Poster for “The Crimson Skull” a 1922 Western filmed on location in Boley, Oklahoma with an all black cast.
The major studios had a staff of artists who designed posters and lobby cards. These talented men and women toiled in relative obscurity, but the sophistication of their graphic designs are simply jaw dropping. Major films usually had several versions of posters that went out to theaters.
Here's a poster for “Wings” (1927) that emphasizes the romance between Clara Bow and Charles “Buddy” Rogers.
And here's another poster for “Wings” that underlines the spectacular aerial combat scenes.
Cecil B. De Mille productions were famous for their lavish sets and costumes. This poster for “Saturday Night” (1922) stars Leatrice Joy and Conrad Nagel but their names are not on the poster. Instead, Jeanie MacPherson, the screenwriter, gets prominent placement. The illustration teases us with a strange but compelling graphic.
Poster for the English language version of the French film “La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc” (1928). Notice the brilliant manner in which the word “of” is transformed into a Christian symbol. This is one of the greatest films ever made.
Channeling Aubrey Beardsley, this poster for “Salome” (1923) is one of the finest graphics ever produced for a Hollywood film. The film is just as stylized and bombed at the box office. The star and creative force behind the film was Alla Nazimova, considered one of the most exotic movie stars of the silent period. Her real name was Miriam Leventon, a poor Jewish girl from the Russian Crimea.
This is not just shameless self-promotion but a lesson in what's wrong with current movie posters. "Body Double” (1984) was my first movie credit. The peeping tom graphic is powerful and entirely appropriate. The problem is the massive block of credits at the bottom. Union contracts mandate font size and placement. And yes, I'm proud to have my name on posters. But currently credits take up as much as a third of every poster which greatly limits creativity.