December 18, 2007

The Selling of Frankenstein, Part Quatre

While American movie poster artists toiled uncredited, French distributors hired established and often well-known artists who got to sign their work. Case in point, Roland Coudon, about whom I posted last time, and Jacques Faria, author of the Frankenstein posters here.

Faria (1898-1856) was the French-born son of another famous artist, Brazil’s Candido Aragonez de Faria (1849-1911). Both men had prolific careers as illustrators of circus, travel, music hall and film posters. Candido de Faria is, in fact, recognized as one of the pioneer film poster artists, working as early as 1902 on Ferdinand Zecca’s Alcohol and its Victims. Both father and son's art is highly collectible today.

Jacques Faria’s main Frankenstein poster has an elongated Monster front and center, surrounded by lab equipment, almost a caricature with his signature straight arms and hands fanned out. Electricity dances between his neck electrodes. The image, here in black and white, was taken from a 1970 issue of Midi-Minuit Fantastique magazine. You can get a glimpse of the color treatment, purple shadows on The Monster, in this picture of writer/director Robert Florey posing with two French posters, reputedly the only surviving copies. You could buy a house with either one of those today.

Faria’s other Frankenstein poster recycles the familiar striding Monster punching through the paper, previously used in the American exhibition campaign. Here, Faria gives it a solid red background, adding pencil sketches of significant scenes: Creator and the Created facing off on the mountain, a lab scene with The Monster on its elevator slab, and agitated villagers at the burning windmill.

Jacques Faria’s bracing take on The Monster, standing tall, and Roland Coudon’s uncommon, large-size portrait of Clive and Karloff are among the very best of all the outstanding art created to promote Frankenstein around the world in the early 30s. By the way, check the stunning, singular Swedish poster I blogged earlier.

No doubt about it, the selling of Frankenstein, with its unique lead character, yielded some of the most original and splendid art ever engraved on movie posters.


Anonymous said...

I like the soft, ghostly grays on that b/w version of Faria's poster at the top your post; the pose is reminiscent of Max Schreck rising from his casket in Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) too. Great stuff.

Pierre Fournier said...

Indeed! The Monster stands ramrod straight, like Nosferatu. And I’m surprised how good that poster looks in black and white, but then again, the color version is so simple, so economical in color terms that it translates well in black, white and gray.