Modern Hollywood film posters can be whipped up using digital images and editing tools. That wasn’t the case in 1942, when artist Bill Gold hand-illustrated his first advertising posters, for Casablanca and James Cagney’s Yankee Doodle Dandy.
From that auspicious start, he would go on to create posters for hundreds of movies throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond, working with filmmakers and collaborators like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut. Gold died on May 20, 2018, at the age of 97.
Bill Gold, who created posters for “Casablanca,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Alien,” “Mystic River” and hundreds of other films with an artistry that captured the intrigue, romance and drama of Hollywood for nearly 70 years, died on Sunday in Greenwich, Conn. He was 97.
Mr. Gold’s wife, Susan, said he died at Greenwich Hospital from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the niche of poster art for films, Mr. Gold was a behind-the-scenes superstar whose work, mostly for Warner Bros. and Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions, was displayed at theaters and in promotional campaigns across America from 1942 to 2011. While he was largely uncredited until the internet age, his posters offered millions of moviegoers tantalizing glimpses of the raptures awaiting in the cinema darkness.
Long before poster artists turned to photography and computer-generated images in the 1980s and ’90s, illustrators like Mr. Gold billboarded movies with freehand drawings, based on scripts and first screen prints, that hinted at plots and moods and mysteries, without giving away too much — priming audiences for love, betrayal, jealousy, murder.
Mr. Gold comfortably spanned the years from paperboard to the computer era, and many of his posters became nearly as famous as the movies they promoted. Some won design awards; many were coveted by film buffs, sold at auctions or collected in expensively bound art books. The best originals came to be considered rare and costly classics of the genre.
For Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” (1942), Mr. Gold’s second assignment, he drew Humphrey Bogart in trench coat and fedora, dominant in the foreground, with a constellation of co-stars — Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and others — in the airport fog behind him. To raise the drama, Mr. Gold put a pistol in Bogie’s hand. And he put fear and regret, not love, in Ms. Bergman’s eyes, to avoid stepping on his last lines.
The Gold-Eastwood collaboration lasted four decades, with more than 30 posters for films that Mr. Eastwood produced, directed or starred in. Many used photographs or computer-generated images as poster art turned increasingly to technology.>