Cinema on Paper Examines the History of the Movie Poster Image

Cinema on Paper Examines the History of the Movie Poster

By Film Threat Staff | May 21, 2021

EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT! Comprising more than 100 works from one of the most prominent private collections of film posters in the world, Cinema on Paper: The Graphic Genius of Movie Posters is a tribute to the superior talent of an international group of artists whose creativity captured a movie’s essence with arresting precision. Selected for their masterful design, these mass-produced hallmarks of the movie industry represent comedies, musicals, Westerns, sci-fi thrillers, dramas and other cinematic works that date from the turn of the 20th century to the early 2000s. Posters for legendary features, such as Casablanca and The Godfather, stand alongside foreign films and memorable cult classics, including Le Samourai and Barbarella.

Luxuriously reproduced for their iconic design and graphic excellence, these rare Hollywood and foreign-produced posters are displayed side by side in order to illustrate differences in cultural viewpoint through graphic expression and provide insight into the depth and detail of poster design. This collectible volume not only celebrates film posters as unique works of art, but also as cultural time capsules that reflect historic trends in design and popular culture.

Ben Mankiewicz writes in the Foreword: “Plenty of artists and the rest of us have drawn inspiration from movies that affected us emotionally. But often the first brick of that cinematic tabernacle is the movie poster.”

Steven Heller writes in the Introduction: “So adjust your eyes, turn off your phones, indulge your cravings, and prepare yourself for a feast of exciting memorabilia. You may find that just glancing at these posters will inspire you to immediately stream the movies they represent.”

Dwight Cleveland identified his first conquest in 1977 at age 16 (Wolf Song, c1929, Lupe Vélez & Gary Cooper): “But seeing the vivid colors and striking design of this particular card felt like being hit by a lightning bolt.”


This bleak icon of film noir has several distinctions in film history, including what is arguably Victor Mature’s finest screen performance, the audacious and welcome debut of Richard Widmark, and what may well be the most perverse depiction of violence on screen from any legitimate studio film. Some of the American posters were printed in black and white for effect, but this Dutch design by Kik Berg blows all the doors off conventionality with its bizarre expressionist color scheme and layout, which makes a bull’s-eye target of the lovers’ crimson lips performing the titular kiss of death.


In this spot-on design, Waldemar Swierzy, Poland’s supreme master of film poster art, has turned Gloria Swanson’s silent-screen star Norma Desmond, well past her “best by” date, into a snake-headed Medusa. Her classic, hyper-dramatic pose is rendered by Swierzy directly from the film’s conclusion, in which the delusional actress descends the staircase for the cameras to the coaching of Erich von Stroheim, believing that Cecil B. DeMille is directing her close-up. Just as the Medusa of myth had the power to freeze viewers into stone, so too does Swierzy’s fantastic tribute to Swanson have the same effect – stopping viewers dead in their tracks.

Get the book from author Dwight Cleveland’s official site for Cinema on Paper

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon