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T H E   P R E M I E R   J A M E S   B O N D   W E B S I T E
The artists behind the outrageous movie poster ideas that convinced us nobody did it better.

By Stephen Rebello

Donald Smolen
Donald Smolen, who took over as United Artists' marketing chief in 1965, ushered in the golden age of Bond poster campaigns with THUNDERBALL.

       Red-hot colors... phallic guns pointing north... the suave man in evening clothes, sporting the "stud-can't-help-it" grin... half-clad pneumatic lovelies melting over him... underwater slugfests, jet-packs, and marauding choppers... slyly suggestive copy lines... "James Bond does it everywhere"... "Nobody does it better." Ticket-selling? Absolutely. Influential? Doubtless. Sexist? Sure. But such hyped-up imagery and double-entendres have been the stock-in-trade of 16 movie poster promotions for James Bond adventures beginning with DR. NO (1962).

       To say that fans and memorabilia collectors hotly pursue posters is about like saying Goldfinger enjoyed ingots. The current catalogue for Cinemonde, San Francisco's upscale movie poster emporium, demands $250 for a DR. NO 14" x 36" insert. No wonder vintage Bond posters fetch such sums. The series itself is the all-time movie success story and the illustration talent behind the Bond advertisements ranks among the best in the business.

       In 1961, David Chasman, then director of marketing and advertising for United Artists, hired Mitchell Hooks and Joseph Caroff to design the "007 logo" for DR. NO. A modestly budgeted item shot in Jamaica, the movie starred a 32 year-old Scotsman who earned $15,000 to play a shrewd, strapping secret service agent. Lighting struck everyone involved: DR. NO became a runaway hit; Sean Connery earned stardom; David Chasman is now a top production executive; Joseph Caroff designed the striking poster campaign for Martin Scorcese's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.

       In promoting FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) and GOLDFINGER (1964), Chasman and United Artists abandoned illustration for posters in a crisp photographic style. Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli had posters for the latter film designed in England by the late, influential British art director Robert Brownjohn.

1962 -- David Chasman's logo concept and Michaell Hooks' art launches Bond. 1963 -- Chasman's early photo posters were for the most part unexciting.

       In 1965, Donald Smolen superceded David Chasman as worldwide marketing and advertising executive for United Artists. Since then, Smolen has played a key role in the creation of eight Bond campaigns - from THUNDERBALL forward. Trained at the Beaux Arts in Paris, Smolen apprenticed in the exploitation art department at 20th Century-Fox, where he illustrated posters for such movies as AN AMERICAN GUERIRILLA IN THE PHILIPINES (1950). With UA until 1974, later that year Smolen opened the Smolen, Smith and Connelly agency, consulting not only for the Bond pictures, but also the marketing masterminds behind the ad campaigns for such projects as THE OMEN (1976), STAR WARS (1977), APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), and EXCALIBUR (1981).

       "With the Bond pictures, we set out to sell - in a stylish, classy way - the girls, the action, and, to whatever extent we could, the gadgetry particular to the film," recalled Smolen, a precise, cordial man in a pin-neat studio. "The central 'idea' was always this: Bond is cool in the midst of the beautiful girls, the villains out to get him, and the chaos bombarding him. For the illustrators, we used only the best and, in the United Artists of those days, everyone was willing to spend the money to get the best. Fortunately, the best were also friends: Robert McGinnis, Frank C. McCarthy, and Bob Peak."

       Consider the oeuvre of 63 year-old Cincinnati, Ohio-born painter Robert McGinnis, who, with six such assignments to his credit, might be crowned king of the James Bond posters. "Painting provocative, seductive, elegant women brought me to the Bond people," said McGinnis, whose canvases glow with alluring femme fatales - a key sales element of the kiss-kiss-bang-bang factor.

       Bond posters that boast what McGinnis terms his "women drawn with a high-fashion edge" are THUNDERBALL (1965), ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969, main figures only; action vignettes were painted by Frank C. McCarthy), DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971), LIVE AND LET DIE (1973), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), and the key figure of the sexy dazzler in MOONRAKER (1979).

1964 -- Bond designed by influencial British art director Robert Brownjohn. 1965 -- Smolen hired premiere poster artists Frank C. McCarthy for action and gadgets and Robert McGinnis for glamour, and created a sentational poster campaign that set the tone for the Bond series.

Copies of this magazine may be ordered from the publisher for $8.00 US, postage paid. Send checks or money orders to CINEFANTASTIQUE, P.O. Box 270, Oak Park IL, 60303. Visa or MasterCard accepted. You can also order toll-free at 1-800-798-6515 or you can e-mail your order with credit card information to Allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

For more information on OO7, visit CINEFANTASTIQUE at

  July 1989 issue

Reprinted with permission from
CINEFANTASTIQUE Vol 19, No 5, July 1989.

Copyright 1989 by Frederick C. Clarke.


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