June 27, 2011

The Posters of Frankenstein : Jacques Faria

Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), here’s a re-write, with upgraded images, of a previous post about “The Selling of Frankenstein”.

The release of James Whale’s Frankenstein in 1931, with its unique lead character, yielded some of the most original and splendid art ever engraved on movie posters. While American artists often toiled uncredited, French distributors hired well-known artists who boldly signed their paintings. Case in point, the posters of Roland Coudon and Jacques Faria, author of the posters shown 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, with signature straight arms and hands fanned out. Electricity dances between his neck electrodes.

Of special note here is the prominent writing credit given Robert Florey and Garrett Fort (misspelled on the poster). Florey was originally commissioned to write and direct the film, contributing elements such as the brain swap and the windmill finale, only to be shunted aside and deprived of his screenplay credit when James Whale stepped up and took over. Florey protested but it was, arguably, too late to fix the American release print. Universal restored Florey’s deserved credit on foreign releases.

Artist Faria’s other Frankenstein poster recycles elements found in the original American ad campaign. Against a solid red background, the striding Monster with bolted arms punches through the poster, surrounded by pencil sketches of significant scenes: Creator and the Created face off across the width of the poster, a lab scene with The Monster on its elevator slab, and agitated villagers storming 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.

Early Promotional Art, Frankenstein (1931)
The Selling of Frankenstein
The Selling of Frankenstein, Part 2
The Selling of Frankenstein, Part 3

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