Thursday, June 20, 2019

Digging the Art of “Chinatown”

It was 45 years ago today—on June 20, 1974—that French-Polish film director Roman Polanski’s now renowned period detective film, Chinatown, was first released by Paramount Pictures. I didn’t see it until years later, however, when, as a member of my college’s movie-selection committee, I helped bring Chinatown to campus for a two-night showing on a big theater screen. As a result of that effort, I wound up with a copy of the original promotional poster shown above, which is now prominently displayed in my office.

The painting for that placard—which the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) says is “arguably the greatest movie poster of all-time”—is credited to Pennsylvania-born artist Jim Pearsall. His image of Chinatown stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, both of them at risk of being upstaged by a lazy drift of cigarette smoke, was reportedly inspired by a famous 1890s advertisement for JOB cigarette rolling papers, created by Czech graphic artist Alphonse Mucha.

While Pearsall’s Chinatown poster is unquestionably the best remembered, there have been alternative notices created over the last four decades, several recalling a painful-to-watch nose-cutting scene in the flick. I’m embedding a dozen of the most memorable examples below, including the one at the very bottom—a European version created by prolific American artist Richard Amsel.

READ MORE:The Most Iconic Nose Injuries in the History of (Crime) Film,” by Dwyer Murphy (CrimeReads); “The Big Town” (Pulp International).


विकास नैनवाल 'अंजान' said...

Interesting Collection.

Fred Zackel said...

Daikaya is a Japanese restaurant in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. Downstairs is a ramen joint straight from Tokyo, but upstairs is a knock-out restaurant & bar. Upstairs†has a Japanese-style "hambago" with a fried egg on top & wasabi butter on the side and rice balls with pork & sweet miso fillings. The bar up there†is a great full-service place for sake bombs.

But in the hallway by the restrooms they have old movie posters from Japan, bought in auction there by the owner. Including Japanese originals of "Bullitt" and "Hairspray." (Go figure.) Oh, and an original in Japanese poster of "Evil Dead" with Bruce Campbell's name in gargantuan letters in three separate places. And the original Japanese poster for ... Chinatown. Wonderful!! And highly recommended. (From the author of The Boy Who Smelled Cops.)