Meet movie poster master Bill Gold

Art of the sell: Iconic movie posters by a master

Before audiences jumped out of their seats watching "The Exorcist," this marketing creation made sure they jumped into them …

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Warner Brothers

It was designed by Bill Gold, who -- in a career spanning seven decades -- dreamed up hundreds of movie posters, including "The Sting," "Dirty Harry," "Deliverance," "My Fair Lady," and "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Gold, who turned 97 in January, lives in Connecticut with his wife, Susan. In his studio, he showed us a secret to his success.

"We try not to tell the whole story," he said of an effective poster design. "We try to tell a minimum amount of a story, because anything more than that is confusing."

Born in Brooklyn in 1921, Gold was captivated by the big screen at an early age, and after graduating from Pratt Institute, he landed a job with Warner Brothers.

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Warner Brothers

At 21, Gold was given his first professional assignment: Come up a poster for a little film called "Casablanca."   

Gold laid out the poster and did all the lettering by hand.  As for Humphrey Bogart's gun:

"We put it in the last minute," he said. "The theater people who projected the original trailer that we had and we had nothing in his hand. Somebody suggested, 'This is Bogart. Let's put a gun in his hand. That's the way he acts, the way he exaggerates his action. We don't want just a head of him. It's too boring! So let's put the gun in his hand.'

"And we put the gun in his hand and we photographed it with this whole image."

Photographs that Gold took of Al Pacino made their way into the poster for "Dog Day Afternoon."

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Bill Gold's photos of Al Pacino, and the final design of Gold's poster for the Sidney Lumet bank robbery thriller, "Dog Day Afternoon." Bill Gold/Warner Brothers

Sam Sarowitz, who owns a movie poster gallery in New York called Posteritati, says Gold's style stands out.

"He's one of the most important, if not the most important, movie posters designers of all time," he said.

"If you look at Bill Gold's work over the eras, it captures the times. And he was changing with the times with his designs."

Gold had a long relationship with director Clint Eastwood, which lasted from "Dirty Harry" in 1971, to 2003's "Mystic River," prior to Gold's retirement.

Sarowitz showed a poster from the "Dirty Harry" sequel, 'The Enforcer": "If you're a Clint Eastwood fan, and you're walking down the street, and you see this poster, you're gonna want to see this film!"

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One of many posters Bill Gold designed for the films of Clint Eastwood. CBS News

Looking at his creation for "On Golden Pond" reminded Bill and Susan of what he worked so hard to avoid: a "Mount Rushmore" Style.  "A movie poster that has been designed to look like Mount Rushmore, lots of heads -- three heads in a row, four in a row, almost a mountain scene," said Susan.

What accounts for that style? "The studios like to show everybody you have cast," she explained.

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Movie poster designer Bill Gold with his wife, Susan. CBS News

Gold retired more than a decade ago. He was diagnosed with dementia in 2003.

Bill Gold didn't make the movies, but would they be the same without him?

He is one-of-a-kind who gave generations of filmgoers images to last a lifetime.

        
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Story produced by Gabriel Falcon.