Arts Clayton Gallery Assistant Courtney Hurst examines the detail on a poster for the Lucille Ball and John Hodiak movie, “Two Smart People.” The poster is part of a new exhibit featuring movie artwork made for the old Loew’s Grand Theater by its in-house artists. (Staff Photos: Curt Yeomans)
JONESBORO — Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin was a bit modest about people seeing the naked “man” standing in the middle of her organization’s gallery Wednesday.
She stood in front of him with Gallery Manager Teri Williamson and Gallery Assistant Courtney Hurst while they tried to figure out what to do about his lack of clothing. Perhaps they could find a tuxedo to put him in. That way, he’d match the “woman” dressed up in 1930’s attire next to him.
But Summerlin was adamant that no one was to see him naked for very long.
“Don’t take his picture — he’s got no clothes on,” said Summerlin as she jumped between a photographer and the “man.”
The naked “man” and the dressed-up “woman” from the 30s were mannequins Arts Clayton officials have put out for their new exhibit of vintage movie posters created for the old Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta between the 1920s and 1950s.
The two-month exhibit, titled “Reflection of Hollywood’s Golden Era — Movies Connecting the Past and Future,” will officially open with a reception tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the gallery, 136 S. Main St. in Jonesboro.
The exhibit is made up of pieces owned by collector Herb Bridges, whose collection of “Gone With the Wind” memorabilia is on permanent display at the Road To Tara Museum down the street from the gallery.
The posters were all made by in-house artists who were hired by the Loew’s Grand Theater in cinema’s early days to promote films as they were released.
“They would be sent a black and white photograph of some scene out of a picture, or of the stars, and then they would paint the poster,” said Williamson. “They would create a painting with color and this would be what was in the window boxes as you entered the theater.”
Many of the posters on display at the gallery were created by Sidney Smith and Charles Reese Collier for Loew’s Grand.
Although modern movie posters are mass-produced on paper, movie posters from the early years of Hollywood were made by individual theaters on wood panels. Some were textured through a process called “flocking” to give them a more detailed look.
“If you remember flocked wallpaper, it’s the same idea,” said Williamson. “It appears they flocked it, and then painted over it which would be a fairly difficult process.”
Others had three-dimension elements, such as the scripts tacked onto the poster for the 1944 Judy Garland film, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” For some of the three-dimension posters, such as the 1946 Lucille Ball and John Hodiak film, “Two Smart People,” the artist used several wood cut-outs that were layered atop each other.
Several other posters in the collection have the layered wood feature. Some, like the “Two Smart People” poster, used it heavily. Others used it more moderately, such as the poster for the 1937 Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell film, “Night Must Fall,” which is dominated by a painting of Montgomery and Russell with a small three-dimensional placard in the corner to carry the name of the film and the stars.
Arts Clayton officials have an affinity for the “Two Smart People” poster, though. It is the one they used on postcards sent out to promote the exhibit and they find the detail in the cut-outs fascinating.
“If you look closely, even her eyelashes are cut out so it’s very detailed,” said Williamson
“What’s neat to look at is how the cutouts are attached with small tacks,” Hurst added.
But there aren’t many of these specially made posters left because they were scarce to begin with. The boards they were painted on were typically recycled after about a week to make new posters.
“One of the reasons why these are so rare is they would use them over and over again and then they would discard them,” said Williamson.
One example is the poster for the 1946 film, “Undercurrent,” which starred Katherine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum. Arts Clayton staff have it hung so gallery patrons can see the “Undercurrent” poster on one side, and the poster for another, unnamed movie on the backside.
However, while there are several movie posters hanging all over the gallery right now, they are not the only Hollywood-influence art on display. Arts Clayton had several of its regular exhibiting artists paint their own takes on famous films and stars for a related exhibit featured in the gallery’s back exhibit hall.
Both exhibits will remain on display through Sept. 27.