art director or a marketer. A 10-year-old can do a good job on the computer. With photos today the stars can't say, "It doesn't look like me." We used to have to do it over. My book is mostly poster illustrations. That's what makes it artistic.
Which poster is your favorite?
Everyone always asks me that question. My answer is it's hard to say, but they're all there in my book.
What part of the process did you enjoy the most?
Cashing the check.
"An Evening with Bill Gold" will be held on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. at the Jacob Burns Theater, 364 Manville Road, in Pleasantville, N.Y.