Bill Gold, designer of iconic movie posters

Born: January 3, 1921;

Died: May 20, 2018

BILL Gold, who has died aged 97, was an American movie poster designer whose designs – more than 200 of them, between 1942’s Yankee Doodle Dandy and 2011’s J Edgar – were to become as representative of the era in which he worked as many of the A-list directors who called upon his services.

The list of posters he was involved with is a tour through generational greats, from the Humphrey Bogart-starring Casablanca (the second film Gold worked on) and The Big Sleep in the 1940s, on to Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder, and further enduring classics like Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, John Huston’s Moby Dick and John Ford’s The Searchers in the 1950s. He was employed by Warner Brothers as a designer and then the head of their poster department until 1959, when he left to found his own agency with his brother Charles.

It’s impossible to condense the breadth of work Gold gave a public face to, but the very edited list of highlights gives a flavour of how important his contribution was, with both mainstream, commercial movies and the new generation of ‘movie brat’ directors calling upon his services. From George Cukor’s My Fair Lady and Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch in the 1960s to Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning in the 1980s, he went through a golden period where many of his punchy advertising images have achieved a resonance beyond the films they promoted.

Gold’s stylised triangular designs for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and the single-colour broken glass impact of Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (both 1971), for example, are both imitated to this day, as is the veiled monochrome terror of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, the old-time glamour of The Sting (both 1973) and the stark efficiency of Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976).

In 1991, in his seventieth year, he entered semi-retirement, but his already fruitful relationship with Clint Eastwood continued. Over the following two decades he created ten further posters for Eastwood, including an iconic Western image for Unforgiven (1992) and the pastoral The Bridges of Madison County (1995).

“With Bill I knew he would bring great ideas, and the poster he created would be one less thing we had to think about,” said Eastwood in the introduction to Gold’s 2010 retrospective book PosterWorks. “He respected the film, he respected the story, and he always respected what we were trying to accomplish.”

Born in 1921 and raised in Brooklyn, New York, William Gold wasn’t yet ten before he realised that art was what he wanted to do, and everyone else soon knew it was his thing; at elementary (primary) school his teacher asked him to demonstrate how to draw to the class, and he won the school medal for art. Studying at the prestigious Pratt Institute in his home borough, he turned up – following three years spent making training films during the Second World War – at the offices of Warner Brothers in Manhattan upon his graduation, and was rewarded with an apprenticeship.

Retiring fully after Mystic River in 2003 – with a short resurgence around the publication of his book in 2010 and his work on Eastwood’s J Edgar the following year – Gold died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he lived with his second wife Susan. She survives him, as do his son Bob and daughter Marcy.