For fans of movies of the
1960s and ’70s, his name ranks up there with the stars who made the major
studio films of that era. Even though he didn’t actually “make” movies, his
work most definitely did. Best known as the artist behind the “classic” James
Bond posters, McGinnis worked for almost every publisher and major magazine for
decades, putting his distinctive stamp on a huge, well, body of work, which
is fully (and gloriously) represented in The
Art of Robert E. McGinnis, a lush 176-page hardback now on sale from Titan
Books. Since McGinnis is one of the most influential and iconic movie poster
artists of the 20th Century, Cinema Retro was pleased to see him
honored in this way.
The book starts with McGinnis’s
journeyman beginnings in the 1950s Cincinnati and New York advertising scenes,
where he toiled away on product ads like so many other young, hungry
illustrators. Most would flourish for a time, then fade into obscurity, but a
chance encounter in NYC with artist Mitchell Hooks (of Dr. No movie poster fame) led to paperback cover assignments that firmly
put McGinnis on the map. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, most book covers were
illustrated, and the cover directly impacted sales. The more lurid or
intriguing the art, the better the sales, and McGinnis’s racy (for those days)
cover art quickly brought him attention from publishers.
In 1961 McGinnis painted
his first movie art – Breakfast At
Tiffany’s – and that launched him into the illustration stratosphere for
the rest of the decade. He painted the key art for Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Casino Royale (1967 spoof), On Her
Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, Man With the
Golden Gun, and the book cover art on
Moonraker, helping guide the Bond series through major transformations as
different actors took on the lead role. McGinnis’s specialty was the human form
– he painted the heroic images of Bond and, of course, the sultry Bond Girls. The late Frank C. McCarthy handled certain
explosions and action art on some of the early Bond titles. The result was
marketing nirvana, dramatic, precedent-setting artwork that helped make Bond
the hottest movie property around.
McGinnis’ work was everywhere
– from huge billboards to newspaper ads, and, of course, on paperbacks in every
commuter’s briefcase. Curiously, his favorite art from his movie work is for The Odd Couple one-sheet, where he
perfectly captured the essence of neat-freak Felix and super-slob Oscar. Other
Hollywood works like Barbarella and Cotton Comes to Harlem are also
beautifully reproduced in the book, some with his original sketches, so the
reader can see the work evolve.
Each phase of McGinnis’s
long career is chronicled by writer Art Scott, who worked with the artist on
this definitive book. As you might expect, each chapter is profusely
illustrated with gorgeous full-color art – from hardboiled detective book
covers to bucolic landscapes for magazines like Reader’s Digest and Good
Housekeeping, even vivid historical scenes for National Geographic are here. McGinnis also illustrated for a
number of men’s magazines like True
and Cavalier, and his provocative
nudes left little to the imagination, but they also serve as even more proof of
his astonishing skill. These long-legged “McGinnis Women” looked like they
could get up and walk off the page – something I’m sure most Cavalier readers wished they would! The
artist himself chimes in throughout the book, offering up inside stories from
his long career. Thankfully, his creative output isn’t slowing down – just look
at page 95 where his stunning cover art for the 2011 limited edition of Stephen
King’s Joyland is reproduced. That
cover features a pale, yet alluring “McGinnis Woman” in a bikini and holding a
rifle. What could be more perfect?
Art of Robert E. McGinnis is one of those “must haves,” a book
any movie or fine art fan will want to pick up to look through again and again.
It perfectly captures McGinnis’s impressive work, curves, gun barrels and all.
With a list price of just $34.95, it’s a bargain when compared with the prices
McGinnis original art now fetches at auction.