Jack Davis was one of the most prolific, well recognized artists of our time. His work has been an integral part of the American pop culture landscape through a career that spans eight decades. The cartoonist and illustrator has a dynamic body of work in MAD magazine, advertising art, magazine covers, album covers, comics, and movie posters.
Following several successful years working with EC and MAD magazine, he was commissioned to create the movie poster art for the screwball comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963. When he asked for a synopsis of the film he was urged to just go see it for himself. After watching the movie he was given the freedom to put everything imaginable into the art. The poster shows a litany of characters fighting like buffoons, climbing over one another to get to the case full of money.
His work on the Western comedy Viva Max! and war comedy Kelly’s Heroes were central to each film’s promotional material. The poster he produced for Kelly’s Heroes was particularly impressive during this time period. Davis’ artwork portrays the four lead characters in a cheesy grin parade carrying bundles of gold and a flag made from the one dollar bill. At this time Clint Eastwood had already developed an intimidating reputation for the hardened men he often played. For Davis to capture a look of silly-stupid happiness on the face of the man who usually glared from under a cowboy hat was comedic genius.
A year later he followed that up by drawing the poster for Woody Allen’s plucky comedy Bananas. The story about a man who travels to a small Latin American country after his activist girlfriend breaks up with him and then becomes involved in a rebellion was, truly, bananas. Davis effectively captured the many facets of the film on the poster with protagonist Fielding Mellish, front and center.
Another of his beloved, and imitated, poster designs was for the Walter Matthau comedy The Bad News Bears. His work on this poster fit the tone of the movie perfectly, showing the team as a collection of preteen miscreants with a slob for a coach.
To learn more about Jack Davis’ movie poster art, order a copy of The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Movie Posters from gemstonepub.com.