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Like 007 Himself, James Bond Movie Posters Live To See Another Day

Posted: October 2, 2012

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A lavish new book explores the essence of one of cinema's most enduring brands as defined by Bond posters from around the globe and across the decades.

2008: The poster for the 22nd Bond film reflects Bond's single-minded vengeful agenda. It is striking in its minimalism — there are no background action scenes, no exotic locations. Design: Empire Design. Art Director: Capo. Creative director: Tommy Gogota. Photography: Greg Williams.

2008: The poster for the 22nd Bond film reflects Bond's single-minded vengeful agenda. It is striking in its minimalism — there are no background action scenes, no exotic locations. Design: Empire Design. Art Director: Capo. Creative director: Tommy Gogota. Photography: Greg Williams.

1962: The tagline across the top confidently announces that Dr. No will be the first in a series of Bond films. Adding to the

1962: The tagline across the top confidently announces that Dr. No will be the first in a series of Bond films. Adding to the "passionate" colors of red and yellow, the simple graphics of a bullet and lipstick are clear signs that violence and sex are on the menu.

1963: Painted by renowned, Russian-born poster artist Boris Grinsson, this tropical fantasy conveys the tension of Bond and Honey's arrival on Crab Key — Dr. No's Island. Grinsson worked from photographs and his distinctive, painterly style distinguished hundreds of posters for French, American and Italian films. Title translation: James Bond Versus Dr. No.

1963: Painted by renowned, Russian-born poster artist Boris Grinsson, this tropical fantasy conveys the tension of Bond and Honey's arrival on Crab Key — Dr. No's Island. Grinsson worked from photographs and his distinctive, painterly style distinguished hundreds of posters for French, American and Italian films. Title translation: James Bond Versus Dr. No.

1963: Instead of a Walther PPK, Bond holds a more impressive-looking, long-barreled Walther LP-53 air pistol, which belonged to the photographer. This pose became a famous, instantly recognizable Bond image. The poster was designed by Eddie Paul, with art by Italian film poster artist Renato Fratini.

1963: Instead of a Walther PPK, Bond holds a more impressive-looking, long-barreled Walther LP-53 air pistol, which belonged to the photographer. This pose became a famous, instantly recognizable Bond image. The poster was designed by Eddie Paul, with art by Italian film poster artist Renato Fratini.

1970s: An arresting, hand-tinted image of Bond with a silenced Walther PPK, accompanies stirring action scenes. The usual image of Bond in the center of a target, is positioned over Tatiana's laughing mouth. The tagline translation reads:

1970s: An arresting, hand-tinted image of Bond with a silenced Walther PPK, accompanies stirring action scenes. The usual image of Bond in the center of a target, is positioned over Tatiana's laughing mouth. The tagline translation reads: "A film of unparalleled intrigue, Bond returns with this sequel."

1977: This poster is more stylized and darker in tone than previous Bond film campaigns, creating an image that attracts with mystery rather than an all-guns-blazing action approach. Main campaign artwork by innovative American poster artist Bob Peak.

1977: This poster is more stylized and darker in tone than previous Bond film campaigns, creating an image that attracts with mystery rather than an all-guns-blazing action approach. Main campaign artwork by innovative American poster artist Bob Peak.

1989: During the 1980s, photography was at the forefront of the new realism in art. The aim with the License to Kill poster campaign was to produce images that were real but at the cutting edge of what was artistically possible. Art director: Robin Behling. Photography by Keith Hamshere and Douglas Kirkland.

1989: During the 1980s, photography was at the forefront of the new realism in art. The aim with the License to Kill poster campaign was to produce images that were real but at the cutting edge of what was artistically possible. Art director: Robin Behling. Photography by Keith Hamshere and Douglas Kirkland.

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There is something deliciously enticing about the advance poster for the 1962 movie Dr. No. It featured a bright yellow Technicolor background, lipstick, a gun and the numeral 007 — all teasing the audience about what was to come. "The First James Bond Film!" (Their exclamation point, not mine.) It was part of a campaign that launched the celluloid franchise that today, half a century later, is still one of the biggest draws of the big screen.

In the new book, James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters, production designer Dennis Gassner (currently working on the newest Bond movie, Skyfall) posits that the key role of a movie poster is to describe the "essence of the film." In this lavish coffee-table book, we get to see the essence of James Bond movies as defined by their posters around the globe and across the decades.

In this age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, when movie trailers are available at the swipe of a smartphone, it is hard to imagine a time when movie posters were, a) so important, and b) highly tailored for particular markets. But what is clear about the Bond franchise is that as the movies gained popularity, some uniform design elements became key, and the essence of Bond had a universal language.

By just the second Bond movie, From Russia with Love, we see the emergence of a "global" design as befits the globalizing of the brand. The suave pose once more, Connery staring confidently out of the poster, tuxedo-clad and gun in hand; a sultry belly dancer; a glamorous locale — Istanbul — and, of course, the seductive temptress that Bond will not be able to resist. From the U.K. to France and Italy, Sweden to Greece and West Germany, the universal language of Bond was spoken by these images transforming him from an action-movie hero to an iconic brand.

These posters use glamour, action, exotic travel and, of course, sex to sell the Bond franchise. But what is particularly interesting about this book is how it celebrates the art of the movie poster. In the 1960s, movie posters literally were art, painted by renowned artists from around the world (Dr. No), a skill lost now except perhaps in India. Montage styling married cutout photographic images with art (Licence to Kill). And in 2008, promotions included the simplest of photos (Quantam of Solace). The evolution of these posters reflects the evolution of the film Bond, from cartoonish escapism, exemplified by Roger Moore's tenure as Bond, to the hardened, complex Bond of Daniel Craig. This book takes us on a walk through the history of movie posters over the past half-century with one of cinema's most enduring brands.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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