Film Posters

When I was young, films were advertised by posters, shown outside cinemas. They would have some of the film showing that week, and usually one of the next ‘Coming attraction’. There was no film advertising on TV, and it was all but unknown in newspapers. No Internet, so no Social Media, and no other way of really alerting the public to what was going to be shown on our cinema screens. There were a few specialist film magazines, but they were both expensive on a low income, and hard to find everywhere.

The posters did their best to tell the story of the film, but mainly settled for visual impact, to attract audiences. There was an element of psychology in the images chosen to promote their films, as well as a good understanding of what would lead people into parting with their money to watch the latest releases.

This poster was for the 1932 horror film, ‘The Mummy’
The studio took the gamble of showing the film’s horrific ‘big reveal’ of the Mummy’s face, and made sure to headline Boris Karloff, the star.
It also showed a ‘damsel in distress’, to indicate that some eye candy was on offer too.

HAM-015 Attributed to Karoly Grosz, The Mummy, 1932, produced by Universal Pictures, printed by Morgan Lithograph Company, lithograph, 41 × 27 in. (104.1 × 68.6 cm). Collection of Kirk Hammett. Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.

The Astaire-Rogers musical of 1937, ‘Shall We Dance’, took the option of showing the stars in a drawing, rather than a photograph.
They were so popular by then, an image of the couple was hardly necessary, so money was saved on using photographs.

In 1939, the poster for the epic film of ‘Gone With The Wind’ showed the two stars, and gave some idea of the story’s setting too.
It also promoted the film technique, ‘Technicolor’, to show how modern the studio was.

For 1941’s ‘Citizen Kane’, the studio used a drawing, with Orson Welles looming large, but making sure to include two attractive women in the scene too.

The same year, Ida Lupino shared top billing with Humphrey Bogart, in ‘High Sierra’.
But she was ‘reduced’ on the poster, as Bogart was considered to be the star attraction to that film.

In 1944, during WW2, the poster for Hitchcock’s ‘Lifeboat’ portrayed the female stars as relying on strong men, who were protecting them as they drifted in the lifeboat.

For the Orson Welles’ film ‘Lady From Shanghai’ in 1947, they didn’t bother to try to explain the film.
A full view of the attractive star, Rita Hayworth, was considered to be enticing enough.

Ten years later, and a male heart-throb was definitely the draw, with Robert Taylor in ‘Ivanhoe’.
Despite the presence of the gorgeous Liz Taylor, her face appears very small on the poster.
Once again, ‘Tecnicolor’ was shown on the poster, this time in a much bigger font.

Just over a year later, and Liz was back. With ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’, the film-makers knew what the audience would want to see on the poster.
Just Liz, in a seductive pose.

Modern film posters began to focus attention on the name of the director, often above the title or stars. As in ‘A Marin Scorsese Film…’, and they also featured the studio or film company more prominently, with headlines like ‘Universal Presents…’.

Do you remember the days of film posters? Perhaps you had a favourite, or one you have never forgotten.

39 thoughts on “Film Posters

  1. I love movie posters. Even comic book posters catch my attention although I’m not one to read them. However, I did buy a comic book in London — Dr. Strange original from 1960. I’m hoping it becomes valuable. I don’t collect much. It was a whim. Anyway, movie posters have always been beautiful and pieces of art work for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Our favorite movie theater features a row of movie posters under glass on the walk up to the door. We always stop and talk about whether it looks good or not. Here movie posters seem to be thriving still.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. On Twitter, Channing Thomson (@CHANNINGPOSTERS) sells original movie posters.
    The posters for “Anatomy of a Murder,” “The Godfather,” and “A Clockwork Orange” are well known. I’ve always liked the posters for “Showgirls,” “37°2 le matin,” and the first “Alien.” Movie theaters here still display posters on the wall announcing current films and coming attractions.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lovely selection there, Pete. I know most of us have a favourite period for film posters (probably in our formative years) but I think it’s arguable that the blockbuster films since the 1980s have revived the art to some extent? I’m thinking of the sci-fi genre, like Star Wars, etc., and the superhero films that seem to be all the rage now and churned out in unceasing numbers? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Obviously, graphic art has improved a great deal, WB. But modern films also rely heavily on overblown trailers seen on social media. I still think the old posters had to work hard to get us through the door. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. Yes, there are many places that sell them. Most are reproductions, but some originals can fetch huge sums at auction. An original one for the film ‘Metropolis’ (1927) sold for $690,000, in 2005!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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