Anthony Goldschmidt dies at 71; designed memorable movie posters
When E.T., the extraterrestrial, and his human chum Elliott reached across the cosmos to share a luminous touch of the fingertips, Anthony Goldschmidt was the unseen hand that brought them together.
Goldschmidt also was on the job when Thelma and Louise posed for their famous cheek-to-cheek selfie. And when the towering black waves of “The Perfect Storm” tossed around a little fishing boat called the Andrea Gail. And when the loopy characters of “Young Frankenstein” glared down onto the Sunset Strip from an eight-story vertical billboard on the side of the Playboy building.
Goldschmidt, a graphic designer whose firm created some of Hollywood’s most memorable movie posters, died June 17 in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 71. His wife, Cari Rachel, said he had cancer.
Starting in the early 1970s, Goldschmidt was in the vanguard of designers infusing a fresh marketing approach into a business whose messages had grown stale, said Joel Wayne, the former executive vice president for creative advertising at Warner Bros.
“He was the godfather of movie branding,” Wayne said. “He brought a very big design concept to a business that thought: ‘Why do we need anyone to do anything but blow up a still shot of the star, put some type on it, and send it to the newspapers?’”
Instead, Goldschmidt and his team tried to distill an emotional essence from the films they advertised. With movies still in production and some plot elements kept secret even as campaigns were conceived, that was often a tricky task.
Building buzz about the 1982 release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” Goldschmidt and artist John Alvin never actually laid eyes on E.T. himself. All they had to rely on were rough descriptions of the lovable alien’s bony hand from director Steven Spielberg.
Still, the fingertip moment they created struck an immediate chord.
“Steven saw it and said, ‘Oh, my God — that’s it!’” said Michael Rosenberg, co-chairman of Imagine Entertainment and a longtime friend of Goldschmidt’s.
In addition to posters, Goldschmidt’s Intralink Film Graphic Design, a firm he started in 1979, produced trailers and other ad material.
If the Academy Awards honored graphic design and market strategy, “I believe Anthony Goldschmidt would be the first recipient,” Rosenberg said.
Born Sept. 15, 1942, in New York City, Anthony Jakob Goldschmidt was the grandson of an influential German Jewish banker and art collector who fled the Nazis in the 1930s.
After attending private schools in Massachusetts and Switzerland, Goldschmidt received a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a master of fine arts from Yale.
He was an art director for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency before heading to Hollywood and a production assistant’s job at Warner Bros.
Among the first films he promoted were Mel Brooks comedies. The “Blazing Saddles” poster he concocted with longtime art director Alvin is replete with little touches suggesting the 1974 film’s zany essence; a headdress on Mel Brooks’ wisecracking Indian chief is inscribed with the slogan “Kosher for Passover.”
Later that year, the massive “Young Frankenstein” poster on the Playboy building raised hackles; the biggest ad in town — at 465 square feet, the size of a small apartment — neglected to mention the film’s writers.
“I don’t consider it a billboard,” Goldschmidt said at the time. “It’s a work of art.”
Although some of Goldschmidt’s work reflected the over-the-top nature of the films he was pitching, his trademark style was simple and sophisticated, hinting at a movie’s impact rather than hammering it home.
“There was even a phrase around town — ‘That’s very much a Goldschmidt look,’” said Mark Crawford, the owner of Blood & Chocolate, an entertainment advertising firm, and one of Goldschmidt’s former Intralink colleagues.
Goldschmidt’s poster for “The Color Purple” (1985) was a simple, backlit profile of the main character in a rocking chair, reading a letter. The image for “Apollo 13" (1995) was a view of the title spacecraft nearing a dark curve of the moon, with the Earth a bright blue orb in the distance.
His other movie work included “Gremlins” (1984), “Empire of the Sun” (1987), “Rain Man” (1988), “A Few Good Men” (1992), “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) and “Sex and the City” (2008).
Although Goldschmidt closed his firm in 2011, he was chosen to design the 2012 Academy Awards poster. “Life. Camera. Action,” it said. “Celebrate the movies in all of us.”
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother Marc. A previous marriage ended in divorce.
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