John Alvin

The Art Of John Alvin (Review)

As regular visitors to the site know quite well I am deeply in love with movies, films as an art form, every facet of bringing a motion picture to the big screen fascinates me. Even though I believe we have some wonderful artists working in the field of creating captivating and beautiful film posters today…I would be lying if I said I did not miss seeing posters in the lobby by a master craftsman like John Alvin.

Thankfully our friends at Titan Books were kind enough to send me a review copy of ‘The Art of John Alvin’ which has afforded me a look behind the creations of some of my favorite posters and often caught me totally unawares that Alvin was responsible for so many of those one-sheets that hung on my bedroom wall in my youth.

John Alvin sadly passed away on February 6, 2008, this book has been compiled by his wife, Andrea Alvin, and it not only showcases some of his more well known work but offers insights into the way that John approached the subject for each project. The book goes one step further by many times including the sketches and rough drafts Alvin used before the ‘green light’ was given to begin work on the movie poster.

Alvin’s first piece of poster art was for Mel Brook’s 1974 Blazing Saddles and he would continue to work with Brooks that same year when he was hired to come up with the one-sheet for Young Frankenstein.

Poster images courtesy of IMP Awards.

Poster images courtesy of IMP Awards.

Young Frankenstein - IMP Awards

The book gives interesting facts and tidbits like how the artist had to remove any images of Swans from the original Phantom of the Paradise poster due to Led Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant.
Phantom of the Paradise - IMP Awards

Or that the hand model used in this very memorable poster for 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, belongs to Alvin’s daughter.
ET - IMP Awards

Alvin worked on more than 221 film posters (many times uncredited) but he was responsible for more than just the painting of so many iconic ‘advertising art’. Quite often he would aid in the entirety of an ad campaign, coming up with even the tag lines and the book includes more than a few film posters that didn’t pan out or designs that were changed, offering us film fans a glorious glimpse at what might have been. There are so many posters it would be impossible to share so presented below are just a few that are featured prominently in the book.

Even when the writing was on the wall concerning the change in the designs of film posters, studios going towards photos or groups of heads as we normally see today, Alvin changed with the times and as the books explains on many occasions (especially before digital equipment became readily available) he was called on to blend the ‘traditional’ painting of posters with the new wave.

Case in point, the movie poster for 1987’s The Lost Boys. In the book you will see two of Alvin’s original designs, before the studio decided they wanted the one-sheet to focus on its young stars. Alvin was given a handful of shots of the actors and not only did he arrange them as you see in the poster but originally Jason Patric wasn’t wearing glasses, he painted those in!
The Lost Boys - IMP Awards

Another example is for 1995’s Batman Forever, yes they used photos of the actors but Alvin also touched up and painted the actors so they would blend in together…and quite frankly not just look like a bunch of photos. The book also goes into details the requirements that had to be met by Alvin on how large each actor’s image could be in the finished poster.
Batman Forever - IMP Awards

Throughout ‘The Art of John Alvin’ you will see the handpicked works of film art and read the memories of the artist from those in the industry that he worked with like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steve Sansweet, and more. If you love films you will want to have this book in your collection. You can order it on Amazon here or pick it up at better book stores tomorrow.

A huge thank you goes out to the always awesome IMP Awards for the images of the posters you see in this post.

VicSage

Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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